Friday, January 31, 2014

High Well-Being Could Make You More Altruistic

Posted: 01/30/2014 8:16 am EST  |  Updated: 01/30/2014 8:59 am EST
This article was originally posted in the Huffpost Healthy Living

altruistic well being

High levels of well-being in a city or region aren't just good for the health and happiness of the residents. A new Psychological Science study suggests it could also promote altruistic acts -- at least in the form of kidney donations.

To evaluate the link between altruism and well-being, researchers from Georgetown University looked at non-directed kidney donation -- donating a kidney to someone you aren't related to and don't even know -- which they considered to be the epitome of an altruistic act.

The researchers looked at data on this kind of kidney donation from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, and compared that with data on well-being in the United States from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The researchers found that states that had higher per capita kidney donation rates were also the states with higher well-being.

Plus, the researchers found that the association held true even when looking at broader regions (and not just specific states), and when looking at just one specific year (2010).

"You'd be amazed by the responses some donors get from those who learn about their donation -- people who see them as weird or even 'crazy' for doing something so far outside the norm as giving away an internal organ to a stranger," study researcher Abigail Marsh said in a statement. "These data help to show that there are understandable, normal psychological mechanisms that lead to this kind of behavior, uncommon as it is."

Altruism doesn't just help others -- research shows that it can also benefit the person who is giving back. Benefits include decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, greater happiness at work and even a lower risk of premature death.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Challenge of Change: Are You the River or the Rock?

Dennis Merritt Jones

Dennis Merritt Jones 
Award-winning author, keynote speaker, spiritual mentor
This article was originally published in the Huffpost Healthy Living on 01/29/2014 8:38 am


"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like." -- Lao Tzu

With the new year well under way, it's interesting to see how many people are intentionally trying to initiate change in some area(s) their life while, at the same time, resisting it in others. Right now, many people are flocking to the gym with a desire (resolution) to get fit -- and that sort of change is a wonderful thing. Yet, at the same time, change may be happening in some other area of their life where they don't really welcome it, such as a job or lifestyle change, which may be perceived as a bad thing. It is a paradox with which we have all danced. The point is, if we learn to work proactively with the energy of change, we'll enjoy the dance far more.

Do you perceive change as friend or foe? Of course, the answer depends on the change. From a universal perspective, change is the only constant; it is manifesting 24/7 whether we like it or not. Whether welcome or unwelcome, we can harness the energy of change and use it to our advantage by shifting our perspective. It seems that we suffer when change happens where we don't really want it to, or, conversely, doesn't happen where we really want it to occur. What if we could reframe our understanding of the dynamic energy of change? What if we could welcome it as a gift the Universe is bestowing upon us, trusting change happens when it is supposed to? What if we could surrender to this universal impulse to expand and go with its flow rather than trying to resist or manipulate it?

The key is to understand that regardless of whether we are consciously invoking change in our lives or resisting it, we are dealing with the same dynamic universal principle and it is an energy which is totally impartial to our wants, needs and desires. We can choose to see change as an ally or an enemy and it will respond accordingly. We can learn how the dynamic of change works and align with it in a manner which serves us in healthy, life-affirming ways or we can stay stuck... pushing against it. The downside to resisting change is that it will have its way; it will eventually wear us out. It has been said that in a contest between a river and a rock the river always wins. Why? Because the river is willing to follow the natural call of gravity, going over, under, around or, eventually, through the rock, to its destiny which, as with all water, is to ultimately merge with the ocean. The rock is stuck where it is, relentlessly pushing against the river, resisting the natural flow of water until, over a long enough period of time, it's worn down to a pebble. If you ever visit the Grand Canyon you'll see that this is true.

The metaphor of the rock and the river is delightfully obvious: The river represents "us" when we are conscious of our oneness with the Universe and willing to trust the call of gravity, "going with the flow" of life without trying to force or manipulate it. From a spiritual perspective, gravity represents the silent call of the Beloved One wooing us to come closer -- to surrender to the journey that is ours to take, the unfolding of who we have come here to be... and to do it with grace and ease. The rock represents the past and our attachment to it; the rock symbolizes our resistance to change and fear of the unknown. The ocean to which the river flows represents a life fulfilled in our oneness with something larger than us; it's our merging with the Source from which we came. Surrendering to, and going with, the natural flow of the river called "change" is how we reach the fulfillment of a life worth living.

