Tag Archives | wellness

This is Your Brain on Hugs

**Due to Hurricane Sandy, DailyPath Trailguide’s name change has been postponed until November 8. We hope you are all faring well after the storm.**

Photo courtesy of Ganesha Isis

Hurricane Sandy has disrupted the lives of many people hailing from Jamaica all the way up to Canada. I’m lucky enough to live just far enough off the coast of New Jersey, and although my family and I were mighty scared during the high winds and rain, we’re very thankful that we didn’t suffer any structural damage to our home, or, more importantly, to any of us.

In today’s post, I wanted to take the opportunity to give all of our readers a virtual hug in case any of you were deeply affected by the storm. I know, I know.  “A hug?  Is that all she’s got to offer?” – is what you’re probably saying. It’s true; I admit that those people directly in the path of something as intense and destructive as a hurricane will ultimately need much more than hugs to get back on their feet.

However, hugs can do quite a lot more than we give them credit for.  In fact, although most couples might claim to prefer passionate kisses, regular hugging has been shown to create a deeper bond, as it increases the amount of three neurotransmitters being released in the brain.

It doesn’t even seem to matter who we are hugging - our significant other, our friends, our children, our parents, or a person who needs our help (such as someone in the aftermath of a natural disaster). Just the simple act of hugging causes dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin to be released. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it’s also responsible for motivation!  Serotonin puts us in a better mood and quells our fears and feelings of loneliness. Oxytocin is responsible for building bonds and trust with the person we are hugging.

Even more interesting is that children who are hugged often end up growing a 10% larger hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and responding to stress. People with a larger hippocampal volume have been shown to have a better capacity for learning and a much lower chance of developing an anxiety or depression problem during their lifetime.

As soon as I learned just how effective hugs can be, I wanted to run out and hug everyone I could find! But…then I realized that might be creepy.  It’s pretty important that both people involved in the hug feel good about it, and I’m fairly certain that being hugged by a creep doesn’t feel good. Knowing that being hugged regularly can actually make substantial changes to the brain, and can create smarter, happier, more motivated individuals is pretty powerful information. I say: let’s see what kind of a difference we can make on our friends and loved ones, and those in need around us by hugging it out, just a little more often.  It’s worth a shot, no?

Comments { 2 }

How Your Health is Affecting Your Professional Success


Photo courtesy of idovermani

Once I decided to start working for myself from home, my diet admittedly became less than optimal.  I mean, the kitchen is right there. That delicious Easter candy is so close I can smell that Reese’s peanut butter cup. I began eating whatever was appealing to me on any particular day, instead of being forced to eat the healthy lunch I had packed for my previous office job. I began to realize that this whole “working for myself” thing, while ultimately the best choice for my particular situation, might be taking a toll on certain aspects of my health.

Bloggers, writers and other work-from-home entrepreneurs tend to do a lot of activities that can cause us to be less active than most people. We spend many hours a day coding, typing, reading, proofreading, emailing, posting, marketing, editing websites….and although we love what we do, it is extremely important to keep our bodies running well so that our minds can continue to produce the creativity that makes what we do possible. Additionally, our businesses could possibly skyrocket to a whole new level if we work on optimizing our overal general health.

We can take a look at the foods that we are fueling our minds with, and make some easy changes by cutting out sugary drinks and processed foods all day long. These will sap our energy and our creative levels will plummet.  Taking regular breaks to eat healthy meals and snacks is vital and can really energize productivity levels.  Making time during the work day for brief exercise breaks is a good idea too.  A benefit of working for yourself means that you don’t have totally set hours! Take a half hour in the middle of your work day for a yoga session or a walk around the neighborhood.

Of course, this applies to everyone who is employed, no matter what your job title is, and regardless of who is the boss.  However, working for yourself means that you have to impose many rules and routines onto yourself, without someone telling you, “You will now take a break and eat.” We have a lot to be in charge of as entrepreneurs, and sometimes we put our physical health on the back burner.  Put your health on the front burner! You’ll see a rise in your motivation level, your productivity will increase, and your business will be more successful than ever.

 

 

Comments { 3 }

How Full Catastrophe Living Can Change Your Life

Photo courtesy of Hape_Gera

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III, a painful connective tissue disorder that makes many everyday activities impossible, including working outside of the home. I had to resign from my well-paying office job and I began to feel that my life as I knew it was over. I didn’t know what I was going to do, if I could pay my bills, or if I could still manage to be a good enough parent. I was also in quite a great deal of physical pain which just kept getting worse. I spiraled downward into a pit of self loathing and despair until I hit a hard rock bottom and realized there was nowhere left to go but up.

I clawed my way out of my depression long enough to crawl into the lap of my new therapist, who recommended that I read the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I began reading it as soon as it arrived at my front door in that familiar brown packaging I have come to love. In the book, Zinn describes the experiences of his patients during his ten years of teaching an eight-week course called the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Over 4,000 people ultimately took the course, which teaches mindfulness as an effective way to develop control over our own lives, despite all of the catastrophes we may be presented with on a regular basis.

