Uncategorized, Vitamins and Supplements

Be Cautious With Vitamins B6 and B12

Be Cautious With Vitamins B6 and B12

 

To look like Chris Hemsworth in two “Thor” films, his stunt double, Bobby Holland Hanton, reportedly ate 35 times a day, sticking with grilled chicken, turkey, spinach, nuts, and boiled eggs.

Even he says that’s over the top.

Are Vitamin B-12 Pills Good for Weight Loss?

But you don’t need to be a superhero to overdo your quest for a better body. Even postmenopausal women can end up over the top by taking excessive supplements of vitamins B6 and B12.

Vitamin B-12 is an essential nutrient for bone and nerve health. Although this vitamin might boost energy, increased B-12 intake does not cause weight loss.

An international team of researchers looked at data on more than 75,000 women from 1984 to 2014. Among the 2,304 who had hip fractures, the women whose intake of both vitamins B6 and B12 was the highest (35 mg per day of B6 and 20 mcg per day of B12) had an almost 50% higher risk of hip fracture.

Those doses are 20 times the 1.5 mg recommended daily allowance for B6, and more than eight times the 2.4 mcg RDA for B12.

How’d they get so much? Well, one popular multivitamin for older adults that we looked at delivers 250% of B6 and 833% of B12.

So if you take a daily multivitamin, aim for one with doses close to the RDAs, and enjoy foods that promote red blood cell and nerve health (B12) and metabolism of proteins, lipids, and carbs, as well as cognitive development and immune function (B6).

Foods sources of vitamin B12 include salmon (1 serving equals 80%/RDA), tuna, fortified cereals, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat milk.

Vitamin B6 food sources include chickpeas (1 serving equals 55% of the RDA), salmon, chicken breast, fortified cereals, and non-citrus fruits.

When you take a B6 or B12 vitamin, and it is not taken in combinations of what you need for YOU, then those B vitamins will engulf, or eat all the other B vitmains in your system.

 

-People Start to Heal The Moment They Are Heard-
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Diets and Weight Loss, Health and Disease, Uncategorized

Are You Eating Too Fast

Eating Too Fast Can Pile on the Pounds

five health risks of eating too fast

Has your hectic lifestyle turned you into someone who gulps down meals?

People who eat quickly tend to eat more and have a higher body mass index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight) than those who eat slowly. People who eat slowly feel full sooner and eat less in the process.

Part of the reason for this is the time it takes for your brain to get key messages from your digestive system. Conventional wisdom says that’s about 20 minutes, and one study found that slowing down to 30 minutes is even more effective. But that means you have to find ways to really stretch out your meals.

Tricks like eating with your non-dominant hand can help a lot, but eating fast can be a hard habit to break. One high-tech solution is a commercially available smart fork, a utensil that registers your eating speed and sends a signal, with a vibration and a flash of light, if you eat too quickly. Participants in an experimental study found that it was comfortable to hold and did a good job of making them more aware of their eating speed. But you can also try to slow down on your own with a regular fork: Just put it down and count to 10 between each and every bite.

Reinforce the slower eating habit with portion cues such as using smaller plates and bowls. Part of feeling full is visual, and an overflowing smaller plate might trick your mind into thinking you’re eating more calories than you really are. Large dishes with empty spaces do the opposite, giving the illusion that your diet portions are smaller than they really are.

Always use measuring cups and spoons to dole out correct portions — you may be surprised at how you’ve supersized your meals on your own! Also, don’t go back for second helpings, and stay focused on your food — no TV or reading while you eat

Slow Down, You Chew Too Fast

For many of us, rushing through meals has become second nature. Breaking that habit takes some conscious effort. These strategies can help you develop a new habit of slowing down and savoring your food:

  • Allow enough time. Make meals a priority item on your schedule. Block off at least 20 minutes for each meal. It can take that long for your body to send signals about fullness to your brain.
  • Enlist all your senses. When you first start eating, take a few moments to really notice the aroma, flavor, crunchiness, texture and other sensory properties of the food. Then keep noticing these things as the meal goes on.
  • Choose more chews. Take small bites, and chew them thoroughly. In addition to slowing you down, chewing well makes food easier to digest, which increases the absorption of nutrients.
  • Put down that fork! It’s easy to slip into a robotic eating rhythm. Before you know it, you’re shoveling food into your mouth with the efficiency of an eating machine. Setting down your utensils between bites helps prevent that.
  • Revive the art of table talk (even if you’re not sitting at a table). Chatting between bites is one of the most pleasant ways to stretch out a meal.

