Saturday, January 20, 2018

How Your Body Clock Changes With Age

clock hands

Feel the Rhythm

Your body has tiny clocks all over the place to keep everything running smoothly. But the master one in your brain calls the shots and drives your circadian rhythm. That’s your 24-hour cycle that controls things like your body temperature, hunger, and -- the big one -- sleep. And that clock is wired directly to your eyes, so light has a big effect on it.
woman stretching

What Makes You Tick

When you open your eyes in the morning, light floods your brain. It turns certain genes on and off to get you revved up for the day. It also tells your brain to stop making melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. Later, as the day fades, darkness flips the melatonin switch back on to set you up for sleep.
lark and owl

Larks and Owls

Most people’s clocks run on about the same schedule. But some are a little outside the typical range. Larks rise early, alert and raring to go. Owls? You have to drag them out of bed, but once evening rolls around, they’re on it. Scientists think larks may have slightly faster clocks, and owls slower ones. Fast, slow, or in between are all fine. The key is to work with your clock, not against it.
mature man reading newspaper

How Your Clock Shifts With Age

As you get older, your body clock goes through a few changes. Newborns sleep up to 17 hours a day, while teens need more like 10. Teens also tend to stay up later and sleep in longer. As you move into adulthood, you typically settle in to 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. And after age 65, you might see other shifts, like waking up earlier.
woman working late

Is Your Schedule Keeping You Down?

You might think you can pull a string of late nights and make up the lost sleep on the weekend. But that’s like being on a leaky boat and thinking, “I’ll bail it out on Saturday.” Your body craves routine, and late nights and sleeping in can keep you out of sync. If you do grab some extra shuteye, limit it to an hour, two at the most.
view from plane

Jet Lag

Going from L.A. to New York may not seem like a big deal. But the next morning, when your alarm clocks says 7 a.m., your body clock’s groaning that it’s only on 4 a.m. You’ll adjust, but it might take a few days. The more time zones you cross, the worse it is, especially if you fly east. And changing our clocks twice a year for daylight saving time is like jet lag without leaving the ground.
broken watch

Lack of Rhythm Takes a Toll

When your clock’s off, it doesn’t just mess up your sleep. Your hormones, digestion, and even your immune system can take a hit, too. Scientists think fighting against your clock can make you sick. Some studies show connections between circadian rhythms that are out of whack and conditions like cancer, diabetes, bipolar disorder, and obesity.
mature man sleeping

Are Naps Good or Bad?

They can be good as long as you’re smart about them. A 20- to 30-minute nap in the early to mid-afternoon can make you more relaxed, alert, and productive. It can boost your mood, too. And it usually won’t cause problems with sleeping at night. But longer naps can leave you feeling out of it and may keep you awake when you don’t want to be. And naps are no substitute for good sleep habits.

Refresh With Routine

When you need to get yourself back on track, nothing beats boring. A regular schedule, day in and day out, is one of the best things you can do. Go to bed at the same time each night, then wake up at the same time each morning. Rinse and repeat. Aim to keep the time the same within half an hour on both ends, and you’ll be off to a strong start.
woman sleeping

Reset Yourself, but Not All at Once

If you want to shift your bedtime from midnight to 10, it’s best to take small steps to get there. One big leap might just be frustrating. Instead, shoot for 11:45 for a night or two. Then shift to 11:30. Keep dialing back in 15-minute chunks. It’ll take a little longer, but it’s more likely to stick.
woman enjoying bath

Dim the Lights at Night

We used to sleep in caves with no beds, pillows, or white noise machines. It worked because it was dark. So think about a sort of second sunset at night -- inside your house instead of outside. At least an hour before bed, turn the TV off and dim the lights. Put away the phones, tablets, and anything that glows. Grab a book, put on some chill music, or take a bath and relax.
woman drinking tea

Keep It Light in the Morning

If you’re doing your best to get up at the same time every day but your body’s not playing along, pull those curtains open wide. Turn on the bright lights. Go for a short walk outside. Basically, load your brain up with brightness so you can cut off that melatonin supply. Have your coffee, but drink it in a sunny spot for an even stronger effect.
women exercising

Can Exercise Help?

