Thursday, December 29, 2016

28 New Year's Resolutions to Look and Feel Better

Can’t shake the stress eating? Always fall into a Facebook hole at bedtime? We’ll show you how to clean up your routine once and for all and get into a healthier groove.

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7 Ways to Stop Being So Clumsy

You knock over a glass of wine. You tumble trying to put on leggings. You trip up the stairs. Sound familiar? You probably have a clumsy streak. (Jennifer Lawrence, we’re looking at you.) But the good news is you don’t have to resign yourself to a life full of of bruises and stains.

Clumsiness is related to a few different factors, including your reaction time, processing speed, and level of concentration, explains Charles “Buz” Swanik, PhD, director of biomechanics and movement science at the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences. When life gets in the way of those functions—think too little sleep and too much stress, for starters—it can throw you off balance, literally. 

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to make yourself less prone to mishaps: “We have enough evidence within psychology, neuroscience, and biomechanics research to know that people can definitely make changes and prevent accidents before they happen,” Swanik says. Below, he suggests seven ways control your inner klutz.

Know when to take a breather

A little bit of stress can be a good thing, Swanik says. “It does help you concentrate, and focus, and increase your situational awareness.” But excessive amounts of stress can slow down your processing, and even affect your peripheral vision. “You don’t know where to look, or what to attend to that may be unsafe,” he says. “You may over-focus on whatever is stressing you out and avoid seeing potential danger.”

The catch-22? Your favorite way to clear your mind may actually set you up for an accident, Swanik says. If you de-stress by going for a run, for example, consider doing a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing first—so by the time you hit the pavement you’re more alert, and don’t risk getting hurt.

“It’s funny, because the tradition is to get athletes all psyched up before a big game, but that’s actually probably the last thing we should be doing,” Swanik says. “We should be trying to keep them calm and anxiety-free. They probably would think much better and be smarter on their feet.”

RELATED: 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Train your brain

Swanik’s research has suggested that people with not-so-great memories, and slower reaction times and processing speeds tend to have more coordination problems than folks with more efficient cognitive functioning. Fortunately, there are apps for that: Swanik recommends doing a Google or app search for “brain games.” You’ll find many options designed to improve memory and reaction time, he says. "[These apps] can help people foster some change.“

"Fortunately we have apps that people can download now that are for cognitive training and full of basic brain games that can help people foster some change,” Swanik says. He also suggests doing a basic Google or app search for “brain games” and you’ll find many options to work on enhancing your memory and reaction time

Build up your core

Several studies on collegiate athletes have found that having less core control may increase the risk of lower extremity strains and sprains, says Swanik. And research on older adults suggests core strength can help prevent injuries: “When you put senior citizens on a core strengthening program, they usually have fewer falls,“ he says. "Your core is the center of everything.” Try adding plank variations and moves like  superman and bird-dog to your regular exercise routine.

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Think ahead

“YouTube is full of videos of people who have really not weighed the consequences and the risks of a situation before attempting to do something,” Swanik says. “Thinking ahead about what’s about to happen next, as basic as it sounds, is probably the best advice we can give people.”

That’s because accidents happen fast. Like, really fast. “We probably only have a quarter or a tenth of a second where a person makes a mental mistake and has some kind of injury,” he explains.

If you’re feeling especially clumsy, make an effort to be extra-aware of your actions: Standing up from your seat? Check to see if there’s anything you might knock over on your way up. About to climb stairs in high heels? Slow your pace and watch your footing. “Even if it’s just crossing the street, you should be actively thinking, Is this a good time to send a text message?” Swanik says.


Do one thing at a time, simple as that. “Once you start to multitask, you get into a more dynamic and complex environment,” he explains, “and it’s increasingly difficult to be deliberate [over] any one thing that you’re doing.”

RELATED: 7 Exercises to Fix Muscle Imbalances

Be patient when you’re trying something new

You know those stories about amazing athletes who join a game of beach volleyball, or start fooling around on a skateboard, and end up blowing out an ankle or knee? Clumsiness is often the result of diving into a brand new activity too quickly, Swanik says. “From a motor control standpoint, if you plan to try something that requires a new set of skills, you really need to be extremely patient,” he says. “Think of it as a novel environment, an unfamiliar situation where you need to really slow down and assess how your skills parallel whatever it is you’re doing.”

Swanik has seen this in research on collegiate athletes who are starting a cross-training regimen. "Some athletes will be unable to negotiate the new task physically and mentally, and they have coordination problems, and boom, injury.”

The takeaway: If you’re a a die-hard runner about to hop on a spin bike for the first time, ease your way into the new workout, and recognize that the movements may not be what your body is used to.

Get more sleep

Though never easy, clocking more shut-eye is a no-brainer: “We know that even losing a few hours of sleep is almost like drinking alcohol,“ Swanik says. "The effects are so profound and fast and deleterious that I would really caution people to make sure they’re getting enough sleep to avoid any sort of accident, whether it’s just being groggy while sipping coffee and spilling it, or something much worse.”

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How Gaining 24 Pounds Made Emily Skye Feel Happier and Healthier Than Ever

Can’t shake the stress eating? Always fall into a Facebook hole at bedtime? We’ll show you how to clean up your routine once and for all and get into a healthier groove.

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Emily Skye: Don't Be Fooled By the 'Perfect' Bodies You See on Instagram

Call them treats, not cheats. 

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The Surprising Reason Why Emily Skye Doesn't Believe in Cheat Days

Ditch the scale!

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Emily Skye: "Focus On Your Own Journey and Don't Worry About Anyone Else"

They have lighting, posing, and Photoshopping on their side. 

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How to Make Over Your Worst Health Habits

Can’t shake the stress eating? Always fall into a Facebook hole at bedtime? We’ll show you how to clean up your routine once and for all and get into a healthier groove.

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21 New Year's Resolutions You'll Actually Keep

Can’t shake the stress eating? Always fall into a Facebook hole at bedtime? We’ll show you how to clean up your routine once and for all and get into a healthier groove.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Even Optimists Tend to Expect the Worst

Even if you consider yourself to be pretty upbeat, it’s easy to get caught up in feelings of dread as you wait to hear about uncertain news. As the moment of truth draws nearer, people often find themselves increasingly convinced that bad results are ahead.

These emotions may feel stressful and unhealthy, but a new study suggests they’re totally normal. In fact, this instinct to brace for the worst can actually be protective and serve as a buffer against potentially bad news, say researchers from the University of California Riverside.

In previous studies, it’s been recognized that, as individuals wait for their respective results, students become increasingly convinced they’ve failed an exam, patients become increasingly convinced they have a terrible disease, and voters become increasingly convinced that their candidate will lose an election.

RELATED: Optimism Can Help You Live Longer

Kate Sweeny, Ph.D., a psychology professor at UC Riverside, wanted to see if this was true of optimists and pessimists alike. “Intuition might suggest that some people are more likely to brace than others,” Sweeny said in a press release. “In particular, happy-go-lucky optimists would seem immune to the anxiety and second-guessing that typically arise as the decisive moment draws near.”

So she and her co-author performed nine different experiments in their lab and in real-life settings. Some involved college students anticipating rankings of their attractiveness from peers, for example, while others involved law-school graduates awaiting the results of their bar exams. All participants answered questions beforehand to determine their natural disposition.

The researchers’ findings, published in the Journal of Personality, were “counter to intuition,” Sweeny said. “Optimists were not immune to feeling a rise in pessimism at the moment of truth. In fact, not a single study showed a difference between optimists and pessimists in their tendency to brace for the worst.”

RELATED: Happy People Make Their Spouses Happier

There was a difference, unsurprisingly, in overall predictions: Optimists started out with more positive expectations than pessimists. But everyone in the study tended to shift those expectations downward over time.

This may be because not getting one’s hopes up can be a natural defense. “If you expect the worst, you can lessen feelings of shock and disappointment if things don’t go as you hoped,” Sweeny told, “and you’ll be pleasantly surprised if they do.”

So if you feel down right before a big announcement, Sweeny says you shouldn’t necessarily fight those feelings. Rather, she says, we should all try to be more like the optimists in this study, and save our pessimism for these strategic moments.

“It’s generally good to be optimistic about the future,” she says. “Optimists are happier and healthier in lots of different ways, and it’s true that worrying too much or for too long can lead to anxiety and rumination. But in these final moments before you get big news, optimism can be really treacherous.”