The power in this metaphor is that, if we are fully awake, every day when we get out of bed, we can choose whether we will be the rock or the river. I spent many years being the rock -- resisting or trying to manipulate change in just about every area of my life -- most likely because I didn't trust life or the unknown. Over the years I have studied change and made it my friend; I have learned how trust and surrender to the flow of life. Why? Because it brings with it what I value so much; a deep sense of inner peace. I still have work to do, but nowadays I am the river more often than the rock. When I release my need to control and trust the flow I sleep more soundly, I think more clearly, and I love my life more fully, including those in it.

The question I leave you to ponder is: Are you the river or the rock? And if you find you are being a rock today, what might you be clinging to? Where in your life might you be resisting change or trying to force it to happen before its time? The practice is to take a deeeeeep breath, trusting and knowing that the river knows where it is going and let go. You'll be amazed how embracing change will "change" your life.

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The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It

The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It
by Dennis Merritt Jones

The Art of Being: 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in Your Life

The Art of Being: 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in Your Life
by Dennis Merritt Jones

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Six unexpected places salt is hiding in your diet

By Natasha Turner, ND | Chatelaine – Fri, 24 Jan, 2014 8:00 AM EST
This article was originally published in Yahoo Shine 

Whole Wheat Bread sandwich

Not only do cold cuts have high sodium content, whole wheat bread can also be alarmingly high. (Photo, Istock.)

With more than 75 percent of adults consuming almost twice the recommended amount of sodium per day (Health Canada reported the average Canadian adult consumed 3,400 mg of sodium per day in 2012), the effort by government agencies and health care professionals to promote awareness of the health risks associated with excess salt intake is no surprise. In Canada it’s recommended that adults 14 to 50 years old consume 1,500 mg per day. At age 51 that number drops to 1,300 mg per day.

Despite this info I must confess that this flavour-enhancing seasoning is a true love of mine. I readily add it to my meals without tasting one bite. But even I, a self-admitted salt-aholic, was astonished after looking deeper into the matter as unexpected foods and products lurking with ladles of hidden sodium were uncovered. Here are the top five ways to skip sneaky sources of salt that may be sabotaging your health.

1. Medication
Yes, it's true. This study from the University of Dundee in Scotland explains that taking the maximum daily dose of some medicines would exceed the recommended daily limits for sodium, without changing anything in your diet. The study compared 1.2 million patients taking sodium-based medication with those who took non-sodium medication, resulting in over 61,000 incidents of cardiovascular events. Overall, the researchers found that patients, “. . . taking the sodium-containing effervescent, dispersible and soluble medications had a 16-percent-increased risk of a heart attack, stroke or vascular death compared with other patients taking the non-sodium versions of those exact medications.”

Bottom line: Ask your doctor if the sodium levels in your medication will affect your health. If you are prescribed a high-sodium medication, ensure that you're being carefully monitored during the process.

2. Cottage cheese
You've probably heard that cottage cheese is a healthier protein option, and the rumours are true! However, some versions of this dieters’ dream protein can contain more than 900 mg of sodium per cup. Yikes!

Bottom line: If cottage cheese is your protein of choice, opt for the low-sodium options to slash the sodium in half. You can also try swapping the curds for natural, plain zero-percent Greek yogurt for only 70 mg of sodium per 3/4 cup or ricotta cheese that contains very little sodium per serving.

3. Breakfast foods
Nothing is better than morning energy! Reaching for your favourite box of cereal paired with low-fat milk and berries can offer you a fibre-rich, nutritious meal. However, many cereal brands can also lend an overdose in sodium. With a common range of 170 to 300 mg of sodium per serving, it's worth taking a better look at each label. A 2013 study looking at Kellogg and General Mills showed these companies have made efforts to reduce sodium levels in their cereals, but there’s a long way to go before all brands jump on-board.

Not a cereal person? Don't jump to frozen alternatives just yet. Four frozen pancakes can pack up to 740 mg of sodium, putting up some good competition for home fries.

Bottom line: If you can't get out of the cereal habit look for low-sodium options such as shredded wheat brands or plain oats. Add some high-antioxidant fruit such as blueberries with low-fat milk to reap great additional benefits and keep your insulin levels low.

