Coloring for Adults: Benefits for Mental Health and Mindfulness

benefits for mental health of coloringWe can all add to our repertoire of approaches to maintaining and improving our mental health. I wrote earlier about using creative activities for relaxation and stress relief. One of the art activities included is coloring. I wanted to learn more about the values of coloring for adults and found research and medical coverage that has given me greater appreciation for its benefits for mental health.

First, a little background. Adult coloring books have been around for a long time. In the 1970s there was a surge in interest. But in the past 7 years or so they have been more popular than before. The largest spike in sales of coloring books was from 2014 when one million copies were sold to 2015 when sales were 12 million. After a few years of much lower but consistent sales, the recent years of COVID-19 saw dramatic increases. More publishers and self-publishers created an expanded variety of products and the total sales numbers are hard to gather – but lots of people began coloring.

For some people, coloring is a simple distraction or way to recapture something we may have enjoyed doing as children. Clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea, PsyD, says, “Adult coloring requires modest attention focused outside of self-awareness. It’s a simple activity that takes us outside ourselves” like activities such as knitting or mowing lawn.

Multiple Benefits of Coloring

WebMD.com, the popular online health information source, published a medically reviewed  article in August of 2021 entitled, “Adult Coloring Books: 7 Benefits of Coloring.”   The first benefit is one we all need:

1. (Coloring) Relaxes Your Brain and Improves Brain Function

Coloring books are a great way to relax your brain and quiet your mind. When you’re coloring, you’re focused on the simple activity in front of you. This begins to relax your mind and keep your thoughts from intruding.

Coloring can also improve your brain’s ability to function. When you’re coloring, different parts of your brain’s cerebral hemispheres are activated. When you choose what colors to use, your creativity is activated. As you color forms and shapes, your logic is also activated.

The other six benefits in the article illustrate why coloring has become a tool recommended by therapists and counselors to decrease mental stress, relieve depression and reduce anxiety levels. It is even thought to help prevent dementia conditions by stimulating synapses in your brain. Your creativity is stimulated beyond the coloring itself as you stimulate the creative part of your brain.

Focus on Mandalas and Fractals

Coloring books come in multitudinous styles, themes and subject matter which appeal to people’s interests. There are a couple of types that seem to have particular benefits for mental health: mandala and fractal coloring books.

A study conducted by Nancy A. Curry and Tim Kasser, Galesburg, IL examined the effectiveness of various art activities in reducing anxiety using coloring of mandalas, coloring plaid and free coloring on blank paper.

The group who colored mandalas significantly decreased their anxiety levels below baseline (which) suggests that coloring such designs may be useful for helping individuals who chronically experience anxiety. At the least, coloring mandalas or other complex designs may be useful in lessening other stress-related problems if conducted before or immediately after the stressful activity. For example, people with test anxiety could color mandalas prior to taking the test, or people who fear flying on airplanes might color before, or even during, their flight.

Mindful Coloring

The effectiveness of coloring is enhanced by practicing mindfulness as you color. It’s all about being in the moment, engaged and involved in what you are doing. It’s not multi-tasking. It’s focusing on the image and clearing your mind of everything else as you choose colors and create your beautiful piece of art.

As you proceed, you engage in something that doesn’t bring stress or anxiety but relaxes you. Because of this, many people pull out their coloring when they feel angry or upset to calm down and focus.

In mindful coloring you learn to clear your mind and focus on the task at hand – and this skill can be applied in many areas of your life. It’s easy to be distracted and we so often are trying to do more than one thing at a time.

Time To Try It!

As noted above, mandala and fractal coloring have some proven benefits for mental health. If you are not familiar with fractals, check this out: Nature and Fractals Reduce Overwhelm and Stress

Mandala books are prolific online and elsewhere. Here are some of the many options for fractal coloring books. Happy coloring!!!

 

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

 

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Managing Your Perfectionist Tendencies

Managing your Perfectionist Tendencies is an important life skill,.Are you a perfectionist? There’s nothing wrong with wanting things in your life just so, wanting things beautiful, wanting everything done right, and wanting to work hard to achieve great goals. Each of us has our own view of what is perfect, but there is no overall standard for it. Holding ourselves to perfectionism as we see it can be detrimental to our own health and insisting on our own standard can be detrimental to our relationships with others. Managing your perfectionist tendencies can be an important life skill.

High Standards and Reality

Yes, high standards for yourself in every area of your life are good. You don’t want low standards to live by, but you cannot set high standards and expect perfectionism from each of them. There isn’t a perfect life – or even a perfect job or a perfect mate. Looking perfect or behaving perfectly are unrealistic. Things don’t happen perfectly.

