relaxed woman sitting on the bank of river

11 Steps to a Calm, Relaxed Mind

Learning how to relax your mind is an essential life skill to have, especially in this day and age where stress is so abundant. Not only will this help to mentally rebalance you, but calming your mind will also give your brain a bit of a boost, resulting in higher creativity and productivity.

  1. Listen to Some Music

Music can have quite the impact on your mind, with different genres of music having their own unique effects.

For those who need to reduce stress, studies have found that instrumental music can be extremely effective at relaxing the mind, especially Native American, Celtic and Indian tunes. Light jazz and classical music can also have this same effect, as can sounds of nature, such as rain and thunder.

If you need some help getting to sleep at night, try spending 45 minutes before bed in a relaxed, comfortable position, while listening to some calming music.

Alternatively, if you need some help lifting your mood, go for something lively and upbeat, as this can really help you to feel more positive.

Of course, singing along to music is also a great way to release tension while boosting your mood at the same time.

  1. Snack on Some Calming Foods

Feeling anxious or worried can often lead to stress eating, which is the term used when someone eats to make themselves feel emotionally better, rather than eating because they are hungry.

When this happens, the foods that are eaten are often high in salt, sugar and other unhealthy ingredients that only end up making the stress feel so much worse.

In order to keep your mind feeling relaxed, try opting for one of these calming snacks instead:

  • Walnuts – helps to regulate cortisol in the body, which is the stress hormone, as well as adrenaline
  • Asparagus contains enough folic acid to quickly boost the mood
  • Oranges, Berries and Other Vitamin C-Rich Fruits studies have shown that vitamin C can lower cortisol levels, while also lowering blood pressure
  • Chamomile Tea calms nerves and reduces symptoms of anxiety
  • Dark Chocolate maintains calmness in the body while lowering blood pressure
  • Oatmeal stimulates the brain to produce serotonin, which is a chemical that immediately lifts the mood
  1. Give Meditation a Try

If you have been looking into different ways to relax your mind for a while now, then you will likely have already stumbled upon the recommendation of meditation

So, have you given it a try yet?

Meditation is something that so many people do not fully believe in, dismissing it as something that would never work. However, science has now backed up some of the many calming benefits that meditation can bring.

To begin with, studies have found that meditation can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression in the same way that antidepressants can, and to the same extent as well. It can also trigger changes in the way in which the brain thinks about the self, which can really make such a difference to anxiety.

If you are not feeling anxious, but simply have trouble controlling your distracted mind, then meditation can help with this too. Research has shown that meditation can decrease the activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for your wandering mind, keeping you focused on the task at hand.

  1. Write it Down

When your mind is racing with what seems like a million thoughts, writing it all down can really help.

How?

Firstly, the act of writing in itself is enough to engage the mind enough to slow it down a bit, while putting your thoughts down on paper helps to organize them, preventing everything from seeming so chaotic.

woman writing in a notebook

Want to give this a try?

Use a notebook if you prefer writing by hand, or create a special document on your computer if you prefer to type. Then, spend 15 minutes or so jotting down everything that happens to be in your mind.

This does not need to be in any particular order, so long as you are able to get all of your thoughts down.

Once you are done, put this aside for now. You can then return to it a bit later and really give everything your attention, once things are not so frenzied.

You will likely find that writing it all down makes you feel so much more in control of things, and helps to ease some of the stress taking place in your mind.

  1. Get Moving

It has been proven countless times now that exercise is an extremely effective way to improve well-being, especially when done on a regular basis. 

Wondering how it does this?

Firstly, exercise triggers changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters, the ones that are responsible for your mood. What makes this even better is that these changes are quite long-lasting, meaning that they will still be in effect hours after you are done exercising.

For those who are feeling a bit down about things, a 2006 study found that exercise can actually have similar effects to antidepressants in the way that it promotes the growth of new neurons in the brain, therefore alleviating depression and anxiety.

To make it even better, exercise that features repetitive motions, such as running, is actually classed as a meditative activity, and, for those who have a tough time calming their mind enough to fall asleep at night, exercise can help with this too, making it much easier to sleep each night.

  1. Spend Some Time in Nature

Another easy way to quickly calm your mind is to simply step outside and head somewhere where there is plenty of natural beauty.

This is something that has been proven quite a few times, and there is a very interesting reason behind it…

Plants and trees release special chemicals that help to slow down the rate at which they decay, and these same chemicals can help to slow your mind down as well.

Studies have found that just a short walk in the woods, or anywhere else where there is plenty of nature, can significantly lower cortisol levels in the body, helping you to feel less anxious, while also boosting your memory at the same time. 

  1. Play a Game

Playing certain types of games, such as puzzles, can really help some people to relax their mind and lower stress levels.

How?

Well, due to the hectic nature of modern day life, many people end up feeling bored when they try to relax, as they have become accustomed to always having a certain level of stimuli in their life. Puzzle-type games can help with this, as they do still provide a mental challenge, but not too much, meaning that they are able to still pull people into a state of mindfulness.

Puzzle games also trigger the brain to produce more dopamine. This is a neurotransmitter that helps to improve the mood and balance out brain chemistry, keeping you in a state of relaxation.

Wondering which games you should be playing?

Give one of these a try:

    • Sudoku
    • Crossword puzzles
    • Wordsearches
    • Brain-teasers and riddles
    • Electronic puzzle games, such as Bejeweled
    • Jigsaw puzzles

woman playing sudoku

  1. Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Sleep

Sleep is essential for your well-being, and this not only refers to the number of hours that you sleep for, but also the quality of sleep that you generally have.

Wondering how much sleep you need each night?

Eight hours is what the average person needs, but many people do not end up getting this amount, often due to an over-active and stressed out mind.

