Using Technology to Improve Mental Wellness

Healthy Living, Mental Fitness, Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Mental wellness can mean so many things. It can mean improving memory, it can mean getting enough sleep, or it can mean finding support for mental health concerns. Each person may have different needs in terms of mental wellness. Fortunately, technology has made mental wellness improvements more attainable. In order to get a brain boost, work on memory, or have access to tools to improve mental health, technology has stepped in to give us a better understanding of the brain as well as tools to improve our mental wellness.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is booming and it seems like everyone has something strapped to them at all times to keep track of their steps or heart rate. Technology is helping promote healthy lifestyle choices by providing their own health awareness right on their wrist. The great thing about wearable technology is that it can also provide data and awareness on our mental wellness as well as our physical wellness. For one, you’ll be able to track your sleep patterns and the type of sleep you’re getting. Sleep can be a big factor in our mental abilities, and if you’re feeling like you’re in a brain fog every day, it may be due to sleep. You’ll also be able to see if more activity helps your mental wellness during the day. It’s no surprise that physical wellness and mental wellness can go hand in hand.

Not only are fitness trackers available, so are other types of trackers meant to help with stress and emotions. These devices are tethered to your mobile device and will not only offer you useful data to help improve mental wellness, in some cases, the technology will tell you when something is amiss.

Brain Stimulators

One way to use technology to improve mental wellness is to give yourself a brain boost with brain stimulators. Memory games, logic puzzles, and problem solving games are all ways to help workout your brain in the same way that you may workout your body. Push-ups are good for your body, and puzzles are great for your brain. There are ways to give your brain a workout by grabbing a crossword puzzle, or playing strategic board games, but you can also use apps on your phone to give your brain a boost. These memory and puzzle games are great for everyone, and can help your brain fight things like Alzheimer’s in the future.

Strategy has become a popular entertainment tool as well with popular experiences like escape rooms popping up. The objective is to grab a group of friends or coworkers and complete puzzles and riddles to escape a room. There are ways to exercise your logic muscles without going to an actual escape room as well. Some breakout puzzles are designed to make you think in the same way.

Mobile Connections

Another way that technology is improving mental wellness is that it’s connecting people in a way that they’ve never been able to connect before. There are apps, forums, technologies, and websites designed for a mobile platform to help people suffering with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, autism, traumatic brain injury, and many other mental health diagnoses. Finding support in a community of likeminded people can be extremely reassuring and helpful for those that can’t relate to their peers as a result of a setback in mental wellness. Technology has made it possible for communities of people to support one another in a way that they never would be able to before. Now, mobile apps are being created with this as their sole purpose: to unite and help those with mental health issues and provide a platform of support and access to help.

An Understanding of the Brain

Technology has given us wearable devices making us more aware of our bodies and brain activity. It’s given us more access to brain stimulating puzzles and activities to give our brain’s a workout. It’s given us mobile connections and access to information to help us cope with mental wellness struggles. And, it’s also given us a deeper understanding of the brain in general. Knowing what causes anxiety and depression leads to a bigger understanding on treatment. Knowing how addiction affects the pleasure centers of the brain can make it easier to treat those suffering through it. Technology that dives into the brain in order to map it out makes all the difference in how to make sure we keep our brains healthy.

Mental wellness is a giant umbrella of a topic that covers so many aspects of our brains and how to keep them healthy. With technology, we have a bigger understanding of our brain now than we ever have before, but there are still so many unknowns. In time, technology will make all the difference in what we know about the brain and, hopefully, how to prevent many of the most detrimental brain and mental health problems out there. For now, technology can help our

Mental wellness can mean so many things. It can mean improving memory, it can mean getting enough sleep, or it can mean finding support for mental health concerns. Each person may have different needs in terms of mental wellness. Fortunately, technology has made mental wellness improvements more attainable. In order to get a brain boost, work on memory, or have access to tools to improve mental health, technology has stepped in to give us a better understanding of the brain as well as tools to improve our mental wellness.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is booming and it seems like everyone has something strapped to them at all times to keep track of their steps or heart rate. Technology is helping promote healthy lifestyle choices by providing their own health awareness right on their wrist. The great thing about wearable technology is that it can also provide data and awareness on our mental wellness as well as our physical wellness. For one, you’ll be able to track your sleep patterns and the type of sleep you’re getting. Sleep can be a big factor in our mental abilities, and if you’re feeling like you’re in a brain fog every day, it may be due to sleep. You’ll also be able to see if more activity helps your mental wellness during the day. It’s no surprise that physical wellness and mental wellness can go hand in hand.

