Category Archives: Wellness

A Fur Person a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

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I don’t prefer to use the term “pet” when referring to my dog or cat because I, like many other modern Americans, see them instead as members of the family.  I consider my cat, Oscar, to be my son and my sister’s pitbull, Rillo, my niece.  My parents even refer to themselves as ‘Nana’ and ‘Popsy’ when talking to or about Rillo, and she soaks in this coded language and forms her own vocabulary by association.  Animals may not be able to speak our language but they are excellent at picking up on our verbal and nonverbal cues which in turn guide their behavior.  Research has concluded that the best explanation for dogs’ specialized social skills is that they evolved as a consequence of dogs having been domesticating by humans, representing a case of convergent cognitive evolution.

I believe cats posses these same capabilities but are more independent by nature than dogs and therefore follow social cues when they deem it necessary for affection or their own self gratification.  If Oscar wants to go outside and hunt for the day, he starts purring loudly at 4 am, rubbing his face on mine to make sure I’m up and responding to his affection.  If I don’t get up to let him outside, he jumps on my dresser and starts pushing various figurines on the floor, staring at me in the eyes with each swipe of his paw until I leave my bed.  Anyone that has a pet knows the routines and cues they’ve developed for telling their human counterpart something they need or want, and in turn, we accept this as normal communicative behavior between us and our furry family members.

But what you might not know is that owning a pet has been proven beneficial to people’s mental, physical and emotional health.  Check out Animal Planet’s Top 5 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet to read the details explaining why an animal a day can keep the doctor away:

  1. Breathe Easier: Having a pet in the home lowers the risk of developing related allergies by as much as 33%
  2. Meet and Greet: Animals can act as instant ice breakers in conversation
  3. Stay Heart Healthy: Pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels–minimizing risks for heart attacks down the road
  4. Get a Move On: Dogs need exercise so walking them regularly keeps the weight off you as well
  5. Keep Your Chin Up: Pets provide companionship, boosting feelings of joy and happiness (especially for sick and elderly patients)
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A Common Ancestor

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How do you view and comprehend the unexpected events that life throws at you?  God’s plan, coincidence, fate or just random destined moments passing through space and time?  In 2012, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religious and Public Life  survey revealed that, of the 46 million unaffiliated (no religious affiliation) American  adults surveyed, more than half reported a deep connection with nature and earth, and 37 percent claimed they were “spiritual but not religious.”  In the same survey, 34 percent said they were spiritual and 38 percent said they believe in “God or a universal spirit.”  In short, a substantial portion of atheists and nonreligious report spiritual feelings (Cragun, 2014).

Spirituality can be believing you have a spiritual connection with other people, believing there is some form of higher power or believing that there is some form of afterlife; all of these beliefs can be held without any institutional affiliation with a religion.  A growing wave of research suggests that religion and spirituality may help some people better cope with illness, depression and stress.  Several medical studies show a connection between religious beliefs or practices and a decreased risk of self-destructive behaviors such as smoking, substance abuse and suicide.  Perhaps the reasoning behind these findings is that feeling connected with nature and the world around you helps you find inner peace and appreciate quality of life in a world of unpredicted chaos.  Spirituality and religion then, can be seen as strong predictors of and provide valuable insight into a person’s or society’s state of mental health.

If reality is defined through the individual’s eyes, cultures, personal values, beliefs and life experiences, we are creating billions of intertwining collective realities that all somehow affect each other.  Our own reality greatly shapes choices and options we see available for taking or avoiding.  If every person on this planet could put aside their differences and pre-existing notions to think about the meaning of life from this perspective, world peace might be more possible than ever before.  Humans could learn to be codependent on each other and the natural world instead of constantly competing for resources and individual success.  When are we all going to realize that every living thing on this planet came from one common ancestor?  Theory or not, evolution makes more sense than all the world’s religions combined.

Bring Back the Wii!

Remember when the Nintendo Wii first came out and everybody had so much fun playing the virtual games and sports? The Wii popularity seemed to die down with the rise of Play Station 3 and the XBox 360, shifting the role of millenium video games from physical activity immersion to strategy building and problem solving.  I still use my Wii to watch Netflix but hardly play my Wii Sports or Wii Fit games anymore.  My roommates and I decided to play some Wii boxing and bowling against each other before going out this weekend.  I was so absorbed in my first boxing match that one round turned into about 15.  I was uppercutting, jabbing, throwing right hooks and ducking from my opponent with as much force as I  would have exerted in a real fight.