If you can relate to this, then there are a few steps that you can take to help your mind and body to unwind before bed, so that you fall asleep quickly and easily:

    • Spend an hour before bed relaxing your mind, keeping away from your TV, computer, phone, or any other electronic devices
    • Develop a pre-bedtime routine that promotes relaxation. This can include a warm bath, a good book and some calming music
    • Drink a cup of chamomile tea before bed, as this helps to induce sleep
    • Make sure that you are wearing comfortable clothes
    • Try a breathing exercise while lying in bed
    • Develop a regular sleep schedule that you stick to on weekends as well as weekdays
  1. Stop Multi-Tasking

While it may often feel as though you are getting more things done by multi-tasking, this may sometimes not be the case. By having so many different distractions, your mind will end up scattered, and you will actually not be very productive in the end.

One key to keeping your mind relaxed, calm and focussed is to only concentrate on a single task at a time.

Do you find it difficult to do this?

Try making a list at the beginning of each day, writing down all of the tasks that you need to accomplish that day. Then, prioritize the tasks, and tackle them one by one, starting with the most important and working your way down.

In addition to only working on one task at a time, you should also try to stop multi-tasking in other ways. For example, you are likely to be regularly checking your phone, or your emails, while you are doing something else. Try to put a stop to this, so that you really are completely present in the task that you are currently doing.

  1. De-Clutter Your Environment

While having some clutter in your home or at work may not seem like that big of a deal, research has shown that clutter can actually have quite the impact on the way in which your brain processes information.

In the same way that multi-tasking can impair your ability to properly concentrate, having too much clutter will end up overloading your senses, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and drained of mental energy.

The brain actually finds organization much easier to deal with, meaning that when you enter a de-cluttered space, your brain will not have to work so hard, which will have you feeling far calmer. 

You’re probably thinking…

“That all sounds great, but how do I actually get started with de-cluttering?”

Begin with a small part of your home, even if this is just a single drawer in your dresser.

Take all of your belongings out and then sort them into the following piles:

  • Keep – these are the items that you often use
  • Sell items that you do not use, but could be worth some money
  • Give Away items that you can donate to charity
  • Trash or Recycle items that would be of no use to anyone

Once you have organized a small part of your home, move on to the next, allocating yourself an area of your home to de-clutter each evening, or even each week.

woman decluttering her environment

Before you know it, your home will be de-cluttered. You can then take this principle and apply it to other areas of your life that need de-cluttering, such as your office or your car.

  1. Ensure That You Are Having Enough Social Contact

Social contact is such an important part of keeping the mind and spirit relaxed and happy, but, as a person becomes older and more stressed, this is an area of life that often ends up being neglected.

Having friends that you can talk to can really help to keep you calm, in a number of ways:

    • Talking to a friend about a problem can lower cortisol levels in the body
    • Having close friends tends to make people healthier in terms of diet and exercise, both of which will help keep your mind calm
    • Laughing on a regular basis can reduce stress and improve your mood

If you know that you have been neglecting the social side of your life a bit lately, then this is something that needs to change. Try setting aside a chunk of time each week that you dedicate to spending with friends, even if this may just be a quick drink after work.

woman with a headache

Having Killer Headaches? Try These Cures

Headaches are the second most common form of chronic pain, and, when your head is truly pounding, it can be hard to concentrate on other parts of life, whether this may be work, driving, or even having a simple conversation.

Rather than reaching for the drugs, give one of these tips a try the next time you are having a killer headache.

Sip on Ginger Tea

Ginger has long since been used to treat a variety of ailments, by cultures all around the world. Now, thanks to a number of clinical studies that have been carried out with this ingredient, scientists are backing it too.

So, what exactly does ginger do?

It targets the blood vessels in the head, reducing inflammation and therefore reducing pain. This is especially useful for those who suffer from migraines, as migraines are caused by excessive dilation of blood vessels in the head.

The quickest and easiest way to make use of ginger is by steeping the root in some water to make a tea, adding in some fresh lemon juice if you would like an extra tang.

ginger tea

To use ginger topically, mix together a paste with some ginger powder and a couple of tablespoons of water, and apply this directly to your forehead for a few minutes.

Stretch It Out

Headaches are often caused by muscle tension, and this can sometimes be relieved through stretching.

There are a few stretches in particular that will help to target the muscles that often contribute to headaches:

  • Stretch your neck by moving your chin forwards, upwards and then towards each shoulder, before repeating
  • Shrug your shoulders upwards, and then forwards and backwards, before repeating
  • Press your palm into your forehead and hold it there for a few seconds, before pressing a hand onto each side of your head
  • Rotate your neck in clockwise and anticlockwise directions

Try to do these stretches twice a day, repeating each stretch three to five times, with a five second break in between each one.

Give Acupuncture a Try

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of different health issues, with thin needles being inserted underneath the skin, to rebalance the body’s flow of energy.

Sound painful?

It really isn’t. All you will feel is a slight tingling feeling when each needle is inserted.

However, there are only certain headaches that acupuncture can treat…

There are two main types of headaches out there; primary and secondary. Primary headaches include tension headaches and migraines, while secondary headaches are brought on by another health condition, such as a head injury or allergies.

Acupuncture is mainly used to treat primary headaches, whether this may be a frustrating headache that seems to return each day, or a migraine that seems to never completely disappear.

acupuncture

Each session lasts for around 30 minutes to an hour, and the cumulative effects of a few sessions can be a long-lasting way to prevent any future headaches.

Drink Up

Headaches are a common symptom of dehydration, and these can often be quickly cleared simply by drinking a few glasses of water.

This method can work for a variety of different headache types, from tension to cluster. Even if you do not feel dehydrated, drinking a few glasses of water is an easy method that is still definitely worth a try.