Not only are fitness trackers available, so are other types of trackers meant to help with stress and emotions. These devices are tethered to your mobile device and will not only offer you useful data to help improve mental wellness, in some cases, the technology will tell you when something is amiss.

Brain Stimulators

One way to use technology to improve mental wellness is to give yourself a brain boost with brain stimulators. Memory games, logic puzzles, and problem solving games are all ways to help workout your brain in the same way that you may workout your body. Push-ups are good for your body, and puzzles are great for your brain. There are ways to give your brain a workout by grabbing a crossword puzzle, or playing strategic board games, but you can also use apps on your phone to give your brain a boost. These memory and puzzle games are great for everyone, and can help your brain fight things like Alzheimer’s in the future.

Strategy has become a popular entertainment tool as well with popular experiences like escape rooms popping up. The objective is to grab a group of friends or coworkers and complete puzzles and riddles to escape a room. There are ways to exercise your logic muscles without going to an actual escape room as well. Some breakout puzzles are designed to make you think in the same way.

Mobile Connections

Another way that technology is improving mental wellness is that it’s connecting people in a way that they’ve never been able to connect before. There are apps, forums, technologies, and websites designed for a mobile platform to help people suffering with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, autism, traumatic brain injury, and many other mental health diagnoses. Finding support in a community of likeminded people can be extremely reassuring and helpful for those that can’t relate to their peers as a result of a setback in mental wellness. Technology has made it possible for communities of people to support one another in a way that they never would be able to before. Now, mobile apps are being created with this as their sole purpose: to unite and help those with mental health issues and provide a platform of support and access to help.

An Understanding of the Brain

Technology has given us wearable devices making us more aware of our bodies and brain activity. It’s given us more access to brain stimulating puzzles and activities to give our brain’s a workout. It’s given us mobile connections and access to information to help us cope with mental wellness struggles. And, it’s also given us a deeper understanding of the brain in general. Knowing what causes anxiety and depression leads to a bigger understanding on treatment. Knowing how addiction affects the pleasure centers of the brain can make it easier to treat those suffering through it. Technology that dives into the brain in order to map it out makes all the difference in how to make sure we keep our brains healthy.

Mental wellness is a giant umbrella of a topic that covers so many aspects of our brains and how to keep them healthy. With technology, we have a bigger understanding of our brain now than we ever have before, but there are still so many unknowns. In time, technology will make all the difference in what we know about the brain and, hopefully, how to prevent many of the most detrimental brain and mental health problems out there. For now, technology can help our mental wellness by providing us with wearable technology that gives us mental wellness data, easy access to brain stimulating programs, platforms to connect with others that battle with mental wellness issues, and an understanding of how the brain works.

Lady in pool with Mind & Body Candles by Chesapeake Bay Candle Online Boutique

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How to Prevent Dementia: Exercise and A Healthy Diet Should Be at the Top of Your List

Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Salad - Eat Healthy to Prevent Dementia

Ideal Activities to Help Prevent Dementia

by Jane Sandwood

Leading an active lifestyle is a great way to keep fit, healthy and our brains working well. It’s also a proven way to help delay and even prevent the onset of dementia. While further research and plenty of testing into finding a cure is ongoing, it’s going to take time. So, rather than waiting for the illness to strike, a much better – and more enjoyable – plan, is to get active to prevent being affected by the debilitating disease.

There are a number of ways to help stave off the disease, including activities where you can enjoy the outdoors and fresh air. And, the two most important ways to help defend yourself from dementia are:

Eating a healthy diet

One that’s high in fresh fruit and vegetables, the right oils and omega fatty acids and low in processed carbohydrates like white bread, rice and pasta. Cut down on sugar, drink tea – around 2-4 cups a day – and try to eat more home-cooked food that doesn’t contain additional preservatives or too much salt.

Regular exercise

Exercise challenges our bodies and the co-ordination required helps to maintain the well-worn paths our brain uses to communicate to our limbs exactly what we want them to do. And, if you try a new exercise or activity – adventure golf, bowling or even footgolf – your brain works to build new paths, which is great for dementia prevention. But, take care not to exercise so strenuously that you could damage your body. Brisk walking and swimming both count as exercise too and if you can do that a few times a week, it will quickly become regular exercise.

