|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
Health (209 posts)
Follow-up questions were rebuffed, but I think the idea was that we needed quarters to make the ducks go, or maybe to get food to feed the ducks, a la the petting zoo. We laughed it off as yet another city kid moment (like when my daughter responded with great curiosity at the strange term "driveway").
But according to this story from the BBC News, more and more kids—and adults—are living lives divorced from nature, and the results can be bad for your health. As we all spend more of our time plugged into various screens than we do outside, we may be suffering from what author Richard Louv calls "nature-deficit disorder." Part of the concern is that kids growing up disconnected from nature will care less about the environment and the world around them. Another concern is that we are all missing out on the health benefits of fresh air, getting dirty, and connecting with nature. A life lived indoors generally means less exercise and of course less sunlight. The article quotes a study that visitors to a green space in Yorkshire felt a greater sense of well-being. All we have to do to go outside and play. (And you don't even need to bring any quarters.)
Read the article for more on "forest schools" for children, the Japanese concept of "forest bathing," and other ways we can get more outside time in our inside lives.
The Nature Principle
Oprah's Favorite Place
Researchers at Northwestern University are currently working on an app to help depressed people who find themselves in this situation. A recent Scientific American podcast succinctly explains (in less than a minute and a half, no less) how the app, called Mobilyze!, will use the GPS and accelerometer from a depressed patient's smartphone to track their habits and identify when they're sunken into the couch for hours on end. The phone will then send them impossible-to-ignore reminders to do things like call someone who can help them snap out of their funk.
There are more apps in the works for other mental health issues, too. Scientists are interested in finding ways to combine smartphones and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help people get effective treatment on the go, or when they're least likely to ask for it. Benedict Carey, a science reporter for the New York Times, describes an app for people with social anxiety that involves a repetitive game that, with practice, could distract them from hostile faces in a crowd (read the article to see how this app could potentially train the party-phobic to calm down, refocus and enjoy themselves in a large group).
Neither of these apps are currently available to the public--nor is the one European psychologists are developing for heavy drinkers that involves virtually "pushing" away alcoholic beverages. But until they are, there's this: Steps Away is a meeting locator app that helps recovering addicts find, add and map directions to the nearest 12-step meeting. It may not provide instant therapy, but it can show some people who need it exactly where to find it.
Here's a better idea than vegging out side-by-side: Invite another couple over (you must know some other pair who suffered from a case of reservation-making amnesia). While it may sound counter-intuitive to spend the holiday of love with two other people, science says that a double-date can spice up your love life. A study by psychologists at Wayne State University found that when couples engaged in intense, personal discussions with other couples in a controlled laboratory setting, they left feeling not only closer to their new friends, but to their own romantic partners. The couples also reported learning new things about their partners, and described feelings of novelty (and we've all heard how the spark of newness can reignite a slow-burn relationship). The key here will be to keep the TV turned off--and the wine flowing--so you can focus on good, stimulating, thought-provoking conversation. (Just remember to make time after your friends leave to spend some, um, silent time together, as well.)
The latest science on love
How to be more giving in your marriage--without feeling like a maid
We like that it gives butter-lovers a bit of a break (it's not my willpower--it's my genes!) without suggesting that they completely throw in the towel on diets and healthy eating.
This Canadian cyclist manages to shower, shave, fry eggs and type on his laptop--all while riding his bicycle through Montreal (and with just the tiniest bit of help from a film editing app, perhaps). In addition to making us laugh (we love how he woos the lady cyclist), this charming short film made us think about how we could also get fit while taking care of other tasks. Here are some ideas:
Squat as you sift through emails. You can do this at the office or in front of your laptop at home. Stand about one inch in front of your chair, holding in your abdominals. Squat as if you're going to sit, but just as your backside touches the chair, stand back up and squeeze the glutes. Doing this for one minute each day for five days will burn approximately 50 calories, and you'll finish geting through your inbox.
Do push-ups while you wait for the shower to warm up. Most of us use this time to yawn enthusiastically and rub our eyes. Doing 10 to 20 push-ups against the bathroom sink is a much better way to wake up and go into the day with toned-feeling arms.