Set high standards but don’t make their achievement be the ultimate measure of your sense of accomplishment and wellbeing. Learn how to re-evaluate those standards as needed to allow for small imperfections and flexibility. Consider that striving for perfection can mean you don’t realize many of the goals or plans you desire because you spend so much time and energy that it decreases what you can do.

Pressure and Perfectionism

If you believe that things must be just so, done this way, or appear that way, you are putting too much pressure on yourself. For example, if you cannot leave your home without everything being put away and all things looking perfectly clean, you might put a lot of pressure on yourself if you’re already running late.

If you take the time to clean up, you could be late for work, the kids could be late for school, and you could be so stressed as you are driving that you ruin your morning and theirs. Are those possible outcomes worth the clean house? Making choices with a larger perspective is important.

Mental Health and Perfectionism

You’ll drive yourself crazy if you want things perfect and don’t allow any room for mistakes. In fact, your own mental and emotional health can be affected with depression, anxiety and other impacts of stress. And you’ll damage relationships with people around you too.

4 Tricks to Keep Perfectionism in Check on a Daily Basis

Here are some tips to help in managing your perfectionist tendencies on a daily basis: 

  1. Prioritize

Perfectionists often spend far too much time trying to perform even mundane tasks perfectly. Take some time to consider what in your life you feel most strongly about being the highest quality. Then try to let go of other things as being subject to the ‘perfect’ requirement.

As you look at your daily activities, make decisions about when to do them and how much time to spend on them based on that assessment. Prioritize the most important things. This can decrease pressure and increase your satisfaction.

  1. Take Mistakes in Stride

If you’re a perfectionist, making a mistake can feel crippling and derail your productivity for the rest of the day. Practice taking your mistakes in stride and seeing them as opportunities to learn something for the future. Rather than dwelling on and feeling badly about it, focus on the future and how to avoid the mistake or improve the next time.

  1. Take a Perspective Break

Next time you find yourself panicking over a small detail that isn’t perfect or stressed about all you have to do perfectly that day, take a step back and give yourself a ‘perspective break.’ Simply ask yourself how important a task really is. By forcing yourself to assess its importance, you’ll be able to recognize when you’re obsessing over less important tasks and save time for working on the things that actually matter.

  1. Get a Friend’s Take

Another way to keep your tasks and problems in perspective is to ask a friend for their take on things. If you’re convinced that your room just doesn’t look right no matter how you arrange it, for example, ask a friend what they think. Their comments can show you if it’s your inner perfectionist speaking or what could be changed for a better result. This can make it easier to realize when the detail you’re stuck on simply isn’t a big deal or give you helpful input.

  1. Hold Yourself Accountable with Kindness

There’s nothing wrong with striving for excellence, but if that comes at a cost to sanity or self-esteem, it is not worth it. Staying kind and understanding about your own flaws and inconsistencies is key to sharing that generosity of spirit with others.

Replace your harsh and demeaning thoughts and self-talk when things aren’t ‘perfect’ with positive reinforcements. Give yourself a break by looking back at your track record of successes instead of the shortcomings. This can encourage you as you continue managing your perfectionist tendencies to make your life and relationships more enjoyable and fulfilling.

If you want to do more work in this area, I recommend this journal. The Perfectionism Journal is new in spring of 2022 and provides prompts, exercises and room for reflections. Check it out to see if it will be a tool for you. https://amzn.to/3Fm0PfK

 

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

 

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Are You Forgetting Things More?

If you find yourself forgetting things more than you used to, it may be yet another result of our unprecedented experiences and great uncertainty during the past couple of years. You may also find it hard to distinguish between details of memories you do have. Having experienced both of those things, I found a recent article on the topic to bring some clarity. The title caught my attention: “Why We’re All Forgetting Things Right Now.” So it’s not just me!

In fact, the article cited several examples of very young people spacing out on things they knew – names of people, perhaps how to do routine things. That was comforting. “Our brains are like computers with so many tabs open right now,” says Sara C. Madnick, a neuroscientist and professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. “This slows down our processing power, and memory is one of the areas that falters.”

That explanation makes a lot of sense to me. Think of all the changes and stress of the past couple of years. Think of the deluge of information we allow to come at us on a regular basis. And now we have a new set of stressors – costs are rising due to multiple global realities including a war. Lots of uncertainty continues along with more “normality” and hope than we’ve had for so long.

The author of the article, Elizabeth Bernstein, shares some recommendations from experts that can boost our memories.

