Tag Archives: Habits

Improved Mental Health Tied to Quitting Smoking

In a new study from Washington University, researchers find that quitting smoking does more than improve physical health as stopping the habit also improves mental health.

Typically, health professionals who treat people with psychiatric problems often overlook their patients’ smoking habits, assuming it’s best to tackle depression, anxiety, or substance abuse problems first.

However, the new study shows that people who struggle with mood problems, or addiction can safely quit smoking and that kicking the habit is associated with improved mental health.

The study is published online in the journal Psychological Medicine.

“Clinicians tend to treat the depression, alcohol dependence or drug problem first and allow patients to ‘self-medicate’ with cigarettes if necessary,” said lead investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, Ph.D.

“The assumption is that psychiatric problems are more challenging to treat and that quitting smoking may interfere with treatment.”

In the study, Cavazos-Rehg discovered that quitting, or significantly cutting back on cigarette smoking was linked to improved mental health outcomes.

Specifically, quitting altogether or reducing by half the number of cigarettes smoked daily was associated with lower risk for mood disorders like depression, as well as a lower likelihood of alcohol and drug problems.

“We don’t know if their mental health improves first and then they are more motivated to quit smoking or if quitting smoking leads to an improvement in mental health,” Cavazos-Rehg said.

“But either way, our findings show a strong link between quitting and a better psychiatric outlook.”

Naturally, the serious health risks associated with smoking make it important for doctors to work with their patients to quit, regardless of other psychiatric problems.

“About half of all smokers die from emphysema, cancer, or other problems related to smoking, so we need to remember that as complicated as it can be to treat mental health issues, smoking cigarettes also causes very serious illnesses that can lead to death,” she said.

Researchers analyzed questionnaires gathered as part of the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

This survey was administered in the early 2000’s and just under 35,000 people were surveyed. As part of the study, participants answered questions about drinking, smoking, and mental health in two interviews conducted three years apart.

The researchers focused on data from 4,800 daily smokers. Those who had an addiction or other psychiatric problems at the time of the first survey were less likely to have those same problems three years later if they had quit smoking.

And those who hadn’t had psychiatric problems at the initial survey were less likely to develop those problems later if they already had quit.

At the time of the first interview, about 40 percent of daily smokers suffered mood or anxiety disorders or had a history of these problems. In addition, about 50 percent of daily smokers had alcohol problems, and some 24 percent had drug problems.

Forty-two percent of those who had continued smoking during the years between the two surveys suffered mood disorders, compared with 29 percent of those who quit smoking.

Alcohol problems affected 18 percent of those who had quit smoking versus 28 percent who had continued smoking.

And drug abuse problems affected only 5 percent of those who had quit smoking compared with 16 percent of those who had continued smoking.

“We really need to spread the word and encourage doctors and patients to tackle these problems,” Cavazos-Rehg said.

“When a patient is ready to focus on other mental health issues, it may be an ideal time to address smoking cessation, too.”

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Seven Ways Your Friends Influence You

For better or worse, our friends have the ability to impact our decisions. And oftentimes, we don’t even realize its happening. From the clothes we wear, to the food we eat and even the career moves we make. Check out these 7 ways our friends can influence us.

1. Your Relationship.

While friends often mean well when giving relationship advice, it’s essential to remember that everyone is giving counsel based on their own experiences (and projections) — plus, they’re only hearing half the story. Independence of thought and confidence are invaluable when it comes to accepting the realities of your own relationship. So, if you’re constantly comparing your couple hood to the ‘perfect’ ones you think your friends have (we know we’ve all done this before!), you’re going to frustrate both yourself and your partner and possibly erode your relationship by devaluing it.

2. Your Eating Habits.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant with the healthiest of intentions — a salad followed by grilled fish and steamed vegetables — only to find yourself halfway through a bacon cheeseburger and onion rings? Or, on the other hand, have you ever listened to everyone at your table order a salad with grilled chicken, only to hear yourself echo their order? As it turns out, eating is a contagious behavior.

