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Blog posts tagged with 'mood'

Knowing Your Daily Stressors and Taking Steps to Avoid Their Effects

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Knowing Your Daily Stressors and Taking Steps to Avoid Their EffectsStress and anxiety can come from a variety of places; whether it's deadline driven or due to life's sometimes overwhelming responsibilities. Everyone feels a little bit of anxiety and stress now and then, but when you are unable to properly deal with the daily anxieties of life they can build up and put excessive physical strain on your body. However, there are some simple techniques to dealing with the everyday stressors that can help you relax in the moment in order to keep your body from feeling the residual effects that stress can cause.

Concentrating on a Constant: Breathing

Breathing is an essential, unconscious process needed to sustain life. There are, however, many techniques which can help you control your rate of breathing. Whenever people feel stress or anxiety they naturally tend to breathe faster, which is part of the ingrained fight or flight response. By focusing on your breathing and taking slow, methodical breaths to avoid shallow breaths, you can slow your physical reaction to stress. One method is to produce long, deep breaths holding it, and then slowly exhaling over a few seconds. This type of deep breathing can reduce the effect those waves of anxiety can have on the body.

The Human Connection

Sometimes, relaxation is easier with company. Human beings are social creatures and throughout our lives we create deep, meaningful bonds with others. These connections to the people you love and care for can also be useful in reducing anxiety or stress when you're feeling frustrated. A positive word of encouragement from someone you love, or even a pat on the back or hug, can do wonders for your mood. Stress can make you tense and reserved, making you reluctant to open up and share your feelings. But having someone to talk to, or even just rant with, can relieve stress almost immediately. The power of the human connection should never be underutilized.

Moving to Stay Ahead of Stress

Whether you realize it or not, stress can also be a motivating factor that can be used to your advantage. This is aptly referred to as stimulation and engagement. When you feel bouts of anxiety or stress, you often feel as if you need to move around, which is why it's common to picture a person pacing back and forth when they're fretting on their problems. This idea can be used in a positive way if you engage in physical activity during instances of anxiety. Whether you work out, go for a walk, or even just dance around your room to a favorite song, you are naturally letting off steam and helping your body relieve the symptoms of anxiety.

Paying Attention to Your Stress Levels

Many people don't pay attention to stress and anxiety until it has a hold on them and sends their mood spiraling downward. Being aware of certain reactionary cues throughout your day such as changes to your voice, having sweaty palms, feeling burned out, or faster breathing can alert you to the fact that you may be dealing with unwanted anxiety.

Modern society is filled with things that can constantly make you stressed, from major nuisances (job, money, marriage, and relationships) to minor ones (traffic, cell phone service, and grocery shopping). By knowing what your trigger points are and being proactive in calming yourself through simple techniques, you can avoid stress before it takes hold and gain peace of mind, a healthier immune system, better focus, and more energy to concentrate on the things you love.

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What Your Body Looks Like On Worry and Anxiety

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What Your Body Looks Like On Worry and AnxietyMost people think of stress as something that weighs heavily only on your mind and emotions. Its effects, however, can also produce a physical response in your body that can have far-reaching consequences on your overall health.

Your body contains many different organs and systems that work symbiotically to react to both short term and long term mood and anxiety. Learning exactly what those pangs of physical reactions are doing to your body and how to properly manage these situations can help you overcome the mental and physical challenges they present.

Spotting the First Signs

When high-stress situations occur, your brain chemistry and hormone production changes, causing a cascade of reactions down to the rest of your body. Your adrenal system kicks in and the hormone, cortisol, is produced, which has a variety of effects.

At the first sign of anxiety, your heart rate increases, breathing becomes rapid, and the lungs take in more oxygen. Blood flow may actually increase 300%–400% in order to prime the muscles, lungs, and brain. To cope with your body's increased oxygen demands, the spleen becomes more active and discharges more red and white blood cells.

If your voice suddenly becomes creaky or squeaky, or there's a tightness in your throat when you swallow, it's because the body is dispensing fluids from nonessential areas, such as your mouth, to more essential areas of the body, often leaving you with a dry throat. Blood flow gets redirected from the skin so that the supply can be concentrated on the heart and muscle tissues. This is why muscles tighten up, and your skin can feel cold and clammy.

Cortisol also causes the liver produce more glucose, the main fuel your body uses for energy. For most people, excess glucose can be reabsorbed if it isn't used, but if you already have trouble balancing your blood sugar levels, excess glucose can make your levels spike even higher. And one of the more day-to-day effects of stress can be the compromising of your immune system. Once again, cortisol is the main culprit because it suppresses your immune system function, leaving you more susceptible to inflammation and infections.

The Body's Worries Over Time

One of the main concerns about anxiety is if it's constantly present. Besides causing an immediate physical reaction, the long-term effects can negatively influence other important areas of your health, leading to digestion problems, changes in metabolism, and increasing your chances of developing an ulcer. Studies have also linked it to weakened respiratory function.

