A daily meditation practice is one of the very best habits you can establish for yourself. Studies have shown that meditation reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and boosts immunity. It can also help you to let go of negative feelings and give you a more positive outlook without the use of medication. Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by the thought of meditation because they believe it is either difficult to do, overly time consuming or attached to a specific religious belief; all of which are false. Meditation is actually a very healthy practice that will result in less stress, a healthier body and more mental clarity. To reap the benefits to mind, body and spirit, you need only to practice a very basic form of meditation. Try these simple steps for just 10 minutes each morning:Read More
Spring has finally sprung, and brings with it the stirring of growing things all around us. One of my favorite memories from childhood was seeing the big field across the street from our house transform from muddy, snow blotched thatch to lush green grass, suitable for barefoot games of tag and running bases with my friends.Read More
While you might think that you need to see many doctors and take many medications in order to remain healthy, researchers now believe that laughter is actually the best medicine and the best way to stay healthy. Laughing can relax the body and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, arthritis, and other serious illnesses. It can rid the body of negative emotions -such as stress, anger, anxiety, and depression, which have all been proven to lead to heart disease. Some other benefits are:
- Laughter can help lower blood pressure. Research has shown that people who laugh on a regular basis tend to have lower blood pressure than the average person. When laughing, breathing becomes heavier and this sends more oxygen through the body. This allows for blood pressure to rise when laughing and then fall to levels below normal after laughing.
- A good laugh can actually be equivalent to a good workout. Laughing can work out your diaphragm, respiratory, back, leg, and facial muscles. It also is a great way to boost your heart rate and increase digestion. Researchers believe that a good laugh can burn approximately the same number of calories as riding an exercise bike for a few minutes. One study concluded that laughing for 10-15 minutes can burn about 50 calories.
- Laughter can change the biochemical makeup of the body. It will decrease the amount of stress hormones that the body is releasing, while increasing beneficial infection-fighting antibodies.
- While relieving stress, laughter can also help improve brain functioning. Since the body is producing less stress-causing hormones, the muscles in the brain relax. This allows the brain to become more alert and retain more information.
- Finally, laughing can protect the heart from heart attacks. Research has shown that people with heart disease laugh approximately 40% less than people without heart disease.
In order to gain the benefits of laughter, it is important to allow yourself time to laugh every day. For example, watch comedy TV, listen to comedy when driving, and make friends with funny people. You should understand that humor is good, so don't take life and yourself so seriously! Be sure to laugh at yourself and have fun!
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Most cases of hiccups are generally believed to be a reflex action of your body, which can be caused when the vagus nerve (which runs from the brain to the abdomen) or one of its branches is irritated. If you regularly suffer from hiccups (and they always seem to manifest when you least expect them), you may have been told you can cure them by swallowing sugar. Some people also swear by the stick-your-fingers-in-your-ears technique. Believe it or not, some of these seemingly goofy "cures" can prove to be helpful, and here are some of the reasons why they may work:
Taking a spoonful of sugar overloads the nerve endings in the mouth and sticking your fingers into your ears stimulates the vagus nerve, which can help to stop the hiccups. There are several other tricks that you can try.
Disrupting the hiccups cycle is sometimes effective, so if you are startled the element of surprise could serve the purpose; gulping water can also interrupt the cycle of hiccups. Sticking out your tongue and pulling on it could also be effective. A cotton swab to the roof of your mouth or having someone tickle you are two ideas that may also help.
Another treatment variation includes holding your breath for as long as possible or breathing into a paper bag. This increases the of level carbon dioxide in your bloodstream and may make the body "forget" the hiccups.
Two final tips: If you are a fast eater, slow down and don't overload your stomach. Avoiding overly spicy foods and excess alcohol can also reduce the incidence of hiccups.
If you suffer regularly from hiccups or are having a prolonged bout, consult a healthcare professional to make sure there are not more serious underlying issues causing the problem.
Copyright © Christine Hammerlund – 2011. Christine Hammerlund is a registered nurse and the owner of Assured Healthcare, a healthcare staffing service headquartered in Gurnee, Illinois.
A daily meditation practice is one of the very best habits you can establish for yourself. Studies have shown that meditation reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and boosts immunity. It can also help you to let go of negative feelings and give you a more positive outlook without the use of medication. Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by the thought of meditation because they believe it is either difficult to do, overly time consuming or attached to a specific religious belief; all of which are false. Meditation is actually a very healthy practice that will result in less stress, a healthier body and more mental clarity. To reap the benefits to mind, body and spirit, you need only to practice a very basic form of meditation. Try these simple steps for just 10 minutes each morning:
- Dress comfortably and find a quiet location where you will not be interrupted. (This is sometimes the most difficult part!)
