Health and Disease, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Live Generously For Greater Health and Happiness

livegenerously

Why giving more than you receive can lead to greater health and happiness.

 

For those who want to improve their lives by virtually every measure, social scientists offer surprising advice: Give away as much as possible.

 

People who generously contribute their time, money, and kindness are healthier, happier, and more confident than those who do not, according to research from the University of Notre Dame; the University of California, Berkeley; and other academic institutions.

 

“Being generous has a host of positive effects — everything from making you more socially networked and physically active to preventing depression,” says Notre Dame sociologist Hilary Davidson, PhD, coauthor of The Paradox of Generosity. Written with sociology professor Christian Smith, PhD, the book compiles insights gleaned from the Science of Generosity Initiative, which tracked the spending habits and lifestyles of 40 families from different classes and races over a five-year period.

 

“Acting generously causes neurochemical changes in the brain, increasing the pleasure response,” Davidson explains. The result is circular: The more satisfied and directed you feel in life, the more generous you are. “It becomes an upward spiral.”

 

The relationship between generosity and well-being is so strong that the opposite is also true: Selfishness can be self-destructive, says Smith. When University of Queensland researchers asked study participants to play a bargaining game that tested the effects of selfish decision-making, they found stingy players had higher stress levels than those who acted generously. “As we say in the book, it’s no accident that the word ‘miserly’ and the word ‘miserable’ are related,” says Smith.

 

According to researchers, generosity can improve your life in some -surprising, health-enhancing ways.

 

HEALTH BOOSTER

“When people act from compassion to care for others, they live longer, have better health, and are happier rather than the reverse,” says Dacher Keltner, PhD, codirector of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and author of Born to Be Good and The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence. Keltner cites studies showing that caring for others in need activates the vagus nerve, a key neural pathway that slows the heart rate, boosts immune function, and decreases the inflammatory response.

 

Generosity can also reduce the negative effects of stress. In a recent study published in the journal Health Psychology, researchers gave participants a sum of money and instructed them to spend it on themselves or on others. The results were convincing: Those who gave generously to others experienced a significant lowering of blood pressure. “The drop-in blood pressure was the equivalent of what you might see from starting a new aerobic-exercise program,” says lead author Ashley Whillans, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia.

 

While this was just one small study, it was the first to demonstrate a causal effect, says Whillans.

 

CONFIDENCE BUILDER

If you’ve been going through life feeling like you aren’t making much of a difference in the world, focusing on helping someone else or a cause can boost your self-esteem. “When you put some elbow grease into something, you realize you’re someone who can get things done, and it’s very gratifying,” says Davidson.

 

And because generous behavior often entails moving beyond your comfort zone and developing new skills — whether that’s coaching soccer, helping in a community garden, or becoming a museum docent — it increases your sense of self-efficacy. “We know that learning and expanding our knowledge is also deeply connected with happiness and mental satisfaction,” Davidson adds.

 

Finally, giving helps you see -yourself as an agent of change; it builds confidence and increases optimism. It also helps you meet new people and develop new connections in your community. “One of the things we know for certain is that the wider and broader our social networks are, the more positive we feel and the more satisfied we are with our lives,” she says.

 

JOY MAKER

Research has consistently found that generosity can be a powerful tool for improving moods and even combating depression. “Imaging studies have shown that the same pleasure centers in the brain that are activated by sex and food are activated by giving,” explains Keltner.

 

In a 2008 study exploring the emotional health benefits of donating money, researchers from Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia gave participants cash, instructing half of the group to spend it on themselves and the other half to purchase gifts for others. Those who shopped for others consistently reported more joy than those who spent the money on themselves.

 

Giving doesn’t just feel good; it also gets you out of your own head, which can help when you’re feeling down. “A surefire way to feel better when you’re blue is to shift the focus away from yourself and onto others, and that’s what generosity does,” says Keltner.

 

You also gain a different outlook when you see inside the lives of others, Davidson says, pointing to one of her interview subjects who suffered from fibromyalgia. “Pain was quite present in her life, but in volunteering she was able to take a step away from it and put it in perspective,” she says.

 

GROW YOUR GENEROSITY

 

Being motivated by the needs of others — rather than the personal benefits of being charitable — is a key factor in enjoying the many perks of generosity. In other words, you can’t fake it and still reap its rewards.

