All posts by ashleyhealth101

About ashleyhealth101

Part time health-centric blogger gradually learning the craft

5 Ways Good Wellness Helps to Optimize Your Productivity

There are some compelling connections between good wellness and your overall productivity.

Whether you are a business owner, employee, freelancer, or stay-at-home parent, taking these associations into account may be of significant help to reap certain rewards.  Honing in on good wellness in support of personal productivity can be great for the following:

  • Help you to get things done
  • Contribute to meaningful progress towards your goals
  • Ultimately, lead to a more flawless journey from point A to B when it comes to your Achievements, Desired Outcomes, and other areas of Success

Implementers of workplace wellness offerings have been rather keen on this for years.  Studies on these programs have observed improvements in various productivity measures across the workforce population that were enrolled.  Also, positive changes were shown in both people considered healthy and sick, such as those with at least one chronic health condition.

As an individual, a proactive approach to wellness is certainly an area to consider for both personal health outcomes and productivity-related results.

Poorer health may interfere with the ability to function well.  Furthermore, it can result in certain limitations.  Although not all health conditions are within our immediate control, engaging in wellness programs and activities can help to prevent certain impairments in our health and well-being.

5 ways that good health and wellness can influence productivity include the following;

  1. Improved mental clarity and focus.  People who are in good or better health tend to comment that they also feel better mentally.  Also, certain activities and habits, such as physical activity, meditation, getting sufficient sleep, and eating well can help out our internal biochemistry and the brain which can lead to better memory, executive functioning, and overall cognition.
  2. Stress-reduction and reduced burnout.  Wellness can also support people to learn coping mechanisms for when life puts on the pressure, especially considering that many people are juggling to maintain a good balance across priorities.  The American Institute of Stress has been monitoring facets related to the onset of stress, including work-related factors.  High-stress levels may lead to missed days at work, less focus while completing tasks, and a poorer outlook.  Many health-related activities lead to reduced stress levels.
  3. Greater levels of happiness.  Although complex, research suggests that “happy workers” feel more satisfied and are more productive.  The exact path leading to someone’s happiness includes several factors, however, people participating in various health related-activities and wellness programs report a greater sense of well-being including overall happiness and a favorable outlook on life.  Furthermore, more engagement in healthy activities may also reduce loneliness.
  4. Enhanced motivation and well-being.  Health and wellness as a whole is a great area to plan, work for, track, and achieve goals.  The function of this alone can encourage positive motivation which can have a bit of an amplification effect for other aspects of both productivity and positive well-being.
  5. Fewer unplanned interruptions due to illness.  Better immune health can serve as a catalyst to avoid the onset of illnesses or, at least, reduce the severity.  Certain good health practices can help to take a proactive approach to protect and boost the immune system.

Habits such as nourishing the body through good food, taking breaks for physical activity and social time, leaving time for creativity or creative thought, and getting enough quality sleep are all areas that make up “good wellness”.  A more comprehensive list of suggestions is included in a Thrive Global article focused on correlations between well-being and higher performance.

Photo credit(s):  krisna iv on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

References:

American Institute of Stress, The (n.d.).  Workplace Stress.  Retrieved from https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress.

Gubler, T., Larkin, I., and Pierce, L. (2017, Dec 19).  Doing Well by Making Well: The Impact of Corporate Wellness Programs on Employee Productivity.  Management Science, 64(11), 4967-4987.

Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School (2020, Jan 29).  12 Ways to Keep Your Brain Young.  Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young.

Krause, W. (2017, May 7).  Wellbeing is Correlated to Higher Performance.  Thrive Global.  Retrieved from https://medium.com/thrive-global/why-well-being-has-everything-to-do-with-productivity-bc89ecc09959.

Peiró, J. M., Kozusznik, M. W., Rodríguez-Molina, I., and Tordera, N. (2019).  The Happy-Productive Worker Model and Beyond: Patterns of Wellbeing and Performance at Work. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health16(3), 479.

Raghupathi, W. and Raghupathi, V.  (2018, Mar).  An Empirical Study of Chronic Diseases in the United States:  A Visual Analytics Approach to Public Health.  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(3), 431.

Nichols, H. (2018, Jan 10).  How to Boost Your Brain.  Medical News Today.  Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320576.php#1.

A Wellness Journal for Your Best, Healthy Life

A wellness journal can be important in achieving your goals.

The use of a journal can help to Clear the mind, allow for Self-reflection and Emotional expression, Provide accountability, Reduce stress, and improve overall Problem-solving.  It can be supportive of personal growth and may lead to a greater sense of empowerment in one’s life.

It is also considered an inexpensive form of self-care!

Writing therapy with the use of a journal has been used in a range of scenarios related to overall health and wellness.  Essentially what can make journaling supportive to health is when it is leveraged in a concerted way.  More on this can be found through PositivePsychology.com under “writing therapy”.  Also, a brief synopsis on the history of journal writing as a form of therapy is available from the Center for Journal Therapy.

In scientific studies, various associations between creative expression and health outcomes have been observed.

Self-reflection exercises, such as those that can be applied through the use of a journal, have been used to support people in overcoming grief or trauma.  The rationale behind this is that expressive writing can help people to acknowledge traumatic events, organize thoughts, and, then, help them to make sense of things.  Essentially, it is a way to learn from the experience and move forward.  Experts in this area point out the need to find the right amount of time spent on journaling vs. over-reliance on the tool which could result in rumination.

Studies that have focused on people with chronic health conditions have shown improvements in overall well-being even if the act of journaling was only once a week.  Furthermore, there has been some evidence to suggest the simple act of using a journal can boost the immune system and, therefore, benefit health overall.  This could have been a bi-product resulting from stress reduction.

Improving immune health is especially relevant when health conditions have been diagnosed.  

For general wellness and personal growth, journals can be used to create healthy habits.  A few ways in which a journal is supportive for goal setting and forming habits include;

  • Definition and visualization of goals
  • Organization of information and supportive details
  • A catalyst to plan necessary steps and your time
  • Leverage of self-accountability and check-ins

Furthermore, the use of a journal can be a great way to notice patterns in your behavior and possible triggers that throw you off track.

When incorporating health and wellness into your journal, you can also use sections to monitor Food and Water intake, Sleep or fatigue, Exercise, Self-care, and factors or symptoms associated with a health condition.

Using a wellness journal is not only a good way to plan out your favorite healthy activities, but also to draft and track other personal goals, such as those related to Productivity, Altruism or Volunteerism, and/or Relationships.