If you choose to do just two things to help stay fit and healthy in your mind and body, then these are the two you should attempt. Even if you can’t manage a brisk walk at first, just walking a few times a week is a start. Find an outdoor spot you like and is easy to get to and you’re sure to get into the habit of regular walks, allowing you to increase the distance over time. In order to achieve a brisker pace, find a route with a good section of flat and push yourself to walk faster on that part. Over time – and less time than you might think – your fitness will improve, as will the distances you can comfortably walk and the speed you walk too.

The thought of dementia can be scary, but by undertaking some simple, everyday activities, you can work to prevent the condition or limit its effects. To discover more about how to prevent dementia read this guide for some helpful and fun ideas.


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High Blood Pressure and Your Brain

Conditions

Nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States is affected by high blood pressure, or hypertension. Another 1 in 3 has prehypertension, meaning that if changes aren’t made, they’ll soon be joining the first group.

With a condition being so common, you’d think it’s not a big deal — and you’d be wrong.

The effects of uncontrolled hypertension can be serious. While we do have plenty of medications to combat the condition, there are several changes you can make now to avoid high blood pressure in the future.

Effects of High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure may seem like something that primarily affects your heart, and maybe your lungs, but the truth is that high blood pressure can influence organs from the brain down to the kidneys.

The American Heart Association has stated that high blood pressure influences brain health in a number of ways and can lead to vascular cognitive impairment.

Stroke

When blood supply to the brain is blocked or interrupted for some reason, a stroke occurs. This interruption damages and kills brain tissue due to a lack of oxygen, which can result in mental impairments.

High blood pressure can cause small ruptures in stressed vessel walls, inducing a hemorrhagic stroke. The narrowing of blood vessels is also common with high blood pressure, and if vessels get too narrow, regions of the brain might not receive the necessary amount of blood to function properly.

Aneurysm

As blood pressure increases, so does the pressure put on the walls of arteries. Over time, this can cause weak spots to form. If an area gets too weak, it stretches out, creating a bulge outside the normal path of the artery. This bulge is called an aneurysm.

Aneurysms can form anywhere arteries run. Less than 5 percent of the people with an aneurysm experience any sort of internal bleeding, but if an aneurysm bursts, it causes a medical emergency. When this happens in the brain, it creates a hemorrhagic stroke and brain functionality suffers.

Dementia

Vascular dementia occurs when blood flow to the brain decreases, diminishes, or is temporarily blocked. This often happens after someone suffers a stroke or if blood vessels are so constricted that the brain is having trouble with the amount of blood it’s receiving.

Vascular dementia has similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s including problems with fine motor skills, recalling information, and reasoning. People who have Alzheimer’s may have vascular dementia as a contributing factor, and doctors believe the condition is underdiagnosed as a cause of dementia.

Are You At Risk?

So what makes someone prone to high blood pressure? Lifestyle choices, as well as genetic factors, have an impact on your likelihood to develop hypertension.

If you smoke or drink heavily, you put yourself at a higher risk. Both tobacco and alcohol increase your blood pressure temporarily.

High-salt diets increase your risk, as well as diets that are high in sugar or saturated fats. If your lifestyle has led you to be overweight, you are putting additional strain on your heart and circulatory system, which can lead to hypertension.

Genetically speaking, high blood pressure is strongly tied to family history. If your parents have high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop high blood pressure. African Americans are more likely to develop hypertension than any other race.

Age and gender also play a role. As you get older, blood vessels lose their elasticity and don’t stretch out as well, which causes higher pressure in your blood vessels. Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure until about 45, when the chances become about equal for both genders. After age 65, women shoulder more of the risk.

Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

Luckily, there is a lot that can be done to prevent high blood pressure and to manage the condition after it’s diagnosed. High blood pressure can be reversed with lifestyle adjustments that will make the heart, and consequently the brain, happier. You should always consult your doctor before making any significant lifestyle changes, especially in regards to diet and exercise.

1.   Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. If you already have hypertension, losing excess weight can be one of the most effective ways to lower blood pressure. Steps 2 and 3 can help with weight management.

Body mass index (BMI) is often used to determine if you’re at a healthy weight, though the measurement can be inaccurate for people who are exceptionally muscular. Waist measurements may be used with BMI calculations to get a more accurate picture of what healthy weight looks like for you.