 

You can, however, more genuinely contribute your time, money, and talents. “Generous impulses can be learned, and it’s exhilarating when you just get out there and try it,” says Notre Dame sociologist Hilary Davidson, PhD, coauthor of The Paradox of Generosity. To get started, she suggests taking stock of your resources — looking at time as much as money — and finding small ways these resources might be used for the good of others. Consider these ideas:

 

Start small. Make an extra pan of lasagna for a sick friend, buy a cup of coffee for the next person in line, share your pocket change, or just give someone a hug or pat on the back. (Touch is a powerful, direct way to give; it releases oxytocin, which promotes trust, cooperation, and sharing.)

 

Join a team. Paint the sets for a school play, coach a Little League team, get involved in a community improvement organization, work a phone bank, or team up with others to clean up a beach or local park.

 

Support a cause. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, run a 5K to fight cancer, walk dogs at a local shelter, attend (or chair!) a fundraiser for your child’s school, collect groceries for a local food bank, or make an annual pledge to a charity close to your heart.

 

Spread the love. Trumpet the arrival of a friend’s book or gallery show, be understanding with a cranky spouse, give a coworker credit for a good idea, organize a party for a friend, or drum up support for a local event.

 

Health and Wellness Associates

M Haiken

Experience Life

312-972-WELL

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Rx to Wellness, Uncategorized

Sunlight and Vitamin D are Essential for Your Health

sunshine

Sunlight and Vitamin D are essential for Your Health

 

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone produced in your body with the help of cholesterol molecules when you expose significant amounts of skin to the sun. It is an essential vitamin that interacts with a number of different systems in your body.

 

One of the best ways to optimize your vitamin D blood levels is to get sensible sun exposure, taking great care never to get burned.

 

Deficiency is very common in the U.S. but many Americans mistakenly believe they are not at risk simply because they eat foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk. Before 2000, many physicians had not considered the possibility you could be deficient in vitamin D.

 

With advancing technology and research, it has become clear that vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. is rampant and this deficiency significantly impacts the development of many different health conditions.

 

Researchers estimate 85 percent of children in industrial cities and well over half of adults and elderly suffer from deficiency.1

 

The elderly may be at greater risk as they not only spend less time outside, but also produce approximately 30 percent less vitamin D than a younger person with the same sun exposure. Limiting your outdoor exposure and consistently wearing sun screen may also increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency.

 

A recent paper in Dermato-Endocrinology reviewed the current science for the risks and benefits of sun exposure and found insufficient exposure in the U.S. has become a major public health problem.

 

Insufficient Sun Exposure Has Become a Public Health Risk

 

In the late 1950s Coppertone began marketing their product, designed to help you get a suntan without the burn.2 Over the subsequent years researchers have theorized exposure to the sun would increase your risk of skin cancers and have recommended sun protection anytime you’re outside.3

 

However, this has overlooked the health benefits of sun exposure without burning. In response to public health recommendations to limit sun exposure, lead researcher Dr. David Hoel writes:4

 

“The body of science concerning the benefits of moderate sun exposure is growing rapidly, and is causing a different perception of sun/UV as it relates to human health.

 

Melanoma and its relationship to sun exposure and sunburn is not adequately addressed in most of the scientific literature.”

 

Historically, research identified benefits of sun exposure, linking it with prevention of rickets and production of vitamin D. In further scientific inquiry researchers began to focus on health risks, specifically the development of skin cancers.

 

Research has also determined outdoor workers have a lower incidence of melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, than do indoor workers.5 In the past 15 years, thousands of studies have been published linking the production of vitamin D with protective health benefits.

 

However, there is still considerable controversy over the optimum level of vitamin D for health, and not just prevention of disease. In their paper, Hoel’s team identified several effects that a deficiency in vitamin D may have on your health, half of which account for the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S.6

 

With adequate sun exposure and vitamin D levels, public health officials may make a significant impact on the number of deaths attributed to these diseases. According to the authors:7

 

“Insufficient sun exposure has become a major public health problem, demanding an immediate change in the current sun-avoidance public health advice. The degree of change needed is small but critically important.”

 

Deficiency Increases Your Risk of Some Cancers and Neurological Conditions

 

In a 2010 cost benefit analysis of the necessity for vitamin D optimization, researchers found a link between vitamin D deficiency and 19 of the 30 leading causes of death.8

 

They estimated a 16 percent reduction in deaths from those diseases with an increase of vitamin D to 40 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) and a direct health cost reduction estimated at $130 billion per year.

 

The link between vitamin D and specific cancers has been demonstrated in more than 200 epidemiological studies.9 Optimizing your vitamin D levels could help prevent at least 16 different types of cancer, including pancreatic, lung, breast, prostate and skin cancers.