In my wellness practice, I leverage a symptoms journal approach that also incorporates factors related to well-being.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly participants will notice something they hadn’t before completing the journaling exercise.  Recently, I added a simple journal tool for general health and wellness.  It is conveniently named Live Your Best, Healthy Life!

Photo credit(s):  Wellness Stock Shop

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Sources:

Ackerman, C.E.  (2019, Nov 20).  Writing Therapy:  Using a Pen and Paper to Enhance Personal Growth.  PositivePsychology.com.  Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/writing-therapy/.

Baikie, K.A. and Wilhelm, K.  (2005, Sep).  Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing.  Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(5), 338-346.

Center for Journal Therapy  (n.d.).  A Brief History of Journal Writing.  Retrieved from https://journaltherapy.com/get-training/short-program-journal-to-the-self/journal-to-the-self/journal-writing-history/.

Murray, B.  (2002, Jun).  Writing to Heal:  By Helping People Manage and Learn from Negative Experiences, Writing Strengthens Their Immune Systems As Well As Their Minds.  American Psychological Association, Monitor on Psychology, 33(6), 54.

O’Connor, M.  (n.d.).  Evidence of the Healing Power of Expressive Writing.  The Foundation for Art and Healing, The UnLonely Project.  Retrieved from https://artandhealing.org/evidence-of-the-healing-power-of-expressive-writing/.

Pennebaker, J. W. and Smyth, J.M.  (2016).  Opening Up by Writing it Down:  How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain, (3rd edition), New York, NY:  The Guilford Press.

Smyth, J.M., Stone, A.A., Hurewitz, A., and Kaell, A.  (1999, Apr 14).  Effects of Writing About Stressful Experiences on Symptom Reduction in Patients with Asthma or Rheumatoid Arthritis:  A Randomized Trial.  Journal of American Medical Association, 281(14), 1304-09.

  1. Time to reflect, write and create. The Happy Planner®️ Guided Journal with help you take a look into who you are, where you want to go and goals you want to achieve!

What Are Superfoods and How Can They Help You

You may be hearing about “new superfoods” this year.

What does this mean and how can you fit this information into a realistic plan for health and wellness?  (Hint, see below for 3 tried and true tips).

Essentially the term “superfood” is not necessarily one that is scientific but may still be relevant to consider with identifying food sources that are packed with nutrients.

“Superfood” is indicative of a food source and the compounds within it that have been linked to certain health benefits or the prevention of adverse health conditions.  Many of these foods are derived from plant-based sources, although not all.

You will likely hear about the power of these foods concerning a range of health topics including, but not limited to the following:

  • weight loss
  • reversing or preventing cognitive impairments and our overall brain health
  • help in mental and emotional wellness, such as conditions like depression
  • overall health of the gut
  • stress reduction

The health benefits from these foods may include reducing excess inflammation and adverse oxidative stress which are two key factors involved in the discussion of chronic health conditions.  This is also a key reason for the emphasis on these “superfoods” when it comes to your health outcomes.

It seems that each year there is a new list of hot topic food options that can apply to your health and wellness but may also be trendy and, therefore, will show up in restaurants or product offerings.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be aware of as an empowered health consumer.

So, what are a few of these “2020 superfoods” that you may be hearing more about this year?

In somewhat of a continuation from recent years past, you will be hearing and learning more about fermented foods, seaweeds and algae, and seeds that are both edible and carry significant nutritional benefits.  Furthermore, food sources that may aid in your digestive health such as those with prebiotics, fiber, or digestive bitters.

A term that you may hear and could be new to you is “nervines” which are adaptogenic herbs supportive of your nervous system or are “neuroprotective”.  Nervines can also influence hormone regulation so can be important in many health-related conditions.  Also, these food sources may be good to include in your health plan for approaches to stress.

One of my all-time favorite companies for herbs, spices, teas, and essential oils is Mountain Rose Herbs.  They break down Understanding Nervines and Adaptogens in their blog.  Furthermore, Healthline, a leading source for consumer information related to health and wellness, also provides an overview of Adaptogenic Herbs.

Then, of course, there are the tried and true options such as berries, avocados, beets, dark leafy greens and microgreens, mushrooms, and fatty fish like salmon or sardines.  An important attribute to many of these foods is the rich pigments (i.e. color) of the food.  In natural foods, color is often indicative of nutrients critical to human health.

So how can you make sense of the term “superfood” used in media and marketing?

According to the leading global consulting firm, Accenture, consumers are changing to be more health-conscious and aware.  Also, the emphasis on personalized approaches to diet and nutrition is growing.

As a health and wellness professional myself, it is an exciting trend to observe.  Yet, it is also one to monitor for quality and overall relevance of the information.  As alluded to above, there is an intersect of science and marketing with the term “superfood”.  However, there are certainly ways to remain clued in and empowered as a health consumer.

In closing, 3 simple, tried and true approaches to include superfoods in your health and wellness are:

  • Eat colorful foods in variety
  • Incorporate nutrient-dense foods into snacking
  • Include herbs and spices in food preparation and cooking

If you simply start with and focus on these 3 tactics, you will undoubtedly be at an advantage when it comes to living most healthful and well.

Photo credit(s):  Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Amazing Links Between Social Interaction and the Brain

Remaining socially active could be just what your brain needs.

Research has shown that social interaction influences health in several ways.  When social dynamics are of an appropriate type and level, the favorable benefits possible include the following:

  • Engagement in behaviors that lead to good health
  • Boost to mental and emotional health
  • Reduction in stress levels
  • Improvements to internal health
  • Self-confidence
  • Outlook on life and happiness
  • Longevity
  • …and, you guessed it, brain health!

Multiple studies have demonstrated that positive, meaningful social relationships may have protective effects on human health.

A few attributes indicative of a favorable social relationship are those that encourage personal growth, provide emotional support, entail mutual respect and trust, and focus on positive attributes of one another.

So how exactly can social interaction influence the health of our brain???

Studies have demonstrated a relationship between social interaction and memory, cognition, and rates of neurodegeneration.  The evidence observed thus far has led to further emphasis on these areas within research.

On the flip side, social isolation may be a contributing factor in the onset and development of degenerative conditions affecting brain health.

As Dr. Eugene Rubin points out in a Psychology Today article on social interaction and brain cells, “there are specific nerve cells in the brain that are directly influenced by social experiences” which plays a role in the neuroplasticity of the brain.

Neuroplasticity is essentially the brain’s ability to change and adapt over the course of a lifetime.  It can apply to the better or the worse and is a critical component to brain functionality.