 

-People Start to Heal The Moment They Are Heard- 

 

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Weighted Blankets for Mental Health

Weighted Blanks for Mental Health

 

Image may contain: cat

 

A weighted blanket is a blanket filled with hypoallergenic, non-toxic polypropylene pellets. The pellets are sewn into self-contained small pockets that are evenly distributed throughout the blanket. These pellets give the blanket its weight, which should generally be around 10 percent of the user’s body weight, give or take a few pounds depending on the individual’s needs and preferences.

Created to mimic the benefits of deep touch pressure therapy, weighted blankets have been shown to help ease anxiety, increase oxytocin in the brain and help individuals with sensory processing disorders feel more relaxed. DTP, as shown in the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering, is about gently applying pressure to the body, which releases a calming chemical in the brain called serotonin to relax the nervous system.

Weighted blankets are perhaps most closely associated with sensory processing disorder and related conditions like autism, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, weighted blankets may help with a wide variety of other health issues.

One study found that 63% of patients reported lower anxiety after use and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality. A study from the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders found it easier to settle with increased sleep duration, decreased movements and more “refreshed” feeling afterwards.

Researchers at Temple University found that 95 percent of participants with ADHD in a study improved when they received sensory intervention. The interventions offered included deep pressure touch therapy and a variety of strenuous exercise. As one researcher stated, “We found significant improvement in sensory avoiding behaviours, tactile sensitivity, and visual auditory sensitivity in the group that received treatment.”

Myofascial release, which involves the application of firm but gentle pressure over the fibromyalgia pain points can help sufferers find some relief from their pain. Weighted blankets can mimic this pressure, which may help fibromyalgia sufferers experience a reduction in symptoms.

 

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

New Male Contraceptive?

New Male Contraceptive?

 

The Myths (And Truths) About What Two People In Love Looks Like | Mercury #romanticdatingtipsforguys

I’ve heard there’s a new male contraceptive in the works. Can you tell me when it is likely to become available?
A number of male contraceptive methods are under development, but the one that has gotten the most attention lately is a birth control pill that appears to be safe when taken daily. Called DMAU (short for dimethandrolone undecanoate), it is being developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health at the University of Washington in Seattle and the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA.

The pill already has been tested in 83 men ages 18 to 50 in three doses: 100, 200 and 400 milligrams in two different formulations. The men who participated received either DMAU or a placebo, which they took once a day with food. The researchers reported that the 400 mg dose led to “marked suppression” of testosterone and reduced levels of two other hormones required for sperm production. Study leader Stephanie Page, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, reported that very few of the men participating described symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency or excess, and none of them developed serious side effects. Dr. Page noted that the men taking DMAU gained some weight and that their HDL (“good”) cholesterol declined, although she described both these changes as “mild.”

Dr. Page wrote that many men say they would prefer a daily pill as a reversible contraceptive, instead of long-acting injections or topical gels, which are also in development. She added that longer-term studies of DMAU are underway to confirm that taken daily, the drug blocks sperm production.

Development of a reliable birth control pill for men hasn’t been easy. Earlier studies found that some forms of oral testosterone delivered in a single pill can damage the liver or that the pills clear the body too quickly to be useful. DMAU contains a long-chain fatty acid that helps keep the contraceptive in the body longer.

In the works elsewhere is a gel called Nestorone-Testosterone that must be applied to the arms and shoulders daily. The hormone progestin in the gel shuts down hormones that stimulate testosterone production. An international study with 420 couples reportedly is testing whether the gel is safe and effective at preventing conception.

Another approach being investigated in India is temporary, nonsurgical vasectomy. It involves injecting a gel into sperm-carrying tubes in the scrotum. The gel damages sperm, leading to infertility. This treatment, called RISUG for “reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance,” can be undone with a second shot that breaks down the gel. I’ve read that some 540 men in India have received the treatment and that it has continued to prevent pregnancy in their partners for more than 13 years.

Despite these developments, it’s unlikely that a male contraceptive in pill or gel form will become available any time soon. For now, men should continue to use condoms, undergo vasectomy, or rely on women’s contraceptive use to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

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Foods, Health and Disease, Uncategorized

Wild Blueberry Cranberry Sauce

Wild Blueberry Cranberry Sauce

 

Enhance the nutrient power and healing properties of regular cranberry sauce with the addition of the most healing food on the planet: wild blueberries. Not only does this spin on traditional cranberry sauce taste incredible; its vibrant, rich color will also uplift your spirit.

wildbluecranberry

Wild blueberries contain dozens of undiscovered antioxidants, including anthocyanin varieties. There’s not just one pigment inside a wild blueberry; there are dozens of pigments not yet researched or studied. The wild blueberry is to the liver as mother’s milk is to a baby. Not only do wild blueberries have the ability to grab on to plenty of troublemakers, they also hold on to them as they leave the liver, in a way that most other healing foods cannot. The pigments in wild blueberries have the ability to saturate deep into liver cells and cross cell walls and membranes inside the liver, spreading their blue everywhere. Wild blueberries enhance the intestinal tract, feeding good bacteria there,

The anthocyanin in cranberries is multifaceted, as it does more than one job for your liver. Not only does it prevent oxidation in cells; it helps prevent cells from dying in general of toxic overload. It also removes and breaks free a variety of troublemakers, including those inherited from long past in the family line. The harsh fruit acid in cranberries that causes the mouth to pucker strips the cell membranes off pathogens, most especially bacteria. The vitamin C in cranberries holds similarities to the rare vitamin C in tomatoes in that it increases the liver’s immune system strength.