2.   Eat Well

The most well-known advice when it comes to lowering blood pressure might be, “eat less salt.” Reducing sodium in your diet is a piece of lowering your blood pressure, but it’s equally important to introduce foods that are high in protein and fiber. Dietary supplements like pea protein can help lower blood pressure, along with calcium and magnesium.

The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, provides guidelines for people trying to optimize their diet for decreasing blood pressure. Recommended servings can be adjusted to fit lower calorie goals if you’re trying to lose weight.

3.   Be Physically Active

Exercise doesn’t need to be as daunting as it sounds. For most people, it only takes 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day to see the benefits. You can obtain this level of activity without having to set foot on a treadmill.

Easy ways to up your physical activity include adding a walk to your evening routine, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or spreading house and yard work out over your week. Washing a car, gardening, and cleaning floors are all considered moderate physical activity — and they’re probably already on your to-do list.

1.   Reduce Stress

Stress releases adrenaline and cortisol into the blood. These hormones regulate your “fight or flight” reflex and cause your blood vessels to constrict and your heart to beat faster. Together, these reactions cause your blood pressure to climb.

While stress can be an effective tool at times, remaining stressed for too long can have damaging effects on the body. Anger and nervousness have similar results, making emotional health paramount to managing hypertension.

Managing stress is different for everyone, so it’s important to find what works for you. Some people like going to counseling to have someone to talk to, while that idea terrifies others. Meditation might suit you better, or taking up a hobby that relieves tension and cultivates joy.

2.   Get Tech on Your Side

Wearable technology is quickly becoming a leader in managing your health. Smart watches and cell phone applications have a slew of options to help you keep a food journal, track your activity, and monitor your heart rate.

76 percent of healthcare providers believe that wearable tech will help people manage chronic conditions like hypertension and obesity. Even if you’re not currently affected, health tracking apps can provide encouragement and make maintaining a healthy lifestyle easier.

Be Empowered

Hypertension may seem like an inevitable, scary beast that leads to horrible things. While it can be, you’re now equipped with information to keep the beast at bay. Make sure to contact your doctor if you have concerns about your health. In the meantime, go forth and relax, take a walk, and eat some fibrous fruits.


Why Good Fats are Good for Your Brain

Brain Food

Avocado
Did you know that your brain is made up of 60 percent fat? Seems like the insult, “fat head” may just apply to all of us.

Because of this high percentage of fat, eating healthy fats is actually very good for our brains. You just have to make sure you’re eating healthy fats and not unhealthy fats. The charts below can help keep you honest.

Healthy Fats:

  • walnuts
  • tuna
  • makarel
  • avocados
  • eggs
  • sunflower seeds
  • anchovies
  • chia seeds
  • flaxseeds
  • salmon
  • sesame seeds
  • pumpkin seeds

Unhealthy Fats:

  • high-dairy foods
  • fatty cuts of red meat and pork
  • shortening
  • vegetable oil

I recently read a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful book by Dr. Joseph Mercola, Fat For Fuel. I’ll be writing more about it on my self help blog, including an upcoming book review. This book details the many ways healthy fats are good for our bodies as well as our minds.

I just noticed on Amazon that, in November, there’ll be a Fat For Fuel Cookbook…. I have every intention of pre-ordering this beauty!

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Helping Somebody with Alzheimer’s Cope with Losing Their Spouse

Mental Fitness

The loss of a spouse is an incredibly difficult process to bear. It’s compounded by the fact that it’s a partner, a best friend, and a lover who is gone. But what happens if the surviving spouse has Alzheimer’s? The grieving process can immediately become more complex.

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help the surviving spouse. First, you should understand why this loss impacts that person harder than it can others.

Why This Loss Is Bigger

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. It affects your mind and plays havoc with your memory, thinking, decision-making, and behavior. It also really complicates matters when someone with Alzheimer’s loses their spouse. Here are some of the problems that can come up in these situations:

  • First, know that everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time. That means there will be some variation in how someone with Alzheimer’s will react.
  • Because this disorder affects memory, expect that the survivor may not remember their spouse has passed away.
  • Even if they remember, they may not grasp what the death means. They could just assume the person has gone away and will return, or that the loss is not significant.

 

All of this becomes more problematic when the spouse was the primary caregiver. Not only has the surviving spouse with Alzheimer’s someone they love, they lost the person who took care of them.