Also, other factors that social interaction influences, such as stress levels and emotional health, impact various internal mechanisms within the human body which could be affecting the brain.  Excessive mental and emotional stress is thought to lead to inflammation, another key facet to consider in brain health.

The evidence to suggest that positive relationships, maintained over your lifetime, support overall health and well-being is compelling.

The various dynamics between social experiences and the brain are a hot topic within neuroscience which could lead to new approaches and treatments to a variety of health-related areas including overall wellness of the brain.

One of my favorite ideas to nurture the body, brain, and social relationships is walking book clubs.  This approach provides social engagement, mental stimulation, and physical activity for a 3-in-1 healthful activity.  It can also be impactful to integrate mental stimulating activity into any social experience.

Photo credit(s):  Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

References:

Cleveland Clinic (2020).  Healthy Brains, 6 Pillars of Brain Health:  Social Interaction.  Retrieved from https://healthybrains.org/pillar-social/.

Cohen, S.  (2004, Nov).  Social Relationships and Health.  American Psychologist, 59(8), 676-684.

Cohut, M. (2018, Jun 1).  Research Confirms that Social Interaction Protects Memory.  Medical News Today.  Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321976.php#1.

Davidson, R.J. and McEwen, B.S. (2012, Apr 15).  Social Influences on Neuroplasticity:  Stress and Interventions to Promote Well-being.  Nature Neuroscience, 15(5), 689-695.

Donovan, N.J., et al (2016, Dec).  Association of Higher Cortical Amyloid Burden with Loneliness in Cognitively Normal Adults.  JAMA Psychiatry, 73(12), 1230-1237.

Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School (2010, Dec).  The Health Benefits of Strong Relationships.  Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships.

Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T.B., and Layton, J.B. (2010, Jul 27).  Social Relationships and Mortality Risk:  A Meta-analytic Review.  PLOS Medicine 7(7), e1000316.

Rohrer, J.M., Richter, D., Brummer, M., Wagner, G.G., and Schmukle, S.C. (2018, Aug 1).  Successfully Striving for Happiness:  Socially Engaged Pursuits Predict Increases in Life Satisfaction.  Psychological Science, 29(8), 1291-1298.

Rubin, E. (2012, Jun 7).  Social Interactions and Brain Cell Connections.  Psychology Today.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/demystifying-psychiatry/201206/social-interactions-and-brain-cell-connections.

Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010, Mar 1). Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior51 51(1) Suppl, S54–S66.

Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010, Nov 1). Social Relationships and Health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Retrieved from https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2010/11/executive-summary/social-relationships-and-health.html.

Watt, R.G., et al (2014, May 30).  Social Relationships and Health Related Behaviors Among Older Adults.  BMC Public Health, 14(533).

Yang, Y.C., et al (2016, Jan 19).  Social Relationships and Physiological Determinants of Longevity Across the Human Life Span.  PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of American), 113(3), 578-583.

Prioritizing Your Health and Finances To Get The Most Out of Life

Taking care of yourself, including both health and finances, is a sure-fire way to cultivate various positive aspects of your life.  Financial health is a critical element within self-care.  A positive stance for financial wellness can expand your abilities, contributions, and impact you have on others.

There are a fair amount of psycho- and sociological factors and, often, stigmas around making financial decisions that can be rather entangled.  Regardless, mental, physical, and financial health are inextricably linked.  Therefore, it’s worth placing focus on this area as part of a proactive approach to leading an overall healthful life.

Financial worry can set off a cascade of challenges.

In many people, it can lead to chronic stress which, furthermore, can impair sleep, lead to greater levels of anxiety or states of depression, may influence self-esteem, and could trigger less healthful behaviors.  Furthermore, psychological distress and negative emotions may indirectly contribute to increased inflammation in the body, higher blood pressure, and the onset of other chronic health conditions.

Financial stress could even inhibit seeking out appropriate care in the first place.  According to the American Psychological Association, the cost of health care is a leading concern and cause for stress (2019).

Essentially, financial stress can be disruptive in nature.  However, there are facets that can help the mental-emotional relationship to finances.  Like any other aspect of life and goal-setting, expectations should be realistic.  It may also be beneficial to take self-inventory for how you make decisions.

One review of five studies suggested that “affective decision-makers” may be more likely to avoid making decisions related to financial matters.  This was due, in part, to the perception that decisions related to finances are very analytical in nature.  Affective thinking has lent towards having a distinct sense of feeling or emotion present when making decisions.  Affective decision-makers may have considered financial decisions “cold” in nature and, therefore, less relatable.  Furthermore, the complexities of financial products and instruments could have been intimidating (Park and Sela, 2017).

It is not to assume that affective thinking is inefficient and absolutely leads to a less proactive approach to finances, but it could be important to understand where you fall on the spectrum in case this is a mediating factor.

Ignoring your finances can create more money problems and increase the resulting stress.  Acknowledging and accepting any negative feelings you may have about dealing with your money is a critical step.

Other areas that studies have shown to be influential include the following:

  • one’s social environment and/or level of emotional support
  • relationships and social standings within communities
  • previous experiences with financial stressors

According to Gallup-Sharecare, five essential elements of well-being include:

  • sense of purpose, including within a career path
  • social relationships
  • financial security
  • relationship to community
  • physical health

Furthermore, they have defined “financial” as managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.

Like with any big challenge, breaking out small, actionable steps and a clear timeline can be beneficial.  Working with appropriate professionals, including both those with financial expertise and emotional health resources (or therapeutic options), can help to refine your perspective and address any blocks in the mindset.

As experts will point out, this area is complex and laced with emotional drivers.  There is also a difference between knowing what to do and understanding how to do it.

Not all support options have to cost an arm and a leg.

Many cities and towns have finance-related programs through their city/public affairs divisions or library systems.  Meanwhile, a hack to mental health is seeing a psychologist in training who will be under supervision but have more nominal fees.

Although exact financial circumstances will vary from person to person.  Taking steps to ensure financial behaviors are healthful can help to reduce mental fog from financial stress and, therefore, lead to a greater level of productivity.  It can help you move forward and feel more positive about what’s to come in life.

Photo credit(s):  Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

References:

American Psychological Association (Nov, 2019).  Stress in America 2019.  Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2019/stress-america-2019.pdf.

American Psychological Association (2015, Feb 4).  Stress in America, Paying with our Health.  Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2014/stress-report.pdf.