In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which analysed data from 32 years, found that your chances of becoming obese actually increase by 57% if you have a friend that’s obese, a chance that’s even greater than sharing genes, she says. So if your overweight friend orders dessert, you assume it’s okay to do the same; you’re changing your eating habits to mirror hers. It’s not necessary to stop going out to dinner with these friends in real world scenarios, but these findings do suggest that mindfulness is especially important when dining out. We’d definitely have to agree with that one.

3. Your Exercise Regimen.

One of the best ways friends influence each other is to encourage, irritate, remind, show up, and be there for exercise. Research proves that having friends to exercise with, really improves both persons’ health, even if that friend is just a walking canine companion. Vice versa, if your friends aren’t physically active at all, it’s likely that exercise will become less of a priority for you.

4. Your Self-Esteem.

Think about it: we tend to compare ourselves to the people in our social group, and the social group we wish we were in, so if our friends have more than us (money, looks, things, etc.), then we tend to feel worse about ourselves and our lives. On the other hand, if we have a bit more than most of the people in our group, we tend to feel better about our lives. Obviously, self-esteem should come from within, though, so take a step back and re-evaluate if you find yourself guilty of this.

5. Your Goals & Aspirations.

Did you know that over 80% of women have “frenemies”? In other words, people who don’t have our best interests at heart and actually undermine goal accomplishment. Well, according to professional coach, it’s true. Research from Shelley Gable, called ‘What Happens When Things Go Right?’ says that how our friends respond to our good news can predict whether or not we continue to pursue what matters to us. The only right way to respond is called ‘active constructive responding,” which is an upbeat, engaging response that begs to know all the details.

6. Your Style.

Along with your geographic area, your family, and the media, friends have a big influence on what you wear. The more important fitting in is for you, the greater your friends’ influence will be. So when it comes to your clothes, whatever style it is that you’re used to seeing on a day-to-day basis, the more likely it is you’ll adopt this look for yourself. Why? Because it becomes your visual norm. This could be good or bad.

7. Your Career.

How many times have you heard, or said, ‘It’s who you know,’ when speaking of someone successful? It’s true. In order to succeed in many things, you need to know the people who have the power in that field. Throughout your school years, you build friendships with people who will turn out to be the powerful ones. And when you build good relationships with people who have succeeded, you find mentors and get an extra boost up the ladder of success that doesn’t exist for outsiders.

So tell us, how have your friends influenced you in your life, for better or worse?

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10 Easy Tips For A Healthier Life

Everyone of us wants to be fit, healthy, and live a long active life. Right? But what do you do for it?

Well, we all know, that a healthy person doesn’t smoke, is at a healthy weight, exercises and eats healthy. Sounds simple, but those who have tried changing their habits know how difficult it could be. Some people decide to make drastic changes, but when they face the difficulties, they just lack motivation and give up.

The secret to healthy living is making small changes: glass of water in the morning, more physical activity, optimistic point of view – these are just a few simple ways to improve your lifestyle. Small changes lead to big results!

1. Drink a glass of water in the morning.

Wake up in the morning and drink one glass of room temperature water first off. You can put a slice of lemon or lime in the water, if you don’t like it’s natural taste. Water helps to clear our system, bring on metabolism rate and flush out the toxins. Some people even say, that it helps to reduce weight!

2. Sleep enough.

Lack of sleep makes you feel tired and angry, you can’t concentrate your attention. Lack of sleep can damage your physical health (especially heart) as well. Some studies have shown that 8 hours of sleep per 24-hour period is the average requirement for adults. But all people are different and need for sleep can range from 6 to 10 hours. If you feel sleepy during 4 pm and 6 pm, you probably do not get enough rest.

3. Stretch in the morning.

Instead of snoozing in the morning, you can use your time more wisely. Stretch your back, your legs, your neck. It will wake your body from sleep. Stretching in the morning increases blood flow to your muscles providing an extra shot of oxygen and preparing them for a new day.

4. Snack the healthy way.

Potato chips, salted nuts, candies, cookies and other tasty stuff are definitely unhealthy for your body. They contain lots of fat, salt, sugar. Choose raw nuts, fresh fruits or berries instead, they are rich in vitamins and minerals.

