Change your life one small step at a time! Jessica Cassity, author of the new book Better Each Day, joined us to share a few small changes we can make today to improve reclaim our health and happiness.
- Cure Aches . . . with Chocolate! If you're in painwhether from a stubbed toe or a sore backgo ahead and pamper yourself. Relax, sleep, and, as new research recommends, eat chocolate! According to Paul L. Durham, PhD, director of the Center for Biomedical Life Sciences at Missouri State University, indulging in some chocolate treats is a scientifically tested way to help the body heal from injuries and aches. Durham, who has studied the effects of cocoa on healing, conducted a study in which animals that were fed cocoa, like that found in dark chocolate, had an improved response to injury. "Cocoa doesn't block normal inflammation, which is an important bodily response that prevents you from using an injured body part, but it keeps cells from over-reacting, which can ultimately lead to chronic pain." This response may be a better treatment than pain medications, says Durham, because chocolate doesn't mask the discomfort brought on by injury, which is a useful reminder to rest.
- Skip Meditation for Music If you're feeling stressed out, you might think your best bet is to reach for a recording of a guided meditation. But if you're hoping to listen away your troubles, you'll get better results from simply putting on your favorite tunes. According to a study recently published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, self-selected music relieves stress more effectively than relaxation tapes. In the study, when participants listened to their own music, their physical symptoms of stress decreased just as they would have after a bout of exercise. Scientists think that by listening to something that actually led to positive emotionsrather than just relaxationthe test subjects were able to lower their stress reactions. The best news is that you can easily recreate the effectjust slide your favorite CD into the stereo or plug into your MP3 player, and let any tension melt away.
- The Downside of Over-analyzing Your Problems If you're going through a tough time, your first instinct may be to sit down with a friend and tell him or her all about it. That's okay up to a point, says Amanda Rose, PhD, associate professor in University of Missouri department of psychological sciences. But rehashing the same event over and over again can actually cause you to get more upset, not less. "Talking about problems isn't necessarily counterproductive," says Rose, "but the rehashing of details, speculating about the situation, and talking about sad feelings over and over is." This sort of behavior usually won't make you feel better, and will often leave you feeling worse than before. To keep your conversation in check, allow yourself enough time to air your grievances to a friend oncefor, say, twenty minutesthen switch your banter to other subjects. Rather than just vent, make some of that time productive by steering the conversation toward problem solving and what you can do to feel better so that your talk has a positive aspect.
- "Organic" Isn't Everything Don't fall prey to the common misconception that eating organic gives you a free pass to stop counting calories. In a recent study out of Cornell University, scientists found that people who ate a cookie labeled "organic" estimated that it contained 40 percent fewer calories than a label-free cookie. Surprise: the cookies were identical. While organic foods may contain fewer chemicals than their non-organic counterparts, they're not necessarily healthier choices in terms of fat and calorie content. To make the best decisions for your body, read the entire label, not just the "organic" tag.
- A Spoonful of Honey Brings Cold Relief The next time a bad cough has you tossing and turning all the night, bypass your medicine cabinet and head straight to the kitchen shelves: a number of recent studies from around the world have documented the effects of honey as a cough suppressant, and the sticky sweetener appears to work as well as, if not better than, over-the-counter cold remedies. Just 1/2 teaspoon of honey is more effective at reducing cough frequency than drugstore variety cough suppressants. Like cough drops, honey coats and soothes the throat, causing the cough reflex to become less active. Also, honey is antimicrobial, which means it kills germs upon contact, helping your body to fight off infection. Researchers from The Pennsylvania State University say the darker the honey, the betterbrowner varieties have more antioxidants than golden ones.
- Shed Pounds by Paying Attention to Your Sleep Sleep isn't the cornerstone of most diets, but maybe it should be. In one recent study from the University of Chicago, scientists found that people who got an adequate night's sleep while dieting lost more than twice the amount of fat than they did when they only allowed for five hours a night. In the study, the dieters' sleep time was monitored in two fourteen-day chunks: one in which they slept for a little more than seven hours each night, and one in which they were woken two hours earlier. For all four weeks the participants ate the same number of calories and performed the same types of activity. And, while each two-week span resulted in an average loss of six pounds, three of those pounds were fat during the longer sleeping segments while only one pound of fat was shed during the two weeks of shorter rest. But that's not all: people reported being more hungry in the shorter sleep portion of the study, which supports other research showing a connection between lack of sleep and overeating.
- Offset poor eating with orange juice Brunch is definitely not the healthiest meal of the week. With menu staples including stacks of pancakes, plate-size omelets, and extra helpings of bacon, this feast takes the place of breakfast and lunch, and probably still pushes your calorie, fat, and carb intake over the edge. But if you do indulge in the occasional Sunday splurge, drinking orange juice can minimize some of the negative health effects of a big brunch. No, OJ won't burn through all of the excess calories you consume, but it can help ease the inflammation that often accompanies eating unhealthy foods. According to researchers at the University of Buffalo, orange juice helps reduce the number of free radicals in the blood after high-fat and carb-heavy meals, and it can also regulate insulin resistance.
- Choose acupressure over Advil for headache relief If you're tired of popping pills to ease headaches, acupressure offers a natural and medication-free way to get rid of pain fast. Simply pinch the tender area on either hand between your opposite thumb and forefinger and press for about two minutes. This trick stimulates the pressure point called Large Intestine-4, and typically brings relief for traditional headaches. If you're suffering from a sinus headache, you'll use a different pressure point for hands-on pain relief. To target this spot, use Urinary Bladder-2: Firmly press the inner corners of your eyebrows with thumb and forefinger. You can rest your elbow on a desk or counter and lead into your hand to make this position easier to hold. The pressure needn't be intense, but you should feel a bit of an ache. After a few moments, your sinus pressure should start to lift. For best results, repeat either treatment about once an hour, holding for two to five minutes at a time.
- Eat rye bread for breakfast to satisfy hunger all day long Eating rye toast for breakfast might be the easiest way to stop afternoon snacking. New research from Sweden reveals that rye bread helps increase feelings of fullness for up to eight hours. In the study, subjects were fed a breakfast of either rye toast or wheat toast with margarine and apricot marmalade. When satiety, hunger, and desire to eat were measured later in the morning, and hours later in the afternoon, eaters of the rye bread reported feeling less hungry and less interested in eating.
For more great health information, visit Jessica's website.