4. Sports drinks
You've probably heard that sports drinks can pump unnecessary amounts of sugar into your bloodstream, but that's not the only ingredient that overwhelms our bodies. When we sweat our bodies naturally get dehydrated by losing electrolytes (salt). This explains the large portions of fuel professional athletes guzzle during a game - it quickly replenishes their fluids to give them more energy. Unfortunately, shopping for shoes doesn't add up to the same expenditure for us everyday people. Most of us don’t even sweat enough during a half-hour workout to justify these high-sugar, high-salt drinks.

Bottom line: If your body doesn't need to replenish its electrolyte count, you're consuming additional calories and close to 450 mg of sodium per litre. Try to rehydrate your body with water throughout the day to keep your body quenched.

5. Vegetable juice
Why eat your vegetables, when you could drink them, right? Before you swear off broccoli forever, check the label before you chug. One-hundred-percent vegetable juices can still contain upwards of 500 mg of sodium, making any of the benefits not worth the liquid option. This 2013 study proves that salt levels in food are higher than ever, so it is up to us to make the smart decision.

Bottom line: Believe it or not, raw vegetables contain sodium too. The good news is, it's not a harmful amount, so you can always count on the real deal to be the healthiest option. The benefit of pressing your own juice means absorbing all the nutrients, with no added chemicals like potassium chloride. If vegetable juice is the only option, grab the low-sodium version.

6. Whole wheat bread
Whole wheat bread is a staple for many health-conscious people because its high fibre, helps to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Whether you're making toast, sandwiches or getting crafty with croutons, its benefits trump the white stuff. Unfortunately, sodium is finding its way into a lot of whole wheat bread brands in amounts that average 240 to 400 mg per slice. If your serving usually contains two slices, the sodium can add up quickly.

Bottom line: Take the extra time to read labels, and aim for 100 percent whole wheat breads that contain 170 mg of sodium or less per slice. This will allow your body to benefit from the nutrition while keeping your sodium levels down. As a tip, check to make sure whole wheat flour or whole grain is the first ingredient on the nutrition label, and other ingredients such as sugar or salt aren't sneaking in.

Not feeling so hot? Here are some signs that you've had too much sodium:

1. Bloating
Excessive salt can cause uncomfortable bloating. When the body is retaining salt it tries to break it down by holding onto water. The most efficient way to solve this problem is to drink even more water! This will help flush out the salt as fast as possible, which will help your belly and stress go down.

2. Thirst
One of the largest signs of high sodium levels is chronic dehydration in the body. Excessive sweating in combination with small fluid intake will lead to dehydration very quickly, which can lead to larger issues. The thirst you're feeling represents your body trying to balance your sodium and fluids in the body.

3. Dizziness
Changes in your blood pressure will occur when high levels of sodium are lurking in your body. This is especially obvious when you stand up and feel dizzy or experience "blacking out." Continue to take it easy, and pound the H20.

4. Gastrointestinal symptoms
When sodium levels increase, you may experience some uncomfortable symptoms. Unfortunately, our bodies don't react well to imbalanced fluids resulting in nausea, vomiting and severe sweating. The more dehydrated your body gets, the greater the chances of this happening. To ensure you stay well hydrated, drink eight to 10 glasses of water per day, even when you don't feel thirsty.

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Natasha Turner, N.D., is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet, The Supercharged Hormone Diet and The Carb Sensitivity Program. She's also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show and The Marilyn Denis Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.


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3 Surprisingly Easy Things You Can Do to Live Longer

By David B. Agus, MD, author, "A Short Guide to a Long Life" | Healthy Living 
Fri, 24 Jan, 2014 5:04 PM EST
This article was originally published in Yahoo Shine

One way to live longer? Keep a regular schedule (and that means all the time.)
Image: Corbis

Most of us have only a general sense of what we can do to live a good, long life, and eating well, exercising, and getting a good night's sleep are the go-to, standard health tips we all know. But beyond these universal wisdoms, I believe we can all further increase our odds of an even longer and higher-quality life with few other strategies most of us rarely think about.