Yes. People who hit the gym in the early morning tend to get better sleep all around. An afternoon workout can be a good idea, too. Your body temp is higher then, which is good for your muscles. But don’t exercise within 2 hours of your bedtime, because it may rev you up and make you more alert. That’s not true for everyone, though, so pay attention to what works for you.
cheese and crackers

Beware the Late-Night Snack

Who can sleep with a grumbling stomach? But it’s not a good idea to eat right before bed. Your best bet is to fill up at dinner at the same time each night, a few hours before bed. And stay away from heavy meals, spicy foods, and caffeine in the later hours. If you do snack, try a carb with a protein, like cheese and crackers.
woman using cell phone in bed

Digital Sleep Thieves

You close up your laptop after another long day, brush your teeth, and hit the hay. Or maybe you zone out and relax with some TV or a look at your social media feeds. What’s the harm? Computers, TVs, and phones cast a type of blue light that can tell your brain to stop making melatonin. A better way to get ready for a good night’s sleep is to read or listen to relaxing music.
man taking medicine

When You Need More Help

Your rhythm can get so out of whack that you need treatment for it. If that happens, one option is bright-light therapy to reset your clock. You’ll work with a sleep specialist and use special lights 1 to 2 hours every day at specific times. Your doctor might also suggest a melatonin supplement or chronotherapy. That’s when you make small changes to your sleep schedule over time until you’re back on track.
person walking at night

Tips for Shift Workers

If you wake up at night to go to work, flip on the bright lights as soon as you get up. Quick exercises like jumping jacks or a short walk can help, too. At work, keep it as bright as you can. If you head home when it’s light out, wear sunglasses, and once you’re back at your place, use blackout curtains in your bedroom to block out as much light as possible.

Surprising Health Benefits of Lemons and Limes

cutting lemons and limes

Add a Dash of Flavor

Whether you squeeze the juice into water or onto a tasty fish dish, these tangy citrus treats provide you with the same vitamins and minerals as other citrus fruits. The best part: They do it with less sugar.
woman looking in the mirror

Keep Wrinkles at Bay

It’s all that vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbic acid. Your body can’t create it, so you have to get it from food. It helps make collagen, which keeps your skin springy and full. Without enough, it’ll start to wrinkle. Sure, that’s also a natural part of aging, but you can slow it down with the right vitamins and nutrition.
girl in sprint position

Rev You Up

Thiamin and riboflavin, part of a group of vitamins called B complex, turn your food into the energy you need. They also help the cells in your body to grow and do their jobs. Just one medium sized lemon or lime gives you a small portion of what you need every day.
oysters with ice and lemon

Serve Up Antioxidants

Vitamin C, flavonoids, phenolic acids, essential oils, and coumarins are all plentiful in lemons and limes. They’re part of a team of superhero substances called antioxidants. They band together to fight the bad guys -- free radicals -- which damage your cells and lead to diseases and other health problems.
mother making drink with daughter

Help Your Baby Grow

They have a small amount of a B vitamin called folic acid or folate. It helps little ones form in the womb. Cells use it to divide to make more cells. It also creates genetic material in both your bodies that tells your baby's cells how to build his body.
homemade cleaner with lemon

Kill Nasty Bugs

Their high acid content adds the perfect sour bite to your salad greens. It also helps kill salmonella bacteria that might be on your food, your cutting board, or your kitchen counter. That might be the difference between a pleasant evening and a long, long night. Don’t plan on scrubbing the bathroom with it, but if you want to make sure your greens are clean, a half vinegar, half lemon juice mix should zap most of the bacteria in about 15 minutes.
woman measuring blood pressure

Lower Blood Pressure

Both the juice and the peel of lemons or limes can do the trick. Squeeze some in your water before and after you go for a walk. You may get more benefit from each. Talk to your doctor if you take blood pressure drugs or other meds. Citrus can interfere with them. Never adjust medication unless the doctor tells you to.
liver cancer ct scan

Prevent Cancer

While there’s no evidence that lemons or limes can fight cancer you already have, they’re full of antioxidants that may help keep you from getting it in the first place. This is particularly true for cancer of the liver, bone, stomach, breast, and colon.
heart illustration

Pump Up Your Heart

It’s all about those flavonoids. Work more of them into your life and you’re less likely to get heart disease. That’s partly because they help keep the fats and sugars in your blood at healthy levels. Too much of either is bad for your blood vessels.
senior man working crossword