In other words, she says, making sure you’ve done everything you can to ensure your chances of success—and then putting off your worries until those final moments—may be the best balance you can strike. And if you do feel like the world’s about to end while you wait, take heart in knowing that that’s normal, too.

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How Powdered Blood Could Revolutionize Medicine

During an emergency, having blood on hand for transfusions is critical. But blood needs proper refrigeration, making on the spot care a difficult task. But what if paramedics were equipped with bags of powdered blood cells that could be combined with water and immediately distributed?

It may sound like science fiction, but doctors are working to develop artificial blood cells that could save lives down the line.

“Transfusion medicine is challenged by the limitations arising from storage of red blood cells, which are a living tissue, that must be kept cold, have a shelf-life of only 42 days, and must be used within about four hours of removal from refrigeration,” says Dr. Allan Doctor, a professor of pediatrics, biochemistry, and molecular biophysics at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri.

Doctor and his colleagues have developed an artificial blood substitute called ErythroMer. The research is in the very early stages, but the researchers have so far shown promising results in a proof of concept study in mice. They were able to show that when mice were inserted with ErythroMer, the artificial blood was able to deliver oxygen to tissues in the same way as normal mice blood. They were also able to use ErythroMer to resuscitate rats that were in shock and had lost about 40% of their blood, Medscape reports.

Doctor presented the work in early December at the American Society of Hematology 58th Annual Meeting.

Much more study is needed before it can be determined if the artificial blood cells could be used in humans, but Doctor says he envisions ErythroMer could transform care for situations like military casualties or for people that need to be resuscitated before reaching a hospital.

“Next steps are to confirm our promising findings in a larger animal model, screen and address any toxicities, scale production, and eventually test for safety and efficacy in humans,” says Doctor.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Newsweek Writer Says Tweet Caused Epileptic Seizure

These Are the 10 Most Deadly Drugs

Dr. Heimlich, Creator of Antichoking Technique, Dies at 96; Here's How to Do the Move

You’ve seen choking scenes performed to dramatic effect in practically every sitcom. But the reality is no joke. According to a report by the National Safety Council, choking is the fourth most common cause of “unintentional injury death“ in the United States; statistics show it killed nearly 4,900 people in 2013.

The number of deaths would be even higher, however, if it weren’t for the Heimlich maneuver, the standard antichoking technique that involves sharp abdominal thrusts to force air from the lungs into the windpipe, to dislodge an obstruction.

Henry J. Heimlich, MDs—the thoracic surgeon who developed this groundbreaking and life-saving procedure back in 1974— died on Saturday, a week after he suffered a heart attack. He was 96 years old. 

The New York Times reports that just eight months before his death, Dr. Heimlich used his namesake maneuver on an 87-year-old woman who began choking at his table in their senior residence in Cincinnati; the famous technique forced a piece of meat and and a little bone out of her airway so she could breathe again.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, do your best to stay calm, and remember these instructions from the American Red Cross for conscious choking victims over the age of one.

RELATED: 5 Times You Really, Seriously Need to Go to the ER

If the person is coughing, encourage them to keep coughing

Coughing is a good sign—it means they can still breathe. And the act of coughing may help dislodge whatever is stuck in their throat. But if they’re not making any noise and can’t breathe, ask, "Are you choking?" Assure the person you know what to do. 

Get help

Send someone in the area to call 9-1-1.

Give five back blows

The Red Cross recommends this step before starting the abdominal thrusts: Have the person bend forward and hit them on the back between the should blades five times with the heel of your hand. 

Do five abdominal thrusts

Make a fist with one hand and place the “thumbside” just above the person's belly button. Grab your fist with your other hand and give five quick thrusts.

Repeat the back blows and abdominal thrusts

Continue performing five back blows, followed by five abdominal thrusts, until the object comes out, or the person starts to cough. If the person loses consciousness, however, lower them to the ground and begin CPR.

To become more familiar with the Heimlich maneuver, and brush up on CPR, it’s a good idea to take a first aid course. You can look up classes in your area at

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Friday, December 16, 2016

The Best and Worst U.S. States for Your Health 

How healthy is your state? The United Health Foundation knows: For nearly three decades, the organization has been comparing all 50 states in its annual America’s Health Rankings.

This year's report is based on variables in a handful of categories, including behaviors (like smoking and excessive drinking), community and environment (access to clean water, for example, and violent crime rates), policy, clinical care, and health outcomes (such as the number of premature deaths).

The 2016 data revealed some good news, and also some alarming trends. For example, the rate of cardiovascular deaths went up for the first time since the foundation started putting out this report 26 years ago. And the national obesity rate is now 157% greater than it was back in 1990.

But on the bright side, smoking rates across the United States have dropped by an impressive 41% in that same period. And more Americans are insured today than they were five years ago.     

So where should you should move to live your healthiest life possible? Consider Hawaii! The Aloha State snagged first place for the fifth year in a row, thanks in part to its below average obesity rate and low incidence of preventable hospitalizations.

To find out where your home state landed on the list, scroll down. Below are all 50 states, ranked from healthiest to unhealthiest.

RELATED: The 50 Best Bike Rides in American, State by State

  1. Hawaii

  2. Massachusetts

  3. Connecticut

  4. Minnesota

  5. Vermont

  6. New Hampshire

  7. Washington

  8. Utah

  9. New Jersey

  10. Colorado

  11. North Dakota

  12. Nebraska

  13. New York

  14. Rhode Island

  15. Idaho

  16. California

  17. Iowa

  18. Maryland

  19. Virginia

  20. Wisconsin

  21. Oregon

  22. Maine

  23. Montana

  24. South Dakota

  25. Wyoming

  26. Illinois

  27. Kansas

  28. Pennsylvania

  29. Arizona

  30. Alaska

  31. Delaware

  32. North Carolina

  33. Texas

  34. Michigan

  35. Nevada

  36. Florida

  37. Missouri

  38. New Mexico

  39. Indiana

  40. Ohio

  41. Georgia

  42. South Carolina

  43. West Virginia

  44. Tennessee

  45. Kentucky

  46. Oklahoma

  47. Alabama

  48. Arkansas

  49. Louisiana

  50. Mississippi

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18 Nutrition and Fitness Experts Reveal Their New Year's Resolutions

Eat better, join a gym, drink more water, get eight hours of sleep every night…many of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are focused on living a healthier, more balanced life. But what do those people who are already extremely healthy (in fact, it’s their job to be) want to improve upon? We polled 18 wellness influencers, from nutritionists to celebrity trainers to healthy start-up founders, to find out what their self-improvement goals are for the upcoming year. From being more mindful to carving out time for themselves to working out a little less (if only we all had that problem), here are their resolutions for 2017.

RELATED: 21 New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

Embrace mindfulness and live in the now

“Be even more mindful with the words I use, making sure they are influential in a positive, hopeful, and inspiring way; not just for the clients I train, but for everyone I interact with, including myself." 
—Tanya Becker, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Physique57

"Furthering my meditation practice. I find that mindfulness not only allows me to react more calmly in stressful situations, but it also helps me feel happier overall and more in the moment, whether I’m eating, being active, or spending time with my hubby and pets.”
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health’s contributing nutrition editor

“I resolve to listen closer, breathe deeper, and be more present. I hope to think less and risk more. And while focusing on all these things, I hope to empower others to do the same. I’m very excited for 2017!”
—Olivia Young, founder of box + flow

“My New Year’s resolution is to commit—to be more instinctual and trust my gut. To work harder, and to live in the now.”
—Derek DeGrazio, celebrity trainer and managing partner at Barry’s Bootcamp Miami

RELATED: 13 New Year’s Resolutions You Shouldn’t Make

Pay it forward

“My New Year’s resolution is to advocate on more result-oriented ways and less social ways to educate and support people’s lives. This is an important year in health and I feel a strong commitment to providing people tools that help them invest in their health and their futures. I feel that the trends in fitness will be taking a backseat to people wanting life-long solutions that pay it forward in a really meaningful way.”
—Tracy Anderson, Health contributing fitness editor, celebrity fitness trainer, and founder of the Tracy Anderson Method

“To do a random act of kindness every day. [It] forces you to think about how you can be more compassionate all day, so you can realize the perfect moment to act on it.”
—Danielle DuBoise, co-founder of SAKARA LIFE