How You Can Help

So how can you help the surviving spouse? The Alzheimer’s Society has several ways you can offer support that almost anyone can provide:

  • Make sure you explain the death and that the deceased is gone. Don’t try to “soften the blow” or otherwise hide the truth. Although it will hurt, you need to explain what happened. This can help the person with Alzheimer’s get through the grieving process.
  • Because they have this condition, they might forget about the death. Keep reminders of the funeral on hand to lend credibility to the story as you retell it. Be patient, and again, let them process their feelings.
  • Encourage the person to find creative outlets like art and music. Not only can this help them find some joy in the mourning period, it can be a great way to express their feelings.

If the spouse was the primary caregiver, you also need to find a replacement. The Alzheimer’s Association has great advice in finding a new caregiver, including how to screen for one that will best fit. Make sure they have training, experience, and can provide proof of a background check.

Going Through The Deceased’s Belongings

Once surviving spouse has accepted the death (at least for now) and you have a new caregiver, you have to move onto what could be a rough task: sorting through the belongings of the deceased. This can be stressful for everyone involved. Before you go through anything, consider the four Ps:

  • Participants: Can you get through this by yourself or will you need help? It might be best to leave the person with Alzheimer’s out of this process.
  • People: If the person is not going to be sorting through the belongings with you, ask them ahead of time if there’s anything special they want to be saved.
  • Plan: Decide if any items have particular urgency, like bills or the garage. Then list which rooms or items you’ll sort through first.
  • Pace: Don’t try to do everything in one day or weekend. Pace yourself by doing some each day for a while.

They Can Get Through With Your Help

Getting over the loss of a spouse takes time. Until then, things can be difficult to manage, especially for someone who has Alzheimer’s. That’s why your support is so necessary.

By recognizing the difficulties, making sure your loved one understands their spouse passed away, and helping to sort through the belongings of the deceased, you can provide a stable and comforting presence.


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Is Your Stuff Giving You Anxiety?

Anxiety

Americans are all about immediate gratification, and our consumer-driven culture allows us access to that gratification every single day. We go shopping in hopes that it feels good or causes pleasure, and if it does, then we do it again, and again, and again. Our obsession with shopping and acquiring material goods is leaving many penniless and riddled with anxiety.

Consider this: Does it give you a slight panic when you spill food or wine on your most expensive shirt? Are you so attached to certain items that you own that you actually store them away instead of using them for fear of ruining the item that you paid an exorbitant amount of money for?  There is enough in this world to be causing us anxiety- the melting polar ice caps, the devastating stories on the news, and bad pop music. Why let inanimate objects cause you mental pain and suffering?

Advertisements and marketing schemes try to lead us to believe that the more things that we have, the happier we will be. This leads down a path of working a job that we don’t enjoy in order to buy more things that we don’t truly need and can’t afford. Many studies have shown that those that are more materialistic than others have a lower value of self-worth, suffer from depression and anxiety, are overall less satisfied with life, and have high amount of debt with no savings.

Sometimes our outside influences outweigh our better judgement. We try to keep up with the Joneses, submit to bullying or feel peer pressure to buy the newest products. A study called the “Geography of Consumption” refers to how more prestigious neighborhoods that contain more materialistic people has an overall lower quality of life. The study also found that those that lived in these neighborhoods had large amounts of debt from buying things to impress their neighbors. Don’t feel guilty if you are realizing that you have done this yourself. This approval-seeking behavior is ingrained in us as human beings.

So, why do we continue to shop if we know that it has the potential to make us feel so lousy and to ruin our credit? Why do smokers continue to smoke when they know it is bad for their health? It is because in the moment, it feels good. For some it is a form of addiction that can be helped with seeing an addiction counselor. For others, it is a way to cope with anxiety, and the nervous energy could potentially be transferred elsewhere. For some people, it fills a void that they may not even be conscious is there, but they continue to fill it with stuff.

“As we amass more and more possessions, we don’t get any happier, we simply raise our reference point,” explained co-author James Roberts, of Baylor University Hankamer School of Business. “That new 2500-square foot house becomes the baseline for your desires for an even bigger house. It’s called the ‘Treadmill of Consumption.’ We continue to purchase more and more stuff but we don’t get any closer to happiness, we simply speed up the treadmill.”

If you are prone to anxiety, it is best to be hyper-aware of the potential that a shopping addiction could possibly replace healthy habits that you currently have. If your shopping habits have already caused you harm, put a stop to it now and make a plan to repair your credit. The instant gratification and ease of anxiety may feel good in the moment but may have long-lasting financial repercussions. Find outlets for your anxiety that can benefit, rather than hurt, you in the long run by remembering that less is more.


