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May 18, 2013

Do We Unknowingly Create Unhappiness?

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

change your mind life Do We Unknowingly Create Unhappiness?Most people identify themselves as a “glass half full” kind of person.  We don’t intentionally set out to wreck our moods or think ourselves into unhappiness… do we?  However, we can feel like tumbleweeds in the wind, our moods – which can create stress may quickly shift from the impact of a difficult work environment, a nagging spouse, or even something as seemingly benign as the weather.  And all these mood stressers impact us on a physical level too – by increasing the body’s production of a stress hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol initiates a vicious cycle of food versus mood, wherein we crave sugary, carb-laden foods and shun healthier alternatives like fish and vegetables.  Of course, eating all this garbage makes us feel more depressed and more negative, which floods the body with more cortisol.  But the good news is that you can break the cycle – and it all starts with something as simple as a thought.

As it turns out, the more frequently you have negative thoughts, the more depressed you feel [1].  Conversely, the happier you feel, the more your health and your mood improves.  Classes in understanding happiness have even sprung up on college campuses.  Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D ., an associate of the Harvard Psychology Department teaches the single most popular course on campus – a course about how our levels of happiness and unhappiness are rooted in our thoughts, deeds and words.[2]

But can we really learn to be happy?  A new school of thought put forward by psychologist Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychology Association believes that we can all be happier by recognizing how our thoughts and words contribute to our moods.   The good news is that you can start feeling better today by following a few proven steps that boost your body’s natural “happiness chemicals”.

According to an article by the Cleveland Clinic,[3] you can quell a bad mood almost instantly by:

·         Holding hands or hugging – A 20 second hug with your spouse releases the feel-good brain chemical oxytocin, which in turn helps you relax and feel calmer.

·         Get social – Resist the urge to hibernate in your home alone and grab a pal (or two, or three) for an evening out.  When women are emotionally close to their friends, the hormone progesterone is increased, which subdues anxiety and reduces stress.  Men get the same benefits whether they’re with their buddies or with women.

·         Enjoy more of nature – The fresh air, the trees, the crisp leaves under your feet, the warmth of the sun on your face… getting out into nature revitalizes your body and mind while clearing out the cobwebs of too much time spent indoors.

·         Laugh out loud – Rent a comedy movie or listen to your favorite comedian. Boisterous laughter releases endorphins which help you feel happier and more at ease.

Feeling happier is not a matter of willing your body to do so.  Your brain is smarter than you think, and no amount of telling yourself “I am happy…I am happy” is going to change your mood.  Instead, combine your affirmative statement with a reason – such as:

Today I am going to feel happy BECAUSE…(I’ll finish that big project at work / I’m grateful for my family / I’m taking better care of my health, etc.)

Back to the cortisol culprit – how do you slam the breaks on a seemingly never ending cycle of cravings that can disrupt your mood?  Follow these tips, from the Food and Mood connection by the Mayo Clinic [4]

·         Keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the day by consuming more whole grains, fruits, and leafy green vegetables

·         Avoid alcohol as it can interfere with your body’s natural ability to get a good night’s sleep

·         Eliminate caffeine as you’re likely to experience a “crash” later when your blood sugar takes a nose-dive

·         Consider eating 5-6 smaller meals per day rather than 3 large ones as this also contributes to better blood sugar levels.

Overall, you can learn to improve your mood and well-being by taking these simple steps. Try it out and let me know your results in the comments below!

[1] The Effects of Reducing Frequency of Negative Thoughts on the Mood of Depressed Patients
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/620107

[2] Tal Ben-Sharar: The Secret to Happiness:
http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/01/the-science-of-happiness.html

[3] The Cleveland Clinic: Mood Boosters: Think Happy Thoughts to Boost Your Mood
http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/mind/moodboosters/Pages/ThinkHappyThoughtstoBoostYourMood.aspx

[4] The Food and Mood Connection:   http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-mood/my00716

Copyright 2013 G. Donadio

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February 26, 2013

How Happy Couples Behave

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

 

wallpaper 968975 1024x640 How Happy Couples Behave

It is not a coincidence that happy couples share many of the same behavioral patterns. Often we think that being happy means we have fun sharing the same hobbies or doing everything as a couple. While sharing activities enhances relationships, the most important components to successful relationships is found in how the individuals within the couple treat each other, and in large part it has to do with communication and behavior. Listed below are some of the most important aspects of having a successful relationship with your significant other.