Carve out more personal time

“I want to make sure to spend more quality time with my closest friends and call my mom and sister more often. I’m going to work on improving my cooking skills. Professionally, I’m going to hire an assistant. And physically, I’m going to take more rest days. I’m on my feet working six out of seven days a week. I’d like to change that to five days a week." 
—Lacey Stone, celebrity trainer and founder of Lacey Stone Fitness

"Put more ‘me’ time on the calendar. It can be difficult to manage the work/life balance when you own a business because you’re emotionally invested. This year, I’m going to make more of an effort to put the computer away and take time for myself.”
—Tracy Carlinsky, founder of Brooklyn Bodyburn

“I am so busy and pulled in so many directions—single parent to twin girls, business owner—I don’t take enough time to decompress. I know doing so will make me more grounded, balanced, and ultimately more productive.”
—David Kirsch, celebrity fitness and wellness expert

RELATED: 28 New Year’s Resolutions to Look and Feel Better

Schedule in restorative workouts

“Take it down a notch! As a fitness pro, I often push myself as hard as possible in every. single. workout, choosing the most advanced poses or sequences. Movement is my 'drug of choice’ and I’m working on sometimes allowing that movement to be peaceful or restorative rather than only the most intense.”
—Amy Jordan, founder and CEO of WundaBar Pilates

“Being an athletespecifically a boxer and a runnermy body is always tight, and I often don’t take much time to stretch and recover, as I’m in a go-go-go mentality. I want to try out new yoga classes a few times a week and get into my own stretching routine so I can feel better doing what I love.”
—Ashley Guarrasi, founding trainer of Rumble Boxing

Stress less

“Learn to only focus on controlling the things I can control. Too often we stress about things we really can’t control, and it just makes us put unnecessary worry and pressure on ourselves.”
—Skylar Diggins, Dallas Wings guard 

Fuel up the right way

“Be more mindful of how I’m fueling my body. Being 38 years old, it’s getting harder to bounce back from eating badly consecutive days in a row. My goal is to incorporate a more Paleo-based way of eating, with lots of chicken and fish!”
—Alonzo Wilson, founder of Tone House

“Most resolutions focus on things to cut out. Here’s what I plan to add more of in 2017: more colorful veggies on half of my plate, more outdoor workouts, and more books (for fun!).”
—Erika Horowitz MS, RDN

“I like to set my New Year’s resolution to be realistic and achievable, so my nutrition plan is based on the 80/20 rule: stick to the Ketogenic diet six days a week, and one day a week splurge with my cheat food of choice (rhymes with "rasta”).“
—Ross Franklin, CEO and founder of PureGreen Cold Pressed Juice

RELATED: 57 Ways to Lose Weight Forever, According to Science

Take a risk and try new things

"Trying new sports and workout classes. I want to break out of my comfort zone a bit more! I’ve never been rock climbing or snow skiing, so I’d like to try those. I would also like to make more of an effort to prioritize recovery. I work out hard and throw around some pretty heavy weights. Somewhere along the line I’ve started to skimp on stretching, foam rolling, and resting. Not okay!”
—Melody Scharff, instructor at the Fhitting Room

“I’m going to find a better balance between my strength training, mobility, and Jiu Jitsu. I tend to hyper focus on one type of training and my body needs the variety to perform and feel optimal. I’m committed to sitting down before the new year and re-structuring my schedule to reach my goals. If you don’t plan, it won’t happen!”
—Ashley Borden, celebrity fitness trainer

“Although I work out (and I’m lucky to LOVE working out), my exercise was all over the place in 2016 and I want to take it up a notch in 2017. This includes getting in a few races, planning a few hiking trips, and being consistent with four intense workouts a week.”
—Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Nutritious Life and the Nutrition School

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

The First Real Proof That Your Outlook Affects Longevity

There’s plenty of data supporting the connection between a positive outlook and a healthier life—being optimistic can help you fend off stress, eat better and be more physically active, all of which can lower your risk of chronic illnesses.

But despite how often it’s repeated, doctors haven’t been able to definitively tell you that a positive attitude will help you live longer, mainly because most studies on the subject haven’t followed people over long enough periods of time. Studies to date tend to ask people about their outlook at one specific time—and the response can be affected by a number of transient events.

So researchers led by Andrew Steptoe at University College of London decided to look at a long-term study to track how people’s outlook over time affected their longevity. In a report published in BMJ, he studied nearly 10,000 men and women in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging between 2002 and 2013.

During that time, the middle-aged volunteers were asked three times to assess their outlook by answering four questions that evaluated how they enjoyed the things they did: being with other people, their lives overall, and how energetic they felt. Nearly seven years after their last answers, people who reported more enjoyment (or the highest satisfaction scores on all three occasions) were 24% less likely to have died than people who reported no enjoyment. Those who said they were happy on two of the occasions had a 17% lower mortality.

“The longer people are in a positive state, the better it probably is as far as their health is concerned,” says Steptoe. “This adds weight to the evidence that outlook might be relevant to health.”

Of course, there are many aspects of one’s outlook—mood, or how happy or sad a person feels is one, as is a broader sense of satisfaction. In past studies, says Steptoe, most researchers captured the mood element, but weren’t able to incorporate the larger sense of satisfaction or well-being. “An emotional state is distinct from finding life satisfying,” he says. “And it’s distinct from having a fulfilled life. The criticism of past studies is that it just looked at the pleasure aspect. So what we are trying to do is to use a measure that cuts across different distinctions.” The four-questions in the study, he says, were designed to do just that.

And how did the people who reported more satisfaction and enjoyment achieve that state of well-being? Previous studies have pointed to things such as good mental health and social connections. Steptoe says that keeping up friendships and maintaining social interactions can be an important part of a satisfying life, particularly for older people. “Once you enter middle and older ages, investment is social relationships is crucial,” he says. “It’s something that is quite easy to forget about. When things are going well, you don’t make so much of an effort to maintain friendships. But in many ways it’s an investment in the future as well as the present.”

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Friday, December 9, 2016

The 12 Most Shocking Health Scandals of 2016

From an exponential price hike on life-saving EpiPens to a cleansing conditioner that may cause hair loss, these are the health and wellness controversies that made headlines in the past year.

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Take a Deep Breath: Inhaling the Right Way May Improve Your Memory

When it comes to coping with scary or stressful situations, mental health experts have long given a simple piece of advice: Take a deep breath in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Now, new research suggests that this particular breathing technique really does impact brain activity—and can even improve your memory. 

Northwestern University researchers recruited about 100 young adults, some of whom were asked to make snap judgments about facial expressions that flashed quickly across a computer screen. Breathing did affect their performance: When people were inhaling through their noses, they were able to recognize faces expressing fear faster than when they were exhaling. In another test, researchers looked at participants’ ability to remember objects flashing on the screen. Here, too, they were more likely to remember objects if they encountered them during inhales, versus during exhales. 

When mouth-breathing, all these effects disappeared.

The new study is the first to show that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the brain, according to the report, which was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Related: 20 Weird Ways Breathing Right Can Improve Your Life

“Our data is preliminary, but exciting,” says lead author Christina Zelano, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, to Health. “And though it is too preliminary at this stage, it has the potential to lead to some deliberate breathing strategies for cognitive enhancement.”

She says that one of the study’s major findings is that nasal inhaling causes a “dramatic difference” in areas of the brain related to emotional processing (the amygdala) and memory (the hippocampus), compared with exhaling.

Researchers discovered that when you breathe in, you’re stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus, all across the limbic system. 

Related: 12 Unexpected Things that Mess With Your Memory

Future studies on this topic may help explain the well-documented psychological benefits of meditation and focused breathing, says Zelano, which can essentially synchronize brain oscillations across the brain’s emotion center.

The findings may also offer a clue as to why our breathing tends to speed up when we’re scared or panicked. “As a result, you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling than when in a calm state,” Zelano says. This could affect brain function, she adds, “and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.”

In fact, Zelano thinks we may even be able to use this knowledge to our advantage. “If you’re in a dangerous environment with fearful stimuli, our data indicate that you can respond more quickly if you are inhaling through your nose,” she says.

Related: 9 Foods That May Help Save Your Memory

Of course, this study is just a first step. Whether we can truly use our breath to enhance or control our fear response—or our memory, for that matter—remains to be seen, says Zelano.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Yes, Your Office's Open Floor Plan Is Ruining Your Productivity

If you’ve had trouble concentrating in an open floor-plan office, you’re not alone. Now, at least you’ve got science on your side: A new study suggests that overheard work conversations can decrease productivity—and increase annoyance—of other employees within earshot, more so than random and meaningless background buzz.