Don’t force itForcing yourself to try to remember something is counterproductive. You’ll become frustrated, and that frustration allows the emotional part of your brain to override the parts of your brain that retrieve memories, says Jennifer Kilkus, a clinical health psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. Let it go for a bit; take some deep breaths to calm your brain and try again later.

 

Stop multitasking. It’s tough to recall something, or to commit something to memory in the first place, when you’re doing two things at once, Dr. Kilkus says. So put your phone away. (This will help cut back on information overload, too.) Try doing one thing at a time. Pay attention to small tasks you typically do on autopilot, such as brushing your teeth.

 

Help your brain calmThis will strengthen your frontal lobe, which is involved in both memory encoding and retrieval, as well as stress regulation, says Dr. Mednick, author of the coming “The Power of the Downstate.” Dr. Mednick recommends daily meditation, yoga, or simply slow deep breathing for at least 10 minutes a day. Take a walk, preferably in nature. Connect with a loved one….And get some sleep. This clears out toxins in your brain that can clog your mental processing, she says.

 

Be socially presentGive your full attention to people when you talk with them. Doing so will help you better recall what you want to say in the conversation—because your brain won’t be distracted or overtaxed—and remember what was said, says Jeanine Turner, professor of communication at Georgetown University.”

All of these are simple, quite obvious strategies when you are forgetting things more. Here’s another – using sound to reduce stress. https://carolbrusegar.com/the-power-of-sound-to-calm-and-heal/

If you are forgetting things more or things are melding together into a fog, consider making one or more of these recommendations part of your daily life. Which one resonates with you most as a way to address what you are experiencing?

As a way to help you implement your choice(s) over time, take time to journal the situations you face, what strategies you tried and how effective they were. If you don’t use a journal regularly, you can download and print these FREE pages to get started. There are 4 unique pages, each with a mandala to color as well as space to journal.

Mandala Journal Pages

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

Using a Variety of Creative Activities for Relaxation

http://carolbrusegar.com/ecourse-on-journaling-a-prism-to-clarify-and-enhance-all-aspects-of-life/Just relax… take some deep breaths, chill out… These are often our advice to those around us who are stressed and overwhelmed – and what others say to us. There are more options to explore, including many creative activities for relaxation.

Some of us are driven to keep busy and productive all the time and don’t realize the importance of taking real breaks, of unwinding, really relaxing. Physically, it lowers the heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. It also reduces muscle tension and chronic pain. Mentally, it reduces stress and other symptoms of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. And our concentration and mood are improved!

We can access the benefits of relaxation in a variety of ways. Many of us have one or more fallback activities – vegging out in front of the TV, walking or exercising, working in the garden, coloring or drawing. Some rely on meditation or yoga. Adding options to your repertoire can be enjoyable and helpful.

As we look at 10 types of creative activities for relaxation, you will see some that you already use. Think about ways to adapt or expand them. Consider suggesting them to others.

Artwork (drawing, painting, sculpting, etc.) Don’t worry about your skill level. Try something you’ve not done before, dust off skills you haven’t used in a while, and pour yourself into it. Use it to express your thoughts and feelings, or just to escape from all of that.

Crafts (pottery, knitting, embroidery, decoupage, etc.) Decide to try something new or come back to a craft you enjoyed in the past. The creative process is both relaxing and affirming.

Coloring – If artwork and crafts seem like too much preparation and too complicated, just get some great coloring pencils, pens or markers and one of the wide variety of adult coloring books available. Use your creativity with color combinations and see a completed project before you know it. Check out these coloring books and the coloring implements offered there too.

Gifts for others (homemade cards, bookmarks, etc.) Focus on someone special you’d like to share a personalized handmade item with for an upcoming event or ‘just because.’ You can create a card with your own artwork or photography along with your own words that will be a treasure for the recipient. Bookmarks are a way to creatively express something and they can be used for a long time.

Music (learn to play an instrument, dance, etc.) Music is so powerful in reducing stress and also boosting the immune system. Perhaps you already have a playlist or favorite music in other forms to help you relax. I have CDs and my favorite classical music station on which I rely. Take that one step farther and choose an instrument that speaks to your soul and learn to play it. The point is not to become a musician but to learn something new and find enjoyment in it. And then there’s dancing! The movement distracts you from the thoughts that are holding you captive and releases chemicals that reduce stress and increase your calmness and optimism. Find a free dance class on YouTube or just turn on your favorite upbeat music.