Connolly, M. and Slade, M. (2019, May 7).  The United States of Stress 2019, Special Report.  Everyday Health.  Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/united-states-of-stress/.

Gallup-Sharecare Well-being Index (2017).  State of American Well-being, 2017 State Well-being Rankings.  Retrieved from https://wellbeingindex.sharecare.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Gallup-Sharecare-State-of-American-Well-Being_2017-State-Rankings_FINAL.pdf.

Park, J.J. and Sela, A. (2018, Aug).  Not My Type:  Why Affective Decision Makers Are Reluctant to Make Financial Decisions.  Journal of Consumer Research, 45(2), 298-319.

Sturgeon, J.A., et al.  (2016).  The Psychosocial Context of Financial Stress:  Implications for Inflammation and Psychological Health.  Psychosomatic Medicine, 78(2), 134-143.

3 Simple Ways to Improve both Mental and Physical Health (plus bonus tips)

“Mental health and physical health have a bi-directional and complex relationship” (Bhugra, Kar, and Lawton-Smith, 2014). 

Essentially what that alludes to is how our thought patterns, feelings, and attitudes can influence certain things in the physical realm, such as biological factors and outcomes, just as what we do physically can influence our mental state. The landscape for this topic is further entangled by various social factors.  Studies on the neuroscience involved with the tight connections between mental and physical health are emerging and the findings have been compelling.    

In a nutshell, the intricate dance between mental and physical health plays a significant role in our overall health and sense of well-being.  While it’s easy to get caught up with visuals and images of fit, tone bodies as a representation of good health.  It is also important to keep the health of our mind in check which also takes consistent “exercise”.

The good news is that there are ways to manage both mental and physical health in tandem throughout the year.

Pick a physical activity plan right for you with a focus on consistent daily movement and conditioning.

Movement improves circulation and, respectively, blood flow to the brain.  There is also a co-dependent relationship between physical activity and stress levels.  Appropriate daily movement can help reduce adverse stress levels which can lead to better mental clarity and focus.  Furthermore, exercise can also serve as a moving meditation allowing for concentration on the patterns of movement.  Each of these factors, physical activity and stress levels, influences how we sleep which is incredibly relevant for cognition and certain biochemical facets related to the health of our brain.

Bottom line:  stay physically active for both mental and physical health.

Bonus tip:  Lift weights to reduce anxiety!  Not only is weight-bearing exercise fantastic for your physique, including internal components such as bone health, but it can also be great for mental health as well.

Check-in on your mental patterns and habits. 

Destructive mental habits, such as repetitive self-pity or ruminating, can essentially hijack positive motivations.  When this occurs, it may prevent taking relevant action when doing so is needed the most.  It can also influence our health-related behaviors and outcomes, as well as relationships with others.

Working to re-prioritize mental tendencies and maladaptive behaviors to, then, focus on the proactive practice of more healthful patterns can enhance emotional well-being.  Furthermore, studies have suggested, for example, that exercises for mindfulness can be a helpful antidote to negative mental tendencies such as rumination.

Bottom line:  clearing negative, adverse mental patterns can positively influence a sense of well-being and lead to a greater sense of motivation which is critical when it comes to taking care of both mental and physical aspects of health.

Bonus tip:  Identifying and repositioning mental habits is also an area where a mentor or appropriate supportive professional can help with identify realistic and actionable steps for change, then support for staying on track.

Pay attention to breathing patterns and consider targeted approaches.

Appropriate breathing patterns are important during exercise and they can also play a role within the day to day through the activation of the relaxation response.  Targeted breathing patterns, such as mechanisms of deep breathing, are also thought to help improve blood flow, relax muscles, support metabolism, regulate the immune system, and reduce stress levels.  Incorporating targeted approaches to breathwork has not only been shown to support various mental related conditions, such as anxiety or depression, but it has also been influential in chronic medical conditions that may be impairing physical health.  Furthermore, the practice of yoga has been touted for its emphasis on breathing and physical conditioning.

Bottom line:  breathing techniques can be supportive of both mental and physical health, particularly due to the reduction of adverse, elevated stress levels.

Bonus tip:  Harvard Health provides a simple, implementable approach HERE.

Final thoughts

Winding down through methods such as spending time in nature or taking a “digital detox” can also be influential to both mental and physical health.  Also, general wellness, including nutrition, is supportive.

In closing, the focus of mind-body connections is emerging in emphasis.  Although certain principles have been around in sort of old-world wisdom for centuries, new research in areas such as neuroscience is further confirming the various connecting facets.

A solid, “whole-health” approach is to exercise both the mind and body.

Photo credit(s):  Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Sources:

Bhugra, D., Kar, A., and Lawton-Smith, S. (2014, Jun).  Integration of Mental and Physical Health Services: Lessons.  Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Mental Health 1(1), 15-21.

Cherry, K. (2019, Sep 30).  Reasons to Do a Digital Detox?  Verywell Mind.  Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/why-and-how-to-do-a-digital-detox-4771321.

Chopra Center, The. (2018, Oct 24).  How Breathwork Benefits the Mind, Body, and Spirit.  Retrieved from https://chopra.com/articles/how-breathwork-benefits-the-mind-body-and-spirit.

Connor, P. J., Herring, M. P., and Caravalho, A. (2010, May 7).  Mental Health Benefits of Strength Training in Adults.  American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396.

Gordon, B. R., McDowell, C. P., Lyons, M., and Herring, M.P. (2017, Dec).  The Effects of Resistance Exercise Training on Anxiety:  A Meta-analysis and Meta-regression Analysis of Randomized Control Trials.  Sports Medicine, 47(12), 2521-2532.

Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. (n.d.).  Mindfulness|Defined.  Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition.

Harvard Health (2018, Apr 13).  Relaxation Techniques:  Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response.  Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response.

Kleckner, I. R., et al. (2017, Apr 24).  Evidence for a large-scale brain system supporting allostasis and interoception in humans.  Nature Human Behaviour, 1 (0069).

Madell, R. (2016, Mar 14).  Exercise as Stress Relief.  Healthline.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-disease/exercise-stress-relief#1.

Palma, Z. (2019, Aug 12).  What is Breathwork and Does It Work?  Parsley Health Articles.  Retrieved from https://www.parsleyhealth.com/blog/breathwork-does-it-work.

Rupprecht S., Walach H. (2016).  Mindfulness at Work: How Mindfulness Training May Change the Way We Work.  In: Wiencke M., Cacace M., Fischer S. (eds) Healthy at Work, (311-327).  Switzerland:  Springer International Publishing.