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Is Mental and Physical Health Related to How Emotionally Intelligent You Are?

Healthy Living, Mental Fitness

Described simply, emotional intelligence is one’s ability to understand the emotions of themselves and others, and regulate emotions accordingly. A term made popular by psychologist Daniel Goleman in 1995, emotional intelligence has been a growing field of study ever since.

There are different attributes that define emotional intelligence, but here are the five core traits:

  1. Self awareness: Recognizing your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior.
  2. Self regulation: Handling feelings and emotions appropriately. You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage emotions in healthy ways and adapt to changing circumstances.
  3. Motivation: Striving to improve and achieve excellence.
  4. Social skills: Being able to collaborate, communicate and positively influence others.
  5. Empathy: Compassion and understanding of others.

Emotional intelligence is pretty mainstream in our culture today as self-help experts, educators and successful executives place emphasis on why we shouldn’t speak without thinking, cause outbursts, and do dumb things under pressure. Many people fail to manage their emotions, which can lead to self destruction and why EI is an important component of being a well-rounded person.

The term is often used to describe how well you get along with your coworkers and family members, but take it a step further to understand that certain mental health conditions are related to lower levels of emotional intelligence. Add to that the fact that as one’s mental health declines so can physical health. That’s why it’s important to develop sound mental and physical wellness through emotional intelligence.

Physical Health

The first step in improving emotional intelligence is learning how to relieve stress, because if you can’t manage emotions, you probably can’t manage stress effectively.

Too much stress can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, raise blood pressure, contribute to infertility, accelerate the aging process and make you vulnerable to depression and anxiety.

Broad types of healthy living can help circumvent illness and relieve corresponding stress, including eating well, exercising, reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking.

None of those activities need to happen in a vacuum. In fact, you could even bond with other people who are also engaging in positive change. Your interactions bring you closer to people and elevate emotional intelligence as a result of your shared physical experiences. Being able empathize with others is a key component of emotional intelligence.

Mental Health

The impacts of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions take a toll on the brain. Being able to regulate emotions, understand them and be okay with them will make you feel less isolated or lonely. Forming strong relationships not steeped in turmoil will also make you feel less stressed.

The quality of social relationships affect mental health just as much as physical health. Social and intimate relationships make people happier and more joyful. They constitute a vital part of well being.

Relationships can also be challenging. Poor relationships can lead to mental distress. Coping skills can help alleviate stress. Practicing gratitude and mindfulness can calm the monkey mind. Also, learning how conflict encourages people to communicate and solve problems is a trait of people with high emotional intelligence. Laughter, humor, and not taking yourself so seriously are simple ways to appreciate yourself and others. Hanging out with good friends tends to relieve stress, too. Simple stuff really.

What are your tips for relieving symptoms of stress and depression?

Dealing with self expression, regulation of moods and emotions as defined by emotional intelligence points to a direct link between EI and physical as well as psychological health. The higher your emotional intelligence, the better off you are mentally and physically. Compassion for ourselves and others, it would appear, is a huge part living a holistic, healthy life!


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How Dogs Improve Your Health: Mentally, Physically, and Emotionally

Anxiety, Depression, Inspiration, Mental Fitness, Motivational, Stress

Okay. Full disclosure. I have cats… well, actually they have me (wrapped right around their paws). I don’t currently have a dog, but I have in the past and I would love to again – if my cats ever allow it.

They make the rules.

In fact, one of my cats (Alexa) just demanded her favorite spot on my computer desk to oversee the writing of this post. How she knows the topic is beyond me – all I know is the hot chocolate has been moved, the iPhone put out of reach, and she is occupying her favorite spot, everything else be darned.

I did mention they make the rules, right?

My past beloved dogs have been German Shepherds,  toy poodles, and a Basset Hound I miss to this day. She was one of the sweetest natured animals or humans I’ve ever known. There was a purity about her a gentle disposition that words fail to describe.

Like cats, dogs are wonderful entertainment, adorable sources of joy, and perfect companionship.

The infographic below is outstanding. It shows how dogs can improve our health – mentally, emotionally, and physically. These three don’t just go together to make us what and who we are, they actually build upon (or tear away) one another. That’s why when we’re grieving or angry, we often feel physically sick. Our body, mind, and heart must all “feel” the music before we are able to dance.