Boost Your Brain

Lemons and limes have special chemicals that may keep brain cells safe from toxic substances in your body. And because they also protect against general cell breakdown and inflammation, they may help prevent brain diseases like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
using electric toothbrush

Keep Gums Healthy

Swollen, bleeding gums and loose teeth are signs of scurvy. It was common long ago when people didn’t have easy access to foods with vitamin C. But you could get it now if you’re older, a smoker, have a low income, or are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Before you chow down on citrus to prevent it, know this: Citric acid is good for what ails you but bad for tooth enamel. Wait at least 30 minutes after you eat or drink something with acid before you brush your teeth.
woman blowing her nose

Get You Over That Cold

It’s a myth that the vitamin C in lemons and limes will prevent a cold. But you do need it to keep your immune system running at peak levels. Taking it at the first sign of the sniffles may help you feel better faster.
garlic oil capsules

Improve Your Cholesterol

A daily mixture of garlic and lemon juice could be good news for people with high cholesterol. Unhealthy levels are linked to hardening of the arteries (your doctor will call it atherosclerosis), which can cause heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
weight loss concept

Lose Weight -- Maybe

Polyphenols, a special kind of antioxidant found in lemons and limes, may hold off weight and body fat gain. Scientists think these substances change the way your body processes fat and improve its response to insulin. But before you load up on lemon water, know that this study was done on mice, not people.
kidney stones

Prevent Kidney Stones

If you’ve ever had one of these painful little rocks block the tubes you use to pee, chances are you’re already halfway to the local lemonade stand. The stones form when minerals in your body clump together. Substances called citrates in lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits can help stop this buildup.

11 Warning Signs of a Depression Relapse

Rough road depression relapse

When Depression Comes Back

Some people with major depression have symptoms only once in their life. Others have them again and again. Once you get treatment, it's important to pay attention to your feelings. That will help you catch possible signs of a relapse. Seek help quickly and you may be able to prevent a full-blown episode. Don't stop a treatment that works for you unless the doctor says it's OK.
Sad woman after losing job

More Than "Blue"

How can you tell depression from simple sadness? Are you down because of a specific event, like losing a job or a bad breakup? That could be normal, short-term sadness. But if you feel hopeless, teary, or "empty" every day for more than 2 weeks -- and it gets in the way of your daily life -- it may be clinical depression.
Depressed woman in bedroom

Isolation and Withdrawal

Do you avoid leaving the house? Does the shortest conversation feel like too much effort? Do you retreat to your room when family members try to draw you out? A strong social network is important. A loss of pleasure in activities can point to depression. Look for a support group. It can help to talk to other people who know what you're going through.
Oversleeping with depression

Sleep Changes

A shift in your habits like insomnia -- trouble falling or staying asleep -- could be a warning sign. A lack of shuteye can cause or worsen other symptoms linked to depression, like fatigue. Do you lie awake at night while your mind races? Or do you sleep too much because you don't want to get out of bed? Discuss it with your doctor. If your troubles are a symptom of depression relapse, medication and talk therapy may help.
Woman pulling her own hair in anger


Do little things flip you out? Do you fuss and fight with friends and family? Did your laid-back manner give way to fits of fury? Depression can show itself in irritability and anger. It makes it tough to handle everyday stresses. Men are more likely than women to behave recklessly and, sometimes, violently when depressed.
Couple disinterested in sex

Can't Enjoy Sex, Fun, or Friends

This is a biggie. Activities you used to enjoy may now feel like a burden. If you've been depressed in the past and notice that you've lost feelings for your spouse or children, aren't interested in work, hobbies, or other favorite activities for more than 2 weeks, you might be relapsing. It's more likely if your symptoms come back within 6 months of an episode. Ask your doctor for help.
Woman feeling worthless

Feeling Worthless

Old feelings of self-loathing and guilt may creep back in. Or maybe you can't turn off the inner critic that wants to focus on your failures. You may feel you're to blame for events that are out of your control. Psychotherapy can help lift your low self-esteem and build up your strengths.
Man with aches and pains

Chronic Aches and Pains

Do you have back pain even though you haven’t strained your back? Or how about chronic headaches and stomachaches? Unexplained chest pain or achy legs and arms? Depression can have physical symptoms, too. If your aches and pains don't get better with treatment, ask your doctor if depression could be to blame.
Person with increased appetite