The next morning I woke so sore and weak that I could barely lift my cellphone off my nightstand to silence my alarm clock.  I felt every muscle in my back, neck, shoulders, arms and abs sore and throbbing from my boxing match.  The Wii Fit games are actually targeted to weight loss and physical activity goals; you can choose a personal trainer to instruct you as you perform yoga, balance, running, etc moves on your Wii Fit board.  Wii Fit weighs you at the start of your personalized program and helps you plan your activity and weight loss each week over the course of a month or however long you expect to shed the weight.

The Wii console, unlike the PS3 or XBox games that use headsets to keep the players connected during online play, requires that players be in the same room with each other using their own remotes to compete against each other on the same TV.  Playing together in person creates actual bonding time between players who are usually close friends or acquaintances in real life.  Do you even know who your closest comrade ‘Commander Eagle Eye’ is in actuality when you play Call of Duty with him on PS3 or what he looks like?  I suppose it’s all preference but I think the Wii makes for a more entertaining and personal video game experience.

I’M OVER IT

Black Heart

I’m sure some of you have noticed by my recent posts and tweets, that yes, I’ve been going through a rather nasty breakup…but that’s ok. I’ve been going out with the same guy for two years now and our relationship has been rocky from the start.  We’re good, even great for several months at a time until some pathetic event triggers explosive, WWIII-type fights.  Fighting is never healthy for any relationship for too many reasons to even bother listing.  A relationship should be about support, trust, love, laughter, commitment, dedication, companionship and partnership.

I finally opened my eyes a few weeks ago and have come to see that if any of these elements are rusty or not there at all, IT’S NEVER GOING TO WORK.  Most importantly, if you and your partner have “broken up” at all, it’s easier to walk away the next time there’s a fight and that’s just not healthy for both of you.  Writing about my feelings seems to get a lot of anxiety off my chest but not everybody enjoys writing or being open about personal situations.  Being open helps you realize that maybe it’s not you and maybe it’s not your partner, it’s just the chemistry between you two.  Take a peek at your zodiac matches.

In the meantime, try to forget about relationships all together if you’ve experienced a recent breakup; a rebound partner is never a good idea.  Period.  That rebound person is going to end up getting hurt and think there’s something wrong with them when in fact, the problem is you because you didn’t give yourself enough time to move on and feel self-assured and confident again. I’m whipping myself into shape because when I look at myself in the mirror and see somebody I’m pleased to look at everyday, I know that I’m good enough for me so somebody else will eventually think so too. Think about your own future and the good things you have to look forward to instead of looking back at the bad things.

Who cares if pot becomes legal in MD?

Thousands of people testified and showed their support for or against the legalization on marijuana in the state of Maryland Tuesday. In the first set of hearings, members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee weighed measures proposing to make recreational use of the drug legal for people 21 and older; another proposal would shift possessions of small amounts of marijuana to a civil, rather than criminal offense. Proponents of both bills pointed to negative consequences of prohibiting marijuana, including the barriers to employment and education created by marijuana-related arrests and the racial disparities that often surface in arrests.  More…

“We have criminalized and demonized tens of thousands of our fellow Marylanders, we have ruined many of their prospects for success in the labor market and the job force, we have been spending more than $100 million a year on criminal arrest prosecution and supervision of people for marijuana related offenses, and yet we didn’t put a dent into the demand for the drug, and so indirectly we have been supporting the drug gangs and the international drug cartel.”–Senator Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, sponsor of the legalization bill.

Law enforcement officials testifying in opposition pointed to unintended consequences of the legislation, such as a potential increase in “drug driving” and a hike in the number of people trying the drug for the first time. There are zero known deaths from marijuana use itself but mental and physical effects are not limited to altered perceptions and mood, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory. Marijuana smoke is an irritant to the lungs, and frequent marijuana smokers can have many of the same respiratory problems experienced by tobacco smokers, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illness, and a heightened risk of lung infections. Most pot smokers aren’t hurting anybody and mind their own business…but try to imagine living in a world where it is completely legal to smoke before work, school or before driving.  Do you think this generation could handle the responsibility?

