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health (209 posts)
I fly into this frenzy at least once a week. But thanks to this helpful post on PBS's new wellness web site, Next Avenue, I now know a better way to get myself out of it. In the post, a life coach and a Harvard psychiatry professor share some advice for bringing sanity to our daily lives from their new book, Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life. When we find we can't find our indispensable item, they tell us to apply the brakes:
"In other words, exercise "inhibitory control." By inhibiting, we mean the ability to restrain or control your attention. Your ability to apply the cognitive brakes — to thoughtfully "inhibit" an action, or, more to the point, a distraction, that may lead you away from the task at hand — is a hallmark of an organized mind. It's akin to the importance of a good set of brakes on a car. Inhibition allows us to stay organized and on top of our game in the face of an ever-changing environment."
Instead of letting our emotional selves hurtle down a hill without the power to stop, the authors suggest slowing down by doing a quick set of stretches, some deep breathing, or repeating a favorite meditation (for example, "This isn't a big deal. Everything will be fine."). That should help us think more clearly so that we can remember where we last had the item, and what we may have done with it.
They also have strategies for helping us avoid losing things in the first place. (If you're as busy as frazzled as I am, I suggest bookmarking this page so you won't forget where you saw it.)
Sometimes it seems like flexibility is the key to happiness, doesn't it? If you could touch your toes (and hold on to them), you wouldn't have strained your hamstring. If you would move some things around on your calendar, you'd be able to see your friends more often. If you hadn't been so specific about what you wanted to eat, you would have found something to order already. And if you hadn't been so focused on your monthly objectives, you might have come up with that brilliant, counter-intuitive solution before your coworker did.
That's why we're so taken with this advice from Marlo Fisken, a flexibility coach who is also the 2010 American Pole Fitness Champion and 2011 Aerial Pole International Champion (and who appears in the new movie Rock of Ages). When asked how the average person can become more flexible, here's what Fisken told the health and fitness newsletter Vital Juice:
"Start by exploring. The first part of improving flexibility is finding all your limitations."
She's talking about physical flexibility here, as in splits and back bends, but we could also apply this to rigid thinking, taking a little bit of time to explore why we think or act the way we instinctively do...
Read more of Fisken's astute advice for physical and metaphysical flexibility here.
It's called Indian head massage, and while some therapists use essential oils, it can be done on dry heads, too (crucial for when you can't go back to work with greasy hair). I was a little worried about scheduling my first-ever appointment during the middle of the day, but Denise Galon, a certified massage therapist based in New York, told me that she'd tailor my treatment to include moves that made me nod off as well as some that helped me snap to attention. Galon practices a type of head massage called "champissage," which is a cross-cultural hybrid that involves both the frictional moves that are part of traditional head massages Indian people get from their families and at the barber shop, as well as the usual shoulder and neck squeezes.
When Galon had finished, I felt relaxed yet also surprisingly focused. Because I had a feeling that my circuits would be overloaded again in no time, I asked Galon for a takeaway exercise I could do on my own back at the office. This is what she calls the "occipital rub." Try it the next time you need to be calm and focused enough to settle into working at your desk, but not so relaxed that you want to put your head down on it.
Not exactly, suggests Alice G. Walton in this essay for Forbes. Walton coherently runs down how some of our favorite methods of coping -- you know, smoking, drinking, hiding under covers while weeping (okay, she doesn't mention that one) -- actually engage our minds in negative feedback loops that feed the bad feelings. Annoying, I know. Drinks are so delicious. But according to Walton, researchers have found that unhappiness is directly related to a wandering mind. Which is to say they found that "if you’re awake, your mind is wandering almost half the time,[and] it also found that this wandering is linked to a less happy state." Darn it all, your yoga teacher is totally right when she reminds you to meditate. Which makes you think of how hard it is to meditate. Which makes you...right, the wandering. So, wait, why does a wandering mind lead to unhappiness?
A wandering mind usually wanders toward trouble: the unchecked items on the to-do list, the unpleasant interaction from earlier in the day, the dread of some unpleasant, unchecked thing ahead. And these things are all about the self, about you and your trouble, your own corner of the world. As this essay puts it, happiness is all "about shifting our tendency away from focus on ourselves." Of all our favorite coping techniques, meditation is the only one that quells the wandering, that helps us to look outside of our (no offense) piddly existences. Walton writes, "These findings may suggest that for people who practice meditation or prayer, the focus becomes less on the self as a distinct entity from the external world, and more on connection between the two."
I'd like to see a cocktail that could do that.
(No, really, I would. Then after that I would meditate. I promise.)
Don't know how to start meditating? Try...
Mini-Meditations to Clear Your Mind
The One-Minute Meditation Course
Oprah on the Power of Meditation
Jezebel shares new research that suggests the anxiety-ridden brain has to work harder to complete basic tasks, particularly in women. As Erin Gloria Ryan writes, "In fact, an unsettled mind trying to complete a simple task is the mental equivalent of setting the treadmill to the highest possible incline and trying to run the same distance as someone running flat next to you; you may still get to where you're going, but it's going to be a longer, much more exhausting process." In other words, when you worry, your brain has to work more, you waste your energy, and it takes you longer (and you have to work harder) to parallel park your car or complete a math quiz or what have you. And the researchers also found that women were more prone to worry than men. Which means we perform worse on tasks than men of similar intelligence. Which gives us more reason to be anxious, which...you get the idea.