Those who experience constant anxiety and periods of low moods are more at risk for heart-related concerns due to increased blood flow, higher blood pressure, and an increase in cortisol production. Cortisol is a means to increase blood flow to give you the energy needed to deal with the situation, however, too much of it can overwork the cardiovascular system, eventually weakening it.

Dealing with the Daily Distractions

You cannot completely avoid frustrating situations; it's a natural response of human nature. But there are some immediate and simple ways to deal with it.

Taking a few deep breaths or counting slowly to 10 when you start to feel anxious can help you control the immediate impact it can have on your day. According to the American Heart Association, 10 minutes of peace, quiet, and slow breathing can help you alleviate the influence of stress on your mind and allow your body to relax.

Positive reaffirmation can be beneficial to calming those moments where you feel overwhelmed. Similarly you can find solace throughout your day with common practices such as meditation, yoga, or exercise.

Remaining Aware of the Mind and Body

It's important to pay attention to how much stress you are dealing with in your life and take the appropriate action to avoid the negative health consequences. Give your mind and body the daily support you need so you can take on the task at hand and allowing yourself to maintain a healthy mind and body.

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Science Reveals Instant Mood-Boosting Techniques

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Science Reveals Instant Mood-Boosting TechniquesSeeing the brighter side of life doesn't always come easy to everyone. But what if you could trick your brain into thinking positive thoughts? According to a recent study there are several ways of accomplishing this to help support a positive mind and mood that can influence an overall healthier lifestyle.

Neutral, Duchenne and Chopsticks

Because of the close connection that the mind and body share, researchers wanted to investigate what extent physical signals from the body could influence the mind. Their study centered on smiling. It's already known that feeling good can make you react with a smile, but can forcing a smile, in-turn, make you feel good? To test this hypothesis, researcher Tara Kraft from the University of Kansas gathered 169 participants and trained the volunteers to maintain three separate facial expressions: a neutral expression, a standard smile, and a more empathetic smile called the Duchenne smile, achieved by holding chopsticks in their mouths. While only half the participants were told to smile, researchers explained that having chopsticks in their mouths forced the volunteers to smile without being aware that they were doing so. All of the subjects then participated in stress-inducing tasks such as submerging their hands in ice-cold water and tracing a star with their non-dominant hand while looking at a reflection of the shape in a mirror.

A Smile for Science

Results showed that those who were instructed to smile, (in particular, those who had the Duchenne smiles) had lower heart rates when performing the tasks than those who had neutral expressions. Even those who were unknowingly forced into smiling with the chopsticks in their mouths had a slightly lower heart rate than those who wore neutral expressions. The results, soon to be published in the journal, Psychological Science, give validity to the theory that even a forced smile positively influences the mind into a better mood and can improve other important areas such as stress and heart health. Kraft's research partner, Sarah Pressman, even suggested an everyday application to this theory. "The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment," she said.

A Pose for Positive Moods

While a smile may be the easiest way to spontaneously support a good mood there are other poses that have been shown to help support a positive frame of mind. For instance, one study showed that opening up one's body to occupy more space in what's called a "high-power pose" can have positive mental effects and alter hormone levels, too. Those who held high-power poses were more willing to gamble or take risks, pointing to a higher level of confidence and more positive frame of mind. While meditation has long been linked to promoting a sound mind and mood, a 2008 study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, sought to investigate the benefits that yoga poses have on mental well-being. The study showed that breathing mechanisms and relaxed body posture can also help clear the mind and support lower stress levels.

Taking Control of Your Moods

Maintaining a healthy mood shouldn't be thought of as some insurmountable challenge. Everyone has their ups and downs, and understanding the little things you can do throughout your day can help to provide an instant mood boost. Now that you know how powerful your smile can be, use it wisely and often!

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The Key to a Healthy Mind and Memory? The Answer May Surprise You

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The Key to a Healthy Mind and Memory? The Answer May Surprise YouWe all have memory glitches from one time to another. From forgetting a past event, to forgetting where we put our keys – again. Although some changes to the brain and memory are inevitable, there is much you can do to keep your brain conditioned and memory sharp. According to a new study, aerobic exercise is one such activity.

Physical Activity's Connection to the Brain and Memory

A study published in the online version of the British Journal of Sports Medicine attempted to find a connection between physical exercise and supporting cognitive health, especially for mature adults who may be facing cognitive concerns later in life. Their particular area of focus was the part of the brain called the hippocampus, an area of the brain closely associated to memory, logic, and verbal reasoning skills that has been said to be very sensitive to age-related changes. In the course of their study researchers tested different forms of exercise on 86 women between the ages of 70 and 80 who claimed to have mild memory concerns and who were also all living independently at home. Throughout a six-month period different groups of the 86 women were assigned a different workout routine; some were assigned strictly aerobic exercises while others were instructed to complete resistance training (lunges, squats, and light weights) or balance and/or muscle-toning exercises.