Keep a Regular Schedule

Admittedly, this is a hard one to actually follow, but I know first-hand the value of maintaining a predictable schedule on a daily basis. I go to bed and get up at the same time every day (and yes, that means weekends too), eat meals at approximately the same time every day, take any prescribed medication on cue every day, and plan my workouts at roughly the same time.
Some days I'm better than others. Lately, I've been traveling across different time zones for work, in addition to doing the "CBS This Morning" show once a week. The program is shot live in New York, so I have to be at the studio in Los Angeles, where I live, by 4 a.m. on those mornings. It's hard to keep a regular schedule with these kinds of responsibilities, but I do the best I can. When I travel for two or more days, for example, I switch my schedule to the time zone of my destination, but try to stay on Pacific Daylight Time for very short trips.

More on Yahoo Shine: 5 Ways to Stop Feeling so Hungry

Why does a regular schedule make such a big difference? Your body loves predictability. It's one of the best ways to reduce stress and maintain a balanced state of being. Take, for instance, the mundane habit of eating lunch. If you consistently eat at high noon, and one day an unexpected phone call or obligation has you postponing your lunch until much later, your body won’t just show physiological signs of hunger in that waiting period. It will also experience a surge in cortisol, the stress hormone that tells our bodies to hold tightly to fat and to conserve energy. The body, in essence, goes into survival mode because it’s suddenly unable to predict when it will get its next meal. And that increased cortisol further adds to your lifetime risk for numerous health problems, from weight gain and sleep problems to depression, heart disease, and memory and concentration impairment. So if you keep a consistent routine every single day, especially with regard to your body's natural rhythms, you'll feel the difference: more energy, enhanced sense of well-being and (bonus!) weight loss will become easier, too.
Make a goal in 2014 to stick to a very regular routine daily. And don't beat yourself up if you fall of the proverbial wagon. Just get back on it again as soon as possible.

Get off Your Butt More (in Addition to Formal Exercise)

Regardless of your exercise routine, you have increase the amount of time you move each day. Our bodies were designed to move. In fact, movement makes our bodies work. It's how virtually every system and organ in the body stays nourished, refreshed, and ready to tackle any challenges.
Here's the bad news: Sitting for five hours a day (as so many of us do thanks to computer-focused desk jobs) is equivalent on a health basis of smoking a pack of cigarettes daily, and, sorry, this is true even if you sweat it out for an hour at the gym. The sad truth is that we have designed our lives to be immobile, as certain technologies make us more automatically sedentary for much of the day.

Related: Why You Need a Flu Shot Right Now (an excerpt from Dr. Agus' new book)

Early last year I wore Nike Fuel Band on my wrist for the first time and was shocked to discover just how much I was on my derriere. I bought a hands-free headset that day, which allows me to walk around my office while I talk on the phone (I may look like an air traffic controller, but I have significantly reduced the amount of time I sit). I also got a treadmill desk for my office. Within a week I had mastered the skill of checking email while walking slowly. Now I walk on it one to two hours on it a day while responding to emails. I also focus on my accelerometer to make sure I get enough movement over time each day.
Of course, if you can't swing a treadmill desk at your workplace, there's plenty you can do without one: Get up every hour and walk around for five minutes; park farther away from your destination; call certain people back throughout the day when you don’t have to be at a desk and can take a walk while using your cell phone or a wireless headset. Simply put: Don't spend the whole workday sitting.

Mobilize Your Medical Data
Focus on being in charge of your own health and collecting data about your body. I've personally tackled this one head on, checking my blood pressure on a regular basis and sending the information to my doctor. I also have uploaded all of my medical information to an online cloud. That way if I get sick, or God forbid, land in the emergency room, I can access all of my medical information at the touch of a keyboard. You keep tabs on plenty of other important information via computer, why not your medical records too? Since any of us can fall ill while on vacation or at midnight on a weekend when the doctor's office isn't open, we need to be in charge of our own data and make sure it's there when we need it.

More on Yahoo Shine: How Gratitude Can Improve Your Life

Changes like these, while relatively simple, may not be the easiest to implement, but there's compelling scientific proof behind them that we can't ignore. And we shouldn't forget that positive changes to our health, however small, ultimately impact all of us as a collective society. As the former Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart once said, "There is a big difference between what we have the right to do and what is right to do." Health changes should, at long last, focus on the latter.  The good news is that if we make them we actually can feel better and enjoy the remarkable life we have.