Good Vibes

If for any reason you wake up feeling like something or someone is draining positive energy from your life, do something about it!  It’s hard enough to balance relationships with a full workload and still try to squeeze in a little “me time” all under 24 hours.  Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul says that we live in an extremely externalized culture.  “We are constantly pulled outside of ourselves–by other people, by the media, by the demands of daily life.  Nothing in our culture or education teaches us how to go inward, how to steady the mind and calm our attention.  As a consequence, we tend to devote very little time to the life of the soul, the life of the spirit.”  Read more…

Not having the right amount of stillness and balance in your life can lead to high levels of anxiety, causing physical and mental ‘numbness’.  The Calm Clinic says physical numbness is most likely a result of uneven blood flow.  When your body is feeling anxious, it goes into “fight or flight” mode,  heats up and blood rushes to the areas it feels are most needed to fight or run away; as a result, you lose feeling in different limbs.  Anxiety can also lead to depression as a result of your mind trying to deal with/find solutions for all of the external stimuli (friends, family, partners, colleagues, etc.) in your life and the brain feels overwhelmed, helpless and simply shuts down.

I’m not saying to shut important people out of your life or that you’re going to be backed into a corner from anxiety, but doing things you love by yourself and for yourself play a key role in physical and mental wellness.  Here’s a few simple solutions to find your center and steal your own slither of happiness:

  • Meditation–Find a quiet place to yourself (like in a dark room lit with candles or in a grassy field in a park), come to terms with every thought that comes up and let them pass until your mind is clear
  • LIGHTLY indulge in that chocolate you’ve been craving or thinking about.  Chocolate increases serotonin and endorphin levels, lowering stress and boosting happiness
  • Take a bath! (<–Read my first post)

The ADHD Talk

Ask almost any college student if they know what adderall  is and I guarantee that 90% of them would answer “yes.”  Adderall, as described by drugs.com, contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine which are central nervous system stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control.   It’s a prescription drug used to control narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); adults can also have ADHD and in fact, up to half of the adults diagnosed with the disorder had it as children but when the ADHD persists into adulthood, the symptoms vary and the individual often has problems with interpersonal relationships and employment.

There are three different categories of ADHD symptoms: inattention,  hyperactivity and impulsivity.  Those who suffer with the disorder know exactly what it’s like to try to sit patiently for a half hour, even ten minutes, to attempt to proactively keep their room clean, to pay attention when someone is talking, to finish an assignment without making stupid mistakes and worst of all, to procrastinate on almost everything there is to do.  I made it through my adolescent life with a lot of help from my parents but as soon as I left for college, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy four years.  I managed to barely pass my classes for two years with the help of my first college boyfriend but the symptoms took a large toll on our relationship and in his words, “he got tired of babysitting me.”  School became so difficult for me without any structure or authority figure in my life that I spiraled out of control and took the year off.

Last year was the first year of my college life that I brought home decent grades.  How did I manage to turn things around?  My randomly selected roommate had ADHD and was prescribed a form of adderall.  She and I became close friends because we were so much alike and could understand each other, unlike a lot of other people who judged us for being impatient, disorganized, impulsive and “stupid.”  I had a long talk with my mom and finally went to the doctor about the problems I had been having.  I might not be a super-being now or even close to as organized and proactive as a “normal” peer but I am getting through my last semester and fifth year in college, realizing I am different and there will eventually a  perfect job out there for me.

A Walk in the Park

There is nothing I love more about the first signs of spring than knowing I get to spend my free time at a park, basking in the sunshine.  Spending time outdoors makes me feel so at peace, one with nature, care-free and above all, healthy.  There are so many benefits to spending time outdoors that people aren’t even aware of because of convenient technologies and indoor facilities that soak up free time.  An article from the National Wildlife Federation explains that the average American child spends as little as 30 minutes outside each day.  Child obesity rates have doubled and the U.S. has become the leader in prescribing ADHD and depression medications because they are missing that vital connection to the green world.

I remember when I was a young child, it took all my willpower to listen to my mother to return inside after dark.  I wanted to play outside with my sister and neighbors all day long, never wanting to return to the boring house.  Today, when I start feeling the stress of school or peer relationships, the first thing I do is drive to a park so I can walk around and breathe deep instead of taking my frustration out on other people.