Through my self help blog, Self Help Daily, I have had countless contact with individuals who are pretty much looking for the same things – happiness and peace of mind.  Whether it’s an individual going through a tough spot or a mother trying to find her way through the darkness of an empty nest, I inevitably include the suggestion of adopting a dog or cat.  When we care for a furry family member, we put ourselves in a position that’ll help us tremendously – we get outside of our own selves as we care for and nurture for them.

Dogs give us countless reasons each day to smile – and almost as many reasons to laugh out loud. The little clowns love nothing more than making their human family members happy and they will go to great lengths to make it happen.

I know one thing, from experience, not only will you walk more often when you have a dog, you’ll enjoy it a lot more AND you’ll walk for longer periods of time. When I walked my dogs, we’d stay gone until they were tired (even if I was dragging butt, we’d keep at it until they turned for home!).

I hope you enjoy the beautiful infographic and I hope (even more) that if happiness and joy seem elusive to you, you will head to your local animal shelter and adopt a precious new family member. Maybe two, if you’re able to!

Brighter days are always ahead when they include paws.

~ Joi (“Joy”)

Click the infographic for a larger view!

How Dogs Improve Your Health

Credit: PuppySpot.com

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Environmental Factors That Affect Dementia

Healthy Living, Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, Prevent Memory Loss

While dementia in it’s various forms is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, recent studies have provided evidence that rates of dementia are going down. Dementia may be influenced in part by a person’s genetics, however, researchers are looking toward environmental factors as a major influence on this recent decrease. These factors include rising levels of education and better practices and treatments related to heart and brain health.

The decline in rates of dementia fits optimistically within the history of modern medicine. In the mid-19th century, tuberculosis seemed to be an incurable condition. Yet through policy reform, improved standards of living, and medical advances, it is much less prevalent today. In a similar way, if we can identify the particular environmental factors that influence rates of dementia, we can encourage better living practices and continue to see a decline in dementia.

Here are a few of the most common environmental factors that may increase a person’s risk for dementia.

Head Injuries

Any impact to the head that disrupts normal brain function is considered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Falls, vehicle crashes, and sports injuries are the most common ways a person can sustain a TBI. The potential downsides of traumatic brain injury has come to the forefront in recent years, as studies have started to show how detrimental football field concussions can be. This awareness has led the National Football League to adopt stricter regulations and push towards further safety equipment innovations that could lead to safer play in years to come.

The immediate effects may include unconsciousness, difficulty recalling the incident, short term memory problems, trouble speaking, confusion, and problems with hearing or vision. And while these symptoms may only be temporary, depending on the severity of the injury, a TBI can have the long-lasting effect of doubling or quadrupling someone’s chance of developing dementia.

Alcohol Usage

Light to moderate alcohol consumption may actually be good for a person’s health. Positive effects include the potential of lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and dementia. However, heavy drinkers are more susceptible to alcohol-related anxiety and types of alcohol-related dementia caused by a thiamine deficiency and poor overall nutrition.

The most common form of alcohol-related dementia, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, often involves mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes, difficulty with muscle coordination, and problems with memory and learning. It’s possible these damages will be permanent and a person will require life-long custodial care. Though if this condition is recognized early enough, some of the effects can be reversed if the affected person stops drinking and begins following a balanced diet.

Tobacco Usage

Smoking tobacco causes blood vessels to narrow in the brain and heart that can deprive cells of oxygen and nutrients. The nicotine in cigarette smoke raises a person’s heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke and vascular dementia. Exposure to secondhand smoke may also increase the risk of dementia.

Air Pollution

Fine particles in the air have been suspected of contributing to neurodegeneration, leading to dementia. These air pollutants often come from factories, traffic, dust storms, pollen, and wildfires. Most weather forecasts include reports on local air quality, which can help people to avoid excess exposure to outdoor pollutants. However, it’s also important to maintain clean air indoors by minimizing dust, fumes from cleaning supplies, and pet dander.

Lack of Exercise

Regular cardiovascular exercise increases the flow of blood and oxygen in the brain, which can prevent vascular dementia caused by strokes. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise can reduce a person’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent. In order to earn this benefit, they recommend a total of 150 minutes per week of cardio and strength training.

Along with physical exercise, mental exercise can reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia by up to 70 percent. This could involve anything that challenges a person’s brain, such as reading, filling out crossword puzzles, drawing maps from memory, learning a foreign language, playing a musical instrument, memorizing song lyrics, drawing, scrapbooking, and playing checkers, card games, and a number of online games and apps that offer a mental workout.

Poor Diet

Certain food choices can decrease or increase an individual’s risk of developing dementia. For example, too much red meat can cause a buildup of iron in the brain which can speed the onset of dementia. Other foods that have been linked to dementia include processed cheeses, smoked meats, microwave popcorn, and refined grains in some pastas, bread, and rice.

In looking for foods with positive effects, eating fruits, veggies, berries, nuts, omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish, and folic acid supplements can help lower your risk of developing dementia and other conditions associated with poor cognitive function. Specific diets like the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet have been highlighted for their ability to reduce a person’s chances of developing high blood pressure and dementia by up to 54 percent.

Considering each of these environmental factors, there are some practical things we can all do to potentially decrease our risk of dementia. Avoiding head injuries, abstaining from tobacco and alcohol use, minimizing our exposure to air pollution, eating properly and exercising regularly can help anyone to live a full, healthy life long into old age. If we do our best to prevent exposure to common, harmful circumstances, we could significantly decrease our individual risk of developing dementia and contribute to an ongoing decline in the condition.

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How Massage Therapy Can Help With Depression

Depression

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on identifying, treating, and removing stigma from mental health as a way to improve overall wellness. More people are realizing that certain behaviors are not the result of poor decision making or personality defects, but rather the result of mental illness that can – and should – be treated just the same as a physical illness or disease would be treated. Therefore, fewer people are treating depression like something that people should just snap out of.

In addition to psychotherapy and the proper medication, there are many ways that people can manage their depression through lifestyle changes and alternative therapies. Diet and exercise have been shown to help, as has meditation. Numerous studies have also shown that massage therapy can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. If you’re a massage therapist, that means you might want to start searching for spa equipment to expand your practice to offer more services for depression and anxiety. If you are a person suffering from depression, that means you might want to start scheduling regular massage as part of your routine self-care.

Here’s what the research tells us about how massage therapy can help treat depression:

Reduce Stress

Stress is a known trigger for depression and anxiety. Chronic stress can exacerbate depression or trigger an episode, as can acute stress in some instances. Getting regular massage can help to reduce stress, which enhance the overall treatment plan for managing depression.

Specifically, massage helps to relax the body and to reduce levels of cortisol, which is the hormone released during times of stress. When you feel stress, you are feeling the effects of cortisol. In the long term, continued exposure to cortisol can cause your depressive symptoms to appear or worsen and can increase the risk of other health problems, including metabolic issues and heart problems. In some cases, massage can reduce cortisol levels by as much as half.

Increase Dopamine and Serotonin

Dopamine and serotonin are important neurotransmitters that play a critical role in our moods. The treatment of depression often involves prescribing medications that control how dopamine and serotonin are released or used in our brains.

Massage therapy increases the levels of these so-called “feel good” hormones. By getting regular massage therapy, you can naturally increase the amount of serotonin and dopamine in your brain, which will improve your mood without the use of medication. You can get regular massage to enhance the effectiveness of your medication. In some cases, you may even be able to manage your depression with massage and other lifestyle changes alone, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Relieve Pain

Think about how you feel when you are in pain. It does more than cause you physical discomfort. It also brings down your whole mood. You feel irritable and maybe even a little angry. If you have chronic pain that brings down your mood regularly, that irritability and anger can turn to sadness and even depression.

Massage relieves chronic and acute pain, which can improve overall mood and wellness. Again, pain relief shouldn’t be considered a sole solution to treating depression, but it can enhance the overall treatment plan and improve results.

Focus on Self-Care

Therapists often urge patients whom they are treating for depression to put greater focus on self-care, which can be lacking when a person is suffering from depression. Therapists urge patients to do things like get more sleep, eat a healthier diet, exercise, and take time for themselves, all of which will improve positive feelings and give patients greater energy to deal with the lows that depression brings.

Massage helps patients put greater focus on self-care. It is a way for patients to take time for themselves and to treat their bodies well. Improved self-care will help to improve their sense of self-esteem and to reduce their depressive symptoms.

Massage therapy should be seen as a viable alternative therapy for depression and a number of other mental and physical health ailments. If you are suffering from depression, talk with your doctor or therapist about how massage therapy might help to manage your condition, either on its own or in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, therapies, and medications.

 

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