 Gardening – For many people, gardening is the ultimate stress-reducer. Your hands in the dirt, the joy of seeing things grow and flourish – it’s the miracle of nature. Whether you are growing vegetables or flowers or both, the effect can be great. Both the actual work and being able to observe the results in stressful moments are stress reducers. Container gardening can give the same benefits if you don’t have other garden space.

D.I.Y. Projects (interior design/redecorating, outdoor projects that enhance your patio or yard, organizing your closet, decluttering your living/workspace) Although these involve work, they also engage your creative mind. How can you make any of these spaces more enjoyable, comfortable, or functional? The process takes you away from your sources of stress and overwhelm into a space of creativity.

Culinary Arts (cooking, baking, cake decorating, creating new recipes, etc.) Trying new things, creating something different, developing a new food-related skill can all be relaxing and give you additional options when you are stressed.

Personal Care Art (nail art, makeup, hair styling, etc.) Learning and practicing any of these can both be relaxing and save you money if you are paying to have them done. It’s time alone, self-care and creativity combined.

Creative Writing (blogging, journaling, poetry, articles and books, songwriting) Writing is magical. Choose a type of writing that is comfortable or experiment with another form. Journaling in particular can be a way to release and uncover what is going on internally and process both the internal and external. It’s a way to sort out the unpleasant and positive things that are happening and to deal with the one and celebrate the other. You can gain perspective that reduces your stress on a daily basis. I’ve written about different techniques of journaling here:  https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-as-a-tool/ and here: http://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-techniques-to-boost-your-creativity/

 

Try some of these creative activities for relaxation that release your creativity, allowing you to refocus your energy and open up space for new ways to approach the stresses of life. Find things that you love doing; that makes you relax and be in touch with your inner self. You will be amazed at the results!

If you would like to explore multiple ways to journal and how they enhance your life, you can sign up for my FREE e-course on journaling:

http://carolbrusegar.com/ecourse-on-journaling-a-prism-to-clarify-and-enhance-all-aspects-of-life/

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

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Managing Your Energy is a Game Changer!

Manage EnergyMight managing our energy be even more important than managing our time?

There’s a common belief that we can do as much as we want to as long as we can fit it into our days. Often this is without considering the energy we have to do all those things. And if we run out of steam and don’t accomplish all we had managed to fit into our plans, we think we are lazy or ineffective.

Here’s an example that you may be able to relate to. A person commits to a new physical training program. Often, they will start out by identifying they want to get into better shape (so far so good). Next, they decide they are going to follow a training program that consists of 5 workouts a week, each lasting about an hour (oh dear). What’s more, is that they do this while eating less.

The reason they were probably out of shape is that they didn’t have the energy to commit to being more active in the first place. Being stressed and tired likewise caused them to want to eat more things that weren’t conducive to weight loss.

So now, they intend to go from that, to adding four hours (7 if you add driving to the gym, showering, and more) of exertion, while having less energy in the form of food to help power them through it!

Geez, why do you think that doesn’t work?

Why is Your Energy Zapped?

Running out of steam and feeling blah – having low energy – can be an indicator of an illness, injury, excess stress or being overextended. It makes sense when you are sick, hurt, or doing too much that your energy levels will fall. In these cases, rest, recovery, and taking some things off your plate can help you revive your energy.

There are also some less obvious reasons people have low energy. Believe it or not, low energy can happen when you are otherwise healthy, injury free, and aren’t overwhelmed. Here are three of them.

Reason #1 – You aren’t living your best life. This is true of many of us during these years of the pandemic. So much has changed, so much is still uncertain. If we aren’t setting and achieving milestones, it can zap our energy. Underachievement can cause boredom, depression, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness. We may not have new measures for milestones in a life changed in many ways.

Reason #2 – You aren’t spending time with the right people. With our social interaction restricted in the past two years, we may be spending more time with those who complain, gossip, are sad, etc. Or we are spending a great deal of time alone or with the same small circle. This really drains our energy and leaves us feeling down and unmotivated.

Reason #3 – Your growth is stunted. Many of the things that stretch us have not been part of our daily lives as much lately.  We may be out of atmospheres where we are constantly learning and stimulated by work and social interaction. Much of our focus has been making things work, adapting to difficult situations. True, this does require creativity; but it tends to be focused more on survival than transformation. Narrow rather than expansive.

Managing Your Energy

Generally speaking, humans need to eat, drink, sleep, and have a sense of purpose for optimal health. Outside of those guidelines, we are all unique. Our energy comes from the nuanced aspects of our preferences and what gives us joy. Your mind and body are connected and will indicate through reactions what things bring you more energy and get you excited about life. Pay attention to the cues and learn to read them so you can maximize your unique brand of energy.