 

Vitamin D appears to increase the self-destruction of mutated cells that, when left to replicate, may lead to cancer. It also helps reduce the spread of cancer cells and improves differentiation in cells, as cancer cells often lack differentiation.10

 

A recent study demonstrated a strong link between vitamin D and breast cancer prevention and found in a study of over 1,500 women, those with the highest levels had superior breast cancer survival rates.11

 

Neurological conditions are also affected by levels of vitamin D in the body. An Egyptian research team evaluated the addition of vitamin D supplementation to the treatment plan for children with autism and found the children’s symptoms were positively affected by the increased levels of vitamin D, and not by placebo.12

 

In their review of the literature, Hoel’s team found research demonstrating links between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline in adults.13

 

The development of multiple sclerosis (MS) also appears to be impacted by low levels of vitamin D.14 In one study, women with low levels had twice the risk of developing MS in the following 10 years.

 

Vitamin D Protects Your Bones, Skin, Heart and Metabolism

 

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., responsible for killing 787,000 people in 2011 and claiming more lives than the combination of all forms of cancer.15 Every 34 seconds someone in the U.S. has a heart attack, and every 60 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies from heart related disease.

 

Research has recently demonstrated the role vitamin D plays in improving heart function in patients suffering from heart failure.16 Many patients suffering with heart disease were deficient in vitamin D and low levels were connected to worse outcomes and more severe disease. Experimental studies have also demonstrated a role in reducing inflammation, thrombosis and calcification.17

 

A review of the research demonstrates a link between people with levels of vitamin D below 20 ng/mL and the development of psoriasis.18 Vitamin D is also essential to the absorption and modeling of your bones, preventing osteoporosis as you age.19 The presence of vitamin D, MK-7 K2, calcium and phosphorus increase the likelihood of proper bone modeling and reduced risk of fracture.

 

Low levels of vitamin D are linked to metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.20 Obesity, also linked to metabolic syndrome, increases your risk of vitamin D deficiency as the vitamin is sequestered in adipose tissue. According to recent research, vitamin D deficiency affects your glucose metabolism and may actually be more closely linked to diabetes than obesity.21

 

In a study of 118 people, those with low vitamin D levels were more likely to have type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, regardless of their weight. Another study22 published in 2013 found that type 2 diabetics given 50,000 IUs of oral vitamin D3 per week for eight weeks experienced “a meaningful reduction” in fasting plasma glucose and insulin.

 

Signs You Might Be Vitamin D-Deficient

 

Vitamin D is used in neuromuscular and immune functioning, reducing inflammation in your body, absorbing calcium, modulation of cell growth and assisting your muscles and nervous system to function properly. Many of the clinical signs you may be deficient are linked to these functions.

 

Darker Skin

 

African-Americans are at greater risk of deficiency as darker skin requires as much as 10 times more sun exposure to product the same amount of vitamin D as skin that is paler.

Feeling “Blue”

 

Serotonin, a brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises and falls in association with sun exposure. In 2006, scientists evaluated the effects of vitamin D on mental health of 80 elderly patients and found those with the lowest level were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those with healthy doses.23

You Are 50 or Older

 

As you age your skin doesn’t make as much vitamin D and your kidneys become less efficient converting vitamin D into a form your body uses.

You Are Obese or Have Higher Muscle Mass

 

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, hormone-like vitamin, which means body fat acts as a “sink” by collecting it. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re therefore likely going to need more vitamin D than a slimmer person. The same also holds true for people with higher body weights due to muscle mass.

Your Bones Ache

 

People suffering from aches and pains, especially in combination with fatigue, frequently end up being misdiagnosed as having fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome when in fact they may be vitamin D deficient.

Head Sweating

 

One of the first, classic signs of vitamin D deficiency is a sweaty head. In fact, in years past physicians used to ask new mothers about head sweating in their newborns for this very reason. Excessive sweating in newborns due to neuromuscular irritability is still described as a common, early symptom of vitamin D deficiency.24

Gut Problems and Bowel Diseases

 

Remember, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means if you have a gastrointestinal condition that affects your ability to absorb fat, you may have lower absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D as well. This includes gut conditions like Crohn’s, celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity and inflammatory bowel disease.

 

As with many supplements, depending on your conditions, symptoms, age, family history, will determine the amount of Vitamin D you should be taking, along with what other supplements you need to take with vitamin D.

 

Vitamin D can not be taken alone!

 

We are always here to help you with just this type of problem.  Call us, leave a message if needed, and we will call you back,

 

Health and Wellness Associates

Carole Baggrely

Archived

312-972-WELL