Tag Archives | Mental Health

8 Habits You May Not be Aware of that Speed up Aging

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We’re all probably aware that things like smoking and obesity shorten our lifespan, but what we may not be aware of is that there are many other seemingly harmless habits that are secretly aging us every day.

Wearing a “Worry Wart” badge

We can’t escape stress, but we can try to rein in our worrying tendencies. Worry not only make us unhappy, anxious, and mentally exhausted, not to mention the extra ice cream and comfort foods it entices us to ingest, but it actually ages the body. The constant release of cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline literally wear us out by lowering the immune system, raising blood pressure, and interfering with sleep, memory and mood.

What you can do – Try to put worries in perspective by looking at the big picture. Take a few deep breaths when anxiety rears its ugly head. Do something physical; take a walk or a few yoga poses. Meditation really does help as does setting aside a regular “worry time.” The key is not to let worry be a constant companion.

Being a sunscreen slacker

Sure, you remember to put on sunscreen when heading to the beach, but what about driving to work, walking the dog, or doing errands. Repeated daily exposure to the sun can actually cause significant premature aging. Researchers in Australia recently found in a study of 900 participants that those who consistently applied sunscreen daily had smoother, more resilient and younger looking skin. So not only does skipping the daily sunscreen raise the risk of skin cancer, it also weakens skin cells and can surprisingly make us more prone to bruising and skin injury.

What you can do – Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 15, preferably 30. Use a nickel size dollop for the face an amount equivalent to a shot glass to cover all exposed areas of the body every day. Once it becomes a habit, it will only take a few minutes and can save your skin years of premature leathery skin.

Having a “Sweet Spot” for sugar

We know sugar can pack on the pounds, but health experts now believe that sugar is secretly aging us. Sugar damages our skin by drying out the collagen and elastin that are naturally present, resulting in dull, dry, sagging and wrinkle prone skin.  This process, known as glycation also causes dark circles and puffiness. Both of which are not only unattractive, but make us look and feel older. These effects begin at about 35 and rapidly increase after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

What you can do – Let’s face it sugar is tough to eliminate completely, but trying to minimize consumption will pay off in a big way. Aim for no more than 10% of daily calories and watch out for those hidden sugars! Read labels and try to limit sweet treats to a few times per week.

You think exercise is only for weight-loss

Whether you need to lose weight or not, exercise literally helps turn back our body clock. Regular and consistent exercise, even something as simple as a daily 30 minute walk can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improve memory and concentration, increase muscle tone and best of all significantly reduce chronic stress. As a bonus, regular exercise will help the pounds stay off and protect our muscle mass and bone density.

What you can do – Go for a daily walk with a friend or Fido, take up a physical hobby or join a group sport or class. Get an exercise buddy or find an event to compete in. Anything that will motivate and make exercise more fun will help keep you active.

You hold a grudge

Holding on to a grudge or anger are not only damaging to your mental health, but they can age you physically as well. If you can let things go, you may be adding years to your body. Studies have shown a link between forgiveness and physical health. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine showed that a lack of forgiveness lowered sleep quality, increased stress causing hormones, raised blood pressure and elevated blood sugar resulting in weight gain and an increased likelihood of needing medication. In short, learn how to let go, and you may live longer.

What you can do – Recognize that holding on to anger and resentment hurt you more than the other person. Forgiveness does not mean that you need to be a victim or give trust where it’s not warranted. Learn to let things go and you may indeed live longer…not to mention happier. And that’s the best revenge anyway.

You’re too busy for your friends

When you were younger, your friends probably figured prominently in your calendar, but as we acquire more responsibility, demanding jobs, partners, parenting and household duties the time for friends slips away. But making time for friends isn’t a luxury. Studies have shown that sustaining friendships are better predictors of longevity than even family. Strong friendships can help alleviate depression, deal with mental stress as well as reduce our risk of many chronic conditions all of which age us prematurely.

What can you do – Carve regular friend time in your schedule, even if it’s just once a week. Do it digitally if you have to. While in person is best, communicating via email or Facebook count too. Reach out to old and new friends and put effort into cultivating log term relationships that nurture and support.

You love the remote

A British Journal of Sports Medicine study of 11,000 adults discovered that every hour in front of the TV shortens your life expectancy by 22 minutes, even more for the remote addicts among us, those who average more than six hours a day live on average five years less than non-TV watchers. It’s not so much about the TV watching, as it is the inactivity. But while you might not be able to change a sedentary job, you can control how much couch time you get.

What you can do – The simplest strategy is simply to watch less TV! But there are some tricks you might want to try. Watch TV while walking on the treadmill or exercising, but one of those portable stepper machines and work off those chips while you’re at it. Or try getting up to walk around during every commercial break.

You can’t remember the last time you had sex!

Yes, sex feels good, but it’s also fantastically healthy.  Research shows that an active sex life can help strengthen your immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, relieve depression and the Journal of the American Medical Association now reports sex may even lower your risk for certain types of cancer. During sex, the body releases chemicals such as endorphin, serotonin, and other immune and mood boosting substances that not only make you healthier and happier, but can actually make you look years younger.

What you can do – Things like getting more sleep and exercising can increase sex drive and energy. Also, you might try reading erotic or romantic material, getting a quick massage or dressing the part to get in the mood. For the practical minded…schedule it. Swap out that favorite TV show for some extra “love time.” Your body…and your partner will thank you.