Look at your activities in all aspects of your life.  They can rev up your energy or deplete it. Your unique personality lends itself to certain activities and finds very specific things exciting and energizing. Engaging in extracurricular activities that stimulate our minds and create a sense of wonder boost our energy. Your unique personality might need more or less activity to feel stimulated and emotionally satisfied.

Try out a variety of activities and pay attention to how you feel. See where your passions lie and how you react when you engage in meaningful activities. Allow yourself plenty of options for fun and don’t limit yourself from trying new things.

This is a great time to engage in some of this exploration of what energizes you. It’s an individual thing. What gives me energy may drain yours. As you explore, be sure to keep notes or journal so you capture what you are experiencing and learning.

Managing your energy can be a game-changer. As you learn and practice more, you are able to manage your life and aspirations better. It’s a worthwhile pursuit!

Here’s a great resource: Manage Your Energy Not Your Time

It includes ways to manage your mental, psychological and emotional energy. Check it out!

 

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

         

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Stereograms: A Simple, Enjoyable Way to Enhance Your Vision and Relieve Stress

Did you enjoy the Magic Eye books during the 1990s? Officially they are called 3-D stereograms – see the example above. They are rising in popularity again. But it’s more than just entertainment. Over the years, studies have shown that there are multiple health benefits and are used for eye therapy. Using them can be called a type of aerobics for your eyes. Use Stereograms to enhance your vision and relieve stress!

I am passionate about seeking out and trying natural rather than drug approaches to improving my health and wellness. I love to try and promote tools that help me prevent conditions or catch and correct them at early stages. Thus stereograms appeal to me.

Dr. Marc Grossman, O.D., L.A.c co-created Magic Eye: How to See 3D in 1996 and uses the images in his daily practice. In this first book he notes that stereograms may improve vision, relieve computer eye strain (lots of us can use that!), develop visual skills, reduce stress, calm the mind, and more! Stereograms are also being used in learning technology for improving reading speed and comprehension!

What is a stereogram?

A Stereogram is an optical illusion created from a flat, two-dimensional image or images. When you first look at it, it looks like an abstract image made of repeatable patterns. When you look at it in a specific way, the hidden 3D picture will appear. You will see a relief object or objects wrapped with the pattern you first see in the 2D picture.

How do you see the 3D image?

The simplest way to see it is to move your face close to the image with your nose almost touching it. It can be on a computer screen, in a book, or on a single printed sheet or card. Look through the image you see and let your eyes relax. Then move slowly back from the image with your focus still beyond the image you see – and watch the 3D image appear begin to appear. As you continue to move back very slowly, it will tend to become clearer and clearer. Once it is clear you can tip your head back and forth to see movement.

Ready to explore?

With all of the screen time most of us have these days, along with the stress in many areas of life, most of us can benefit from the use of Stereograms to enhance your vision and relieve stress. I recommend that you check out these resources, decide on something to try and start exploring. The minimum that can happen is that you enjoy the practice and find it relaxing as millions have since these became popular in the 1990s.

Stereograms

Magic Eye Beyond 3D: Improve Your Vision, Reduce Computer Eye Strain, Stress & More focuses on all those benefits of Stereograms and includes great images. It examines the medical benefits and scientific possibilities related to viewing the images. It also gives clear explanations for use of the Magic Eye Stereograms and the benefits.
Magic Eye Beyond 3D

 

Seven Magic Eye Books have been published, starting in the 1990s. They are available here: 7 Magic Eye Books

 

The other prolific and highly regarded series of Stereogram books are Eye Tricks books by Gary W. Priester and Gene Levin, available here: Eye Tricks Books

There are also Stereogram Posters that you might like to look at and consider as wall décor.  Stereogram Posters

I hope you will enjoy the exploration and will find Stereograms to enhance your vision and relive stress!

 

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. 

 I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

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Gratitude is a Big Deal – But Why is That?

GratitudeGratitude is a big deal. It’s good for all of us, as we feel it, express it and share it. In the month of November, there is a big push for it on social media and elsewhere. Perhaps it’s part of your reflections at the end of a year or whenever you are regrouping. Nurturing it as part of our daily lives besides those occasional bursts is beneficial in many ways.

Gratitude IS a big deal. It is part of our relationships, our connection with our higher power, and how we view the world. Numerous studies have identified the benefits of having an attitude of gratitude. Note that this is not an occasional expression, but an attitude or a mindset that is part of our way of living life. Here are five benefits identified in studies:

Benefit #1 – Gives More Patience

Researchers at Northeastern University have found that people who felt grateful for the little everyday things in their lives were more patient and better able to make sensible decisions, compared to those who didn’t feel thankful on a daily basis.