Wild Blueberry Cranberry Sauce 

Ingredients:
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup frozen wild blueberries
1 red apple, diced
1 tsp orange zest
Juice from 1 orange
1/3 cup coconut sugar or maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks

Directions:
Place all the ingredients in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered. Stir every few minutes for 20-30 minutes until the mixture is thick and the berries are soft.

Remove half the mixture from the pot and blend until smooth using an immersion blender or a jug blender. Place it back in the pot. Alternatively, you can leave the sauce chunky or blend it completely. Remove the cinnamon sticks and let cool before serving. Best kept in the fridge.

Makes about 1 cup

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Cultivate Self Compassion

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Cultivate Self Compassion

 

 

rosequartz

Life-changing strategies can help you be kinder to yourself.

 

Self-compassion not only helps you be kinder to yourself, but it also gives you the power to be kinder to the world around you.

 

These benefits have been empirically validated by Kristin Neff, PhD, one of the world’s foremost researchers on self-compassion. She established it as a field of study almost a decade ago, during her postdoctoral work at the University of Denver. In her book, Self-Compassion, Neff walks us through the scientific research underpinning the whys and hows of cultivating self-compassion. The volume is packed with both theoretical and practical goodness.

 

Neff’s basic argument is that self-compassion is made up of three components:

 

 

Self-kindness. We need to be kind to ourselves. Beating ourselves up is not helpful.

Common humanity. We’re not alone. It’s important to see that our suffering is part of a shared human experience.

Mindfulness. We want to observe our experience. We can learn to hold it in “balanced” awareness without trying to push our pain away or make it a bigger deal than it is.

Now let’s take a look at each of these elements in more detail.

 

 

 

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

 

“Self-kindness, by definition, means that we stop the constant self-judgment and disparaging internal commentary that most of us have come to see as normal. It requires us to understand our foibles and failures instead of condemning them. It entails clearly seeing the extent to which we harm ourselves through relentless self-criticism, and ending our internal war,” Neff writes.

 

“But self-kindness involves more than merely stopping self-judgment,” she adds. “It involves actively comforting ourselves, responding just as we would to a dear friend in need. It means we allow ourselves to be emotionally moved by our own pain, stopping to say, ‘This is really difficult right now. How can I care for and comfort myself in this moment?’ With self-kindness, we soothe and calm our troubled minds. We make a peace offering of warmth, gentleness, and sympathy from ourselves to ourselves, so that true healing can occur.”

 

I love the image of treating ourselves the same way we would treat a dear friend or family member. By slowing down and allowing ourselves to be emotionally moved by our own pain, we actively comfort ourselves.

 

The first step is to stop the internal heckling. Quit beating yourself up with thoughts like Why am I such an idiot? or, I can’t believe I did or said that. Instead, replace that heckling with phrases like I feel my pain right now. This is tough. How can I best take care of myself right now?

 

In short, be nice to yourself. It’s not as simple as it sounds, but learning to do it can lead to huge breakthroughs in your life.

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER

 

Once we’re in the practice of being kind to ourselves, we can work on the second fundamental element of self-compassion: recognizing the common human experience.

 

Neff argues that seeing our common humanity “helps to distinguish self-compassion from mere self-acceptance or self-love.

 

 

 

“Although self-acceptance and self-love are important, they are incomplete by themselves. They leave out an essential factor — other people. Compassion is, by definition, relational. Compassion literally means ‘to suffer with,’ which implies a basic mutuality in the experience of suffering.

 

“The emotion of compassion springs from the recognition that the human experience is imperfect. Why else would we say ‘It’s only human’ to comfort someone who has made a mistake? Self-compassion honors the fact that all human beings are fallible, that wrong choices and feelings of regret are inevitable, no matter how high and mighty one is.”

 

In our hyper-individualistic, hyper-comparative society, it’s easy to always try to outdo everyone and feel disconnected — either better or worse than those around us. But what if, instead, we slowed down and appreciated our sameness? Doing so gives us the ability to see the threads of our common humanity. It leads us to recognize that we all struggle and can connect to one another through our shared triumphs and failures.