5. Eat breakfast!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for you weight loss seekers. If you skip it, you’ll get hungry long before lunch and will start snacking on foods that are high in fat and sugar, but low in vitamins. Researchers at the 2003 American Heart Association conference reported that breakfast eaters are significantly less likely to be obese and get diabetes compared with non-breakfast eaters.

6. Take a daily walk.

We all know about the advantages of physical activity, but most of us have neither time, nor desire to exercise. Use the stairs as often as possible instead of the elevator, take a walk with your friends, walk your dog a bit longer, than usually – use any possibility to be more physically active. Researchers say, that people only need to walk up to 12 miles per week or for about 125 to 200 minutes per week to improve their heart health.

7. Make social connections.

It is said that lonely people are more likely to become ill and die younger. People who have no friends are more stressed, depressed and often less physically active. Moreover, experts say that how socially connected a person tends to be is one of the most important ways of predicting his health and independence in later years.

8. Study ingredient lists of your favorite products.

Product’s ingredient list is very important as it shows you whether the food you’re about to buy contains unnatural and unhealthy ingredients. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of unhealthy ingredients on the market and it is almost impossible to remember all of them. Luckily, you can find a lot of information on the Internet about them, so study all of your favorite and most common foods, cosmetics and other products you buy. Harmful ingredients may cause various diseases, allergic reactions and even cancer.

9. Find new activities.

Pick up a new activity involving the whole family and friends such as hiking, group sports, skiing or riding a bicycle. Finding a hobby can give you the enjoyment and reduce stress. You’ll also start meeting people who have the same interests as you and may make some new friends (remember the #7 advise). Enjoy your new hobby and remember – happy people live longer!

10. Love your life!

Relax! Don’t get nervous and angry because of the trivial things. Don’t be too serious. Smile, love others, and always look on the bright side of life!

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Breaking Up Can Literally Break Your Heart

The word “heartbreak” is bandied about so much we often forget that physical heart pain is a side effect of high-stress events.

Along with depression and loss of appetite, physical heart pain is an actual side effect of high-stress events like the loss of loved ones. The grief from a breakup or death can be so consuming that it’s actually heart wrenching and can have serious consequences for our physical health, too.

The ‘Physical Effects’ of a ‘Broken Heart’:

Anyone who has experienced real heartbreak knows that it’s not just a melodramatic term. The aching, tight feeling that accompanies such sadness is uncomfortable, but usually not disconcerting. However, for people with broken heart syndrome, it feels scarily similar to a heart attack — in fact, most people are diagnosed after being taken to the emergency room.

Broken heart syndrome, also known as stress cardiomyopathy, is a sudden weakness in the heart muscle due to a severely stressful situation. It has the same symptoms as a heart attack — difficulty breathing, chest pain, and a drop in blood pressure — but while a heart attack permanently damages the heart, broken heart syndrome’s effects are temporary. Also, heart attacks are caused by blocked coronary arteries; people can experience stress cardiomyopathy without existing blockages. This important difference is often how doctors determine one from the other.

In 2005, researchers at John Hopkins University discovered the distinction when they studied the hearts of patients dealing with deaths of family members, car accidents, financial woes, and other anxiety triggers. They postulated that being under such stress causes the brain to release a constant stream of stress hormones like adrenaline into the blood, which makes heart vessels work too hard and reduces pumping strength. However, this is but one theory — doctors are still trying to determine exactly why adrenaline surges affect heart muscle cells the same way that heart attacks do.

The syndrome might be serious like a heart attack, but luckily it’s a temporary condition that can be cleared up in about a week with proper medical care. Mostly people just need time to recover from whatever physical or emotional event shocked their systems enough to cause cardiomyopathy. Even seemingly innocent things like surprise parties and public speaking can spark heart problems; many patients don’t have preexisting heart conditions, so it is difficult to tell who is at risk for the syndrome. For reasons still unknown, it does occur more frequently in women than men, particularly postmenopausal women.

Toxic Relationships Can Be Deadly, Too.

