mental health

Health and Fitness Roundup: In the News

In Good news about good news, writer Misty Harris shares "that happiness craves an audience" and quotes researcher Nathaniel Lambert: “When you show others that you’re a safe person to share their good news with, you make a huge deposit in their emotional bank account,” says Lambert. “Being an active, constructive listener is one of the least utilized, least-taught skills there is.” Pictured above, my husband is always willing to lend an ear and make a deposit in my emotional bank account.

Working out is good for the brain as well as the heart

Globe and Mail, October 29, 2012

Can a little bit of exercise make you smarter? Or, stated more precisely, can regular activity help slow the cognitive declines associated with aging? A small but intriguing study suggests that the answer to those two questions is Yes. “The message from this research is that exercise is not just good for your heart, it’s good for your brain,” Dr. Martin Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute, said in an interview. “If you’re looking for a little bit more motivation to exercise, hopefully this is it.”

Read the full article here.


Exercise May Protect Against Brain Shrinkage

New York Times, October 26, 2012

Remaining physically active as you age, a new study shows, may help protect parts of your brain from shrinking, a process that has been linked to declines in thinking and memory skills. Physical exercise not only protected against such age-related brain changes, but also had more of an effect than mentally and socially stimulating activities. In the new report, published in the journal Neurology, a team at the University of Edinburgh followed more than 600 people, starting at age 70. The subjects provided details on their daily physical, mental and social activities.

Read the full article here.


E-cookbook 'Mindfull' aims to boost brain health with tips and recipes

Vancouver Sun, October 25, 2012

A team of experts has cooked up a new book that interweaves scientific facts about brain health with some tips on lifestyle choices in an effort to reduce users' likelihood of developing dementia. The e-book, called "Mindfull," was inspired by a belief that scientific information about brain health hasn't been presented in a way that people can incorporate into their daily lives, said co-author Carol Greenwood, a scientist and professor of nutrition and brain health.

Read the full article here.


Good news about good news: study finds happiness multiplies when we share glad tidings

Vancouver Sun, October 25, 2012

Everyone knows misery loves company, but a new study shows that happiness craves an audience as well. And in this case, there are rewards. Researchers find that sharing good news amplifies its positive benefits, above and beyond the pleasure that comes from reliving the event and the social interaction itself. The boost is so powerful, in fact, that individuals who impart uplifting news to another person at least twice a week report greater life satisfaction than those who simply journal their good news with the same frequency. The hitch, however, is that not just any company will do: the listener must be someone who responds in an enthusiastic and supportive way.

Read the full article here.


Laughter as a Form of Exercise

New York Times, October 24, 2012

Is laughter a kind of exercise? That offbeat question is at the heart of a new study of laughing and pain that emphasizes how unexpectedly entwined our bodies and emotions can be. For the study, which was published this year in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers at Oxford University recruited a large group of undergraduate men and women. They then set out to make their volunteers laugh. Most of us probably think of laughter, if we think of it at all, as a response to something funny — as, in effect, an emotion. But laughter is fundamentally a physical action.

Read the full article here.


Get Up. Get Out. Don’t Sit.

New York Times, October 17, 2012

Just as we were all settling in front of the television to watch the baseball playoffs, two new studies about the perils of sitting have spoiled our viewing pleasure. The research, published in separate medical journals this month, adds to a growing scientific consensus that the more time someone spends sitting, especially in front of the television, the shorter and less robust his or her life may be. To reach that conclusion, the authors of one of the studies, published in the October issue of The British Journal of Sports Medicine, turned to data from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, a large, continuing survey of the health habits of almost 12,000 Australian adults.

Read the full article here.


Health and Fitness Roundup: In the News

New research shows these gorgeous little numbers might put me at risk for arthritis.

My daily reads include a range of entertainment and celebrity gossip as well as real news like the Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, and BBC News. Following is a roundup of interesting health and fitness news that I've recently come across.

