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In the News: Laugh your Way to a Healthier You

Written by Lisa Jillanza

We have all heard that “laughter is the best medicine”, right? But have you ever wondered what that saying means? Sure, people laugh during good and happy times, but sometimes you will notice that even to get through tough or tragic times, people start to laugh. 

So, what are the benefits of laughing? Laughter helps you to:

 

  • Reduce negative emotions – feelings of stress, anxiety, anger, and sadness don’t feel as intense when you are laughing.
  • Relax and discharge negative energy – stress is reduced by the action of laughing and pushed away from the body.
  • Change how you think and feel about a situation – laughing can help you see the situation in a different light and feel less overwhelmed about that situation.
  • Give you the power to cope – as your perspective changes about a situation, you might find that you are better able to distance yourself from a situation. In doing so, you may find yourself stronger and able to take on challenges.
  • Become closer to those around you – because laughter is contagious, once you find the humor amongst the darkness, it is likely that others will, too. That’s why “sharing a joke” is a great way to bond as well.
  • Feel physically healthier – some of the physical benefits of laughing are a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure and better sleep.

 So, laugh as if your life depended on it… because it helps!

Health 101: Exercise Your Brain at Any Age

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Despite what many people think, our brain can remain sharp, active, vital and creative no matter what our age. Studies suggest that the more stimulating and intellectually challenging that we make our lives, the better our odds are to keep our brain sharp as we get older. Some ways to keep our brains sharp include:

Brain Exercises

Reduce stress: stress can wear down the hippocampus, which plays a major role in memory function.

Exercise regularly: exercising delivers more oxygen-rich blood to the brain which is vital for producing new brain cells and preventing atrophy.

Eat low-fat and healthy: glucose spikes and fatty plaque deposits due to overeating can damage the brain, so a lower-calorie diet promotes better circulation and helps to control weight.

Diagnosing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is described as a form of depression that affects people typically in the winter months. Many people who are affected by SAD begin seeing symptoms of their depression in autumn, as the seasons change and the amount of daylight decreases.

Other symptoms of SAD include: loss of appetite, irritability, lack of energy, overeating (especially carbohydrates), lack of socializing, and increased sleep, particularly in the day time. For many people the correlation between the changing of the seasons and their symptoms of depression could simply be the stress of the holidays and the ending of a year, and not be seasonal affective disorder.  Psychologists say that there is a pretty thin line between SAD and event-related stress.

Doctors also believe that the release of melatonin in the brain can also be a factor in SAD.  Melatonin is released due to exposure to the sun, and doctors say that melatonin can influence some bodily rhythms because there is a decrease in daylight during the fall and winter months.

Luckily for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder there are treatment options.

Depending upon the severity of the disorder, doctors may recommend antidepressant medications, psychological therapy and/or light therapy.

Light therapy seems to be the most effective form of treatment and many people can see results within a few days.  Light therapy involves having the person who suffers from SAD be exposed to a very strong light source, via a light box or a strong lamp.  The sufferer spends a couple hours in the light's rays per day as part of the treatment.

The light required in light therapy must be of enough brightness, typically 25 times brighter than a normal living room light.

And contrary to what many theories state, the light does not need to be actual daylight from the sun. In this case, it is quantity, not necessarily quality of light that matters in light therapy of seasonal affective disorder.

Beat the Winter Blues

Written by Lisa Jillanza

The winter season brings the least amount of sunlight of any time during the year : and people who work indoors get a mere 30 minutes of sunlight a day, compared to 90 minutes of sunlight a day in the summer time.

So instead of sitting indoors and enduring the winter blues, get outdoors, have some fun, and the winter months will fly by!

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Get outside:  To fight the winter blues, you have to join the winter blues, or something like that.   Bundle up, build a bonfire and roast some marshmallows.  Campfires don't need to be just for summertime anymore!

Create a positive playlist:  Studies show that when people listen to happy music that their mood increases.  While you clean the house or do the laundry, pump up the jams and listen to some music that puts you in a good mood to fight the blues.

Cheer yourself up with color:  When all you see outside is shades of blue and grey, cheer yourself up by adding a little bit of color to your life.  You don't have to do anything drastic like paint your walls a bright pink or anything, instead fill up some vases with colorful flowers.  Or fill a bowl with fresh lemons and limes for the beautiful yellow and green hues.

Start planning your vacation:  While you may not be able to get away from work or life during the winter months, there's no reason why you can't start planning your spring, summer or fall vacation.  Many people get more pleasure from the anticipation of the vacation, than the actual vacation!  Brainstorm about where you want to go, when you want to go there, what new foods you want to try or what new activities you will try out this year.

Have a snow day:  Snow days can be either indoors or outdoors.  An outdoor snow day includes building snow forts and having a snow ball fight.  While an indoors snow day includes lots of hot chocolate, popcorn, funny movies and family-friendly games.

Winter Motivation Tips

Written by Lisa Jillanza

When the weather outside is frightful, it's easy to get lazy and to lack the motivation to even get out of bed some days.  So how do you stay motivated when everything is keeping you down?   Try some of these tips:

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  • Set goals and document them. By keeping a list you will see this daily and you will feel more inclined to want to check things off this list.
  • Set clear dates of when you need to complete things by, whether they are long term or short term goals. By giving yourself a deadline, you will work harder to keep them.
  • Reward yourself for meeting your deadlines and reaching your goals.  Whether you allow yourself to buy something nice or a day of pampering at the spa, you will work harder to do things when you know there is a reward at the end.
  • Listen to motivational tapes and/or read motivational books to help gain some inspiration to keep going.
  • Learn to breathe correctly.  You will feel more relaxed and when you are more relaxed you will also be more apt to stay motivated than when you are stressed.
  • Keep a positive attitude.  Even though it is easy to be depressed when the long, cold winter months drag on, try to remain positive and you will notice that motivation comes along with being happy.
  • Remind yourself that progress is what is important and not perfection.  This is especially important when you are looking at your long-term goals, as they may seem like the most unreachable.  Remember all of the short-term goals that you have met and you will be more successful.
  • Build a support system of friends and family members that are typically motivated.  By keeping like-minded people close to you, you will become motivated by just being in their presence.