Sudden Weight Gain or Loss

Depression can change your relationship with food. You may forget it's time to eat. You might have to force yourself to have a meal. You could overeat or binge eat. If you've had depression, pay attention to strong changes in your appetite and weight.
Dirty dishes in sink


Do you have to drag yourself through the day? Depression can make you feel too tired or weak to wash the dishes -- or even get dressed. Not eating, or eating unhealthy food, can add to your fatigue. Good nutrition, exercise, and sleep can help you fight it.
Woman unable to think at work

Slowed-Down Thinking

Is your brain sluggish? Do you lose focus easily? Find it hard to concentrate? Have trouble remembering things? You might have problems making decisions -- as minor as what to wear in the morning or as major as problem-solving at work.
Man with suicidal thoughts

Suicidal Thoughts

This is a serious sign. It could mean you have severe depression. Some people think about suicide often. Others plan how to harm themselves. You're more likely to reach this point if you feel hopeless and you've lost interest in the things you once enjoyed. If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts or talks about suicide, seek immediate help from a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
Family walking together

What You Can Do

No two people with depression feel the same. If you have any of these warning signs or symptoms that concern you, talk to your regular doctor or a psychiatrist. They may suggest therapy or more medication to prevent a relapse. Cut your stress and do something every day that makes you feel good. You might need long-term treatment if you've had three or more depression episodes.

Inspirational Quote – January 20, 2018

“You are not responsible for other peoples’ happiness. When making decisions put your own happiness first.”

Obviously be aware of how your decisions will affect those closest to you but ultimately other people are responsible for creating their own happiness just as you are. Make your decisions based on the knowledge that what you do will make you happy while not affecting the happiness of someone else, then everybody is happy so how good is that?

Community-Led Initiatives that Are Protecting the Natural World

In 2008, Ecuador's leadership rewrote its constitution to include the rights of nature, effectively awarding legal rights to the environment. Indigenous communities have recognized the rights of nature for thousands of years, but Ecuador was the first country to make it a constitutional right by awarding ecosystems legal rights to protect the environment and its people. It was a seminal moment for the fast-growing environmental movement. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), based in Mercersburg Pennsylvania, has been at the forefront of the rights of nature movement since its inception. In 2006, the group worked with the Pennsylvania community of Tamaqua Borough to pass a rights of nature law to protect against toxic sludge being dumped on local farmland. The group has been involved in dozens of grassroots campaigns till date, including in Ecuador.

Friday, January 19, 2018

How to Use Social Media Wisely and Mindfully

It's time to be clear about how social media affects our relationships and well-being—and what our intentions are each time we log on.

It was no one other than Facebook’s former vice president for user growth, Chamath Palihapitiya, who advised people to take a “hard break” from social media. “We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he said recently.
His comments echoed those of Facebook founding president Sean Parker. Social media provides a “social validation feedback loop (‘a little dopamine hit…because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post’),” he said. “That’s exactly the thing a hacker like myself would come up with because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
Are their fears overblown? What is social media doing to us as individuals and as a society?
Since over 70 percent of American teens and adults are on Facebook and over 1.2 billion users visit the site daily—with the average person spending over 90 minutes a day on all social media platforms combined—it’s vital that we gain wisdom about the social media genie, because it’s not going back into the bottle. Our wish to connect with others and express ourselves may indeed come with unwanted side effects.