Sorry, folks, but you have to diet - and exercise

Globe and Mail, June 12, 2011

This seems like a no-brainer to me, but one point I'd like to add is a benefit of a healthy diet and regular exercise regime beyond battling obesity (which the article is about), and even beyond overall physical health: improved mental health.

Arthritis warning to women who wear high heels

BBC News, June 10, 2011

Ack, why do things that look so good have to be so bad for you?

Exercise, diet, precautions are key in preventing seniors from falling

Globe and Mail, May 30, 2011

I worked in seniors' fitness for a number of years and, unfortunately, it's very true that "Falls often mark the beginning of a deadly downward spiral in the health of seniors." I also agree with Karim Khan of Vancouver's Centre for Hip Health and Mobility that "falls can be reduced through strength and balance training", and think that it's never too early to start. My oldest clients were a couple (one of the sweetest couples I've ever met) and were 102 and 98 years old. They were active their whole lives and it showed. Even at their age, they went for walks and played pool nearly every day. What an inspiration!

New study shows how caffeine might prevent pregnancy

Vancouver Sun, May 25, 2011

I seem to have a lot of girlfriends who are planning on starting families very soon, so I thought this was timely. According to the article, researchers have "discovered that caffeine prevents smooth muscles in the Fallopian tubes from contracting — and it's those slow, rhythmic contractions that shuttle eggs down the tubes, from the ovaries to the womb." So ladies who want babies, put the java down!


Direct Your Feet to the Sunny Side of the Street

Charlie the Labradoodle has all four feet directed to the sunny side of the street. I think that brain chemistry and mental health are fascinating subjects.  And, I think that the power of diet, exercise and intention to affect brain chemistry and mental health are sometimes lost on people (including myself).

Here are some interesting tidbits (or bits of tid, as my hysterically funny friends Ryan and Lisa would say) on the subject that I hope you’ll find intruiging too.

Martin Seligman

A recent Globe and Mail article, The wedding's over. Now what?, mentions a new book by University of Pennsylvania researcher Martin Seligman about positive psychology.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“In his new book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, bestselling author Martin Seligman even goes so far as to say that we should teach positive psychology exercises in schools. He moved into the study of positive psychology after 30 years in traditional psychology, which “had been almost exclusively about removing the disabling conditions rather than creating the enabling conditions for people to flourish.” One of Dr. Seligman’s top exercises is the What-Went-Well practice. (It’s also called the Three Blessings.) In order to overcome the brain’s “natural catastrophic bent” – our sky-is-falling tendency to dwell on bad things that could happen – we have to learn the skill of thinking about what went well. From an evolutionary point of view, catastrophic thinking is a survival tool. The Neanderthal who focused on how cool his cave was, but neglected to worry about food, did not survive.”

Read the whole Globe and Mail article here.

Gretchen Rubin

Two of my amazing girlfriends recently gave me a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (which I mentioned in a recent post is one of the books on my nightstand) and it has a great accompanying website. A recent post about re-evaluating your mantras caught my eye and made me think about one of my favourite self-help authors, who I’ll mention in a minute.

Rubin  says,  mantras “can have an enormous influence on the way that you act and the way that you think.” See the video below for more.

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins, one of my favourite self-help authors, gave a talk to students at the Harvard Business School which was recapped in the student newspaper called The Harbus.

Robbins described a “four-step framework that he says anyone can use to create an absolute competitive edge for themselves”. Those four steps (which you can read about in more detail in The Harbus here) are:

  1. Raise your standards
  2. Create a unique identity and consistently live it
  3. The power of state
  4. Give more

Regarding step three, “the power of state”, which is similar to Rubin’s mantras, Robbins said this:

“Living life the way you want is rooted in understanding that the body tells the brain how to feel. He noted that once you understand how to efficiently adjust your physiology – by studying and learning your physiological habits – you will always have the power to ensure you are in the best state to deal with work, academics, or family.”