Benefit #2 – Improves Relationships

Feeling grateful toward your partner, other family members and friends (and their gratitude to you) can improve numerous aspects of a relationship, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology. This includes stronger feelings of connectedness and overall satisfaction between you.

This extends beyond our close relationships. A 2014 study discovered that thanking an acquaintance for a kindness more often than not makes them seek a deeper relationship with you. It doesn’t matter how small the kindness. Simply acknowledging little deeds leads to new relationship opportunities, and of course, more happiness.

Benefit #3 – Improves Health

Gratitude increases optimism, and optimism has been proven to boost the immune system. According to a study by Harvard Medical school, those who are optimistic live happier, healthier, longer lives.

Benefit #3 – Improves Sleep

Feeling grateful can help you sleep better and for longer. This is most likely because you have more positive thoughts before you go to sleep, which can help to soothe the nervous system. If you are going to make a daily gratitude list, or keep a gratitude journal, studies have shown that it is best to do this right before bed.

Benefit #4 – Eases Depression

Recent studies have shown that by practicing the “three good things” exercise daily, you can see considerable improvements in depression and overall happiness, sometimes in as little as a few weeks. The activity prompts you to think of three good things or moments that happened during the day. It interrupts the gloom and downward spiral that depression creates.

According to another study, even a one-time act of thoughtful appreciation produced a 10% increase in happiness and 35% reduction in depression.

Benefit #5 – Gives You Happiness that Lasts

Numerous things can give you a boost of happiness, from a compliment to a sugary treat. Unfortunately, these kinds of instant gratification can quickly disappear and leave you craving more. Gratitude, on the other hand, is something that can lead to a much more sustainable form of happiness because it isn’t based in that immediate gratification, but rather a state of mind. If you take the time to regularly express gratitude and thankfulness for the things in your life, you are more than likely to see long-lasting happiness. I wrote earlier about this here: http://carolbrusegar.com/gratitude-beyond-lists-moment/

Cultivating and sustaining an attitude of gratitude can have these benefits and more. If you already have this mindset and approach to life, you may appreciate its benefits even more now. If you would like to build an attitude of gratitude into your life, find more inspiration and tools to help you accomplish this.

Let’s start with a simple monthly Gratitude Wheel. This is free, downloadable and printable. Each day, fill in a spoke of the wheel with what you are grateful for that day. At the end of the month you will have a visual that you can tape up where you can see it or put in a notebook. I love the visual as an option to the lists that gratitude journals provide. Download it here:   http://carolbrusegar.com/Gratitude-Wheel

Perhaps a daily reading will provide inspiration for you. Consider one of the 365 Days of Gratitude compilations of the Community Book Project. There are two completely different volumes.

365 Days of Gratitude 2022

365 Days of Gratitude 2021

Gratitude is a big deal! May your attitude of gratitude enhance your life every day!!

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

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Two Strategies for Staying Healthy and Managing Food Intake While Working at Home

https://carolbrusegar.com/healthy-at-homeManaging food intake can be a challenge for everyone who works at home, whether as a virtual employee, an entrepreneur, stay-at-home parent, or retiree. Many more people have experienced this during the nearly two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The “pandemic 15” (or 20) became the descriptor of the pounds that crept onto many of our frames, tightening our waistbands and expanding our muffin tops.

There are countless resources for weight loss, healthy meals, and increasing our physical activity. Here I will focus on a couple of simple strategies – increasing water intake and managing food intake with easy, healthy snacks for between meals and in the evening.

Water Intake

Focusing on our water intake and minimizing the consumption of high-sugar beverages is a simple strategy that has multiple benefits. We need a minimum intake of 8 to 10 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Our bodies need water to function optimally. This includes our immune system and cognitive function. The water also fills us up and makes us less vulnerable to overeating.

Here are some ways to increase your water intake every day.