Beverages containing electrolytes are also a great way to boost hydration, and could help if plain water does not seem to be working quickly enough.

Take a Screen Break

If you have been spending a significant amount of time staring at a screen, whether this may be your computer at work, your TV at home, or your smartphone, this could be the reason behind your tension headache.

Try taking a break from your screen for a while, and seeing if that eases the pain.

Whether or not your screen is causing your headaches, you should really be taking regular screen breaks anyway, even if this is just for a few minutes at a time to have a drink of water or stretch your legs.

Use a Compress

Another easy method to soothe a headache away is to use a compress, holding this against the back of your neck.

hot compress

Wondering whether to go hot or cold?

If your headache is more of a dull pain, go with a hot compress, whereas if it is pulsating or throbbing, use a cold compress. This will help to lower the temperature of your blood before it enters your brain, reducing any inflammation.

Sniff A Soothing Scent

There are certain herbs out there that have scents capable of clearing even the roughest of headaches.

Here are a few to try:

  • Peppermint Oil – opens up clogged blood vessels in the head and regulates blood flow. Either mix some with water and rub this on the back of your neck, as well as your temples, or simply rub some crushed peppermint leaves on your forehead. You could also make a herbal tea with peppermint leaves, either fresh or dried, and sip this slowly, while inhaling the scent.
  • Lavender Oil this is another herb that is known for alleviating headaches, and can simply be inhaled straight to enjoy its benefits. Alternatively, mix a couple of drops in with some almond or olive oil and massage your head with this, or put a few drops into some hot water, and inhale the steam.
  • Rosemary or Thyme Oil rosemary and thyme oil have been used for centuries to treat headaches. For best results, dab a drop of the oil onto each temple, as well as onto your forehead, and massage this gently into your skin.
  • Basil Oil works as a muscle relaxant, so will clear headaches caused by muscle tension. Make a tea with fresh basil leaves, or simply chew on the leaves themselves. You can also place some fresh leaves into hot water, and inhale the steam.
  • Cloves contains cooling and pain-relieving properties, making them great for throbbing headaches. Crush a few cloves and wrap them in a clean cloth, before inhaling the scent repeatedly. Alternatively, mix some clove oil with coconut oil, as well as a bit of sea salt, and use this to gently massage your forehead and temples.

Try Yoga for Tension Headaches

If you know that your headaches are caused by tension, then yoga is something that you may want to try.

Why?

Yoga relaxes the muscles in your head, neck and back, while boosting circulation to your upper body and brain, all of which can quickly relieve a tension headache.

As soon as you notice the first sign that a headache is on its way, you should give a few of these yoga poses a go, as this will prevent your muscles from going into spasm:

  • The Simple Seated Twist
  • Gomukhasana Arms
  • The Side Stretch
  • Grabbing Opposite Elbows

Take a Magnesium Supplement

Magnesium used to be abundant in the plants and animals eaten by humans, but, due to a depletion in soil quality, natural sources of magnesium are hard to come by.

Why does this matter when you have a raging headache?

Because one of the most common symptoms of a magnesium deficiency is a headache, especially migraines.

Not only do people who experience migraines have lower levels of magnesium in their body than people who do not, but one study found that a regular intake of magnesium could actually lower the frequency of developing a migraine by 41.6%.

Wondering which is the best form of magnesium to take as a supplement?

Go for magnesium oxide, of which you will need between 400-500 milligrams each day. Even if your migraine has already started, taking a magnesium supplement immediately can help to soothe it.

Need some help right now, but don’t have any magnesium supplements to hand?

Try snacking on one of these:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Blue poppy seeds
  • Cashew nuts
  • Almonds
  • Dark chocolate

sources of magnesium

See if these sources of magnesium help with your migraines; if they do, you can count on having them regularly.

Eat Some Headache-Busting Foods

There are certain foods out there that contain compounds capable of quickly soothing a headache.

Feel the pain beginning to come in?

Head on down to your nearest grocery store and stock up on these ingredients:

  • Cherries – contain a compound called quercetin, which is not only a strong antioxidant, but also has anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin helps the body to block out pain, reducing the severity of a headache. Eat around 20 tart cherries to experience the effects, or a glass of cherry juice.
  • Spicy Foods whether you go siracha or hot peppers, spicy foods will clear your sinuses, and therefore open up your airways. This alleviates any pressure and soothes the pain of a sinus headache.
  • Bananas bananas are packed with B vitamins, which increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, meaning that they work in a similar way to an anti-depressant. This then lowers the amount of pain that your body feels, reducing the severity of a headache.

While you are dealing with a headache, it is also important to avoid headache-triggering foods. From cheese to processed meats to artificial sweeteners, try to stick to a wholesome diet when healing your body.

Walk It Off

While you may not feel like exerting yourself too much when suffering from a killer headache, exercise is actually a great way to relieve yourself of the pain.

How?

Exercise triggers the body to release endorphins, which are basically the body’s natural painkillers. If you begin to exercise regularly, you will notice a reduction in the frequency and intensity of your headaches, as well as your migraines.

So, the next time you feel a headache coming on, step outdoors and take a brisk walk, preferably somewhere quiet. Even if this is only for ten minutes, this is still enough time to stimulate your brain to release the endorphins that will soothe your head.

Relaxation Exercises

While additional research in this area is still needed, current studies show that relaxation exercises could really help reduce the intensity of a headache.

What exactly are relaxation exercises?

They could be anything from listening to calming music, using mental imagery to unwind, or doing some deep breathing.

Try this the next time you have a headache:

  • Lie still, breathing in and out slowly
  • Think of a mantra and repeat this in your head, to stop your mind from wandering
  • Beginning with your toes, contract and relax your muscles one at a time, working your way up your legs through your body, until you reach your head.
  • Take your time with this, so that it takes around 20 minutes

Change Your Pillow

If you tend to wake up with a headache in the morning, this could be down to your pillow.