During my reading of the book, I began to put some of his suggestions into practice in my own life and I started to see a change in the way I faced difficulties. Mindfulness involves using our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness and insight, and becomes a form of ‘walking meditation’ as you move throughout your daily activities. Your focus moves from “doing” to “being” as you learn how to concentrate on the foundations of mindfulness: non-judging, patience, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go. This transformation is reached through a combination of breathing, various forms of meditation, body scans and yoga.

Throughout my experience with practicing full catastrophe living, I have learned how to watch my thoughts rather than getting caught up in them. By allowing my body and mind to rest in the moment I have become more adept at tuning into life’s basic experiences. I am now able to be in the moment with everything exactly as it is, without wanting to change a thing. Daily, I have been practicing mindfulness by concentrating on what is happening now rather than things in the past or future, and I have gained a deep appreciation for the present. I have realized that I have a limited time on this earth and in this body, so I’m taking it all in. Every. Single. Moment.

If you’re anything like me, and have been dealing with an increased amount of stressors in your life, give the concept of mindfulness a try.  You’ll be surprised at how much of life you’ve been missing.

Comments { 2 }

Working in the Present: 3 Ways to Tackle Seemingly Endless Tasks

Flying Kick
Photo courtesy of Umberto Salvagnin

Have you ever been stuck in the middle of a task you couldn’t see the end of? A few months ago, I was involved in a project that required a huge amount of perseverance (not to mention several gallons of coffee) to see it through to the end. After the initial excitement of starting something shiny and new had worn off, I began to realize the enormity of the task I had set myself, and somewhere along the way, I lost all hope that the project would be completed at all.

An overreaction? Perhaps. But all too often this occurs with large-scale projects. After weeks of repeating the same tasks without respite, team members can become frustrated at the seeming lack of progress, and the whole project starts to crumble under the weight of its own ambition.

In these situations, we often convince ourselves that everything is far more difficult to complete than it actually is, simply because we can’t see the end. Instead of looking for the finish line, however, we should try to be more concerned with what is happening right in front of us, so as to better manage the task at hand. Here are a few tips for breaking down the monotony:

1. Take each day as it comes. Start each day by making a list of attainable goals to be completed before the end of that day; don’t think any further than that. By only concerning yourself with what needs to be done in the present, even the most gargantuan tasks can seem a lot more manageable.

2. Treat yourself. Reaching particular milestones in your project deserves rewarding. Allowing yourself some kind of treat – be it food, drink, or an entire day off (see below) – can be just what your body and mind need before hitting the work again.

3. Take time off. Seriously, taking 24 hours away from your project can work like a miracle cream for morale. Do whatever helps you to de-stress in that time, whether it’s taking a bike ride or killing zombies with peashooters, and see your productivity return stronger than ever on your return to work.

Comments { 0 }

How to Use One of the Seven Deadly Sins to Your Advantage


Photo courtesy of Ricardo Vacapinta

Several months ago, I spent an entire day in my bathrobe, doing absolutely nothing aside from playing computer games. I literally did not leave the sofa except for trips to the bathroom and trips to the fridge. This was very unusual for me, and occasionally I felt a pangs of guilt when I thought of all the things I “should” have been doing. Those feelings, however, were never quite strong enough to wrench me away from killing a few more zombies with peashooters.

The week following Robe-a-palooza was the most productive I’d had in recent memory, more than enough to make up for the time off, and yet I still felt guilty about “losing” that one particular day.

My point is not to assert that a day or two off from your regular schedule can lead to rejuvenation – you already know that. That’s the whole idea behind weekends, after all. However, I think we (me included) tend to downplay the value of using at least some of our time off as an opportunity to get disgustingly sloth-like and really shut down, at least for a few hours.

When people say they want to make the most of life, usually what they mean is they want to cut down on the number of things they do that don’t apply directly to their main life goals.  Even on their days off, they train themselves to feel bad if they’re not constantly accomplishing something “useful.” Weekends are seen as a time to get all the errands done that didn’t get done during the week, or to participate in a hobby that will make them a more educated or well-rounded person.

And that’s fine, errands and hobbies are great. But sometimes watching DVDs and eating ice cream can be just as worthwhile. That doesn’t mean you have to be a couch potato every weekend – for most of us, that would get pretty boring. It just means that you don’t have to have an “acceptable” justification for occasionally taking a complete day off and doing nothing at all.

Psychologically, this can be difficult to get used to, especially if you consider yourself an active, ambitious person. I’ve been making an effort to schedule a complete rest day at least twice a month, but it’s been hard to embrace the idea, even though physically I feel much better and overall I’ve been getting more done. When people phone me on one of my sloth days and ask me what I’m doing, my first impulse is to hide the fact that I’m watching trashy reality TV marathons in my underwear. I feel like I should say, “I’m catching up on my Italian lessons,” or “I’m just heading out the door to go rock climbing.” Over time, I’m hoping I will adjust to the frame of mind where I don’t feel slightly embarrassed at doing nothing, because I think in general it’s doing me a lot of good.

In a society where we’re constantly bombarded with the ideas of pushing forward and achieving, it’s more important than ever to make sure there’s some balance. Try scheduling in a sloth day or two next month and see what positive changes happen for you.

Comments { 6 }