Sartini-Cprek, N. (2017, Apr  12).  The Mind-Body Connection:  How Mental and Physical Wellness Are Linked.  Good Therapy Blog.  Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/mind-body-connection-how-mental-physical-wellness-are-linked-0412174.

Semeco, A. (2017, Feb 10).  The Top 10 Benefits of Regular Exercise.  Healthline.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-benefits-of-exercise.

Sultanoff, B. A. (2002).  Breath Work.  In: Shannon, S. (eds) Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Therapies in Mental Health, (209-227).  Elsevier, Inc.

Vago, D. R. (2014, Jan).  Mapping Modalities of Self-Awareness in Mindfulness Practice:  A Potential Mechanism for Clarifying Habits of Mind.  Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1307(1), 28-42.

Verplanken, B. and Fisher, N. (2014, Oct).  Habitual Worrying and Benefits of Mindfulness. Mindfulness, 5566–573.

Verplanken, B., Friborg, O., Wang, C. E., Trafimow, D., & Woolf, K. (2007).  Mental habits: Metacognitive reflection on negative self-thinking.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(3), 526–541.

US Department of Health and Human Services|National Institutes of Health. (n.d.).  Why Should Scientists Study Neuroscience?  Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/neuro/conditioninfo/study.

Health-life balance: I traveled weekly for work, this is what happened…

This year, I ended up traveling at least once a week every week (sometimes multiple times per week) from August through November.  Holy cow.  I clocked some miles.  No, I wasn’t traveling globally or off jet-setting for leisure…  I was working my tail off at the regional level.  (Traveling salesman and consultants…  I see you)!

Admittedly, this has never been a life I have had aspirations for.  In fact, I’m kind of a homebody who has created my own systems to keep myself healthful, well, and productive.  However, for a short time, it wasn’t terrible.  I got to walk around new cities and towns, see places that I would have never had otherwise, and it was the ultimate test of my balance in health and life!

So what happened?!?

Well, I had some pretty early mornings, but thankfully, those days wrapped up by at least 3 p.m.  Some days I needed to travel back a few hours while other times I stayed the night.  Luckily most of my to-from travel times were under 3 hours with only a couple that crept up towards the 8-hour mark.

This meant I might miss my “normal” workouts.  So, I definitely had to improvise my fitness regime.  Integrating short bursts of physical activity and exercises or stretches for mobility was imperative.  Otherwise, I would shrivel into my travel seat in stiffness and pain.  Keeping myself accountable for this sort of movement kept me more mentally together as well.

It also influenced my meals.  Now, I am already known to pack a pretty fantastic lunch box (or bag).  I’ve been a bit of a mobile professional for close to 10 years now and it seems that, wherever I go, I hear something along the lines of…  “wow, that looks healthy”.  However, in this case, I didn’t always have my kitchen.  In fact, sometimes I didn’t even have a mini-fridge and had to improvise with the hotel ice machine and in-room canister!

Therefore, my list of go-to’s included protein or complete meal powders, overnight oats, salads in a jar, banana chips, raw carrots, mini tomatoes, tuna in packs, dark chocolate, nuts, and boiled eggs in a travel carrier, such as this one by Coleman from the local farm and fleet store.  (Doesn’t everyone have those… just kidding!  There are plenty available on the web and I have since discovered that REI has a six-count egg carrier).

Occasionally, for a treat, I would pick up something like Amy’s Kitchen gluten- and dairy-free vegetable lasagna which isn’t my absolute favorite for all the ingredients but does come in a nice microwavable tray that is not plastic (hallelujah).

I also learned an important hack for hotels.  For those of you in my holistic wellness camp, you probably already know where I’m going with this.  Hotels and synthetic fragrance have some sort of dead-locked marriage arrangement that is toxic in more ways than one.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t always the one footing the bill for my lodging so I sometimes had to rely on accommodations someone else set up.  I was absolutely terrified that my overnight stays were going to throw my health into a negative tailspin.

However, I read somewhere that you can call them ahead of time and ask if there are any changes that housekeeping can take to reduce fragrance.  To my surprise, not a single guest representative was surprised when I called and didn’t know what to do.  Now, some places undoubtedly did better than others, but it was clear to me that they tried.  In most cases, it was the laundry and, therefore, if trying this out, definitely point that out or, like me, travel with your own pillow, blanket, and bath cloth.

Also, some hotels have started implementing more options for hypo-allergenic.  In fact, certain major hotel chains have started some sort of hypoallergenic room, such as those who have partnered with Pure Room.  I’ve noticed there still isn’t complete awareness for fragrance, but it’s nice to have some emphasis placed on this.  Other companies seem to be making small shifts.  One place even had hard surface floors, no cruddy carpet.  If I could still do a back hamstring, I might have done one when I saw this!

Obviously, I made time to take in some good natural detoxifying food and activity after returning from my trips.  I also stocked up on nourishing herbal and Ayurvedic teas.  These are my personal preferences, but I knew to sustain the back and forth travel, I would need to take care of myself so I wasn’t run ragged and catching any little bug out there.

So to synthesize, healthful tips when taking your life and work on the road include:

  • Plan for varied physical activity.  Invest in easy to travel options, such as resistant bands.  Many places have some sort of pool, so don’t forget your swimsuit.  There are also a fair number of jogging trails for when weather permits.
  • Figure out your best go-to travel snacks that are both healthful and satiating for you.
  • Contact hotels and lodging providers in advance to discuss things such as the use of fragrance or allergen prevention.
  • Be open to experiences, no matter how small.  There are so many sights and interesting caveats where ever you go including unique insight from the people you will meet.  I was in some of the wealthiest communities and, on the flip side, poorest.  However, all of them had something relevant to offer.

TravelingCollage

A few snapshots from my travels.

Fun Fact:  I got to know the staff at the local rental car agency VERY well.  They love to talk about good places to eat!  Also, don’t shy away from insightful conversations, they definitely have some.  Car rental agencies seem to have a hodge-podge of people from all walks of life with no shortage of pleasant discussions.  They also work their tails off and keep an organized clown show rockin’ and rollin’, so I found myself pretty grateful for them.

Featured image by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

The best, research-backed approaches to stress for better weight loss

Stress-related weight gain is a real thing and plagues many people.  We know from research that there are associations between chronic stress and the body holding on to that stubborn weight, particularly in the place we want it the least….  Our belly!

Researchers in specialized areas of health and science, such as neurobiology, have observed overlaps between psychological stress and factors associated with body weight, including appetite and energy regulation.  They have also observed the effect of psychological stress on various cognitive processes such as executive function and self-regulation.