- Sit or lie down (some people say that meditation should never be practiced lying down, but it can as long as you are not prone to falling asleep... sleep and meditation are two very different things and do not have the same effects.)
- Relax your body by taking a few slow, deep breaths. (Make sure that your belly rises before your chest as you breathe in. This is known as deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing or "belly" breathing and helps the body to relax. Deep breathing is a great relaxation technique on its own.)
- Now, simply close your eyes and try to clear your mind of all thoughts while focusing on your breathing... as thoughts do come into your mind (and they will), gently acknowledge them and then let them go, refocusing each time on your breathing. Your goal is to stop thought as much as possible and you will find that as you practice meditation daily, it will become much easier and more beneficial. Some people find that listening to a constant sound such as the air conditioning or a hum will help them focus. In this type of basic meditation, there is no need to use a mantra (a word or phrase used to focus the mind in some types of meditation).
Be sure to keep your practice simple and it will be much easier to maintain. It's as easy as that!
Terri R. Marshall is the owner of Tranquility Bay Relaxation Therapy & Wellness Coaching in Annapolis, Maryland. She is a Relaxation Therapist, Certified Stress Management Specialist, Certified Wellness Coach, Therapeutic Guided Imagery Practitioner and Green Living Consultant. Terri specializes in local individual Relaxation Therapy sessions which relax the body, calm the mind and soothe the spirit as well as Wellness Coaching sessions which promote a health and happiness. In addition, she is available for out-of-area telephone consultations and gift certificates are now available for all Tranquility Bay services. Visit Terri's website for more information or a copy of any of her great self-help publications: http://www.tranquilitybaywellness.com.
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Sometimes science eventually gets around to proving what every sort of knows intuitively. Though research is still in its early stages, it turns out that moms can be one of the great cures for what ails a child. Researchers at Northwestern University are testing whether a mother’s voice can pierce through a coma. There, voices of family and friends are recorded and then played back to the brain-injured patients through headphones several times a day.
One of those patients, Ryan Schroeder, a 21-year-old college student, was in a coma after being flung from snowmobile into a tree. He started to respond to external stimuli after three weeks of hearing his mother’s voice played over and over.
Coincidence? We’ll see. But a year later, Schroeder is walking with assistance, texting friends and brushing his own teeth.
Lead researcher Theresa Pape, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University, suspects repeated exposure to the voices of loved ones could help regenerate the brain’s neural networks. MRI scans of coma patients reveal that parts of the brain light up when they hear family members, but not for unfamiliar voices.
The new research shows how potent the sound of a familiar voice can be, says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist with Rutgers University in New Jersey and author of “Why Him? Why Her?”.
“It shows why it’s important to have people in our lives that we can call, who will calm us and get our cortisol levels down,” Fisher said.
Ultimately, the study confirms something we instinctively knew all along, Fisher says: “When we call someone we love, we feel better.” Researchers from the University of Wisconsin asked 61 girls and their moms to take part in an experiment to determine whether a voice could be as comforting as physical hugs and kisses. The girls, ages 7 to 12, were instructed to give a talk and then solve some math problems in front of a panel of judges. The situation figured to make any kid’s heart pound and blood pressure rise.
Before the girls gave their performances, the researchers measured the levels of two important and powerful hormones: oxytocin and cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that spikes during times of stress. Oxytocin is the bonding, or so-called “love,” hormone.
“It’s generally been assumed that there has to be physical contact for oxytocin to released,” said study co-author Seth Pollak, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin. “We were curious what would happen if the contact was only by phone.”
After their math tests, the girls were sent to one of three rooms. In one, moms were waiting with hugs and kisses and warm reassurances of the girls’ success. “The moms came in and hugged the girls and stroked their hair,” Pollak said. “They’d reassure their daughters with words like ‘I’m sure you did fine. You always perform so well.’ ”
In another room, girls received phone calls from their mothers with verbal reassurances similar to those heard by the first group. A third group of girls didn’t meet up with their moms but were sent to watch the heart-warming movie “March of the Penguins.”
When the researchers later measured hormone levels, they found, not surprisingly, oxytocin rose and cortisol fell in girls who had been in physical contact with their mothers. What was surprising was that the behavior of the hormones was almost identical in girls who had only spoken to their mothers on the phone.
Of course, the study studies relationships, not necessarily love. Pollak allows that when relationships are more complicated and there is tension involved, mom’s voice might not be so soothing.
Pollak says he’d like to explore the effects of a mom’s voice in those complicated relationships in future research.
Copyright © Christine Hammerlund – 2010.Christine Hammerlund is a registered nurse and the owner of Assured Healthcare, a healthcare staffing service headquartered in Gurnee, Illinois.