This post was originally published on Lifehack.org

Featured photo credit: delta creme donuts – lucianvenutian via flickr.com

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Stop Being So Productive…It Might Be Bad For Your Health

Productivity

Yes, you read that right! Stop trying to be so productive…at least some of the time.

(Thanks to my husband for this picture…which inspired this post and got me thinking, though that probably wasn’t his intention at all…he probably just thought it was funny.)

And it is funny…and yet it’s also kinda serious.

If you expect to be productive every day, you’re setting yourself up for disaster…burn out, disappointment, stress, plus we’ll all find you annoying…

Every once in a while, just forget about trying to be productive and do whatever you feel like doing…or do nothing at all…which might be the hardest thing to do for many of us…

Do you ever put aside the need to be productive? Does it feel less stressful? Or does it make you antsy?

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In Defense of Instant Gratification

The precept of delayed gratification has been preached to us, drummed into our heads, until we no longer question it. It has been awarded lauded status, an unquestionable tenet, almost a commandment. “Thou shalt delay gratification.”

We learn this message early in life. Many of us cling to this rule, to the point of martyrdom.

Work before play, save for the future, the payoff is somewhere down the road, pleasure and enjoyment must be earned through hard work.

You know who you are. My hand is in the air!

If your hand is not in the air, you probably don’t need to read the rest of this post.

What it isn’t

We have a pervasive misconception of what instant gratification is. Indulgence, excess, possessions we can’t afford, too much play and not enough work, self-centered wandering lives, with no purpose or meaning. But that’s not what instant gratification really is.

Instant gratification is not the same thing as laziness. It’s not selfishness. It’s not shortsightedness. It’s not a lack of self-motivation.

What it is

The true definition of instant gratification is enjoying our lives, in the present moment. The problem is that most of us are at one end of the spectrum or the other. We are either self-indulgent, or self-denying. Or… We practice self-denial, then binge in self-indulgence, then feel guilty, and punish ourselves by practicing self-denial.

Instant gratification and delayed gratification are not mutually exclusive. Why can’t they coexist? (Feel free to Tweet that!)

Wouldn’t life be better, more enjoyable, if we could both plan for the future, and reward ourselves right now?

  • Are we afraid that if we have fun now we won’t want to work hard later?
  • Are we worried that if we eat dessert now will never get to the vegetables?

It’s important to question those unwritten rules that we learned along the way. See if they still apply? Were they ever in our best interests? If we ever intend to be mindful, successful, and truly enjoyed our lives, we need to think for ourselves.

How to use it

How can we use both instant gratification and delayed gratification to achieve be happy, lower stress, balanced, yet successful and meaningful lives that we all desire?

  • Can we save for the future and indulge in some “luxuries” now?
  • Can we work hard and still find time for play today?
  • Can we have full lives and still take time for ourselves every occasionally?
  • Can we be disciplined, determined, and driven, yet still do something fun and frivolous with our time?

Your turn

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it…

Question this belief for yourself. Practice instant gratification at least once this week and see how you feel about it.

Your thoughts? Where do you fall on the spectrum?

Are you an instant gratifier or a delayed gratifier? How and why?

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What Are Your Absolute Minimums?

For my purposes, I define absolute minimums as the least amount of work, activity or progress you feel you must accomplish each day. If you can can successfully complete these absolute minimums each day you’ll make not only make significant progress toward your goals over time, but you’ll increase your overall sense of satisfaction with life.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. You can always do more than your minimums and sometimes you will, but even small amounts of consistent action add up. All too often we get caught in the mental trap of believing that if we can’t commit a substantial amount of time and energy then we might as well not bother to do anything at all. That’s just not true.

What do you hope to accomplish? Where in your life do you most want to see progress or improvement?

Everyone will have different answers and only you can define for yourself what they are. It’s helpful to look at your core focus areas and determine what your absolute minimums are. I’ll share a snapshot of my absolute minimums based on my current focus list to get you started thinking. These are the things I have determined that I must do with consistency; both to achieve progress towards my goals and also to feel satisfied with my life.

My Absolute Minimums

  • Exercise a minimum of 20 minutes daily
  • Write for one hour
  • Connect with at least one child each day (one on one time, phone call or email/text conversation)
  • Find 30 minutes of alone time (crucial to my sanity)
  • Complete a minimum of 6 productive work hours each day – 4  during the summer
  • At least 30 minutes of one-on-one conversation face time with my husband
  • Spend 15 minutes on Social media for career
  • Check in with my Facebook community of friends and family

Your list will be different and it should be. The amount or complexity is up to you, but remember to keep it reasonable or you won’t be able to maintain your momentum. You can always do more, but this will be your “enough.” Use it as a guideline for how to use your day and as a structure for cementing healthy and productive habits.

What is on your absolute minimum list?

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Do You Have Tangible Interests?

English: Sir Winston Churchill.

English: Sir Winston Churchill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real.”— WINSTON C HURCHILL

 

The life question to ask this week is … “Do you have real hobbies and/or interests?”

Can you describe your hobbies/interests to others?

Do your hobbies/interests create anything?

Do your hobbies/interests help you learn or enhance any skills?

Do your hobbies/interests bring you enjoyment?

I know that in this overscheduled, overwhelmed world it feels like we don’t have time for hobbies.

But we need to widen the scope of our lives in order to be whole people with a life that’s full. How can we be happy in an existence as work machines, with our focus placed narrowly on the drudgery of life. A happy life requires curiosity, interest and expression.

So, if you want to be “happy and  safe,” as Winston Churchill says, GET A HOBBY or two.

 

 

 

 

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