Psychological and/or psychosocial stress, as it could be categorized, that may result from work, relationships, life balance, and finances have all been assessed in association with eating behaviors.

Furthermore, studies have established various connections between stress-induced eating patterns, such as the tendency to turn to “comfort food” or impulsive over eating.  Each of which could lead to an increase in visceral fat.

Excess visceral fat is something we are looking to avoid! 

Stress can also impact hormonal activity, such as cortisol the primary hormone involved with stress response, which may set off a cascade that influences body weight as well.  Cortisol also influences blood sugar regulation, mood, motivations, and even fear.  It is relevant when chronic stress is considered and can trigger the process that leads to weight gain.

A stressful event also prompts the release of glucose in which the body can convert to quick, readily available energy (for example, if the need to quickly run away from something frightening presented itself).  However, if elevated stress levels are either initiated when they are, perhaps, less necessary or end up being prolonged (i.e. chronic), it can lead to a release of glucose when it’s not needed for that type of use.  Then, the storage of energy can be created in the form of body fat.  This is something that has been observed when elevated stress levels have resulted from psychological sources.

The connection between stress and inflammation levels has been thoroughly reviewed.  Furthermore, this can contribute to the onset of many adverse health conditions.  The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) summarizes this HERE.

Needless to say, there are a lot of things that excess stress levels can impact, including how our bodies manage weight.

Although researchers are still trying to nail down exactly who is most affected by these dynamics and why so, certain people may be at greater risk.

This study in Obesity suggests that women who are caregivers in tougher situations, such as caring for an autistic child, may have a higher likelihood of facing challenges with their weight as influenced by chronically elevated stress levels.  This was observed to be especially applicable when the participant demonstrated a higher likelihood for more impulsive risk-taking behavior in the past.

The researchers in the study mentioned above pointed out that although MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) could be a good start to proactively manage harmful stress levels, that the framework would likely be enhanced for better outcomes in weight loss with an added focus on eating mindfully.  This was recommended to retrain the behavioral dynamic between reward-related eating as a coping mechanism for circumstances such as experiencing chronic stress.

Mindful eating is further supported by a systematic review in Current Obesity Reports, while another review in Nutrition Research Reviews highlighted mindfulness as a potentially viable strategy to address emotional eating which could influence weight management.  Essentially what a review article implies is that across a body of evidence, the solution has demonstrated favorable results and is, therefore, considered more valid.

The researchers behind this article in The Journal of Behavioral Medicine explored stress and weight gain in women shortly after the birth of their first child.  The rationale to take a deeper dive in this area was related to the shift in the available time, energy, and motivation for self-care that can occur with a new mother as well as the relationship between the health of the mother to that of the child.  They suggested that stress management should be integrated into lifestyle health approaches for a longer-term post-childbirth, but that this type of resource is not widely available.  Also, they included mind-body approaches as a potential avenue to consider due to the whole systems perspective as well as joining supportive networks.

Another population of interest is people that are coping with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which is sort of a unique category of stress because it arises from events that are considered acute vs chronic or recurring but may result in longer-term effects that then make the stress response chronic.

Prevalence of overweight and obesity has been monitored in individuals with PTSD.  Studies have been a little bit fragmented, but, as a systematic review published in Harvard Review of Psychiatry reported, PTSD may lead to higher BMI, a standardized measure of weight status, particularly in women.  Review articles published before this one also had similar conclusions.

This study in the JAMA Psychiatry (Journal of American Medicine) looked specifically at women with PTSD.  The researchers mentioned previous studies where decreased physical activity, increased consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages, and generally dysregulated food intake was noted in people with PTSD.  Furthermore, internal dysregulation, such as neuroendocrine function, cortisol levels, and impact on other biochemical activity, has been observed.  Unfortunately, no specific method of treatment was suggested in their discussion.

It is important to point out that BMI can a bit subjective as a measure of weight status, but has been a standard for several years and is a measurement used across many studies.  Studies that have included other measures, such as waist circumference (WC) and/or waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), could be more telling.

Other emerging research is looking at various interrelationships between certain biochemical factors associated with post-traumatic stress, such as inflammatory markers or neuroendocrine activation.  It is possible that internal responses to this sort of stress could be the primary reason that individuals with PTSD have a greater risk for the onset of obesity.

Many of the articles detailing these studies indicated support for greater emphasis on healthcare provider knowledge and the ability to address stress management in consideration for patient’s health.  Therefore, it may be a good idea to include this on the list of topics of discussion when you meet with healthcare providers.

It is unclear why the emphasis in many of the research studies has been on such refined or specific populations, such as women in a specific time frame of life or circumstance, and that other groups have not been as thoroughly reviewed.

However, what is clear that a key recurring theme in the research is “chronic stress” which can influence mental well-being, hormone regulation, immune health, and inflammation levels.  Furthermore, this can present challenges to the endocrine system as a whole.  Also, when paired with other factors that may also lead to weight gain or the various metabolic diseases related to obesity, the association between chronic stress and weight status, is usually strengthened.

There is also a dynamic between what is referred to as “obesity stigma” and the definition of one’s identity.  This topic could be a follow-up article all in itself, but there is supportive evidence to suggest that finding ways to reduce stigmas associated with overweight or obese weight statuses could be meaningful for both reducing psychological stress and better approaches to weight loss.

So, how can we reduce chronic stress for better weight loss or management?

Essentially, when we are looking at impacts of stress, there is a range of interactions across cognitive functions, physiology, biochemistry, and our behaviors.  Therefore, approaches that consider these interacting facets have the most support.

Self-care is widely mentioned across both literature and major health advising sources, such as The Mayo Clinic.  Self-care is a combination of daily activities and behaviors in support of overall health and well-being as well as favorable mental and emotional engagements.

Two areas within self-care that may be worth dedicated consideration are 1) sleep and 2) physical activity.  Adverse stress is thought to be disruptive to the patterns associated with each of these areas and they are also relevant to effective weight management.

Keeping tabs on factors that may be influencing physiology and biochemistry is another integrated strategy worth placing focus.  Our bodies are biochemical and although we may not feel the effects of imbalances, we may have inadvertently set ourselves up to ignore them or don’t realize what might be an indicator of a problem.  These imbalances can essentially hack our ability to keep excess weight off and could be influencing our mental well-being as well.  Therefore, creating a vicious cycle that may be challenging to escape from.