Pillows are designed to keep the head in line with the neck and spine while a person is sleeping, but if you end up with your head being misaligned, this can lead to headaches.

Pay attention to your pillow density, as those that are too soft do not provide enough support, while those that are too hard can lead to other problems.

How often should you be changing your pillow.

Every few months, or when they start to lose their original form. 

When suffering from killer headaches, it can be easy to just reach for the pills to numb the pain, but this is not something that you want to be relying on in the long run. By giving some of these methods a try, you may just find an easy, and completely natural, way to soothe a raging headache.

 

woman doing crunches

20 Bodyweight Exercises You Can Try at Home

Unlike many other workout types, bodyweight exercises do not actually require any special equipment, and can easily be carried out at home. By using nothing else but the weight of your body and the power of gravity, these 20 bodyweight exercises will help you to build muscle and burn fat, while giving yourself such a satisfying workout.

1. Squats

squats

Squats are not only one of the most effective of bodyweight exercises, but are also the most natural, as this is the same way in which a baby would sit down.

While this may seem like a simple exercise, a squat works out all of the muscles in the lower body, and gives your core a boost as well, since you will be using your abdominal muscles to keep yourself upright.

However, make sure that your technique is correct when doing this exercise, otherwise you may cause more damage than good…

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and then bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Use your heels to help you to stand back up straight again, squeezing your buttocks in and keeping your core tight while you do so.

 

2. Burpees

While burpees are quite intense, many would argue that this is the single most effective exercise in the world, as it works out almost every muscle group, combining cardio and strength into one exercise. 

To do a burpee, these are the four steps that you must follow:

  • Stand with your feet together, and then drop into a deep squat position with your hands on the floor
  • Kick your feet backwards so that your body is in a plank position
  • Jump your feet back into a low squat position
  • Jump back up, with your arms reaching overhead

If you want to make this exercise a little easier to begin with, take out the last jump, and simply stand up at the end instead.

Or, if you want to make this exercise a little harder, add in a tuck jump just before the squat.

 

3. Push-Ups

push ups

Push-ups are great as they work out just about every muscle group in the upper body, from your back to your arms to your abs.

They are also easy to do, but you need to ensure that your position is correct…

Your shoulders should be lined up with your wrists, while your elbows should be tucked in towards your side. You should also be trying to get your hips and chest as close to the floor as possible while doing this exercise, without actually touching the floor.

 

4. Calf-Raise

The calf-raise is an extremely simple exercise, but can be adapted to suit your needs.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Stand up straight and slowly rise up on your toes, until your heels are off the floor, but make sure that you keep your knees straight
  • Hold the position briefly before coming back down and repeating

Wondering how to make this exercise a bit more challenging?

Try standing on a step while doing it, or bounce up and down quickly so that you get more reps in.

 

5. Step-Up

This is an exercise that requires a raised surface, such as a step, low chair or bench.

All you need to do is place one foot onto this surface and then step up on it, until your front leg is straight.

Hold this briefly before returning to your starting position, making sure that you step down rather than jump down.

 

6. Plank

plank

When it comes to defining the core, the plank has become one of the most popular exercises.

Here are the steps to follow to correctly carry out a plank:

  • Lie face down with your forearms touching the floor and your hands clasped
  • Extend your legs behind you and rise up on your toes
  • Tighten your core, and hold this position for as long as you can, making sure that your back is kept straight

 

7. Feet-Elevated Plank

Once you have mastered the standard plank, you can then move on to trying some of the many plank variations that are out there.

The feet-elevated plank is one of these, and is basically the same as a standard plank, but is carried out on a raised surface to make it more challenging.

Try it on something like a chair or low table first, as you do not want the surface to be too high.

 

8. Side Plank

side plank

Another plank variation, the side plank requires you to lie on your side, with just one foot, and one forearm, touching the floor.

Once you have done this, raise your body up slowly, making sure to keep it in a straight line.

Hold this for as long as you can before gently lowering yourself back down. Make sure that you do this exercise using both sides of your body.

 

9. Handstand Push-Up

Handstand push-ups will give your body a great workout, and are especially effective at building up the shoulders.

Haven’t yet mastered the handstand?

Use a wall to help you, placing your feet against this.

Once you can do this for 60 seconds, you can then begin incorporating push-ups into this.

 

10. Donkey Kicks

donkey kick

The donkey kick, also known as the back kick, works out a number of different muscle groups:

  • The core
  • All three muscles in the buttocks
  • The lower back
  • The legs

Here is what you need to do:

    • Begin on the floor on all fours
    • Bring your right knee in towards your chest, keeping your foot flexed
    • Kick your right leg up behind you, and then bring it back down, keeping your knee bent while doing so
    • Repeat this with the other leg

 

11. Crab Walk

The crab walk targets your triceps, glutes and your core, while also improving your coordination. While it may take a few days to master this move, it will not be long before you are speeding across the floor…crab-style, of course!

All you need to do is sit on the ground in a comfortable position, with your palms behind your hips. Then, pull your body up off the ground, so that your weight is resting on your hands and feet.

Use your left foot, and your right hand, to move yourself one step forward or backward, before repeating with the other hand and foot.

TOP TIP: Make sure that you keep your abdominal muscles engaged, and your hips lifted off the floor for the entire duration of the exercise.

 

12. Bicycle Crunches

bicycle crunches

Unlike regular crunches, bicycle crunches require deeper abdominal rotation and stabilization, which gives your core an intense workout.