Open office plans are becoming increasingly common in workplaces, allowing companies to optimize space and, theoretically, encourage dialogue and collaboration among employees. But they also have their fair share of critics, and complaints about lack of privacy and noisy coworkers abound.

It’s no surprise that noise can be distracting, but researchers from Yamaguchi University in Japan wanted to see how work-related chatter might compare with other, less meaningful hubbub. So they performed a series of experiments to investigate the impact of different types of noises, using a test known as the “odd-ball” paradigm.

During odd-ball tests, people are asked to identify unique events sprinkled throughout a series of repetitive events. “To complete the odd-ball task it is necessary to regulate attention to a stimulus,“ said Takahiro Tamesue, associate professor of engineering, explained in a press release.

In one experiment, participants watched pictures flashing on a computer monitor while listening to either pink noise (similar to white noise, but with a spectrum closely resembling that of human voices) or actual male and female speech. Over a 10-minute period, they were asked to count the number of times a red square appeared in a mix of otherwise similar objects.

In the second experiment, people were asked to count the instances of an infrequent 2-kilohertz tone amid a series of 1-kilohertz tones. Afterward, they were asked to rate their level of annoyance at each sound, on a scale of one to seven.

During these and other trials, researchers measured participants’ brain waves using electrodes on their scalps. They looked specifically at two responses known as the N100 and P300 components, which peak approximately 100 and 300 milliseconds after a stimulus (in this case, a sound) is presented. These are thought to represent the activation of neurons involved in analyzing and making decisions about incoming sensory information, Tamesue says.

The researchers found that when participants listened to meaningful speech, they experienced large reductions in their N100 and P300 components—indicating that their selective attention to thinking-related tasks was influenced by the noise. Other experiments also showed that meaningful noises, such as music and conversation, led to greater declines in performance on memory and arithmetic tasks.

And yes, you guessed it: Meaningful noises had a stronger effect on levels of annoyance, as well, compared to meaningless ones.

Tamesue’s research focuses on improving environments by analyzing the physiological and psychological effects of noise. He presented his new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, at a joint meeting of the Acoustical Societies of America and Japan, occurring this week in Hawaii.

The findings suggest that settings used for cognitive tasks, such as workplaces and schools, could benefit from designs that take into account the sound that’s likely to be present, says Tamesue—not just the volume, he adds, but the meaningfulness, as well.

“Surrounding conversations often disturb the business operations conducted in such open offices,” he says. “Because it is difficult to soundproof an open office, a way to mask meaningful speech with some other sound would be of great benefit for achieving a comfortable sound environment.”

As for employees already stuck in a poorly designed office space? You could always don your headphones and crank up the white noise. Or, take a cue from other scientific research: Studies have shown that music without lyrics can enhance mental performance, and that natural sounds like a babbling mountain brook can be relaxing (and not distracting) in stressful workplaces.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

9 Health Editors Share How They Practice Self Care

Between long hours at work, weekend chores, dinner plans with friends, and time for your family, your calendar is overflowing. But can you remember the last time you took an hour, maybe even two, for yourself? If you had to think longer than a few seconds, you may want to consider taking a step back and reevaluating your schedule. Prioritizing everyone else in your life may seem honorable, but the reality is, totally neglecting yourself isn’t good for anyone. In order to take care of others, you first need to take care of yourself. (It’s kind of like the safety messages on airplanes: “In the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.”) So whether you’re facing a rough patch or simply going through the day-to-day grind, self-care should always be on your agenda. Need some inspiration on how to spend your me-time? Here are some self-care practices the editors at Health swear by.

RELATED: 5 Powerful Mantras to Help You Quiet Anxiety, Beat Self-Doubt, Manage Stress, and More

Sweat it out

"It’s the answer you always hear, but making time every day to exercise is my form of self-care. I’m a firm believer in that saying, ‘You’re only one workout away from a good mood.’ In particular, boxing is a huge physical and mental release for me, and barre classes take me back to my ballet days, which feels especially therapeutic. My other self-care move is curling up in my giant fuzzy blanket and watching Sex and the City reruns. It’s mindless and relaxing and just feels great sometimes." —Jacqueline Andriakos, associate editor

Tune in to YouTube

"When I’m feeling down, I typically turn to my favorite form of escapism: YouTube videos. Having a moment when I can just veg out, slap on a calming sheet mask, and watch a video by one of my favorite YouTubers (looking at you, Estée Lalonde and SoothingSista), allows me to momentarily get out of my own head. It might sound silly, but just like reading a good book, watching a good YouTube video takes me out of my own world and into someone else’s, even if just for 10 minutes. It’s enough time for me to put my thoughts and feelings into perspective and luckily, if I need more than 10 minutes of down time, there’s a whole YouTube world out there waiting for me to enjoy.”—Julia Naftulin, editorial assistant

RELATED: 8 Relaxing Gift Ideas for a Friend Who’s Stressed to the Max

Create a relaxing routine

“I’ve recently started a new nighttime self-care routine that I think has been helping me de-stress and fall asleep a little more easily. Step 1: Turn off the TV around 10 p.m. and force myself to stop refreshing my Facebook feed. Step 2: Make a cup of chamomile tea. Step 3: Turn off all lights in my bedroom, light a few candles, and set up my yoga mat. Step 4: Do the “Bedtime Yoga” sequence from Yoga by Adriene. It’s a 36-minute gentle yoga routine that includes moves to help you unwind and relax muscles, plus a short meditation to set your intentions for the following day." —Kathleen Mulpeeter, senior editor

Grab some knitting needles

"Lately I’ve been doing a lot of knitting. At first it was for practical reasons (I’m making my husband a scarf for Christmas), but I’ve found it has emotional benefits too. The repetitive motion is super soothing, almost meditative—it’s a great before-bed wind-down activity. I’m just bad enough a knitter that I have to concentrate a little on what I’m doing—I can’t knit on autopilot—so it’s very absorbing. I can be sitting on the couch or at the sidelines during my kids’ sports activities and find that 30 minutes has gone by without my even noticing. There’s the satisfaction of having something real and tactile to show for my time. Best of all, it keeps both hands busy so I stay off my phone!" —Jeannie Kim, executive deputy editor

"A few years ago I was going through a rough period in my life and I decided to take up knitting at night when I was having a hard time sleeping. My aunt had taught me the basic stitch when I was a teenager, so I went to my local Michael’s store and bought a bright chunky ball of yarn and got started. Since then, I’ve knit scarves for everyone I love, and this winter I’m planning on paying it forward with a knitting circle making scarves for homeless people in NYC." —MaryAnn Barone, social media editor

RELATED: A Meditation for Dealing With Conflict

Escape with Friends

"There is nothing better than coming home after a long day, lighting some great smelling candles, having a cup of tea and reading a good book in my bed. If I’m not in the mood to focus on a book, I’ll instead put on Friends or some other happy, funny TV show in the background and play games on my iPad. I could do that for days." —Chelsey Hamilton, editorial assistant

Pound the pavement

"If I can, I head out for a run. Especially in the cold weather, a run is very meditative for me—hearing each foot strike and a steady breath can be extremely grounding. And as someone who can’t sit still, classic meditation/breathing exercises do almost nothing for me to relax. Running is also a huge confidence boost—I feel powerful and in control of my body and mind. In training for races, I’ve forgotten how much a run can absolutely turn around my perspective. When you’re going out for a predetermined amount of miles, at a certain pace, on already tired legs, it can feel like such a chore. But last week, when I was feeling stressed and antsy, I decided to head out the door and run for however long I felt like. I came back feeling relaxed and re-centered." —Alison Mango, editorial producer

Pick up a good read

"I know it sounds cliché, but getting lost in a book is my favorite form of self-care. With a two-year-old at home, I don’t have that much time to read. But I sneak in 10 minutes here and there—on the bus, while my son naps, before bed. Right now I’m halfway through Amy Schumer’s The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, and it is exactly the escape I need." —Catherine Di Benedetto, features director

RELATED: 7 Health Truths We Wish We Knew In Our 20s

Laugh at what you know

"For me, self-care is curling up on the couch and watching a TV show that makes me laugh. When I’m feeling stressed, my go-tos are reruns of Seinfeld, Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, and The Office—I’ve seen all the episodes more times than I can count, but that’s the beauty of it. Watching them helps shut off the negative part of my brain for a while." —Christine Mattheis, deputy editor

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

How to Stop Feeling Guilty About Everything

Constantly feeling guilty gnaws at your emotional well-being and causes negativity to snowball. “It can make you feel defeated, anxious, or even depressed,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. And we often beat ourselves up for no good reason, she adds: “Most of the time, we manufacture guilt in our minds simply because of the ridiculous expectations we set for ourselves.” Yank yourself out of the spiral with this three-week plan to being your own best friend. 

Week 1: ID your guilt triggers

“If you can learn to pause and recognize when you feel guilt coming on, you’re halfway toward fixing the problem,” says Whitbourne. So right off the bat, get to the bottom of what makes you feel the most remorse. 

Pay attention: Notice any moments you feel guilty, as well as what prompted the pangs (you missed a deadline, you spent a lot of money). It may help to take some notes, either on paper or in your smartphone. 

Check the frequency: Did you get ticked at yourself each time you bought a $15 lunch this week? Do you lie in bed every night wishing you’d been more patient with your kids? Track how often specific subjects leave you regretful. 

Group the majors and minors: At the end of the week, pinpoint the issues that incited guilt more than once or weighed on you more heavily than others. (You’ll deal with the lesser regrets in week three.) 

RELATED: 5 Reasons You Always Feel Guilty (and How to Stop Being So Hard on Yourself) 

Week 2: Change your perspective

“You don’t want to try to just be ‘over’ a guilt that’s coming up a lot for you,” says Whitbourne. “Pull it out, look at it and come up with some alternative interpretations.”

Envision a redo: Think (or even talk out loud) about what you wish you were doing differently—maybe you want to have a better attitude at work, or you think you should reel in your spending by creating a budget. “It doesn’t mean you have to go out and make some drastic change right this minute, but you’re talking about it, and that’s productive,” says Susie Moore, a life coach in New York City and the author of What If It Does Work Out?

Pick a different emotion: “Guilt and sadness and anxiety are all on a continuum in a way,” says Whitbourne. “And when we’re stressed, it’s easy to be self-critical.” Try asking, “Wait, does it really make sense to be feeling guilty at this moment? Or am I letting stress get to me?” 

Realize you’re human: "Perfectionism is often what drives guilt,” says Whitbourne. “At some point, you have to just accept your limitations.” Moore adds that it can even help to tell yourself, “No mom or wife or employee is doing everything flawlessly.”

RELATED: This Is What the Scary Side of Perfectionism Looks Like

Week 3: Shake off the small stuff

“To say you will never feel guilty again about something silly would be ridiculous,” says Whitbourne. “But it’s important to recognize when you may be blowing things out of proportion.” Practice short-circuiting your regret when it’s truly unnecessary. 

Reframe a fail: Look at it with a practical eye. Instead of “I shouldn’t have left the office early today with my current workload,” tell yourself, “I needed to cut out in order to attend this doctor’s appointment that was long overdue." 

Laugh it off: "Humor is one of the greatest antidotes to guilt," says Whitbourne. Poke fun at yourself: You ran out of time to bake and brought a store-bought dessert to the holiday party? How dare you even show up! 

Find a silver lining: Let’s say you’re upset because you slapped together your gift wrapping this year. "Well, you also didn’t go to the department store and have them wrap it for you,” says Whitbourne. “You’re showing the person that you love them enough to put in the effort.”

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The Lung Cancer Symptoms You Need to Know, Even If You've Never Smoked

Ashley Rivas was 26 when she noticed she was getting tired earlier than usual on her runs. Over the next few years, the X-ray technician from Albuquerque, New Mexico, developed a persistent cough and wheezing, which her doctors attributed to exercise-induced asthma. She had other symptoms, too: weight loss, fever, and several bouts of pneumonia. Still, when Rivas finally decided to perform a chest X-ray on herself, cancer was the last thing on her mind. 

The image revealed a mass on her right lung that turned out to be a malignant tumor. Rivas was 32 and had never smoked a cigarette in her life. "I want people to know lung cancer can happen to anyone,“ she says.

Rivas has joined the American Lung Association's Lung Force campaign, to spread the word that her disease isn’t just a smoker’s affliction. "It’s true that the majority of people with lung cancer have some history of tobacco use,” says ALA spokesperson Andrea McKee, MD, the chair of radiation oncology at Lahey Hospital Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts. “Having said that, 15% of patients diagnosed with lung cancer have no history of tobacco use—and they may be quite young.”

Other known risk factors aside from smoking include a family history of the disease, as well as exposure to certain air pollutants, such as asbestos, arsenic, radon, even diesel fumes, says Dr. McKee. Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide; and each year, it kills more women than breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer combined. 

RELATED: 25 Breast Cancer Myths Busted

If it’s diagnosed early, the disease is actually highly curable, Dr. McKee says. Luckily this was the case for Rivas. She had her tumor removed in 2013, and is now thriving. (She ran a half-marathon last year!)

But only about 16% of cases are caught at stage 1. “Usually it’s like a 7- to 8-millimeter nodule sitting in the middle of a lung that doesn’t have any symptoms associated with it,” says Dr. McKee. Most patients are diagnosed later, once the tumor has grown large enough that it’s “pushing on an airway, resulting in some breathing problems,” she explains.

That’s what Marlo Palacio experienced just before the holidays in 2013, when she developed a cough unlike any cough she’d ever had before. “I would feel like I was out of breath or gagging,” she says. At first, the social worker from Pasadena, California, assumed she’d picked up a bug from her toddler son. But six weeks later, the cough hadn’t gone away. Doctors diagnosed Palacio—an otherwise healthy, 39-year-old non-smoker—with stage 4 lung cancer. 

At stage 4, lung symptoms like Palacio had (and others such as pneumonia and coughing up blood) may be accompanied by problems elsewhere in the body, such as back pain, bone pain, headaches, weight loss, and confusion, says Dr. McKee. That’s because “once the disease has spread, [it’s] usually having an effect on a system outside of the lungs,” she explains.

After several different treatments, Palacio developed a new, isolated tumor in September. But she says she is doing well, physically and emotionally. "I’m feeling pretty positive that this will be something that we can just eliminate and maintain,“ she says. "I just accept that this is a lifelong fight for maintenance, and keeping my cancer down.”

RELATED: 6 Cancer-Fighting Superfoods

Dr. McKee is hopeful that rising awareness of lung cancer, and advances in screening will mean fewer late-stage diagnoses in the future—because catching the disease early can make all the difference

Frida Orozco knows that fact first-hand. She was diagnosed with stage 2 in her late twenties, a few months after she developed a dry cough. "I started to feel a pain every time I coughed on the lower side of my ribs, and also on the left side of my chest, near the clavicle,“ she says. When Orozco came down with a fever, headaches, and dizziness, she went to an urgent care facility; a chest X-ray revealed the mass in her lung. 

But today, the 30-year-old student at Borough of Manhattan Community College happily reports she has been in remission for a year and a half. "You can’t even tell I’ve been through all of this,” she says, “except for the scars.”

RELATED: 15 Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Know

So when should you get a lingering cough checked out? “To be safe, I would say that any cough that you’re concerned about that’s persisting beyond a few weeks, you should talk with your doctor,” says Dr. McKee. “A cough shouldn’t linger beyond two or three weeks.”

If you suspect something is not right with your health, follow up, urges Rivas. “You know your body better than anybody,” she says. “Push, because you’re probably right. My pulmonologist told me that if I hadn’t caught [my cancer] when I did, I would’ve died. And it was because of my persistence. I knew something was wrong, I kept pushing.”

To learn more lung cancer, check out the ALA’s Lung Force campaign.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Easy Things You Can Do Tonight For a Healthier Tomorrow

Whether you feel like you fell off the horse throughout today or you’re motivated and ready to make tomorrow a day that your body will thank you for, there’s a lot of small things that you can do right now to gear up. The key to staying on track is not so much about mental toughness or strictness and more about planning ahead and being prepared. Knock out these small tasks tonight and you’ll be on the path for a better tomorrow.

Pack a Lunch

Not only is this sure to save you money, you’ll most likely save big on calories, too. Whip up a stir fry or a grain bowl that you can reheat, or pack a hearty salad (greens on top so they don’t get soggy!) with a light homemade vinaigrette. Other great options would be an egg salad or turkey sandwich on your favorite whole wheat bread with an apple or yogurt on the side.

Have a Cup of Tea

Skip a heavy dessert and any late night eating, and wind down your day with a hot, cozy cup of (ideally decaffeinated) tea. Doctor it up with a little honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, a splash of milk, or squeeze of lemon juice. You could even make your own Chai tea mix. Not only is this a great beverage for your immune system, but it’s the perfect hydrating drink before bedtime.

Portion Out Snacks

Remember, being prepared is the name of the game, so don’t wait until the last minute to realize that you’re starving and need something ASAP. That’s usually when you’re most likely to fall off track. Keep a bag of almonds, a piece of fruit, homemade energy bars, whole wheat crackers, or a bag of carrots on hand in case you come down with a bad case of the munchies.

Get Breakfast Ready

Whether it’s hard-boiling some eggs, making muffins, prepping a bowl of overnight oats, or lining up mini egg breakfast cups, take some time to make sure that you’ll have a well-balanced breakfast that you can fit into your morning routine. Extra bonus points if it’s a breakfast you’re looking forward to. Nothing adds a little extra motivation to get out of bed than a yummy breakfast waiting for you.

Eat a Balanced Dinner, and Eat it Slowly

Just because you may feel like you’ve eaten unhealthily or consumed too many calories today, skipping your last meal doesn’t necessarily reconcile this. Instead, eat a well-rounded meal with a lean protein, some healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables. Eat it nice and slowly to create a feeling of satiation. This way, you’ll wake up tomorrow morning feeling fueled and ready to go.

Drink a Glass of Water

This one almost requires no justification. A hydrated body is a happy one, and as a bonus, one extra glass of water before bed time can be great for your skin.

Start a Food Journal

Writing down what you’ve eaten that day is a great exercise for most people to have a reflective look at the foods they have consumed. This helps in holding yourself accountable, and also setting new goals to make changes in your diet.

Set the Alarm Clock One Hour Earlier

Channel some of your motivation into a power workout tomorrow morning before class or work. Starting your day with some physical activity is a great way to rev up your metabolism, release some endorphins, and get you in a focused, rejuvenated mindset for the day to come.

Don’t Sweat Today

The good thing about falling off track is that there’s always tomorrow to get back to your routine and start fresh. Making lifestyle changes doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes there will be days where you have no other option but to roll with the punches. Take it day by day, and regardless of how you feel about today, tomorrow is the perfect opportunity to lead the healthy, happy lifestyle you are reaching for.

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Spending Money on Experiences Makes You a Better Person 

You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of practicing gratitude—how it can boost your mood, help you treat others better, improve physical health, and keep stress and fear at bay. Now, here’s a little trick for how to automatically infuse more gratitude into your life: Spend more money on experiences, and less on material objects.

“Think about how you feel when you come home from buying something new,” Thomas Gilovich, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Cornell University and co-author a new study on gratitude, said in a press release. “You might say, ‘this new couch is cool,’ but you’re less likely to say ‘I’m so grateful for that set of shelves.’”

“But when you come home from a vacation, you are likely to say, ‘I feel so blessed I got to go,’” he continued. “People say positive things ab­­­­out the stuff they bought, but they don’t usually express gratitude for it—or they don’t express it as often as they do for their experiences.”

Gilovich’s new study shows that people not only express more gratitude about events and experiences than they do about objects; it also found that this kind of gratitude results in more generous behavior toward others.

To examine these patterns, Gilovich and his colleagues looked at 1,200 online customer reviews—half for purchases made for the sake of doing (like restaurant meals, show tickets, or vacations), and half for purchase made for the sake of having (like furniture, jewelry, and clothing). They weren’t surprised to find that reviewers were more likely to bring up gratitude in posts about the former than the latter.

“People tend to be more inspired to comment on their feelings of gratitude when they reflect on the trips they took, the venues they visited, or the meals they ate than when they reflect on the gadgets, furniture, or clothes they bought,” the authors wrote in the journal Emotion.

First author Jesse Walker, a psychology graduate student at Cornell, says that experiential purchases may elicit more gratitude because they don’t trigger as many social comparisons as material possessions do. In other words, experiences may foster an appreciation of one’s own circumstances, rather than feelings of falling short or trying to measure up to someone else’s.

The researchers also performed several experiments with either college students or adults recruited from an online database. In one experiment, 297 participants were asked to think about a recent purchase over $100, either experiential and material. When asked how grateful they were for that purchase on a scale of 1 to 9, the experiential group reported higher scores (an average of 7.36) than the material-possessions group (average 6.91).

In a similar experiment, participants also said that the experiential purchase made them happier than the material one, and represented money better spent—findings that echo previous research on this topic.

Finally, the researchers performed two exercises to determine how purchase-related gratitude might affect how people behave toward others. In both, participants were asked to think for a few minutes about a meaningful purchase, either experiential or material. A few minutes later, they were given a seemingly unrelated task of dividing $10 between themselves and an anonymous recipient.

Which group was more charitable? Those who had been tasked with remembering an experience or event gave away about $1 to $2 more, on average, than the material group.

Co-author Amit Kumar, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Chicago, says that this link between gratitude and altruistic behavior “suggests that the benefits of experiential consumption apply not only to the consumers of those purchases themselves, but to others in their orbit as well.”

These findings can certainly apply to individuals looking to be more grateful in their everyday lives, Gilovich says, but they may have implications for communities and governments, as well.

“If public policy encouraged people to consume experiences rather than spending money on things, it would increase their gratitude and happiness and make them more generous as well,” he says. Funding organizations that provide these experiences—such as public parks, museums and performance spaces—could be a good start, he adds.

If you’re looking to express more gratitude as you spend time with family, shop for gifts, and juggle your packed schedule this upcoming holiday season, you can keep the researchers’ advice in mind.

“All one needs to do is spend a little less on material goods and a little more on experiences,” the wrote in their paper. “In addition to enhancing gratitude, experiential consumption may also increase the likelihood that people will cooperate and show kindness to each other.”

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Why This Fitness Blogger Is Showing Off Her Belly Rolls

Ashlie Molstad knows the true value of self-acceptance. In a recent post, the social media star known as Foodie Girl Fitness shared two pics of herself taken minutes apart. In the first, she’s standing tall in a sports bra and underwear, looking sculpted and strong. In the second, she’s perched on a chair so we can see how the skin on her stomach rolls as soon as she sits down.

“If I’m going to show you the posed, put together, professional sides of me,” the 31-year-old fitness coach wrote in the caption, “I’m gonna make damn sure you see the not so flattering sides too.”

Molstad’s greater message: Loving yourself means loving your body, belly rolls, cellulite, jiggly arms, and all—and tuning out the constant societal pressure to somehow achieve physical “perfection.” As she so powerfully put it, “Our bodies aren’t broken. The message society is trying to tell us {by airbrushing everything, erasing dimples and rolls and fluff} is.”

Of course, reversing what we’ve been taught to think about our appearance is challenging. But it’s worth it, she urges. "We’ve been told for years that we’re not good enough until we {insert any of the thousands of ideas of perfection that has been fed to us over the years}. But I call BS. I say that the real magic happens when we embrace who we are, at every angle and size.”

RELATED: Aly Raisman Shuts Down the Boys Who Used to Make Fun of Her Muscular Arms

We especially love that Molstad looks equally happy in both images, which have been shared nearly 60,000 times. But her confidence doesn’t always come easily, she admits. “This doesn’t mean I don’t also struggle with embracing this body I was given, but it does mean that I understand working on loving me is the most important job I will ever have.”

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Your Phone Is Covered in Molecules That Reveal Personal Lifestyle Secrets

There are many ways your phone can provide glimpses into your personality: Your choice of apps, your music and photos, even the brand of smartphone you buy, to name a few. But new research reveals another surprising piece to the what-your-cell-says-about-you puzzle. Turns out analyzing the molecules, chemicals, and microbes left behind on a mobile device can tell a lot about its owner—including the person’s diet, health status, probable gender, and more.    

The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that this type of profiling could one day be useful for clinical trials, medical monitoring, airport screenings, and criminal investigations. It also serves as a reminder of the lasting chemical residues of the foods we eat, the cosmetics we wear, and the places we visit. In some cases, researchers could pinpoint ingredients from personal-care products that the owner of the phone hadn’t used in six months!

