Friday, December 23, 2016

Stay Positive this Holiday Season: Stop Lurking!

A photo of someone scrolling through Facebook on a mobile device.
Photo credit: Bloomicon / Shutterstock
Holidays got you down? If you’ve found yourself spending hours scrolling through the endless feeds of Facebook and Twitter, social media could be one culprit behind your misery.

The BBC reports that a new University of Copenhagen suggests that seeing an abundance of “perfect” families, faces, and holiday festivities could trigger envy and feelings of isolation. It makes sense that when you’re feeling low and alone, seeing so much togetherness from a distance could make you feel even worse.

The study, which had more than 1,000 participants, particularly noted this effect when users are “lurking” on social media – simply taking all the information in without interacting or connecting with anyone.

The conclusion? “[R]egular use of social networking such as Facebook can negatively affect your emotional well-being and satisfaction with life.”

But these days, everyone is so plugged into social media that not partaking at all might also make people feel isolated. The researchers suggest some simple solutions: being more of an “active” user and engaging with others; and unplugging from social media when possible.

In fact, the study suggests that actively engaging with others will create a much more positive experience for users; so, if you’re not ready to take a break, consider changing your usage habits instead.

If limiting your time on social media seems like the best solution, consider taking an entire week off. Alternatively, try uninstalling social media apps from your phone and only checking Facebook once per day for a limited period. Not only could this help your mood, but it also might help you be more productive and less distracted at work or school!

It’s also important to note that many social media users tend to share only their happiest moments, best pictures, and envy-inducing events. Comparing your everyday life with someone else’s top highlights is an unrealistic comparison to make—it’s enough to make anyone envious! Remember that no one’s life is quite the same as it looks on the outside.

Have you ever experienced the “deterioration of mood” that this new study suggests? What have you found to be the best solution?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tips for Eating Healthy During the Holidays

A close-up photo of festive holiday cookies.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
With less than a week before Christmas, it’s time to prepare for all those deliciousalbeit unhealthytreats that will be at your disposal this holiday season. Trust me, I get it; it’s hard to turn down pumpkin pie, mac ‘n’ cheese, Christmas cookies, and eggnog. But if you want to be healthy, it’s absolutely necessary that you avoid the temptations that will come your way.

Tip #1: Find a Mantra

Find a word, phrase, or quote that you can repeat to yourself whenever you’re feeling weak. Your mantra should have special meaning to you, something that will keep you motivated to make the right choice. Some examples include:

  • I eat to fuel my body, not to satisfy an appetite  
  • Note to self: When I eat like crap, I feel like crap
  • It’s not a short-term diet, it’s a long-term lifestyle change
  • I’m strengthening my ‘resistance’ muscle. It’s getting stronger!
  • Looking and feeling amazing is the best revenge
Tip #2: Keep an Inspirational Photo Nearby

There’s a reason that vision boards are so effective. When we have a crystal clear vision of what we want, it helps us to manifest it that much easier. Take some time to sift through a magazine and find some fitness pictures that really inspire you. If you don’t have any magazines, search for images on the Internet. You can either keep a physical copy of this image on your person at all times, or you can store it electronically on your phone. Using pictures of celebrities is fair game.

Tip #3: Reward Yourself With Something Other Than Food

Look, eating healthy is hard work. If you can manage to resist all the temptations this holiday season, make sure you celebrate by rewarding yourself. The reward doesn’t have to be expensive; it can be as simple as taking a nice, hot bath. Other ideas include going to the spa, getting a massage, watching a movie, or going to a concert. Remember: this is a spiritual journey, and you should take part in celebrating the new and improved you.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Separate Living Spaces Make for Healthier Romantic Partnerships

A couple holding a cut-out of a house. They appear apprehensive about moving in together.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
We’ve all been there. In the beginning, things are great. The butterflies in your stomach are in full spring. You send each other sweet messages all day long. You stay up all night talking for hours. You cuddle every chance you get. Oh, and the intimacy is on point.

But sooner or later, things start to change. Your significant other no longer texts you with the same sweet emojis that they used to. Your sex life has begun to dissipate. All the sudden, anything and everything has turned into an argument. You’re practically at each other’s throats 24/7. You find yourself asking, what went wrong?

Chances are, it’s that you’re spending too much time together.