They are also easy to do, with only a few steps to follow:

  • Lie on the ground with your knees bent and hands behind your head
  • Lift your legs off the ground and slowly make a pedalling motion, just like riding a bicycle
  • Keep your hands behind your head, and, as each leg comes towards you, bring the opposing elbow over to meet it

 

13. Dragon Flag

Looking for a serious challenge?

Then the dragon flag is the exercise for you.

If you have not heard of this one before, here is what you need to do:

  • Lie on your back and hold on to something behind your head
  • Keeping your upper back on the floor, raise the rest of your body off of the floor
  • Brace every muscle that you can in order to keep your body in a straight line

 

14. Side Lunges

side lunge

When it comes to the majority of bodyweight exercises out there, these tend to move your body in one of two ways; up and down, or forward and back.

This is exactly why the side lunge is such a good exercise to incorporate into your workout, as it gets your body moving in a different way. This means that it will challenge your muscle fibers, ligaments, and tendons in a way that the rest of your workout does not.

To do this exercise, begin by standing with your feet apart, and then take a large step out towards your right. Bend your knee and push your buttocks back, while keeping your core tight and your chest lifted.

Return back to your starting position and then repeat on the other side.

Want to give your core even more of a challenge?

Try adding in a side leg lift with each lunge.

 

15. Sit-Up

Sit-ups are quite a popular exercise, and this is because they are also one of the most challenging of bodyweight exercises.

Why?

Since you are not able to use your arms or legs to help you to sit up, you end up using a far greater amount of abdominal strength.

Simply lie on the ground with your knees bent, and then contract your abs to lift your body up off the ground. Make sure that you limit the amount of movement that your lower back does.

Finding standard sit-ups too challenging?

Try doing a crunch variation instead, until you build up some abdominal strength.

 

16. Twisting Sit-Up

twisting sit up

If you are bored of regular sit-ups, try giving the twisting sit-up a try instead, which is an advanced form of the standard version.

For those of you who are already familiar with sit-ups, this exercise will be easy to do. The only difference with this one is that at the top of each movement, you need to bring the opposite elbow towards your knee.

Make sure that you do not over-rotate your body, as this can cause quite a bit of damage over time.

 

17. Jumping Jacks

When it comes to the different types of exercise out there, jumping often gets a bad reputation. However, there is nothing quite like it when it comes to increasing bone density, so, if this is one of your aims, you may want to give this exercise a try. 

Here are a few of the other benefits that jumping jacks can bring:

  • One of the best plyometric exercises there is
  • Provides a great cardio workout
  • Will improve your speed and quickness

Ready to give it a go?

Simply jump up, spreading your legs to the side while lifting your arms at the same time. Once you land, jump back up and do it again.

Jumping jacks are also a great one to warm up with, so consider adding this to the start of your workout.

 

18. Squat Jacks

jumping jack before squat

Squat jacks take jumping jacks to the next level, by throwing a squat in there too.

Here are the steps to follow:

    • Stand with your feet together and your hands at your chest
    • Jump so that your feet go outwards, but sit into a small squat at the same time
    • Jump your feet back together to bring yourself back into your standing position
    • Repeat

 

19. Tuck Jumps

Everyone has their own individual goals when it comes to working out, and if yours include improving your agility and power, while working on jumping higher, then tuck jumps are the way to go.

This is a powerful, yet fun, exercise that has been proven to strengthen just about every single part of the body, and is especially beneficial when it comes to heart health.

To begin with…

Stand up straight with your knees slightly bent, and then jump as high as possible.

Now for the tricky part…

While you are in the air, bring your knees in towards your chest, while extending the arms straight out, almost as though you are tucking your knees in.

Bend your knees slightly as you land, and then repeat the exercise.

 

20. Wall Sit

wall sit

The wall sit works out a number of different muscle groups, including your hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and your core. 

To do this exercise, follow these steps:

  • Slide your back down a wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground, and your knees are directly over your ankles
  • Keep your back straight, and hold this position for 60 seconds, before returning to standing position.
  • Try to repeat this five times, although you may need to build up to this gradually.

If you want to give yourself an extra challenge, try adding in some bicep curls while you are “sitting”.

 

When it comes to working out, it is important to make sure that you do not push yourself too hard to begin with, as this may only end up deterring you. Instead, set yourself some realistic goals, and take the steps necessary to ensure that you stick to them. 

woman sitting on bathroom counter

Understanding Your Body’s Response To Hormones

Hormones, can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. When you’re a teen, they hit you like a mac truck, wreaking havoc on your formerly clear skin and relatively easy going parents. Then, just when you thought you’d got them under control, the 40’s hit, hormone levels go down and you’re wishing for just a smidgeon of the estrogen you had in high school. Hormones can be a tricky thing, and sometimes they can seem to have a lot more control over your skin than you do, but there is a way to make peace. Read on for a little insight on hormone fluctuations, what to expect, and how to deal with them.

The Teen Years
When girls hit the ages of around 12 or 13, the introduction of hormones begins. The female body starts to produce estrogens and androgens in high quantities and the skin is impacted. Estrogen is responsible for the “female aesthetic”, causing breasts to develop and giving the hips their curves. In the skin, estrogen decreases the size of pores, giving it a smooth surface and builds elastin and collagen to give skin elasticity and maintain moisture. However, it is the male hormones which lead to the oiliness. Androgens, including testosterone, stimulate hair growth, enlarging pores and boosting sebum, the oily substance in the skin. The result? Acne.

The 20’s and 30’s
The twenties and thirties are definitely the best it gets as far as hormones are concerned. Estrogen peaks and the testosterone boosts sebum, giving skin radiant glow. The hormones are in balance.