  1. Friends – Being friends and genuinely liking your partner is one of the most important components of a happy and successful relationship. If you don’t like the other person, how can you truly love them?
  2. Enjoying your friend and partners company – Laughter is not only good medicine but it is also the glue that binds relationships and creates memories. Laughing together and even crying together is meaningful in good relationships.
  3. Be spontaneous – All of us have preferences, likes and dislikes. To be spontaneous about trying new food, travel plans, places to visit and so forth we expand our personal horizons and show respect for our spouse’s or partner’s preferences as well. Life is more interesting if we can be spontaneous together!
  4. Have your own life - Developinga healthy relationship is about two independent and emotionally mature individuals joining company to share their lives together. Sometimes our needs can become interjected into our relationship in a way that creates a co-dependent dynamic and this can derail happiness in an intimate relationship.
  5. Be Fully, Purely Present to Your Partner – It has been said that there is not greater gift than our full, complete presence to another. By being authentically interested and attentive to the other person is a hallmark of a healthy, happy relationship.
  6. Show and express affection – Physical touch is an important part of happiness and fulfillment in relationships. Couples will often express that just holding hands or sharing affection with their partner is the very important part of their feeling loved and cared for.
  7. Be caring and kind – It cannot be stated enough that kindness, compared with criticism or complaints, is one of the most attractive things about another person. When we are kind not only do we feel good about our behavior but the person we are in relationship with feels good about our behavior as well.
  8. Be Honest – If we give our partners a sense that we are devoted and loyal to them and they provide that for us, we create the foundation of a truly lasting and loving relationship. Many times marriages or relationships break up because of trust issues. Trust is the foundation of a all good interactions.
  9. Be committed – When we are committed to someone it means that we are there for them and we can be counted on to support them and be there in times of need. This is what we all want from our relationships and in order to get that we need to give that as well.
  10. Communicate – By actively communicating with your partner on an ongoing basis you can avoid many of the problems that arise in relationships before they occur. By being proactive and checking in with each other on a regular basis to see how things are for the other person, this will go a long way is preventing and avoiding conflicts and unmet needs.

Creating and sustaining a loving, trusting and lasting relationship is one of the most fulfilling experiences most of us long for and look forward to. While it is not a complicated process it does require awareness and cultivation, just like raising a child or growing a garden. If we keep the weeds from infiltrating the flow beds we can enjoy the uninterrupted beauty of our longed for relationship and reduce the work and wear and tear that neglect can produce. Relationships take time, caring and commitment, but they are truly worth it. For a free download on communication skills for enhanced relationships visit www.changingbehavior.org. 

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January 27, 2013

Love Can be Fattening

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

11259411 overweight fat woman on the weight scale Love Can be Fattening

I ran across a great article, written by Nicholas Bakalar, about a study that was published on the relationship between the weight gain of women who live with a mate in comparison to women who do not. Rather than excerpt material from the article, I would like to share it with you in is entirety. Hope this information is useful for you or someone you know.

Study Says Women With Mate Get Heavier
by Nicholas Bakalar

It is widely known that women tend to gain weight after giving birth, but now a large study has found evidence that even among childless women, those who live with a mate put on more pounds than those who live without one.

The differences, the scientists found, were stark.

After adjusting for other variables, the 10-year weight gain for an average 140-pound woman was 20 pounds if she had a baby and a partner, 15 if she had a partner but no baby, and only 11 pounds if she was childless with no partner. The number of women with a baby but no partner was too small to draw statistically significant conclusions.

There is no reason to believe that having a partner causes metabolic changes, so the weight gain among childless women with partners was almost surely caused by altered behavior. Moreover, there was a steady weight gain among all women over the 10 years of the study.

This does not explain the still larger weight gain in women who became pregnant. The lead author, Annette J. Dobson, a professor of bio-statistics at the University of Queensland in Australia, suggested that physiological changes might be at work.

“Women’s bodies may adjust to the increased weight associated with having a baby,” Dr. Dobson said. “There may be a metabolic adjustment that goes on when women are pregnant that is hard to reverse. This would be more consistent with our findings than any other explanation.”

The study covered more than 6,000 Australian women over a 10-year period ending in 2006.

At the start, the women ranged in age from 18 to 23. Each woman periodically completed a survey with more than 300 questions about weight and height, age, level of education, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption, medications used and a wide range of other health and health care issues.

By the end of the study, published in the January issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, more than half the women had college degrees, about three-quarters had partners and half had had at least one baby. Almost all of the weight gain happened with the first baby; subsequent births had little effect.

Also by the end of the study period, there were fewer smokers and risky drinkers than at the beginning, more women who exercised less and a larger proportion without paid employment.

But even after adjusting for all of these factors and more, the differences in weight gain among women with and without babies, and among women with and without partners, remained.

Despite the study’s limitations — weight was self-reported, for example, and the sample size diminished over time because people dropped out — other experts found the results valuable.

“It’s interesting and brings out some important points,” said Maureen A. Murtaugh, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Utah who has published widely on weight gain in women. Perhaps, she suggested, a more active social life may help explain why women with partners gain more weight.

“Think of going to a restaurant,” Dr. Murtaugh said. “They serve a 6-foot man the same amount as they serve me, even though I’m 5 feet 5 inches and 60 pounds lighter.”

The study included only women, but the researchers cited one earlier study that showed an increase in obesity among men who had children, adding further evidence that social and behavioral factors are part of the explanation.

Dr. Dobson said the finding of weight gain among all the women, with families or without, was troubling.

“This is a general health concern,” she said. “Getting married or moving in with a partner and having a baby are events that trigger even further weight gain.

“From a prevention point of view, one can look at these as particular times when women need to be especially careful.”
© 2013 BlueCross BlueShield Association – All Rights Reserved.

 

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