If you find that the majority of your woes started shortly after the two of you moved in together, you’re not alone. It’s a very common phenomenon, and science has finally proven why. According to a study titled Idealization, reunions, and stability in long-distance dating relationships, couples that live apart retain more of the novelty and excitement that exists in the beginning of a relationship.

That’s because when you spend too much time around another person, you eventually get used to it and subsequently take that person for granted. That’s where the lack of appreciation comes from.

And while it’s human nature, that’s not to say that there isn’t something you can do to combat this effect. If you’re already living together and would like to salvage your relationship, here’s what you can do:

·      Spend more time with friends… AWAY from your significant other
·      Plan fun and exciting date nights with your partner
·      Sleep over at a friend or family member’s house for a few nights
·      Join a club, take an art class, begin a new hobby, or go to a social networking event

You wouldn’t believe the kind of difference it can make to have your own personal space. And you shouldn’t feel guilty about it either; yes, we as humans are a social species, but like any other species, we have our limits. The key is finding a healthy balance.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Study Finds That Pets Help People Cope With Mental Illness

A dog sitting on a lawn.
CC courtesy of Eric Sonstroem on Flickr.
People suffering from mental illness have known it for years, but science has only recently confirmed it: pets can help relieve the symptoms of mental illness. The study found that pets helped people cope with everything from loneliness to depression to schizophrenia and even thoughts of suicide.

The study was published today in the BMC Psychiatry journal. To many people, it’s not all that surprising. But in the health care field, it’s quite the breakthrough. The findings suggest that pets could become part of the treatment plan for patients diagnosed with mental illness. This is particularly important for patients who are seeking alternatives to medication.

Helen Brooks, lead author of the study, believes that part of the reason pets are so invaluable is that they serve as motivation.

"The routine these pets provide is really important for people. Getting up in the morning to feed them and groom them and walk them, giving them structure and a sense of purpose that they won't otherwise have," Brooks stated.

But that’s not the only benefit that pets provide. Several participants reported having a very close relationship with their pet, even surpassing the bonds they have with friends and family members.

"Many felt deep emotional connections with their pet that weren't available from friends and family," Brooks explained.

"When I'm feeling really low they are wonderful because they won't leave my side for two days," said a participant with two dogs and two cats. "They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it."

According to Mark Longsjo, Program Director of Adult Services at McLean Southeast (an inpatient mental facility in Massachusetts), it’s not unusual for people to form really strong connections with their pets.

"We have so many patients come through, and we always ask them about their support system. Sometimes its family members, sometimes its friends, but it's very common to hear about pets," Longsjo stated.

I’m not going to lie—it warms my heart to hear about stories like this. As an animal lover myself, I cannot imagine what my life would be like without my dog, Ruby.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Everything You Need to Know About Cervical Cancer

The words "cervical cancer" written across a pink banner.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Ladies, if you’re behind in getting your Pap smear, you need to schedule an appointment ASAP. Cervical cancer is no joke, and can become fatal if left untreated. The good news is that cervical cancer is 100% treatable if detected early.

Did you know that at one point in history, cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of death for American women? Thanks to the Pap test, the cervical cancer fatality rate has decreased by more than 50%. recommends women ages 21-29 get a Pap test done every three years. Women ages 30-64 only need to get one done every five years. It’s a simple enough procedure that takes about 15 minutes or so, and it’s well worth it because it can save your life.

Now, according to the National Cancer Institute, the average age of women diagnosed with cervical cancer is 49. It takes about 10-15 years for the pre-cancerous cells to develop into full-blown cancer, which is why it’s so important to get tested while you’re young.

Should you get an abnormal Pap smear result, keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have cancer. There are a variety of different reasons why you can get an abnormal test result. However, if you do get an abnormal result, your doctor will likely want you to come in for a colposcopy.

A colposcopy is a procedure in which your OBGYN examines your cervix underneath a microscope. Should your doctor see any abnormal tissue, she/he will take what’s known as a biopsy. A biopsy is a small sample of tissue that is removed from the cervix. The biopsy will then be sent to the lab where the tissue sample can be examined in more detail.

If you think you may already have cervical cancer, here are some common signs and symptoms to watch out for:
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Unusual vaginal discharge (a change in color or texture)
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding (such as after sex, after menopause, or between periods) 
If you have any of the above symptoms, please call your doctor immediately. And please help get the word out by sharing this post.