David B. Agus, MD, is a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California and heads USC's Westside Cancer Center and the Center for Applied Molecular Medicine. He's also the author of A Short Guide to a Long Life. Author of "A Short Guide to a Long Life." He lives in Beverly Hills, California.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

100 Reasons You Should Work Out Today

By: Nicole Nichols, SparkPeople Blogger
4/8/2013 6:00 AM
This post originally published at

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We all have those days that we don't want to work out even though we know we should.
When you need a little motivation, look no further.
Here are 100 reasons you shouldn't skip your workout today.
Print, save, pin or "like" this post so you'll have easy access to it on the days you need it most.
100 Reasons to Exercise Now

  1. Because it makes you feel confident
  2. Because it helps you get stronger
  3. Because exercise helps combat depression
  4. Because you'll feel proud of yourself
  5. Because you have goals you want to reach
  6. Because you'll feel bad if you don't
  7. Because you want to move forward, not backward
  8. Because it burns more calories than not working out
  9. Because it improves your heart health
  10. Because you want a great butt
  11. Because it prevents diabetes
  12. Because you want to be a good example to your kids
  13. Because you want to feel good in your clothes
  14. Because it reduces your risk of cancer
  15. Because your body was made to move
  16. Because you want to be an athlete
  17. Because you want to look better
  18. Because it lifts your mood
  19. Because you want to stand taller
  20. Because it reduces back pain
  21. Because it feels good
  22. Because it makes you feel accomplished
  23. Because you spend most of your day on your butt
  24. Because swimsuit season is always coming
  25. Because strong is the new skinny
  26. Because dieting only works so much
  27. Because it strengthens your bones, too
  28. Because it helps you lose weight
  29. Because it allows you to eat more food
  30. Because it's the best way to spend "me" time
  31. Because it helps you de-stress
  32. Because it's cheaper than therapy
  33. Because you want a strong core
  34. Because you want to take care for yourself
  35. Because you take pride in your body
  36. Because it strengthens your legs
  37. Because it helps your clothes fit better
  38. Because you want to push yourself
  39. Because you are capable of more than you ever imagined
  40. Because moving your body feels good
  41. Because it keeps your mind sharp
  42. Because it helps you beat belly bloat
  43. Because it helps you sleep better at night
  44. Because it gives you energy
  45. Because you want to stay healthy as you age
  46. Because you want to look younger
  47. Because you want toned arms
  48. Because it improves your balance
  49. Because it burns off last night's dessert
  50. Because it boosts your immune system
  51. Because sweat is sexy
  52. Because you want to live longer
  53. Because you want to get better at your game
  54. Because you want to catch someone's eye
  55. Because exercisers earn more money
  56. Because you're more likely to eat better when you exercise
  57. Because you want to shave time off your running pace
  58. Because you want to breathe easier
  59. Because you want to see the scale drop
  60. Because exercise improves your sex life
  61. Because you are worth it
  62. Because being fit makes everything in life better
  63. Because you promised yourself that you would
  64. Because you deserve a better life
  65. Because it'll help you drink more water
  66. Because you want to do real push-ups
  67. Because it reduces your health care costs
  68. Because you'll miss fewer days of work
  69. Because you want to create a new future for yourself
  70. Because it'll help you like what you see in the mirror
  71. Because it makes clothing shopping more fun
  72. Because you want to look and feel incredible
  73. Because exercising can be fun
  74. Because it'll give your skin a glow
  75. Because it's a good way to spend time with your friends
  76. Because it'll help you prevent the middle-age spread
  77. Because it reduces your blood pressure
  78. Because you don't want to let yourself go
  79. Because you don't want to squeeze into an airplane or rollercoaster seat
  80. Because it strengthens your spirit
  81. Because it's a cheap way to entertain yourself
  82. Because you'll be able to reward yourself
  83. Because you need a reason to wear those new workout clothes
  84. Because you're tired of being tired
  85. Because not working out is not going to get you very far
  86. Because it's a great way to spend time outside
  87. Because you made a commitment to yourself
  88. Because you're tired of starting over
  89. Because there will always be another wedding, vacation or reunion
  90. Because you're not a quitter
  91. Because it improves your cholesterol
  92. Because it boosts your metabolism
  93. Because it prevents age-related muscle loss
  94. Because if you can do this, you can do anything
  95. Because a fit body is a healthy body
  96. Because it beats sitting on the couch
  97. Because  everyone has at least 10 minutes to spare
  98. Because you want to be stronger than your excuses
  99. Because not working out isn't working out for you
  100. Because the only workout you ever regret is the one you skip