Suffering through a traumatic event like a breakup isn’t the only way to weaken our hearts — staying in a toxic relationship can be just as detrimental. It’s no secret that negative relationships, whether platonic or romantic, can have negative effects on our physical well-being. Emotional stress puts added pressure on our bodies, which weakens our immune systems and increases depressive episodes. In 2007, a study conducted at University College London found that people in bad relationships — characterized by a lack of support and a constant source of stress — had a 34 percent higher chance of having heart problems in the future compared to those in positive couplings.

The study followed 8,000 subjects, initially heart disease free, over a twelve-year period. At the end of the study, 589 people had developed heart disease and those who previously reported relationship strife, especially the ones who felt that talking with their companions about problems made things even worse, had a higher occurrence of the disease. We’ve always known that fighting with loved ones is a sure source of heartache, and now we know it’s a potential contributor to heart disease as well.

Our Loved Ones’ Deaths Can Lead to Our Own.

Grief over someone’s death, particularly when it’s someone as close as a mother or father, can be debilitating and excruciatingly painful. Depression and weight loss often stem from such loss, but now there’s evidence suggesting that it can even result in death. A 2008 study led by Ivan Mendoza, MD found that in 102 reported cases of sudden death, thirteen of them happened on the anniversary of the day that their parents died. Out of this group, one third of them died around the same age that their parents did. But unlike broken heart syndrome, sudden death resulting from grief occurred more among men than women in this study and the majority of cases had underlying coronary heart disease.

This isn’t the first time that grief and death have been linked. A psychiatrist named George L. Engel wrote a paper in 1971 detailing numerous cases of people who died soon after a loved one. We’ve all heard similar tales of people dying unexpectedly just a few weeks or months after their partners, as if they couldn’t imagine going on without them.

We’re inundated with the different habits we should adopt to keep our hearts in tip-top shape, like eating well and exercising, but getting out of bad relationships and dealing with loss in healthy ways aren’t usually on those lists — even though they can potentially cause physiologic harm. Perhaps as more studies like these come out, people will realize just how important it is to strive for emotional as well as physical well-being. They’re inextricably connected, even if more significance is put on one over the other. The effects of a breakup or death can be crippling and we should recognize that. Metaphorical heartbreak is painful enough as it is.

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How To Deal With Being Dumped?

When your significant other ends the relationship, it can be a painful, lonely experience that makes you feel worthless and leaves you with a broken heart. Though it may not feel like you can get through this heartache, there are ways to cope that will see you through to the other side with a different perspective.