Oxidative stress, for example, is a different kind of stress but is ever so important to consider in a weight management approach.  Again, the research is consistently emerging in this area and there is evidence to suggest that certain levels of oxidative stress may be good for us.  For this discussion, I’m referring to adverse oxidative stress levels.

The association between adverse oxidative stress and obesity has been observed across both human studies of epidemiological (meaning patterns of disease) and clinical nature as well as animal studies, as highlighted in this journal article.  In a nutshell, it is thought that adverse oxidative stress could trigger extra adipose tissue, i.e. part of what we are looking at when we discuss “belly fat”, and influence other underlying factors associated to obesity, such as chronic inflammation or impaired mitochondrial function which would influence our body’s ability to produce and regulate energy.

The health of the microbiome is another aspect.  The composition of the gut microbiota is influenced by both bodyweight itself and dietary factors.  It is also responsive to psychological stress.  It is relevant because we have come to understand just how many physiological functions are influenced by the health of the microbiome including stress response, body weight, and eating behaviors.  An important subset point here is to also monitor the intake of sugar which could go back to that “comfort food” discussion above.

Monitoring cortisol levels may be another thing worth the while.  Essentially the approach here is to determine whether or not what is happening with cortisol in the body also places someone in a higher risk category.  As discussed in a more scientific language in a Current Obesity Reports journal article, certain patterns of cortisol may lead to more abdominal obesity which is more tightly linked to metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.

It is important to recognize that much of this research is ongoing, however, what is clear, is that dietary factors do play a role.  A dietary approach rich in nutrients and relevant compounds paired with low intake of inflammatory foods could help both your weight and stress levels.

Working with a health professional can also be helpful versus going at stress management on your own.  Qualified health professionals can help with internal factors, such as those mentioned above, and to help identify the source(s) and, if possible, type of stress.

A few questions you might ask yourself include:

  • “Is your psychological stress mostly chronic mild stress related to daily life?”
  • “Are there specific social circumstances leading to your stress and what kind of social position are they putting you into?”
  • “Have you experienced a traumatic event and, if so, when in your life did this occur?”

There is also such as thing as “perceived stress” which, in a nutshell, is an indicator of how the person psychologically responds to stress or how they interpret how much stress they are under versus simply quantifying the stress as a dose alone and applying it generically across individuals.  To bring further context to this, some people will find circumstances more or less stressful while others may not even find those same circumstances stressful at all.

Practicing approaches involving mindfulness AND eating mindfully could be one of the best research-backed solutions for both stress and behavior associated with eating patterns.  Although more studies are needed which include the approaches within weight management programs, studies have shown that these practices increase internal awareness.

The current direction of the research is compelling since stress-induced eating patterns can be harder to remedy.  This is, in part, because often they are reducing psychological stress for the person engaging in the patterns.  Therefore, it may take a more integrated, comprehensive approach including a focus on both the mindset and behavior to make changes happen.  This is where mindfulness related practices, including the framework of mindful eating, serve to make the most impact.  Also, as this article details, the approach is less focused on rules to eating which may be cumbersome for people.  Instead, it is much centered on sensational factors, such as enjoyment.

A transcript from Duke Integrative Medicine provides a popular mindful eating exercise with a raisin while this article from Mindful provides 6 other tactics for those who may not be as into the raisin exercise.

Furthermore, mind-body practices emphasize a whole-systems perspective honing in on the various interconnections between mental, physical, emotional, social, and physiological.  The emphasis on each of these aspects to health has the potential to decrease stress and improve outcomes associated with weight simultaneously.  Yoga, meditation, and therapies such as acupuncture are common to mind-body medicine.

Actively practicing relaxation may be a viable way to intervene on the tendency for stress-induced eating that is not healthful.  It is thought that relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation and meditation, could mediate reward pathways, emotional facets, and habits related to coping mechanisms.

Other tips from the research include 1) practicing realistic avoidance, 2) joining a supportive network (even if online), and 3) integrating the approaches as a long-term strategy (versus assuming something will be a quick fix).

To recap, research-backed approaches to stress which can help with weight loss are:

  • Consistent self-care
  • A check-up with a health professional
  • Addressing factors associated with health physiology and biochemistry
  • Appropriate nutrition
  • Behavioral- & mindset-based interventions, such as those that focus on mindfulness
  • Realistic avoidance
  • Relaxation
  • Social activity and/or supportive networks
  • Considering it for the long-haul

Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Sources:

Duke Integrative Medicine.  (n.d.). Mindful Eating Exercise.  Retrieved from https://www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org/dukeimprogramsblog/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/Mindful-Eating-Transcript.pdf.

Dunn, C., et al.  (2018, Mar).  Mindfulness Approaches and Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and Weight Regain.  Current Obesity Reports, 7(1), 37-49.

How Do Stress and Inflammation Contribute to Chronic Disease?  (n.d.)  The Institute for Functional Medicine.  Retrieved from http://bit.ly/Stress-ChronicDisease (shortened link).

Huberty, J., et al.  (2017, Feb).  Exploring the Need for Interventions to Manage Weight and Stress During Interconception.  Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 40(1), 145-158.

Kubzansky, L.D., Bordelois, P., & Jun, H.J.  (2014, Jan).  The Weight of Traumatic Stress:  A Prospective Study of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Weight Status in Women.  JAMA Psychiatry, 71(1), 44-51.

Manna, P. & Jain, S.K.  (2015, Dec 1).  Obesity, Oxidative Stress, Adipose Tissue Dysfunction, and the Associated Health Risks:  Causes and Therapeutic Strategies.  Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders 13(10), 423-444.

Masih, T., Dimmock, J.A., Epel, E.S., & Guelfi, K.J.  (2017, Nov 1).  Stress-induced Eating and the Relaxation Response as a Potential Antidote:  A Review and Hypothesis.  Appetite, 118, 136-143.

Masodkar, K., Johnson, J., & Peterson, M.J.  (2016, Jan 7).  A Review of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Obesity:  Exploring the Link.  The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, 18(1).

Mason, A.E., et al.  (2018, Mar 22).  Chronic Stress and Impulsive Risk-Taking Predict Increases in Visceral Fat over 18 Months.  Obesity, 26, 869-876.

Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan.  (n.d.). Stress Management:  Doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation.  Retrieved from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2225.

Nelson, J.B.  (2017, Aug).  Mindful Eating:  The Art of Presence While You Eat.  Diabetes Spectrum:  a publication of the American Diabetes Association, 30(3), 171-174.