  • Drink Water Before Every Meal, Snack and Cup of Coffee or Other Beverage
  • Make Infused Water – It adds flavor and may make drinking more appealing. The simplest way is to add wedges of lemon or lime to your water after squeezing some of the juice into your glass. You can also experiment with fruits, vegetables and herbs to find flavors that you especially enjoy.  Read more about doing this here:  https://carolbrusegar.com/infused-water-for-health/
  • Choose a Cup or Bottle You Love to Use – It’s not just appearance, but functionality. You want it to be easy to hold onto while walking. When you drive, you want it to fit perfectly in your cup holder. Depending on your activities, you may want other features. For example, if you bike, you may want a tight lid, but one that is easy to pop off when drinking while riding. You also want the size that contains the amount of water that you need.
  • Limit Other Drinks You Consume – You can still consume juice or soda occasionally but get in the habit of going first for water when thirsty.
  • Dilute Juice When You Have It – If you add 4 ounces of water to 8 ounces of juice, you are adding to your day’s water intake as well as reducing your calories, carbs and sugar for that drink.
  • Enjoy Fruits and Veggies With High Water Content – More on this below.
  • Try Some Water Drinking Reminders Throughout Your Day – If you get into the habit of drinking a glass of water in connection with things you regularly do, you won’t forget to drink enough water. For example, drink a glass of water:
    • Before every meal, snack and other beverage as mentioned earlier
    • When you wake up
    • Before or after walking or workouts
    • After every trip to the bathroom
    • Every time you enter your office or home

Snacks Between Meals And In The Evening 

Working at home means there is food within a short walk from our workspace. Managing our food intake is more of a challenge since it’s so easy to access snacks. You can easily justify the snack as a break to clear your head, a palliative when you are stressed, or a simple craving that’s simple to satisfy by grabbing a favorite treat. We can meet those needs and avoid unhealthy options by planning ahead and choosing from options like these:

  1. Raw veggies – cucumbers, mini carrots, celery, radishes, broccoli, bell peppers (red ones have the highest nutritional value), cauliflower, grape or cherry tomatoes. Wash, cut and store ahead of time so they are as easy to grab as chips, crackers or cookies.
  2. Fresh fruit – apples, pears, bananas, berries, cherries, kiwi, melons. Again, have them ready to grab if possible.
  3. To add protein, consider cream cheese on cucumbers, celery or peppers or peanut butter on apples or celery.  Or dip veggies in guacamole or hummus. The taste boost these provide can make them a treat.
  4. Other protein snacks include cheese, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, healthy beef jerky or beef sticks which are satisfying and filling.
  5. Olives and sun-dried tomatoes are additional options, along with air-popped popcorn which offers fiber.

Together, high consumption of water and managing our food intake between meals and in the evening can help us be healthier and control our weight when working at home. Exploring new options and combinations can be an adventure and give us greater satisfaction than focusing on what we can’t or shouldn’t consume.

Get started on this path by adding the snacks you want now to your grocery list and exploring the Infused Water Pitcher options available. These pitchers allow you to experiment with various combinations of flavors of water. Find one that appeals to you here:    Infused Water Pitchers

 

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

Follow me on Twitter!     Follow me on Instagram!   Follow me on Pinterest!

Follow me on Facebook!         Visit my Etsy Shop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Benefits of Elderberries Throughout the Year

Benefits of Elderberries

Elderberries are on my mind. In late summer and early fall when I was growing up in southern Wisconsin the elderberries were ripe and ready to pick along the rural roads. It was always such a treat to find them and bring them home to be carefully taken off the stems, washed and readied for pie or jelly.

Elderberries

Elderberries then were a treat which we looked forward to. Until recent years, when I found and began purchasing the jelly and learning more about it, I had no idea of all the health value of these tiny berries. They have become one of the superfoods sold in various forms: fresh or dried berries, syrups, extracts, supplements and tablets, and jellies. There are even gummies now for those who prefer that type of supplement!

During a previous flu/cold season, I posted “What are Elderberries and What Can They Do for Me” . The focus was on how they help during the winter. For many people, elderberry is their go-to to ward off or shorten flu and colds. But there are many other benefits of elderberries. The benefits of this unique fruit can be gained all year-round.

Benefits of Elderberries 

Elderberries help lower blood sugar levels by stimulating glucose metabolism (study in the Journal of Nutrition). This can be both a preventive and assist if you are struggling with your blood sugar levels.

Elderberry is often used as a diuretic, whether as the fruit (fresh or dried), a supplement or syrup. Using it in your food – a smoothie, in tea, in baked goods, or as jelly on bread – or taking it in other forms are all helpful. It also improves digestion and general gut health.

Many berries are high in antioxidants, and elderberries are no exception. They have lots of vitamin C, flavonoids as well as additional immune-strengthening compounds. All of these help us stay healthy and fight off infections by protecting our cells.

Allergy season is actually multiple allergy seasons, depending on what you are specifically allergic to. Allergens tend to increase inflammation in your body, which leads to symptoms like swelling, redness, itching, coughing and congestion. Elderberry boosts your immune system as described above and also helps reduce the inflammation.