Just another reason to learn to stop worrying and love the calm.
The Age of Anxiety
Break the Cycle of Anxiety
To assess the cleanliness of the typical office building, researchers sponsored by Kimberly-Clark Professional swabbed nearly 5,000 surfaces of manufacturing facilities, law firms, insurance companies, healthcare companies and call centers with about 3,000 employees. The dirtiest surfaces turned out to be in break rooms: on the handles of sink faucets, microwaves and refrigerators (that reminds me: I went into our office fridge to get milk!). When you think about it, this isn't that surprising...but how often do we take the time to think about viruses when heating up our leftovers for lunch?
The Kimberly-Clark web site has an amusing-slash-alarming feature where you can roll your mouse over different office "hot spots" and learn germ facts. Check out the water cooler: Viruses can live from 20 minutes to 2 hours on surfaces like these. And the elevator buttons: "Just one finger can spread germs throughout an entire building."
But don't panic--and don't think you can hide out in your cubicle: the study showed that we bring a lot of these germs back with us to our computer mice and keyboards. As one of the microbiologists who consulted on the on the study advised, you just need to be as diligent as possible about washing your hands, using hand sanitizer where it's available, and wiping down surfaces with disinfectant wipes.
You could even use this new information to your advantage: those peanut M&Ms in the vending machine probably seem a lot less appealing now that you know you'll have to brave germ-saturated buttons in order to get to them...
What's better: Hand sanitizers vs. hand-washing?
Maybe, says Ellen Marmur, MD, vice chair of cosmetic and dermatologic surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, especially if you have sensitive skin. "Many of the children's products are free of irritating chemicals, which can be good for women who have sensitive skin and are possibly overdoing it with other anti-aging pharmaceuticals throughout the day," she says. However, it's important to do your research. Be sure to compare the kids' brand to the adult version (if the company makes one), noting active ingredients, because both sometimes contain the same chemicals. Marmur adds that the premium adult formulations also tend to be more sheer and easily absorbed into the skin, creating a more natural finish. While a shiny high-beam face might be perfectly appropriate for a day building sandcastles, you may prefer the subtle, matte protection of an adult sunscreen (they come in natural formulations, too) when heading to a grown-up BBQ or deck party.
Looking to go au naturel (or at least "more naturel")? The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit that monitors the use of potentially harmful chemicals in consumer products, recently issued their list of the safest, most effective sunscreens for 2012 (this includes products for kids as well as adults).
Should you apply sunscreen before or after moisturizer?
How much sunscreen do you really need?
Have you heard about the most epic film of the summer? No, it isn't Snow White and the Huntsman or Prometheus. It's ... Slinky on a Treadmill. Early reviews have called it "dramatic," "affecting" and "weirdly suspenseful:)". While we're not giving up our multiplex tickets, we did take something else away from this charming little video, with its low-fi technique and orchestral soundtrack: workout motivation. Watch how the Slinky puts one coil in front of the other, over and over again, in the rhythm of determination. Note its single-minded pursuit of a goal. Pay attention to how the Slinky trips, stumbles and then regains its balance and poise, falling right back into step. The next time we find ourselves slowing to a demoralized slog mid-workout, we're going to cue up this mental video and push ourselves to...slink up the pace.
More motivation to work out:
Think of it as play!
Scrap the excuses, with Bob Greene's help
Try one of these addictively fun workouts
In this month's "Adventures in Beauty", the O beauty team—director Valerie Monroe, executive editor Jenny Bailly, and associate editor Alessandra Foresto—test-drive nine products and treatments (like skin-plumping fillers, threading, and "comfortable" waxing) to determine whether they make the O grade. It had been two years since the editors' last big beauty road test—Monroe decided the time for a sequel was now. "This is an important story for us," she says. "The only way we can be confident we're making good recommendations is to try things ourselves."
Since the beauty team is constantly on the lookout for groundbreaking techniques, each editor had already picked a few favorites by the time they sat down to plan the story. "I heard about a new spray tan for darker-skinned women and was immediately interested," says Monroe. "Our Latina and African-American readers might not know this product is out there." Foresto, whose skin is a natural bronze, gave it a try. "I thought my clothes would get stained, my skin would be smelly and orange—but nope. I loved it!" Foresto had only one reservation about her new tan: She'd have to pose in a bikini in the magazine to show it off. "I did some extra workouts the week before," she says with a laugh.
How's this for some cool, essentially useless information: sometimes a blow to the head can make you, like, a genius. I'm tempted to write something like, "Great news for the toddlers of the world!" but this is about more than a bump to the noggin while chasing a bubble into a tree trunk. We are talking major head trauma here, injuries that often strip people of certain cognitive abilities but leave in their wake savant syndrome. According to Brian Fung at the Atlantic, Orlando Serrell acquired an acute ability to remember the weather for every day; Alonzo Clemens developed the strange skill of assembling incredibly detailed sculptures of animals; Derek Amato (see the video below) suddenly became a master pianist, despite lacking any training.
Read the whole essay at The Atlantic Monthly for some of this finding's implications for the field of neurology.
The Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
4 People With Remarkable Brains