The Exercise Choice for Memory Support

At the end of six months researchers wanted to look at the effect, if any, a particular form of exercise had on maintaining the size of the hippocampus. Comparisons of MRI scans of the volunteers taken before and after the study showed that women who completed the full duration of aerobic training had hippocampuses that were significantly larger than those who completed the other forms of exercise, leading researchers to believe that aerobic exercise may be more beneficial to the mind and memory. While researchers commented that more research on a larger scale needs to be done, they also cited that this is not the first sign of evidence connecting the benefits of exercise to cognitive health. A large, meta-analytic study in which researchers looked at 18 different interventional studies from 1966–2001 concluded that fitness-induced benefits were said to have "robust but selective benefits" on cognitive health.

Brain Games and Memory

While the need for consistent physical activity is one of the keys to maintaining overall health throughout your lifetime, you can also promote good cognitive function through games and exercises that directly stimulate your brain to support your mind and keep your memory sharp. Association is one of the most helpful ways of remembering and connecting memories. By creating links between pictures, concepts, and words your memory can become sharper as familiar concepts will help you recall memories faster. Crossword puzzles, card games, and other brain-stimulating games such as Sudoku can also aid your memory by forcing your mind to dig deep into its problem-solving skills. Even board games and reading books and articles on subjects you wouldn't normally be interested in can keep your mind active because they force your brain to move out of its comfort zone.

Flex Your Muscles and Your Brain Power

Research continues to show that it is possible to maintain good health at any age—and this includes the health of your brain. Aerobic exercise benefits your memory just as much as the rest of your body. Games and other mental challenges also help spur your cognitive functions to help you stay sharp. As evidence linking the benefits of physical activity to cognitive health gains more traction, hopefully this will inspire you to make exercise a vital—and regular—part of your healthy lifestyle.

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How a Healthy Love Life Can Lead to a Healthier Overall Life

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How a Healthy Love Life Can Lead to a Healthier Overall LifeFinding love and a partner in life is a story as old as human society itself. While love is often unexplainable, that hasn't stopped scientists from attempting to analyze the deeper meanings behind the laws of attraction by trying to find out what makes us tick and why we choose certain partners. But whether you believe that opposites attract or that people often seek others with similar tastes, the one thing that everyone agrees on is that being in love is good for you mentally, emotionally, and physically.

It's easy for those who have never experienced “love at first sight” to dismiss it as just another fantasy, but the fact is the brain releases love-related chemicals in the brain within a split second of eyeing someone you're attracted to. These chemicals—notably dopamine and norepinephrine—trigger a euphoric feeling and may cause those sometimes hasty decisions people make when they are “in love.” Adrenaline racing through your system can also cause your heart rate to rise and make you jittery when you're around the one you love, which is why so many people equate love to a drug; albeit one with more positive benefits to you overall.

Sealed with a Kiss

Kissing can have a wide range of sociological implications. A recent study took survey answers from 900 different adult men and women who were asked about the importance of kissing in relation to both short and long-term relationships. Results showed that kissing may serve as a subconscious test in compatibility. Through the sense of taste and smell, your mind and body may be taking biological cues for compatibility, genetic fitness, and general health. The study also found that the importance of kissing changed depending on whether people were in a short- or long-term relationship. Women rated kissing as more important in long-term relationships because they viewed it as a way of sustaining affection and attachment throughout a relationship.

The Important Role of Intimacy

Besides the emotional pluses that relationships can bring, physical intimacy with your partner has a wide range of health benefits—some of which may come as a surprise. First and foremost, sexual intimacy can be a form of exercise that burns up to five calories a minute. It increases your heart rate, helps lower blood pressure, and balances testosterone and estrogen levels. One study found that men who were intimate with their partners at least twice a week had better overall heart health. It also strengthens the pelvic muscles in women and supports prostate health in men, which can promote healthy urinary function. Intimacy also helps boost testosterone levels and aids a strong libido, increasing your ability and performance. Sexual activity is also good for immune health. Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that people who were intimate with their partners once or twice a week had higher levels of certain antibodies to boost the immune system than those who didn't. A healthy physical relationship with your partner can also serve as a sleep aid, helping you to relax and fall asleep quicker and easier. And simply snuggling up to your partner can help relieve anxiety and stress because it releases the hormones vasopressin in men and oxytocin in women; “cuddle hormones” that enhance your affection for your partner.

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

Opening up your heart to another person is one of the greatest things you can do for your own emotional and physical well-being. The euphoria from being in love can help lift your mood and help you view life with “glass half full” perspective. Intimacy with your partner is crucial to bonding, helping to foster a healthier and happier relationship, which can extend to other areas of your health. Besides being good for your heart emotionally, it's actually good for your heart physically, too, as well as your immune system, muscles, hormone levels, and libido. It can help ease daily stress, and boost your mood and self-esteem, all while keeping anxiety at bay. Valentine's Day is one day out of the year that puts the spotlight on your love life, but a healthy relationship is something you should strive to maintain with your partner every day. Intimacy plays a large role in that, so remember to show the one you love how much you appreciate them because the payoffs to your emotional and physical well-being are worth it.

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