The 30’s and 40’s
Of course, nothing gold can stay. After the estrogen effect peaks at around the age of 25, it begins to drop, slightly in the 30’s and more noticeably in the 40’s. Production of collagen and elastin decrease and the skin begins to lose elasticity, affecting the aging skin in a far greater capacity than sun damage. By the late 40’s women enter perimenopause, the purgatory between ovulation and menopause. Hormones cycles change and women may notice a resurgence of acne, an increase in facial hair, and thinning hair on the scalp.

50’s and Up
Most women have reached menopause by the age of 50. Estrogen and testosterone production declines, and with it, the skin manufactures less collagen and elastin. In fact, according to a study in the Venus Week, collagen production declines 2.1% every year in the 15 years following menopause, leading to a 30% decrease in collagen between the ages of 50 and 65. Hot flashes may occur and the skin will get drier, thinner, and more wrinkled.

Controlling Hormones
Because hormone fluctuations are often the result of excess weight and lack of exercise, a good dietary and exercise regimen is key in maintaining hormonal balance. However, underweight women are also at risk for hormonal imbalances. Experts advise aiming for a body mass index between 20 and 25.

Women in their 20s can control acne by using face cleanser including salicylic acid, while older women with decreased skin elasticity should use an exfoliant weekly and an antioxidant containing moisturizer. Retinoids can help with wrinkles, and all women should wear sun screen, as sun damage can intensify unwanted changes in the skin.

The first step to finding treatment is diagnosing the problem. Says Rebecca Booth, MD, “Women must first understand the effects of their hormones on the skin and overall health to seek lifestyle changes to navigate these natural fluctuations. With the power of knowledge, they can seek solutions to achieve the maximum flow of hormonal balance all month long and all life long.”

Are your hormones wreaking havoc on your skin? Let us know how you’re coping. We love to hear from you.

woman drinking water

Hydrogen Water Is The Latest Health Trend

These days it may seem like the water bottle is the new black. That, along with the yoga mat, may be the best ways to accessorize your athleisure. The water companies comply. They have answered the call by giving the consumer a variety of waters, stylishly packaged, claiming additional nutrients  capable of everything from relieving stress to improving brain power. However, skeptical though many of us are, every once in a while products do come along that live up to their claims, and it is important that we not let our judgmental attitudes prevent us from reaping the benefits. Hydrogen water is one of the latest to be making some miraculous health claims. Is there anything behind them? You be the judge.

Antioxidant and Brain Damage Prevention
Can hydrogen water help to fight oxidation that causes brain damage? Science says molecular hydrogen (H2) protects tissues and cells from oxidative damage by reducing the oxygen species ROS.

Studies on rats show hydrogen water can prevent the onset of Parkinson’s disease and has been shown to prevent cognitive impairment associated with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Another Parkinson’s related study on mice, showed the water capable of preventing the development and progression of neural degeneration associated with the condition, and a study on patients with Parkinson’s seems to support those findings. Hydrogen water was found to reduce neurotoxic damage with no adverse effects at high dosages.

Improves Mood Disorders
An additional rodent study, showed hydrogen water was able to restore the natural growth of brain cells in mice. Because antidepressants exhibit similar properties, there is speculations that hydrogen water may be able to improve depression and other mental disorders.

Anti Inflammatoy
A study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis showed that drinking .5L/day of hydrogen water for 4 week resulted in remission for all patients, with 20% becoming free of inflammatory symptoms.

Reduces Motor Deficits, Muscle Disease and Degeneration
An experiment on young athletes showed that drinking hydrogen water reduced the build up of lactic acid during strenuous exercise, resulting in a decrease of muscle fatigue.

In study on mice with the muscle disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), showed that hydrogen water prevented the gain of abnormal body mass and increased antioxidant production. This indicates a potential use for hydrogen water as a treatment for muscular dystrophy in patients with DMD.

Prevents Metabolic Syndrome
Hydrogen water may also be able to help those suffering with type 2 diabetes. A study done on diabetic mice found that hydrogen water reduced fatty lever and obesity and decreased insulin, glucose and triglyceride levels by stimulating metabolic energy. Yet another rat study, showed the water was able to prevent hardening of the arteries.

A study on patients with metabolic syndrome who drank 1.5 to 2L of hydrogen water daily for 8 weeks, showed the water led to an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and a decrease in cholesterol overall.

What do you think? Is hydrogen water worth investigating? Let us know if you’ve tried it, and what you think.

Bullet Points For Increased Life Expectancy

The secret to longevity has baffled people for years. There are nonagenarians who swear by their cigars, and centenarians who swear cigars off like the plague. There are octogenarians who ski every day and skiers who fracture their hips on a tough trail. There are healthy eaters who live long, and then there are the French who drink red wine and red meat and remain hale and hearty as horses. If anything is clear about the secret to longevity, its that it is unclear, however, that’s not going to stop anyone from trying to find it. If you’re among those making an effort to do so, scientists may have a few clues to point you in the right direction. Here are a few of the things that research has discovered about longevity.

Your Personality Plays A Role
The Longevity Project is a eight decade spanning study dedicated to the baffling secret of long life. During that time, Stanford researchers Leslie R. Martin and Howard S. Friedman have discovered a few things about personality’s effects on life expectancy. According to them, “The qualities of a prudent, persistent, well organized person, like a scientist professor – somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree” are more likely to be present in a person who reaches old age. “Many of us assume that more relaxed people live longer, but that’s not necessarily the case.” Apparently conscientious people are more likelier to make healthier choices about work, marriage, and daily habits..

Your Diet Comes Into Play
When it comes to diet, it seems that those who reside in the Mediterranean, and follow the diet of the area, are the most likely to make it into their twilight years. The diet, which consists largely of vegetables, nuts, fruits, and olive oil has been linked to lower risk for heart disease and even protection from memory loss.