The green outdoors doesn’t just have to be limited to walking around and staring at the trees.  You can meditate, go on a run or a jog, take a friend to a picnic and even bird watch if that’s your thing.  My dog loves when I tell her we’re going on a walk because she knows she can sniff around for a good hour or two and investigate the mysterious smells of other animals while I inhale the fresh air and finally get a break from my computer or television screen.  Go to the beach, go to a zoo, a park, a walk down the street or wherever you prefer that’s outside with someone you love because face-to-face communication is lacking in today’s world and being outside is a great way to reconnect.

Let it Be: Ladies Edition

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As the Beatles preached in their 1970’s single album, “Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.”  How do you let a close friend know that they are making a mistake?  Are you upfront and open about the problem?  Do you let something carry on for so long that the conversation finally pours out of your mouth with frustration and anger and spirals out of control?  Or are you the type of friend who holds their breath and says nothing until the friend has dug a hole for him/herself without even realizing they were doing anything wrong?  There are some things in life that you can and should let pass you by for the other person to figure out on their own but there are also times when that friend could use some good, straight advice in a way that doesn’t sound condescending.  We’ll call this section ‘straight talk’ and give instances when you should “let it be” or not let it be.

  • Your girlfriend is frying her curly hair everyday with a straightener/dying it way too often:  It’s ok for someone to use the chameleon tactic to disguise their natural hair’s color or style but that chameleon could turn into an unruly dragon if there aren’t regulations.  Try dropping subtle hints to her like “I miss seeing your pretty curls/waves” or “Oh you should try this great leave-in conditioner but you can’t use heat on your hair for a week!  It worked great for me!”  Letting her think you are looking out for her from personal experience will make her feel that you are being honest and helpful rather than harsh.
  • Your friend is seeing a guy/girl that you don’t get good vibes from and could mean trouble or heartbreak: Try to let this one be for a while.  If you are noticing negative behavior rubbing off from the significant other to your friend, just give them enough space to figure out what they want.  Nobody wants to be nagged about possible love choices.  If there are no improvements in the next few months, sit your friend down and get them to openly talk about aspects of their relationship and determine if it’s healthy or hindering before taking further action.
  • Your friend is mooching: You’re generous enough, letting friends wear clothes or borrow makeup or eat your food.  But when it gets to the point that it’s taking a toll on your budget or wardrobe, it’s time to put them in their place and let them know that you don’t appreciate them treating your possessions and belongings like their own.  Suggest that they buy their own versions of whatever they are mooching off of you.

(Image borrowed from sheenalashay.com)

Hair’s to Change!

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As the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2014, millions of people lifted their glasses and toasted to a new year with new resolutions to which they swore to follow. “One drink/piece of chocolate/cookie/a million other things won’t hurt me.”  But giving in one time turns into ten times and before you know it, you are no closer to reaching your goals and in fact, you may be further behind than before.  This scenario has already played out for me twice thus far; but for the past week, I have pushed past temptation and ignored ailments and negative thoughts.  The hardest hurdle for me to jump over when working out and eating healthier is reaching four days in a row.  If I can push myself on day five to work out and avoid unhealthy foods, I look forward to extending my willpower to day six.

I ombred my roommate’s hair last night for four long hours, applying dark brown to the crown of her head and bright red from the chin down.  Over these four hours, I felt productive and skillful which inspired me to write about how something as simple as dying your hair a different color or several colors can be exciting and refreshing, helping you accomplish resolutions and goals that the old you couldn’t/wouldn’t.  You can also use this tactic to motivate and reward yourself; once you have worked out for x days/months in a row, treat yourself with something that you have been craving or wanting to do.  Try using these tips to push yourself closer to your resolutions:

  • Reward yourself to frozen yogurt instead of ice cream at the end of every successful workout week.  Frozen yogurt has a load of healthy benefits but use caution with size and toppings! http://bit.ly/1bKZWek
  • Get a manicure or pedicure–What could be better than a stranger massaging your hands, legs and feet making them soft and beautiful?
  • Buy a new form-fitting top to show off your progress at the gym and your newfound abs

Whatever you are working for or toward, just keep your imagined result in mind and repeat to yourself, “I am the only one who can make this vision a reality”.