Phillips, A.C.  (2013).  Perceived Stress.  In: Gellman M.D., Turner J.R. (eds) Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine. Springer, New York, NY.

Razzoili, M. & Bartolomucci, A.  (2016, Jul).  The Dichotomous Effect of Chronic Stress on Obesity.  Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 27(7), 504-515.

Savini, I., Catani, M. V., Evangelista, D., Gasperi, V., & Avigliano, L. (2013, May). Obesity-Associated Oxidative Stress: Strategies Finalized to Improve Redox State.  International Journal of Molecular Sciences14(5), 10497–10538.

Suliman, S., et al.  (2016, Jul-Aug).  Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Overweight, and Obesity:  A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.  Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 24(4), 271-293.

Tenk, J., et al.  (2018, Sep).  Perceived Stress Correlates with Visceral Obesity and Lipid Parameters of the Metabolic Syndrome:  A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.  Psychoneuroendocrinology, 95, 63-73.

Tomiyama, J.A.  (2019).  Stress and Obesity.  Annual Review of Psychology, 70, 5.1-5.16.

van der Valk, E.S., Savas, M., & van Rossum, E.F.C.  (2018, Apr 16).  Stress and Obesity:  Are There More Susceptible Individuals?  Current Obesity Reports, 7(2), 193-202.

Warren, J.M., Smith, N., & Ashwell, M.  (2017, Dec).  A Structured Literature Review on the Role of Mindfulness, Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating in Changing Eating Behaviors:  Effectiveness and Associated Potential Mechanisms.  Nutrition Research Reviews, 30(2), 272-283.

Willard, C.  (2019, Jan 17).  6 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating.  Mindful.  Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/6-ways-practice-mindful-eating/.

3 compelling reasons to practice gratitude in your life

It’s kind of amazing how many health and life-related benefits have been associated with the practice of gratitude, but just what does the research say and where does the most support lie?  As I found in a review of this topic, there is already a wealth of content highlighting researched-backed insights to the practice of gratitude.

As this article from Harvard Health detailed, simply writing out things one is grateful for could lead to a greater sense of optimism and overall positive feeling about life.  Furthermore, when assessing happiness on an index, those who take the time to thank someone tend to score higher.

Other studies have compared measures related to the practice of gratitude to health outcomes, such as self-care and physical health, sleep, and psychological well-being.  This Forbes article did a nice job synthesizing these benefits.  (Note, it also appeared in Psychology Today).

Another emerging area is the impact on brain activity.  Brain health is one of the most popular topics in health and wellness right now so the findings thus far are quite intriguing.

This Greater Good Magazine article, which is published by UC Berkeley, focused on the mental health benefits of practicing gratitude and, also, detailed an experiment where brain activity was measured while participants completed a “pay it forward” task.  The study accounted for other self-reported measures of behavior and motivations associated with gratitude.  In a nutshell, the researchers observed that people who were generally more grateful and participated in the task showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making.

The field of Positive Psychology is more or less the master at monitoring facets such as the practice of gratitude with respect to other health and well-being outcomes.

In 2019, PositivePyschology.com broke it down (link here).  To briefly synthesize, appreciation was considered to be a key trait to gratitude, but, as they detailed, can also be expressed through other distinct aspects.  Expressions of gratitude have been associated with well-being, relationships, and health.  Furthermore, these associations can be influential in feelings of happiness, love, and life satisfaction.

Finally, Happier Human, a leading source focused on tips and resources to support a happy life, gave us 31 science-backed benefits of gratitude in this blog post!  It broke down benefits across the areas of emotional, personality, social, career, and health.

So to recap, the most compelling reasons to practice gratitude are:

  • Level of happiness
  • Benefits to health
  • Quality of life

Whichever way you look at it, practicing thanks and, perhaps, a little generosity as well may be excellent options for your overall health and well-being.

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

One easy thing to help you achieve better health with diabetes

It can be quite challenging for a newly diagnosed diabetic to know how to go about making dietary changes.  It can even be a struggle for someone who has been living with the condition for a while.  November is National Diabetes Month in the U.S., hence the focus on this population.

There is a unique intersect between making changes in the dietary approach itself with the various lifestyle habits that are related to actually making those shifts happen.

It didn’t take long after I started working with people living with type II diabetes for this facet to become clear to me.  Typically people are trying to figure out what actually spikes their blood sugar and are often concerned about other health outcomes, such as weight loss.  Their approach usually ends up, indirectly, rather haphazard at best.

Although I am not a clinical nutritionist, I do specialize in helping people with behavioral shifts and lifestyle plans.  Coming from an extensive health science background and experience working directly with integrative nutritionists for close to 10 years, I’m rather clear on this topic.  

When we think about blood sugar regulation and our daily meals, a few key principles are at play; fiber, complete protein, and healthful fat.  Getting more in-depth is factoring in the glycemic index or load, but that can often get overwhelming.  Typically if we can hone in on content itself and simplify the process, it can lead to significant strides in making the lifestyle shifts.  

So…  for example, start with a plate consisting of about 75% veggies (whole-food, not processed concoctions).  Then, make up the remainder of the plate with a complete protein, such as baked chicken or quinoa for a vegetarian approach, and at least 2 tablespoons of healthful fat, such as avocado or, perhaps, a raw, unfiltered olive oil drizzle. 

(Note; it can be helpful to emphasize veggies first, then discuss the incorporation of ideal fruit options).

There will undoubtedly be targeted shifts down the road for the specific person at hand, but, generally speaking, this can offer a good baseline for meal composition.  After options for various food combinations per meal are understood, it’s then figuring out how the heck to make sure those are the meal choices selected. 

This is where meal preparation and storage become one easy thing to support a better health plan.  It can be specifically relevant for those living with chronic conditions, such as diabetes.  

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Furthermore, combining meal preparation with a homemade approach and storing the excess for future meals ensures that most healthful options will be readily available.  It makes the choices easier, there is complete awareness for what ingredients went into the dishes, and, although some prep work is necessary, it can actually save time in the future. 

In thinking about this for people who need a little help sticking with a healthful diet and plan, I went on a pretty significant search to find freezable compartmentalized dishes.  I also wanted to focus on options that weren’t plastic because putting both hot foods and/or fats into plastic can be problematic from a toxin uptake perspective.

This search led to a few viable options as well as some other cool food storage swag. 

If you are thinking of a great gift for someone aiming to stick to a healthful diet, such as someone with diabetes, these options might be good to consider :).  

Photo credits:  Brianna Santellan and Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.