And there’s more! Elderberry can improve bone and joint health, thanks to the various natural properties of the plant, including the anti-inflammatory properties and the antioxidants. It can be of value to those with arthritis and osteoporosis.

In addition to the internal health benefits, elderberry promotes healthy skin by improving skin rejuvenation. There are commercial products like scrubs, tinctures, and masks available through shops that sell natural beauty products. These can provide softer, more supple, glowing skin and also help with acne and blemishes.

As the benefits of elderberry have become more widely known, more and more products like syrups, supplements, gummies, etc. have been developed. A variety of them can be found here: https://amzn.to/31dowDg
Dried elderberries and powder can also be purchased: Dried Elderberries , as well as teas: https://amzn.to/31U5cK8

These tiny berries pack a wallop! Give them a try and see how they benefit you.

Understanding How Deep Breathing Works to Reduce Stress

deep breathing

Deep breathing techniques are often cited as an important tool that can help you to immediately alleviate stress, anxiety, frustration, and anger. Yet, many people have difficulty practicing deep breathing exercises because they either don’t believe that it’ll help or they try once and then don’t try again. Understanding deep breathing at the biological level makes us more likely to do it.

I’ve written about deep breathing before here: https://carolbrusegar.com/deep-breathing-for-stress-relief/ That article included benefits to our bodies, types of deep breathing exercises and how to fit a practice into your daily life.

What’s going on in our bodies when we are stressed and anxious? How does that change when we employ this practice? Having a basic understanding can increase our appreciation of the practice and motivate us to do it.

The Fight or Flight Response

The body has two systems within the nervous system: the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system. Both of these systems contribute to the reasons why deep breathing exercises can calm us down.

 Our biological systems have a natural ability to react during times of stress, especially in those situations where we’re facing a huge threat. Having this ability has been a matter of physical survival. In prehistoric times, humans came face-to-face with all sorts of wild animals, such as bears or tigers.

In response to such a threat, our body activates the Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response, or FFF reaction. Our threats today aren’t ordinarily of the lions and tigers and bears variety, but the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the physical sensations we get when we feel stress, anxiety, or severe anger and frustration.

These can include sweaty palms, increasing heart rate, and faster breathing. The activation of the FFF response is preparing our bodies to either run, fight the threat, or freeze.

Perceived Threats

The activation of the Fight Flight or Freeze Response can occur whenever we perceive that we’re up against a threat – whether we really are facing a threat or not.

Situations involving personal relationships, work responsibilities, work promotions, verbal arguments with others, and bad news about your health or the health of loved ones are just a few scenarios that can trigger the FFF response.

Despite the fact that all of these situations may be emotionally hurtful or painful, our body’s nervous system may interpret them as physically threatening. As such, our bodies activate the natural FFF response to get us ready to fight or run away.

Triggering the Opposite Reaction

In order to tell our biological systems that the situations we’re facing don’t require a fight or flight response, we must trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system produces the opposite response to the FFF, causing a relaxation response instead.

The Fight Flight or Freeze Response also diverts your blood flow. To prepare you to fight or to get ready to run from a perceived threat, blood is diverted away from the brain to the extremities in the body, such as the arms, legs, hands, and feet. No wonder when we are stressed or perceive a threat in some way, we aren’t able to think clearly!

Deep Breathing Reverses This Process

Breathing exercises send the blood supplies back from the extremities (since we’re not concerned with running or fighting) to the areas of the brain that allow us to think, reason, and problem solve.

This is why breathing exercises work to calm us when we experience acute stress, anger, or frustration. Blood is returning to the brain and it becomes easier for us to think.

 A Simple Approach for an Immediate Change in Times of Stress or Anger

In the heat of the moment when FFF has been activated, this simple approach can really make a difference:

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Tense your whole body for four seconds while inhaling deeply.
  3. Then exhale slowly.
  4. Repeating this three or four times can take you back to a state of relaxation and calm.

The body’s natural ability to fight or flee from a perceived threat has been useful throughout the ages and is still useful today. However, reversing the process through breathing exercises places you in a better position to think more clearly and reason about the stress or issue that you’re facing.

In addition to this on-the-spot approach, consider developing a daily practice that can help you better deal with ongoing stressful and challenging situations as described in my earlier post – https://carolbrusegar.com/deep-breathing-for-stress-relief/

The more you get into a routine of practicing breathing exercises, the better you’ll become at doing so, which will give you the ability to reduce stress, anger, and frustration easier than before.

To explore the topic more, check out these books for adults and children about deep breathing for health:  Deep Breathing for Adults and Children