Get dancer's legs while cooking. While you're heating something on the stove, grab the counter and tone your backside. Stand straight with one leg slightly in back of you, two to three inches off the ground, foot flexed. Hold for 15 to 20 breaths, then do 20 to 30 tiny lifts, pausing at the top of each lift for a couple of seconds. Stir the pot, add salt to taste, and repeat on the other side.
10 invisible fitness moves you can do (just about) anywhere
Don't just sit there: get fit at your desk
Turns out, the same is true of our just-slightly-less-smart relatives, the great apes. In a story very unsettling to those of us who have seen The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the BBC reports that captive primates get bored, and show signs of frustration and stress as a result. Fay Clark from the Royal Veterinary College's Center for Animal Welfare told the BBC, "If an ape does not receive enough cognitive challenge in life, this can lead to abnormal behaviours or a lack of interest in the environment." Just like me and my coworkers!
One thing that keeps the primates entertained is—wait for it—video games. The BBC story is full of great anecdotes: The orangutans at Zoo Atlanta get small pellets of food for performing matching tasks on a screen hidden in a tree (incidentally, I want one of those), but they will keep playing for fun even after their pellet rewards run out. And the lucky orangutans at Toronto Zoo get to play with iPads. Super-smart chimp Ai loves playing memory games on a screen. (Visit the BBC site for an amazing picture of an orangutan with his iPad, and other fascinating photos of these clever creatures.) While these tasks are certainly artificial, at least one researcher suggests that computer games enrich the primates' lives: "In a sense, I think, the tasks are their 'Sudoku',"says Professor John David Smith, who teaches macaque monkeys to play joystick games.
It makes me think about the relationship all of us have with our many screen-y amusements, from iPads to laptops, Kindles to smart phones. In a way, we're all providing ourselves with little moments of fun throughout the day—a round of Words With Friends during an afternoon coffee break; some blood-pressure-lowering imagery after a stressful meeting. All things in moderation, of course, but if a screen can help you relieve some of the stress of, ah, living in captivity as it were, then by all means, scroll on!
Finding fun as an adult.
Do you need more fun in your life?
So you might think: I'll make it up by not eating a thing today. Problem solved. But...this is not the solution, says Best Life nutritionist Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger, M.P.H., R.D. "Your willpower may hold up all day long, but by the time dinner rolls around, you'll most likely give into your hunger by making unhealthy choices and eating more than you need." In other words, you'll be powerless against leftover pizza. Another thing to keep in mind: While you may have consumed an excess of calories yesterday, chances are they were remarkably devoid of the things your body needs, like water, protein, fiber and antioxidants. If you deprive yourself again today, you'll effectively complete a two-day nutrient fast.
Here are Ehrensberger's recommendations for what to eat on this post-game afternoon and evening:
11 ways to save your planet
The blood donor
The new women of Rwanda
While the ubiquity of coffee may have seemed like a symptom of my caffeine-free fever dream, statistics prove that Americans really do drink a lot of it. More than half of all adults--107 million people--drink coffee daily. The average worker spends more than $20 a week on the stuff, according to a recent survey by the web site Consumerist. Our national dependence on the bitter brown fuel may explain the rash of studies within the past year on the health benefits of coffee. The good news for those like me who have a hard time kicking the habit: we don't have to. Here's the very latest on how coffee affects us:
We're not saying you should wear your sneakers inside. In fact, we're definitely not saying that--outdoor shoes bring dirt and germs into your home, and are better left at the door. But people who usually wear supportive shoes outside will often walk for hours around their home in shoes they wouldn't consider sturdy enough to take them across the street. (I was one of them. I didn't realize my cheapie slip-ons were making my foot injuries worse until they caved in, causing me to walk on the insides of my feet.)
Take a look at your own indoor shoes: Are there scuff marks under your toes? Can you see a deep indentation created by the pressure of your feet? Do the soles slope inward or outward? These are signs that your slippers might be letting you down, says Vasyli. Extreme sloping can be a significant problem, because it means that worn-down shoes are overworking your foot and lower leg muscles, putting you at risk for injuries. In general, Vasyli says that if you feel foot pain while walking around your home, or sore feet when you get out of bed in the morning, or if your lower legs ache all day in your current slippers, you should consider a pair of indoor shoes with firm soles and arch support. You don't have to give your favorite slippers the boot: just save them for lazy days. When you need to get stuff done, here are some slippers that step up: