Gratitude has health benefits

Sunset in the Arizona desert.

I started an evening gratitude journal, which includes an exercise known as “Three Blessings.” Every evening, I write three things I’m thankful for that happened during the day. They may be little things, like something beautiful I saw on a walk, or bigger like a new writing job referral. Then after each, I explain why the moment happened. It’s an exercise I learned about from a book called “Flourish” by Martin E.P. Seligman. In his book, Seligman said that this exercise has been proven to be just as effective as taking anti-depressants in fighting depression! I find it as a nice way to get grounded after a busy day and reflect on everything that is going well.

Unfortunately I’m not consistent with the gratitude journal. I’ll start it up for several weeks, and it goes by the wayside.

I didn’t realize how many benefits being grateful brings to your life until I read “Gratitude yields health and social benefits” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Here’s what they had to say in an article published in December 2018. Even though it’s dated, it has some good stuff in it.

Positive emotions such as gratitude open our minds.

With Thanksgiving having passed, we may want a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows such a long list of health and social benefits that families might want to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Researchers at Northeastern University found that grateful people are more likely to be patient and make wiser decisions.

Gratitude also makes us more likely to take better care of ourselves. In one psychology journal, a study showed that a grateful attitude correlated to a greater willingness to eat healthier foods, exercise more and go to the doctor. Some research even shows that being appreciative boosts willpower.

Counting our blessings before bedtime can also translate to better sleep. One researcher said it may help soothe the nervous system. Not only can gratitude improve our quality of sleep, it can also help us fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

The health benefits of gratitude can’t be overstated. It’s been shown to decrease physical pain, reduce symptoms associated with depression, decrease blood pressure and boost energy levels. In fact, simply cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude can add an average of seven years to your lifespan.

Being grateful also makes us more resilient, less envious, more optimistic, kinder and more social. It’s no wonder that the more grateful a person is, the more likely the person is to have strong social connections, healthier marriages, larger friendship circles and improved networking skills.

Not only does gratitude have the power to transform our health, our social lives and our careers, it can transform our personalities. Research shows that gratitude contributes to a wide range of positive character traits. It makes us humble and it makes us more generous. Together, these traits combat entitlement and self-centeredness. Grateful people are more willing and able to focus on others and can therefore contribute more broadly to their communities.

We the parents have both the opportunity and the obligation to raise children who will have a positive and transformative effect on the future. As we focus on grooming an attitude of gratitude in our kids, we are not only improving their own quality of life but we are helping to change the world one child at a time.

I do believe it’s our duty as parents to instill gratitude as a trait our kids should embrace. One way is to start a gratitude journal. Another tip is to ask your children to name three things they’re grateful for. In the book I’m reading called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron, has exercises to list 10 things you cherish. Another day there I was asked to write 10 things I’m thankful for. It’s not a bad thing to do. Reading about the benefits of gratitude makes me want to be more consistent with my journaling.

As parents, I think we need to let our kids and family know how much they mean to us. How grateful we are to have them in our lives.

What are you most grateful for in your life? I’m grateful for my family, friends and the pets and beauty surrounding me. I’m grateful for my new blogging friends.

For Your Health: Just Breathe! And Act Silly!

 

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Act like a child to improve your health. You too can pretend to be Sailor Moon!

I’m beginning the New Year with a focus on health. It is something I attempt each year, to do something more and better than the year before. I started walking seven days a week several years ago, and have doubled the miles I do each day. Then, I started swimming and I definitely have improved—from not wanting to drown to swimming five thousand yards. In addition to freestyle, I’m getting the hang of breast and back, too. Butterfly is still an enigma. However, this year after I tweaked my knee skiing, my health goals have little to do with activity.

Instead, I ran across two articles that I can do while awaiting knee surgery—work on breathing and acting silly. Yes, according to these articles breathing and acting like a child can improve your physical and mental health.

When I took a prep course to pass the Series 7, a financial advisor exam, our instructor Tina from Training Consultants gave us some advice about breathing. She said during the exam, to stop every 45 minutes and breathe. She said to lift our arms to the sky and inhale through our nose, release our arms slowly and exhale through our mouth and repeat five or six times. She guaranteed a five-percentage-point higher score if we did the breathing during the test. I did it and didn’t worry about looking weird. I wanted to pass–and did.

In The New York Times “Want a Better Workout? Just Breathe” by TATIANA BONCOMPAGNI the article gives several tips to better breathing, gives some app ideas, and tells you the benefits:

 

Twice a week, often between video calls or meetings, Andrew Lowenthal takes a break from work to open an app on his phone that helps him focus on his breathing.

The payoff? Better stress management, clearer thinking at work and — to Mr. Lowenthal’s surprise — more strength and power in the gym. “It’s such a fundamental part of being human but not something that we think about often,” Mr. Lowenthal said about his breathwork.

As the executive director of Out in Tech, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, Mr. Lowenthal, 33, typically spends three to 10 minutes on an app created by Inscape, a New York meditation studio. He inhales, holding and exhaling his breath for various lengths of time according to prompts. Mr. Lowenthal said that he now exercises more regularly and takes care of himself better because of his breathing exercises. “It definitely helps me with my endurance,” he said.

Long a key part of meditation and some kinds of yoga, breathwork is now becoming a discipline in its own right, with proponents offering classes, one-on-one sessions and apps dedicated to the practice. And whereas the focus has predominantly been on the mental and psychological benefits of breathwork, fitness industry professionals are increasingly saying that it can also enhance athletic performance or speed muscular recovery after a workout.

As far as acting silly, I will always remember when we were visiting our daughter in Salt Lake City and she was cranky and angry. We tried to lighten the mood, but it seemed to frustrate her more. Then, my husband stopped at a Walgreen’s for a quick errand. A few minutes later, he sat behind the steering wheel and slipped on a big red clown nose (which he found in the store.) He turned and looked at my daughter and we couldn’t stop laughing.

I found a story on a website called StudyFinds.org, “Be Sillier For Long, Happy Life? Study Finds Key To Feeling Younger Is Acting Younger.” This article inspired me because I felt so much younger by taking up something I did as a child—skiing. However, it was short lived as my old body didn’t live up to my memories. So, I may try some card or board games instead–or just stick my tongue out at someone while waving my hands from my ears.

LONDON — It’s hard to ignore tired feet and that constantly-achy back as we get older, but a new study finds that a key to a long life of good health and always feeling younger — no matter our age — is to simply act younger from time to time.

Researchers from Healthspan, a supplier of vitamins and health supplements in the United Kingdom, polled 2,000 British adults on the effects of nostalgia and youthful behavior on mental and physical health.

Woman wearing gag Groucho Marx glasses
Being silly gets tougher as we get older, but a new study finds that acting immature is actually good for your health and well-being, and a great way to start feeling younger.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated that occasionally forgetting you’re an adult and tapping into a more immature mindset — be it watching old cartoons, pulling pranks on friends, or playing classic board games — was important for their health.

 

robkatrock

Smile and don’t forget to breathe!

What goals do you do to improve your health each New Year?

 

Food for Thought, Fuel and Recovery

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Nutella stuffed 1/2 cronuts. Food for thought?

 

I called one of my mentor swim moms, who has advised me all along the way from my son’s first swim meet in 2001 to navigating college recruiting years later. She worked as a dietitian years ago, and I wanted her input for a SwimSwam article about what kids should eat at meets. I asked a half dozen more moms what their kids ate at meets because we happened to be at UCLA and USC swim meets watching our Utah kids compete.

After I wrote that story, that you can read here, I thought, “Yikes! I do not practice what I preach!” I’m finding it harder to recover after a workout and perhaps if I looked at my own diet, I would feel stronger.

I’m swimming consistently three days a week, and after I swim I get so hungry. I have a tendency to believe that because I made it through a tiring swim practice, that I can eat whatever I want. Most often, I make terrible choices including a #1 meal at Taco Bell (taco and burrito supreme) or fried chicken! Seriously, what am I doing to myself?

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At USC for a swim meet.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s okay to eat unhealthy now and then. But this has turned into a habit to reward myself after a healthy workout with fattening food that lacks much in nutritional value! It’s totally unproductive.

I discussed this with another mom via text. This mom is crazily fit and works out for hours every day. She had some great tips that I’m incorporating into my daily life that she promised would improve my muscle recovery.

AVOID SUGAR AND CARB LOADING

“I’ve actually been learning to fuel my body with fat. However, I’m not a swimmer so I would not begin to offer advice. But, after doing research I started limiting my carbs to less than 50g/day and saving them until dinner. During the day, I fuel my body with healthy fats. I’ve noticed a huge difference! Swimmers need a lot of energy but they won’t get any energy from sugar.”

PLAN AHEAD

“Have a plan. Know what you’re going to snack on after practice. Prepare eggs and a meat before you leave for practice so that it’s ready when you get home and you won’t eat the ‘worst stuff.’ Plus, the protein in the eggs will assist in muscle recovery. Or have peanut butter on a rice cake. But the important thing is to have it prepared so you can grab it right away.”

HOW ARE YOU FUELING YOUR BODY?

“Also, when eating your snacks, look at it and determine how you are fueling your body for recovery and the next day’s workout. That’s what keeps me honest with myself.”

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At my first meet a year ago with my good friend and fellow swim mom, Linda.

Yesterday, after practice I had a half banana and a hard boiled egg when I walked through the kitchen door. I was able to make it through until dinner without fast or fried food and I feel less sluggish and tired today. I’m curious to see how this plan works for me and if I’ll feel stronger after a few days. After all, I have my own swim meet coming up this month!  I’ll let you know how it goes.

What do you eat after working out?

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At UCLA last Friday.