Genetics
It may come as no surprise that your parents’ life spans may give you an idea about what yours is likely to be. The autopsy of a 115- year- old woman revealed stem cell exhaustion as a reason for death. This means the woman remained healthy until her cells literally gave out. Other research shows that some people are less prone to diseases or have levels of chemicals, like dopamine and seratonin in the brain that may attribute to superior bodily functions.

Education
If you find yourself with an extra four years at the end, those may be the years you spent in college. A 2012 report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found that those with bachelor’s degrees or higher, can live about nine years longer than those who didn’t finish high school. According to health economist, James Smith, educated people make better plans for their future, get better jobs, and make healthier lifestyle choices.

Work Stress May Not Be A Factor
If you think “your job is killing you,” it may not be. According to the Longevity Study, long lives and hard work are not mutually exclusive. The authors say, “We found that productive, hardworking people are not stressed and miserable, but tend to be happier, healthier, and more socially connected than their less productive peers.”

Do you have any clues for us about the path to longevity? We’re dying to hear them.

woman with vitiligo

Vitiligo May Soon See New Treatment Options

Even in these days of positive body imaging, conditions such as vitiglio remain a challenge. While many women have come out in the shared desire to be appreciated despite weight issues, there is not such a platform for those with skin pigmentation conditions, which tend to be less common and less publicized. Sufferers of vitiglio often struggle with low self esteem, and are often the objects of unwanted attention in public places. Building awareness and acceptance about such condition is important, as is trying to find new treatment approaches. Here are some new thoughts and insights into the genetic disorder.

Genetic Predisposition
With new research comes new hope. Pearl E Grimes, MD and director of Vitiglio Pigmentation Institute of Southern California says that with the advancement of genetic research in the past ten years, “We now know that probably 90% of the genes the have been identified in vitiglio are immune-susceptibility genes, 10% are pigment related genes.” Because the condition is so often genetic, it can lead to “sick melanocytes.” This means, “Melanocytes from people with vitiglio do not grow as well in culture. There are probably some inherent defects in these melanocytes that may tie back to the genetics of the disease.”

Oxidative Stress
Another finding of the latest research points to oxidative stress as the event that starts off the immune dysfunction that culminates in vitiglio. Grimes says, “In vitiglio, we know that hydrogen peroxide is up, while catlase – a major oxidative stress fighting molecule is down.” The lack of the body’s ability to protect against oxidation may be what leads to the release of the antigens that play a role in destroying the melanocytes that lead to vitiglio.”

Raising Awareness
Dr Grimes relates a story of a beautiful 40 -year- old patient whose face caused a toddler to cry. “In response to that incident,” the patient said, “I don’t go out. I don’t date anymore, I have isolated myself, and I feel ugly.”

Grimes explains that vitiglio patients require a very long initial consolation. She says, “We take a very detailed history-looking at family history, a time of disease onset, disease progression, associated symptoms, associated autoimmune illnesses, and medications to tease out any other causative factors that may be contributing to pigment loss.”

Besides uncovering the physical causes, Dr. Grimes also stresses addressing the psychological impact of the condition. She steers aways from direct, overly probing questions, saying, “I go about it in a subdued, roundabout way -trying to let them talk about it first. I want them to be comfortable.” Instead of asking about the impact of the disease on the patient’s quality, she prefers to inquire about changes in daily routines. “Some will say, ‘I wear makeup all the time, even on my hands.'”

After performing a complete physical exam with photos and a laboratory assessment, Grimes reports that she is, “able to put together a treatment regimen based on the patient’s symptoms.” She is also able to assemble a health care team is needed, including a rheumatologist, immunologist, and mental health professional.

What can you do to raise awareness about vitiglio? Are these findings promising? Let us know what you think.

Can Exercise Help Improve Hypersomnia?

Hypersomnia: A condition causing excessive daytime drowsiness. Aerobic exercise: an activity requiring excessive daytime energy. The two would seem to be in direct contrast to one another, but could one be the cure for the other? While it may seem vigorous exercise would be the last thing on a drowsy person’s to do list, new studies show that exercise may be a way to alleviate the symptoms of hypersomnia in depressed individuals. Could there be a science behind this theory? Let’s take a look.

Symptoms of Hypersomnia
Individuals with hypersomnia are likely to doze off regularly and repeatedly during the day, often at inappropriate times, including during meals, at work, or in conversation. They may show difficulty waking from a long sleep and feel disoriented upon waking. Anxiety, decreased energy, slowness of thought and speech, memory lapses, loss of appetite, and increased irritation are also among the symptoms of the condition. In severe cases, patients may lose their ability to function in social, family, and occupational settings.

Demographics
Hypersomnia is a rather uncommon disorder affecting a very small percentage of the population. Only 5% or fewer adults complain about feeling excessively sleepy during the day, and of that 5% only 5-10% are diagnosed with hypersomnia. It generally appears in a patient between the ages of 15 and 30, and tends to happen gradually, sometimes taking years to develop fully.

woman exercising indoors

The Research
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care are the group behind the findings about the positive effect of aerobic exercise upon the depressive condition. These researchers found that exercise lowered the levels of two biological markers for hypersomnia in blood samples, reducing the likelihood of excess sleepiness.

According to senior study author, Madukar Trivedi, MD, “Hypersomnia, as well as insomnia have been linked in the development, treatment, and recurrence of depression. Identifying these biomarkers, combined with new understanding of the important role of exercise in reducing hyperemia, have potential implications in the treatment of major depressive disorder.”

Previous research had found a negative loop in which sleep, depression, and inflammation interact, with detrimental results. The current findings suggest that exercise may be the key to resetting the loop. Researchers identified biomarkers based on the blood samples of 100 participants who were asked to perform two kinds of aerobic excersises. The subjects consisted of people ages 18 to 70 who all suffered from major depression disorder.