“You can imagine a scenario where a crime-scene investigator comes across a personal object—like a phone, pen, or key—without fingerprints or DNA, or with prints or DNA not found in the database,” said senior author Pieter Dorrestein, PhD, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, in a press release. “So we thought—what if we take advantage of left-behind skin chemistry to tell us what kind of lifestyle this person has?”

RELATED: A Smart Guide to Scary Chemicals

Dorrestein’s previous research has shown that molecules analyzed from skin swabs tend to contain traces of hygiene and beauty products, even when people haven’t applied them for a few days. “All of these chemical traces on our bodies can transfer to objects,” Dorrestein said. “So we realized we could probably come up with a profile of a person’s lifestyle based on chemistries we can detect on objects they frequently use.”

For their new study, Dorrestein and his colleagues swabbed four spots on the cell phones of 39 volunteers, and used a technique called mass spectrometry to detect molecules from those samples. Then, they compared those molecules with ones indexed in a large, crowd-sourced reference database run by UCSD.

With this information, the researchers developed a personalized lifestyle “read-out” from each phone. They were able to determine certain medications that the volunteers took—including anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal skin creams, hair loss treatments, antidepressants, and eye drops. They could identify food that had recently been eaten, such as citrus, caffeine, herbs, and spices. And they detected chemicals, like those found in sunscreen and bug spray, months after they’d last been used by the phones’ owners.

RELATED: 6 Ways Your Mobile Devices Are Hurting Your Body

“By analyzing the molecules they’ve left behind on their phones, we could tell if a person is likely female, uses high-end cosmetics, dyes her hair, drinks coffee, prefers beer over wine, likes spicy food, is being treated for depression, wears sunscreen and bug spray—and therefore likely spends a lot of time outdoors—all kinds of things,” said first author Amina Bouslimani, PhD, an assistant project scientist in Dorrestein’s lab. In fact, the researchers were able to correctly predict that one study participant was a camper or backpacker because of residue from DEET and sunscreen ingredients on her phone.

This was a proof-of-concept study, meaning that it only showed that the technology exists—not that it’s ready for market. To develop even more precise profiles, and to be useful in the real world, the researchers say more molecules are needed in the reference database. They hope it will grow to include more common items including foods, clothing materials, carpets, and paints, for example.

Dorrestein and Bouslimani are conducting further studies with an additional 80 people and samples from other personal objects, such as wallets and keys. They hope that eventually, molecular profiles will be useful in medical and environmental settings.

Doctors might employ this technique to determine whether a patient really is taking his or her medication, for example. Or scientists could use it to determine people’s exposure to toxins in high-risk workplaces or neighborhoods near potential pollution sources. And, of course, molecular profiling could help criminal investigators by narrowing down the potential owners of objects, or understanding people’s habits based on items they touch, they wrote in their paper.

RELATED: These Personality Traits Are Linked to a Healthier Sex Life

As creepy as all this may sound, personality-specific microbes likely aren’t the most alarming things hiding on your cell phone. Other research shows that our tech devices are popular spots for germs like the flu virus and antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Unless you plan to rob a bank and leave your phone behind as evidence, germs are probably your biggest threat at the moment. To keep buildup to a minimum, and harmful bugs at bay, try to remember to clean your screen and case regularly with a disinfectant wipe.

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Amy Schumer Posted About Loving Your Body and It Is Perfection

Friday, November 11, 2016

If You Do This Before Bed, Your Sleep Will Seriously Suffer

How glued are you to the main screen in your life? Very, if you’re like most of us; survey data suggests that Americans collectively check their phones 8 billion times each day.

All of that smartphone screen time is likely taking a toll on our sleep, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. People who used their phones more, especially around bedtime, got less and worse sleep than their peers.

That’s concerning, says Dr. Gregory Marcus, one of the study’s authors and director of clinical research for the division of cardiology at University of California, San Francisco. “There’s growing evidence that poor sleep quality is not simply associated with difficulty concentrating and being in a bad mood the next day,” he says, “but may be a really important risk factor to multiple diseases.”

For the 30-day study, 653 adults all across the country downloaded an app that ran in the background of their phones and monitored screen time. The people in the study recorded how long and how well they slept, following standardized sleep scales.

People interacted with their phones about 3.7 minutes per hour, and longer screen activation seemed to come at a detriment. “We found that overall, those who had more smartphone use tended to have reduced quality sleep,” Marcus says.

The study doesn’t prove that using screens more causes worse sleep. (In fact, it might be the other way around: “We can’t exclude the possibility that people who just can’t get to sleep for some unrelated reason happen to fill that time by using their smartphone,” Marcus says.) But other research supports the idea that screens work against slumber. Some data suggests that the blue light your phone emits suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps the human body maintain healthy circadian rhythms. “We also know that emotional upset, or just being stimulated apart from smartphone use, can adversely affect sleep quality, and that engaging with Twitter or Facebook or email can cause that sort of stimulation,” Marcus says.

Reactions to extended screen time might vary from person to person. But if you have difficulty falling asleep or getting good sleep, look to your smartphone, Marcus says. “Because sleep quality is so important, I think it’s useful for individuals to take these data and at least give avoidance of their smartphones an hour or so before they go to bed a try to see if it helps.”

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Repealing The Affordable Care Act Could Be More Complicated Than It Looks

After six controversial years, the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, may be on the way out, thanks to the GOP sweep of the presidency and both houses of Congress Tuesday.

“There’s no question Obamacare is dead,” said insurance industry consultant Robert Laszewski. “The only question is whether it will be cremated or buried.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confirmed Wednesday that repealing the law is something that’s “pretty high on our agenda.”

But promising to make the law go away, as President-elect Donald Trump did repeatedly, and actually figuring out how to do it, are two very different things.

“Washington is much more complicated once you’re here than it appears to be from the outside,” said William Pierce, a consultant who served in both the George W. Bush Department of Health and Human Services and on Capitol Hill for Republicans.

For example, a full repeal of the health law would require 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Given the small GOP majority in the Senate, “they would have to convince six or eight Democrats to come with them to repeal. That seems highly unlikely,” Pierce said.

Republicans could—and likely would—be able to use a budget procedure to repeal broad swaths of the law. The “budget reconciliation” process would let Republicans pass a bill with only a majority vote and not allow opponents to use a filibuster to stop movement on the bill.

But that budget process has its own set of byzantine rules, including one that requires that any changes made under reconciliation directly affect the federal budget: in other words, the measure must either cost or save money. That means “they can only repeal parts” of the law, said Pierce.

Republicans have a ready-made plan if they want to use it. The budget bill they passed late last year would have repealed the expansions of Medicaid and subsidies that help low- and middle-income families purchase health insurance on the law’s marketplaces, among other things. President Barack Obama vetoed the measure early this year.

That bill also included, as Vice President-Elect Mike Pence promised in a speech last week in Pennsylvania, “a transition period for those receiving subsidies to ensure that Americans don’t face disruption or hardship in their coverage.” The bill passed by the GOP Congress at the end of 2015 set that date at Dec. 31, 2017.

Delaying the repeal date could work in Republicans’ favor, said Laszewski. “Then they’ll turn to the Democrats and say, ‘Work with us to replace it or be responsible for the explosion,’” he said.

But Tim Westmoreland, a former House Democratic staffer who teaches at Georgetown Law School, said that strategy won’t work. “I don’t think people will see the Democrats as responsible if it all blows up,” he said.

Meanwhile, Republicans have only the broadest outlines of what could replace the law. Trump’s campaign website has bullet-point proposals to allow health insurance sales across state lines and to expand health savings accounts—which allow consumers to save money, tax-free, that can be used only for health care expenses. House Republicans last summer offered up a slightly more detailed outline that includes creating “high-risk pools” for people with preexisting health conditions and turning the Medicaid program back to state control through a block-grant program.

Yet even Democrats are convinced that Obama’s signature accomplishment is on the chopping block. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, they can’t really mean it. They wouldn’t really take health insurance away from 20 million people’” who have gained it under the law, John McDonough, a former Democratic Senate staffer, said at a Harvard School of Public Health Symposium last week. “How many times do [Republicans] have to say it before we take them seriously?”

One possibility, according to William Hoagland, a former GOP Senate budget expert now at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank, is that Republicans could use the budget process to combine tax reform with health policy changes. “And a reconciliation bill that includes reforms in Obamacare and tax reform starts to become a negotiable package” that could attract both Republicans and potentially some Democrats, who are also interested in remaking tax policy.