  1. Don’t hold out hope for a reunion. The sooner you accept that it is over, the faster you can heal. By hoping that your significant other will want you back, you are basically elongating the grief and setting yourself up for more disappointment. Too many times, a person will hold out for a reconciliation, only to find out that her significant other has started dating someone else. This type of situation only causes more pain and grief.
  2. Allow yourself to get emotional. It is never good for you to bottle up your emotions. If you are upset, have a good cry. If you are angry about the breakup, then show it (but don’t let your anger get the best of you by hurting yourself or others; instead, just scream or punch your pillow). You’d be surprised by how much better you can feel by releasing these emotions. Designate a time and place for this — but don’t let yourself emote 24/7 because you don’t want to end up drained either.
  3. Get rid of things that belong to or remind you of your ex. By doing this, you eliminate those things in your life that only make you think about your ex. The more you think about him/her, the more likely you are to think about the breakup and dwell on the pain you are feeling. If you can’t bear to part with these items — then put them into storage.
  4. Avoid contact with your ex. This basically falls on the same lines as getting rid of things that remind you of your ex. If after you have broken up you constantly call, talk to, or see your ex, it will only serve as a reminder of the failed relationship and cause you undue grief. So, try to have as little contact as possible with your ex. It may help you get over the loss.
  5. Make a list of things you didn’t like about your ex. This is a helpful method for folks who are finding it difficult to get over the end of a relationship. Jot down aspects about your ex that you didn’t like; such as habits, physical attributes, or personality features. The idea is to focus on the things you didn’t like and no longer have to deal with in order to better cope with the breakup. You may find that you feel a bit relieved that your ex is no longer around.
  6. Hang out with and talk to your friends. Your friends can be a wealth of moral support and can help you take your mind off the breakup. Have a powwow with some buddies and talk about your relationship woes. Round up some of your friends and go do something fun. You can have dinner, go on a shopping spree, take a weekend road trip, or whatever you consider a fun distraction.
  7. Stay busy. While you should deal with the issue, dwelling on the breakup may only just make you feel worse about the situation. If you find yourself thinking about it, then do something that will focus your mind on something else. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to turn into a workaholic. Simply putting a little extra effort into your work or taking up a new hobby should suffice.
  8. Go on a couple of dates when you’re ready. A common misconception when a person has been dumped is that they feel as though they won’t find someone else, which just isn’t true. Go on some dates. Not only can this prove to you that you can eventually find someone new, but it can also help you get over your ex and boost your ego. Just make sure that the dates remain casual for companionship only at this time.
  9. Don’t jump into another relationship. If you haven’t fully healed from the breakup, you may find yourself in an even worse relationship than the last. Rebound relationships hold a higher risk of someone getting hurt. Examples of such would be finding out that you aren’t as interested in the new person while he/she is completely into you, or being dumped again because you constantly talk about or compare the new person to your ex because you haven’t fully gotten over the breakup.
  10. Build up your ego. Being dumped can be a hit to the ego. You may begin to think that you were dumped because of something about you (e.g., I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t pretty enough). Much of the time this is an incorrect assumption, so take the time to do activities that make you feel better about yourself and boost your ego. Go out and talk with some folks, start exercising or learn something new.
  11. It’s not uncommon for people to stop taking care of themselves after a relationship has ended. You may find that you aren’t sleeping as much or eating enough. Some folks may even start becoming more self-destructive by drinking alcohol more frequently, overeating or engaging in careless sexual activity. By doing these things, you may find your health declining, hurt yourself or others, or find yourself in a world of regret. Always make sure that you take care of yourself. Just because you are no longer in a relationship doesn’t mean you are any less important.

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Moving On From Disappointment: Are you focused on the person, or on the bigger picture of your life?

When you struggle to let go of someone, there can be sustained periods of rumination and in essence, stewing in what you feel is a rejection of you. If there’s been a series of disappointments, you’ve likely lost sight of you and your values, which means you don’t have the perspective that’s so needed to handle and manage the inevitable disappointments that arise in life.

Whether it’s for a date that didn’t happen, dates that didn’t progress, feelings that weren’t reciprocated, your relationship not working out, or even discovering that someone isn’t what you thought they were, you become fixated on this person (or even a series of people that you thought were “it”) fulfilling your hopes and dreams.

By focusing on the person instead of on the bigger picture of your hopes and expectations, you lose hope because the disappointment leaves you feeling like there’s no point in bothering and your ‘last chance saloon’ has gone.

This person isn’t the only way that you could have your hopes and expectations for a relationship fulfilled though, plus just because they don’t or didn’t fulfil them, doesn’t mean any and all hopes for a relationship are over.

When you struggle to get over the disappointment, it’s because you were over-invested in the potential, ‘vision’, and ultimately the hopes, plans, and outcome that you had set your mind and heart on.

If you’ve been invested in various people and the hopes and expectations you had for a relationship have to adjust due to practical factors, the disappointment is natural and to be expected, but you have to work your way through these feelings to acceptance so that you can create new hopes and expectations.

To continue to immerse yourself in disappointment like a vocation, raking over your past and ruminating on all of the things you ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda done if only’, creates self-rejection and ultimately regret, because as time passes and your outlook and what you’re doing hasn’t changed, that’s what you’ll come to regret – not the various things you’ve been through that brought you to this juncture but the stubbornness you used to lash yourself with and stop you from moving forward.

The disappointment, regret, and rejection is tied up in the idea that what you hope and want in your life is gone and over.

What do you want? This is where your focus should be – on the bigger picture of your values so that you can focus your actions on living congruently with them, not on a person outside of your control. Your purpose in life isn’t to have someone rescue you and make your life ‘better’ – if it doesn’t work out, it’s like returning to the life you didn’t want.