The problems with social media

Social media is, of course, far from being all bad. There are often tangible benefits that follow from social media use. Many of us log on to social media for a sense of belonging, self-expression, curiosity, or a desire to connect. Apps like Facebook and Twitter allow us to stay in touch with geographically dispersed family and friends, communicate with like-minded others around our interests, and join with an online community to advocate for causes dear to our hearts.
Honestly sharing about ourselves online can enhance our feelings of well-being and online social support, at least in the short term. Facebook communities can help break down the stigma and negative stereotypes of illness, while social media, in general, can “serve as a spring board” for the “more reclusive…into greater social integration,” one study suggested.
But Parker and Palihapitiya are on to something when they talk about the addictive and socially corrosive qualities of social media. Facebook “addiction” (yes, there’s a test for this) looks similar on an MRI scan in some ways to substance abuse and gambling addictions. Some users even go to extremes to chase the highs of likes and followers. Twenty-six-year-old Wu Yongning recently fell to his death in pursuit of selfies precariously taken atop skyscrapers.
Facebook can also exacerbate envy. Envy is nothing if not corrosive of the social fabric, turning friendship into rivalry, hostility, and grudges. Social media tugs at us to view each other’s “highlight reels,” and all too often, we feel ourselves lacking by comparison. This can fuel personal growth, if we can turn envy into admiration, inspiration, and self-compassion; but, instead, it often causes us to feel dissatisfied with ourselves and others.
For example, a 2013 study by Ethan Kross and colleagues showed quite definitively that the more time young adults spent on Facebook, the worse off they felt. Participants were texted five times daily for two weeks to answer questions about their well-being, direct social contact, and Facebook use. The people who spent more time on Facebook felt significantly worse later on, even after controlling for other factors such as depression and loneliness. 
Interestingly, those spending significant time on Facebook, but also engaging in moderate or high levels of direct social contact, still reported worsening well-being. The authors hypothesized that the comparisons and negative emotions triggered by Facebook were carried into real-world contact, perhaps damaging the healing power of in-person relationships.
More recently, Holly Shakya and Nicholas Christakis studied 5,208 adult Facebook users over two years, measuring life satisfaction and mental and physical health over time. All these outcomes were worse with greater Facebook use, and the way people used Facebook (e.g., passive or active use, liking, clicking, or posting) didn’t seem to matter.
“Exposure to the carefully curated images from others’ lives leads to negative self-comparison, and the sheer quantity of social media interaction may detract from more meaningful real-life experiences,” the researchers concluded.

How to rein in social media overuse

This article is adapted from <a href=“”><em>Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks</em></a> (Pacific Heart Books, 2017, 412 pages).This article is adapted from Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks (Pacific Heart Books, 2017, 412 pages).
So, what can we do to manage the downsides of social media? One idea is to log out of Facebook completely and take that “hard break.” Researcher Morten Tromholt of Denmark found that after taking a one-week break from Facebook, people had higher life satisfaction and positive emotions compared to people who stayed connected. The effect was especially pronounced for “heavy Facebook users, passive Facebook users, and users who tend to envy others on Facebook.”
We can also become more mindful and curious about social media’s effects on our minds and hearts, weighing the good and bad. We should ask ourselves how social media makes us feel and behave, and decide whether we need to limit our exposure to social media altogether (by logging out or deactivating our accounts) or simply modify our social media environment. Some people I’ve spoken with find ways of cleaning up their newsfeeds—from hiding everyone but their closest friends to “liking” only reputable news, information, and entertainment sources.
Knowing how social media affects our relationships, we might limit social media interactions to those that support real-world relationships. Instead of lurking or passively scrolling through a never-ending bevy of posts, we can stop to ask ourselves important questions, like What are my intentions? and What is this online realm doing to me and my relationships?
We each have to come to our own individual decisions about social media use, based on our own personal experience. Grounding ourselves in the research helps us weigh the good and bad and make those decisions. Though the genie is out of the bottle, we may find, as Shakya and Christakis put it, that “online social interactions are no substitute for the real thing,” and that in-person, healthy relationships are vital to society and our own individual well-being. We would do well to remember that truth and not put all our eggs in the social media basket.

Inspirational Quote – January 19, 2018

“May every sunrise bring you hope, may every sunset bring you peace.”

How wonderful to wake up every morning full of hope that the day will bring only good things into your life so that at bedtime you fall asleep with a smile on your lips and a calm, peaceful, untroubled mind.

The Myth of the Risk-Taker

What is the one common attribute that's consistently found among wildly successful people? Money? High education? Lucky breaks? According to Adam Grant, a psychology professor, best-selling author, and researcher in the realm of originality, a love of learning is the key to finding success. It all starts with curiosity. To challenge what is already the norm. To go against the grain and put our energy toward invention and discovery, requires a fascination with the unknown. It requires trying again and again, until originality in a world full of conformity can be found. What about risk-taking? Should we also teeter on the edge of uncertainty and instability? Some interesting evidence suggests otherwise. Success and creativity don't have to mean huge risks. For the full conversation on non-conformity, creativity and success, read on.