After a 12 week period,researchers had located reductions in tow biomarkers related to hypersomnia. Lead author Chad Rethorst, PhD says, “Identification of biomarkers that uniquely predict or correlate with improvement in hypersomnia and insomnia is an important step toward more effective treatment of MDD.

Do you suffer from hypersomnia or know someone who does? Let us know what you think of the new findings.

What Are DHEA Supplements?

You see them on news programs. The octogenarian, nonagenarians, and even centenarians, those lucky people who seem to be age defiant, surviving years of life, still remaining active, cognizant and even rather attractive. Inevitably, these people are asked how they do it; what is the secret to the fountain of youth, and inevitably some saucy senior will reply by saying they credit regular sex with their youthful appearance. True, we do often associate higher sex drive with youthfulness, but is it possible that the opposite is true? Is there anything substantial behind the idea that increased sex drive can lead to a more healthy, longer life? Read on to find out about the possible benefits of DHEA supplements.

What is DHEA?
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone found naturally in your body, manufactured by the adrenal glands. There, it is converted into male and female sex hormones, like estrogen and testosterone. Recent studies suggest that taking DHEA in the form of a supplement can boost levels of estrogen and testosterone, protecting the body from health problems stemming from hormonal imbalance or age related decline in hormonal levels.

How Can It Help?
Studies Show some degrees of success in DHEA supplementation in the following areas:

Depression
Research supports the possibility of a link between depression and DHEA levels. According to recent research reports, DHEA supplements may be useful in the treatment of major depression. However, further studies need to be done before any affirmative conclusions can be reached.

Bone Density
The aging process and diseases such as anorexia and lupus, have all been associated with bone loss. There is some evidence to suggest that higher DHEA levels may be associated with higher bone density, specifically in post menopausal women and that DHEA supplements may have the ability to increase of bone density.

Weight Loss
Could DHEA be the key to shedding those extra pounds? Studies show that 7-KETO, a DHEA containing product may help stimulate metabolism and assist in weight loss. Again, more long term research still remains to be done.

Adrenal Insufficiency
Adrenal Insufficiently is a condition in which adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones. Recent studies show that DHEA supplements may improve hormone levels, and quality of life for people with the condition. However, other research found that DHEA had little effect of symptoms of depression, and heart health.

Sexual Function
Here’s where you’d think it would make perfect sense. Because research has shown a link between lower levels of DHEA in man and erectile dysfunction, it would seem to be a no brainer that DHEA supplements can boost low libido. However, higher quality studies reveal inconsistent results in the effect of DHEA on libido, sexual performance and erectile dysfunction. Although research looks promising, additional studies are required.

Lupus
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder which affects the organs and skin. Women suffering from this condition also exhibit lower levels of DHEA, hence,the suggestion that DHEA may improve immune function. While some trials report a lack of effect of DHEA treatment on lupus activity, there is evidence that it can be effective when used regularly.

What do you think of the use of DHEA supplements to improve health? Have you tried them? Let us know about your DHEA experiences.

woman holding oil bottle

The Oils Of Longevity

You may have heard people saying they can’t live without their morning coffee, but we usually don’t take them literally. Just when you thought your caffeinated cup had reached the limit in positive attributes, there comes proof that having a cup of coffee each day may be just what you need to keep having more days to have more cups of coffee! And while you’re at it, you may want to pop some fish oil pills too; they apparently have similar effect.

Recent studies show that both coffee and fish oil contain properties which can actually promote longevity. Not convinced? Here’s a look at some of the latest research on drinking coffee and taking fish oil capsules and why it may just be the latest recipe for long life.

What Are Telomeres?
You may have heard of these little caps at the end of our DNA. Telomeres control our lifespan by determining how many times our cells divide and stay alive. As we get older, environmental stressors take their toll, and these telomeres get shorter, meaning our lives do as well. Therefore, keeping them long is key to longevity. The latest way to do that is by drinking your morning coffee with a side of fish oil.

Fish Oil and Longevity
A study in the 2016 issue of Nutrients looked at the effect of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil on tele mere length in a controlled trial. Experts attribute the increase in length to a reduction of oxidative stress.

An additional study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity seems to support these findings. The study included 106 individuals with an average age of 51 who were considered relatively healthy, divided into three groups. One group received 2.5 grams of long chain omega-3’s per day, a second received 1.25 grams a day, and one received placebo pills that had proportion of fatty acids similar to those found in an average American diet. After four months, results showed a significant increase in telomere length and a decrease in oxidative stress among those who received the omega-3 supplements.

The two main types of long chain omega-3 fats are most often found in fish such as sardines, herring, salmon, and mackerel. Alpha-linolenic acid is a short chain omega-3 fatty acid that can be found in flaxseeds and walnuts.

Coffee and Longevity
Coffee is already a well known source of antioxidants which makes it a life lengthening beverage. Scientists ar the Journal of Nutrition used data from the Nurse’s Health Study form 1976 to explain the link between coffee drinking and telomere length in 4780 female nurses, and found a direct correlations. Of the nurses, those who drank 2 cups of coffee daily had a 29% higher chance of having an average telomere lengthen while the odds were 36% higher in those who drank 3 cups.

However experts are quick to point out that while coffee may be very beneficial to your health, caffeine may not. Although researchers from the University of Scranton say coffee is America’s number one antioxidant source, they are also quick to remind us that regular and decaf have the same antioxidant levels, and too much caffeine can cause unwanted side effects. Try to keep caffeine consumption at a moderate 300-400mg daily, about 3 to 4 cups of coffee to keep away anxiety and depression.

What do you think? Is fish oil and coffee the new Breakfast of Champions? Let us know!

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