Wherever there’s disappointment and a sense of feeling rejected, you can be assured that there are illusions, giving you an inaccurate, if not downright distorted view of reality. It’s letting go of these that give you the much needed perspective and freedom.

What are you stuck on? List them all, don’t hold back. What is it about this disappointment that you keep returning to?

You wouldn’t be disappointed if what you claim things ‘should’ be was real because you’d be living it.

Walk your way through the relationship and work out where you got the illusions from.

Where did it start?

  • Did they say or do something? Did you?
  • What specific thoughts have you had that led you to this idea?
  • The things that you believed them to be, why did you believe it? Was it based on evidence? Was it brief? Was it based on ideas that you carried into the relationship that may be based on someone else they remind you of or unhealthy/unrealistic beliefs? List examples and the longer you were together, the more you should see of this.

What is the cause of the actual disappointment?

So for example, when someone doesn’t follow through with a date, is it because:

  • You’re disappointed because you misjudged them?
  • They seemed so nice and you were looking forward to it?
  • You hoped that this might be ‘it’ and you could be ‘done’ with dating?
  • You’re disappointed because you assume that you must have said or done something to put them off?
  • You compromised yourself and it still didn’t pay off?
  • You banked on this being the one that would make all of the previous heartache worthwhile and right the wrongs of the past?

For a relationship, it might be that you’re shouldering all of the blame for it not working out, so yeah, you’re bound to be disappointed, just unnecessarily so.

Taking a bigger picture view, this person cannot meet your expectations. They haven’t – it’s why you’re disappointed. They haven’t – that’s about them, not you. Don’t make everything about you – it will compound your hurt.

The facts say that they cannot meet your expectations – it’s holding onto the illusions that they can or could have if only X/Y/Z had happened, which normally boils down to, if you had changed, if you hadn’t breathed or put a foot wrong, if you had got them to change, or if you lived in a fantasy world, that’s disappointing you.

Let me say it again – it’s holding onto the illusions that they can or could have fulfilled your hopes and expectations and that your projected future could, would and should have happened, that’s disappointing you. The tighter you hold on, the more you revisit it – it’s like experiencing the disappointment over and over and over again. It gets even worse if you continue to lie to yourself about them while in the meantime, they behave like a jackass in the present completely contradicting you anyway.

Disappointment and rejection paves the way to new and ultimately better opportunities, if you don’t spend months or even years avoiding admitting a mistake or accepting that it’s over. The length and depth of the avoidance is what causes a ‘setback’.

You can release and grow if you make the connection between relationship insanity – carrying the same baggage, beliefs, and behaviors while choosing same type, different person (or variations of your type), and then expecting a different result – and disappointment.

Relationships serve to teach us about ourselves – the same lessons will keep coming back at you like Michael Myers in Halloween until you heed and learn from them.

Persisting in relationship insanity, means you’ll continue to be disappointed.

Even if you do the whole long shot mentality thing and go with the safe option of unavailable relationships so you can avoid ‘rejection rejection’, you will be disappointed even though it’s ‘expected’.

Your life and your repetitive choices are telling you that you need to adapt your thinking and your habits in order to start fulfilling your hopes and expectations for your life.

Lessen disappointment by living in line with your values so that you can be authentic. You will compound the disappointment if you deviate from them due to the attachment to the idea of this particular person being the ‘key’ to your life – you figure it’ll be worth the risk and then feel embarrassed or even ashamed when it’s not.

If you stay on a Bullshit Diet, it also means that you don’t hear what you want to hear, see what you want to see, and create meaning where there is none. You’ll communicate your expectations, thoughts and concerns – some people don’t do this for fear of disappointment. Then they get disappointed anyway and wish they’d spoken up.

Don’t try to be a perfectionist or the exception to the rule of shady behaviour – these create unrealistic goals while giving you a realistic but unwanted outcome; pain.

Like conflict, fear, and rejection, disappointment is unavoidable but you don’t have to let it claim you and you certainly shouldn’t use it to make judgement’s about yourself that leave you with eroded self-esteem. Let the disappointment go – forgive you and be kind to you because aside from nurturing you, it means you won’t disappoint you by not being on your side.

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