But if Congress does pass the GOP’s “repeal” before the “replace,” it needs to make sure that insurers will continue to offer coverage during the transition.

“Are [Republicans] going to invite insurers in and listen?” said Rodney Whitlock, a former House and Senate Republican health staffer. If there is no acceptable transition plan, “insurers can say the same thing to the Republicans that they’ve been saying to Democrats,” said Whitlock, which is that they are leaving the market.

That’s something that concerns insurance consultant Laszewski, who says that already there are more sick than healthy people signing up for individual coverage under the law. With probable repeal on the horizon, he said, that’s likely to get even worse. “A lot of [healthy] people will say, ‘Why sign up now? I’m going to wait until they fix it.’”

And if that happens, he said, there might not be any insurers offering coverage for the transition.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Helpful (and Realistic) Way to Manage Your Post-Election Emotions

The election is finally over. But it’s safe to say that, as a nation, the tensions and anxieties related to this historic race—and its outcome—aren’t going away anytime soon. While about half of the country is celebrating Donald Trump’s victory today, many others are facing feelings of disappointment.

If you’re in the latter group, you may be looking for ways to cope. Should you avoid the news, or wallow in it? Will you feel better by sharing your thoughts on social media, or worse?

Yes, it’s a cliché but you can start by taking a deep breath—literally—says Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. It won’t change the outcome of the race but that simple act has been scientifically proven to help curb anxiety and refocus your attention. That’s important, says Winston, because dwelling on negative emotions will only push you deeper into sadness and despair.

And since stress is an inevitable part of life no matter what your political persuasion, Winston says mindfulness is a skill everyone can benefit from learning. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you feel calmer in no time.

1. Focus on your breath. Mindfulness is about living in the present moment with openness, curiosity, and willingness, says Winston. That concept may be hard to grasp right now, but you can start small—by bringing your attention to your breath for a few minutes, and tuning out everything else around you.

Try to practice mindful breathing for a minimum of five minutes a day, says Winston. (To get started, listen to a guided tutorial on UCLA’s website.) “Once you get used to it, you can do it anytime in the day you need it,” she adds—like when a political conversation gets heated, or you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by the news.

2. Tune into your whole body. If you end up in a heated conversation, notice what’s going on with your body in that moment: Feel your feet on the floor, your heart racing, and the heat rising in your cheeks, for example.

Acknowledge those feelings, but don’t let them take over. “If you notice there’s anxiety or anger there, then you can bring consciousness to it and not necessarily be so reactive when you choose to respond,” Winston says.

Pinpointing your emotion may even have a soothing effect in itself, she adds. “Research shows that when we are aware of feeling and we label it correctly, it calms down the primitive part of the brain, and activates the part that helps with impulse control instead.”

3. Maintain perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in thoughts about worst-case scenarios. But remind yourself that that’s exactly what they are—and that dwelling on them won’t change things or help you feel better.

“Mindfulness teaches us that we shouldn’t believe everything we think,” says Winston. “When a thought comes into your head—‘I have to leave the country,’ or ‘I’ll never talk to my relatives again’—you don’t have to follow that train of thought.” Instead, take a deep breath (see No. 1), bring yourself back to the present, and do your best to take things one step at a time.

4. Be proactive, not reactive. Practicing mindfulness doesn’t mean you should just sit back and give up on your beliefs and your passions. But it does mean you should think before making rash decisions while emotions are running high.

“Mindfulness can help you act for change, but from a place of wisdom and compassion rather than a place of reactivity—two very different ways of acting that can have completely different results,” says Winston. “When you practice it over time, you cultivate a quality of even-mindedness and balance, even amidst the ups and downs of life.”

5. Acknowledge your judgments. Mindfulness can be especially valuable when talking with others who have different opinions. (You may not feel up to doing that at all today, says Winston, and that’s okay. But doing so at some point, with mutual respect, will be an important step toward bridging the divides in our country.)

It’s only human—and totally normal—to form opinions about why a person feels the way they do. But you can acknowledge those judgments, in your head, without letting them go any farther. Remember, you don’t have to believe everything you think.

“Everyone wants the same thing deep down—to be safe, happy, and healthy,” she says. “So instead of writing someone off before really hearing them out, see if you can listen to these deeper needs and come to an understanding.”

6. Practice gratitude. “There is some neuroscience around the idea that people can’t have both fear and gratitude in their minds at the same time,” says Winston, “so doing some kind of gratitude practice right now can definitely be helpful.”

Call a loved one and tell them how much you appreciate them. Spend a few minutes writing down things you’re thankful for. Or just take the opportunity to bring awareness to the time you spend with your favorite people, places, or activities.

These strategies certainly won’t solve all of the country’s challenges, nor will they erase your anger or anxieties. But that’s not the point of mindfulness—and that’s what makes it realistic.

“It’s not about trying to get rid of these feelings,” says Winston. “It’s about giving yourself tools so you can tolerate them and be at peace with them, so you can then move onward and upward.”

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Next Week’s Supermoon May Be a Once in a Lifetime Event

Fall 2016 is proving to be an exciting season for stargazers, with three consecutive supermoons (which happen when the moon is closest to Earth) occurring in October, November, and December. But the upcoming supermoon on Monday, Nov. 14 will be particularly special, due to a unique alignment of the Earth, moon, and sun. The moon will be the closest it’s been to the Earth since January 26, 1948—the next similarly large supermoon won’t occur until November 25, 2034. In short: You won’t want to miss it.

On the night of the supermoon, the diameter of the moon could appear up to 14 percent larger and the total area of the moon may look up to 30 percent larger and brighter, according to Jonathan Kemp, a telescope specialist at Middlebury College Observatory. The moon appears so large due to its positioning on its orbit.

“The moon’s orbit is not a circle, but rather an ellipse, just as with the planets,” Kemp says. “On average, the moon is about 239,000 miles away from the Earth. When it is at perigee, or its closest point to Earth, it can be about 225,000 miles away. When this happens during full moon, the apparent size of the moon, as seen from Earth, appears to increase.”

This month, the full moon will occur within about two hours of the moon’s perigee, causing the extra-special supermoon. And because there is typically one supermoon per year, the fact that there are three in three months is also pretty spectacular.

The best way to view the supermoon is look for it low in the sky (as it rises or sets near the horizon) with foreground reference points (like buildings) to provide some context, Kemp says. Because it’s a full moon, it will rise as the sun sets, and set as the sun rises. With binoculars, you’ll get an even more exciting sight.

“When the moon is full, the larger craters show ‘ray’ features, which look like lines pointing away from the crater, spanning much of the surface of the moon,” says Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York. “These 'rays’ are streams of rock that were ejected when the crater was formed by a colliding asteroid long, long ago.”

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Saturday, November 5, 2016

This New Patch Can Monitor Patient’s Vital Signs With High Accuracy

Hospital patients could have their vital signs tracked without cumbersome wires and complex monitors once a new startup’s wearable monitoring patch hits the market.

VitalConnect is building a lightweight, disposable patch that can be affixed to a patient’s chest and wirelessly sends vital signs including heart rate, ECG read out and rate of breathing to a mobile app. The patch has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and provides clinical grade accuracy in monitoring, the company said.

“It is very small, comfortable and fully disposable,” Dr. Nersi Nazari, VitalConnect’s CEO, said on Wednesday during a demonstration at the Fortune Brainstorm Health conference. One patch can be worn for four to five days and can survive getting wet in the shower, he noted.

The patch, which could also be worn by patients at home, has the ability to detect if the wearer has fallen down. If a fall is detected, the patch can wirelessly notify a doctor or other party.

VitalConnect is also developing a cloud-based service to analyze the health data collected by the patches. The software ultimately could help physicians decide how to treat a patient or decide when the patient is ready to be discharged from the hospital, Nazari said.

For more about medical wearables, see: Can a Wearable Fitness Device Predict Your Heart Attack?

“The data is sliced and diced and analyzed to the condition that the doctor is looking at,” Nazari explained. “We do not want to bombard doctors with so much data that it’s just not useful.”

VitalConnect, founded in 2011, is seeking to combine expertise in bioengineering and data analytics. Nazari previously worked on semiconductor chip design at Marvell Semiconductor. Joseph Roberson, the company’s chief medical officer, was formerly chief of otology-neurotology-skull base surgery at Stanford University.

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