Also echoing Rubin’s mantras and Seligman's "What-Went-Well practice" is chapter eight of Robbins’ book, Awaken the Giant Within, titled “Questions are the Answer.” Robbins says that by asking the “right” questions we can change our mental state and improve our quality of life. What are the right questions? Robbins states that “our questions determine our thoughts” and therefore “a genuine quality of life comes from consistent, quality questions.”

Don’t roll your eyes until you’ve tried asking yourself some quality questions! I have a little piece of paper in my nightstand that has morning questions and evening questions to being and end the day. I challenge you to try asking yourself these questions regularly and see what happens!

From Awaken the Giant Within:

Morning Power Questions

  • What am I happy about in my life now?
  • What am I excited about in my life now?
  • What am I proud about in my life now?
  • What am I grateful about in my life now?
  • What am I enjoying most in my life right now?
  • What am I committed to in my life right now?
  • Who do I love?
  • Who loves me?

Evening Power Questions

  • What have I given today?
  • What did I learn today?
  • How has today added to the quality of my life or how can I use today as an investment in my future?


From Circadian Larks to Sleepyheads, Everyone Needs a Good Night's Sleep

Charlie the Labradoodle is ready for bed.

Sleep, or a lack of it, has been on my radar lately. And when something is at the forefront of your consciousness, your reticular activating system serves to make you aware of information relating to that something. For me, the information has come in the form of some Globe and Mail articles, a vegan cookbook, and a TED talk. It’s so interesting when different angles on the same subject come together.

Brendan Brazier on Nutrition’s Influence on Sleep

I recently interviewed Brendan Brazier for, and have been fascinated by what he has to say about sleep in his new book, Whole Foods to Thrive – part vegan cookbook, part healthy living guide, and part environmental action plan.

Brazier mentions how numerous studies emphasize how much sleep we need, but he argues that the quality of sleep is what we should be most concerned about, and that quality of sleep is directly related to our diet. One major source of stress is nutritional stress – up to 40% of overall stress, says Brazier – brought on by a diet that includes empty calories, processed foods, and other nasties.

High stress levels result in high cortisol levels, a hormone with many effects, including disrupting our delta-phase sleep – “the phase in which growth hormone is released, naturally triggering cellular repair and regeneration.” So one major way to improve sleep is to improve diet. Read more about Brazier's take diet and nutritional stress here.

Arianna Huffington Encourages Women to Sleep Their Way to the Top

Below is a great TED talk on sleep with Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington. My favourite quote from the video:

“The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep. And we women are going to lead the way in this new revolution, this new feminist issue – we are literally going to sleep our way to the top. Literally.”

Sleep Deprivation is a National Epidemic. And It’s Killing Us, Says The Globe and Mail

“Because sleep is when the body and especially the brain regenerate and repair themselves, sleeplessness has been identified as a factor in an endless list of afflictions, including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, memory loss, bipolar disorder, reduced immunity, mood swings, impaired carbohydrate metabolism and increased heart-rate variability. Not to mention depression and substance abuse and the impairment of memory, self-expression and the ability to read emotions in others. Oh, and a hundred thousand motor-vehicle accidents a year” Read the whole Globe and Mail article here.

Another Globe and Mail article, by Toronto-based dietitian Leslie Beck, offers “Eight ways to get a better sleep.”

Sleep Well, Fellow Insomniacs

If you, like me, struggle with getting enough sleep, I hope you’ll find this information helpful. I’ve never been a good sleeper but there are a few rules I follow that usually have me counting more, and better quality, sheep.

Number one is not eating less than three hours before I got to bed. Sleeping is for repair and regeneration, not digestion, so it’s important that processing the food in your gut is not on your body’s night time to-do list.

Number two is reducing external stimulation as it gets closer to bed time. Bright lights, lively music, TV screens and computer monitors are things that should be avoided in at least the hour before hitting the sack.

And lastly, I like to do some easy reading once I’m all tucked in. By easy reading, I mean nothing too heavy or disturbing, and without any calls to action (I’ve restricted self-help books from my night time repertoire as they’re likely to have me itching to get out of bed and put their advice into action).