 

 

 

FACE UP TO REALITY WITH MINDFULNESS

 

 

 

One way to stay connected to our own experience and to cultivate our connection to the experiences of others is by practicing mindfulness.

 

For Neff, “mindfulness refers to the clear seeing and nonjudgmental acceptance of what’s occurring in the present moment. Facing up to reality, in other words. The idea is that we need to see things as they are, no more, no less, in order to respond to our current situation in the most compassionate — and therefore effective — manner.”

 

Like many wise teachers, Neff reminds us that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. How we respond to pain determines our level of suffering. Resisting pain by trying to wish away whatever is happening — whether it’s something mundane, like traffic on the way to work, or something more significant, like a serious illness or death of a loved one — only causes our suffering to grow.

 

 

 

“Our emotional suffering is caused by our desire for things to be other than they are,” Neff explains. “Once something has occurred in reality, there is nothing you can do to change that reality in the present moment. This is how things are. You can choose to accept this fact or not, but reality will remain the same either way.”

 

 

Mindfulness is one tool we can develop to appropriately relate to reality.

 

 

 

TAKE NOTE

 

Neff’s “noting practice” is one of my all-time favorite tips for building mindfulness. She writes that “the idea is to make a soft mental note whenever a particular thought, emotion, or sensation arises. This helps us to become more consciously aware of what we’re experiencing.”

 

Noting is a simple way to create awareness, and I love to use it during my own meditation sessions. For example, when I observe my mind wandering off into strategizing or planning, I softly say the word “strategy” to myself  and then bring my attention back to my breath.

 

Give it a try and see if noting helps you become more conscious of your life experience.

 

Using the three components of self-compassion improves our chances of reaching our goals and living the profoundly beautiful and fulfilling life we all deserve.

 

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Health and Disease, Uncategorized

Signs of an Evil Person

evilperson

Signs of an Evil Person

 

The Evil 8 and the Nefarious 15

 

 

Evil 8 (signs)

1.) Arrogant Entitlement

2.) Lack of Empathy

3.) No Remorse

4.) Irresponsible/Self-Destructive

5.) Thrive on Drama

6.) Brag about Outsmarting

7.) Short-Term Relationships

8.) Fantasy World/Delusional

 

Nefarious 15 (More Signs)

1.) Infiltrate your life

2.) Create Conspiratorial Conflict

3.) Depend on Approval

4.) Build a file

5.) Misdirect and Obfuscate (Obfuscation (or beclouding) is the hiding of intended meaning in communication, making communication confusing, willfully ambiguous, and harder to interpret.)

6.) Blame Others

7.) Lie

8.) Frauds/Cheaters

9.) Isolate Victims

10.) Abuse Authority

11.) Press Hot buttons

12.) Revisionist of History

13.) Two-faced/Gossip

14.) Paranoid

15.) Passive-Aggressive

 

This list explains the similarities between narcissists/ sociopaths/ psychopaths

I agree with this list and sadly, it explains the similarities between all those who have abused/harmed possibly you and others.

 

It is wisdom to not ignore potential issues in people.

It is wisdom to sit back and watch their behaviour over time, to discern who they are and what their motivations are.

 

Do Not Give People the Benefit of the Doubt!

 

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Health and Disease, Rx to Wellness, Uncategorized

Panic Attacks and Anxiety

panicattacks

Natural Remedies for Anxiety & Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can strike some of us more than most, but we all go through it sooner or later. Working to beat a deadline, pay a bill, especially in this economic recession paying attention to your mental health is important!

Some natural remedies for anxiety and panic attacks include supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acids and SAMe. You can also use techniques like meditation or yoga. These alternative techniques have already changed the lives of many of the 40 million Americans afflicted by anxiety and panic attacks, which needless to say can be very disruptive in your life.

 

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is one type of anxiety order, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. In this day and age I think most of us have experienced this. People suffering from panic attacks don’t experience the type of anxiety everyone feels from time to time though, necessarily. People who have actual panic attacks are dealing with a mental illness. There are physical symptoms to panic attacks, and not just mental, these include high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and chest pain which many experience as feeling like a heart attack. Some may even think they are dying; these attacks arrive suddenly and unpredictably.

 

Natural Remedies

You can treat panic attacks naturally by learning mind and body relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation, eating more omega-3 fatty acids, and also fights depression and anxiety, and you can try SAMe, a supplement that replaces what is lost as we age, which looks as the most promising natural remedy for panic attacks.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Walnuts and Flaxseed)

We’ve all been told (hopefully) that Omega-3 fatty acids are good for cardiovascular health. This natural remedy is also great for anxiety disorders. In fact in places of the world where people eat a lot of Omega-3 rich foods (such as fish), we find less anxiety orders and depression. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Flaxseed, and Walnuts! Try adding one or more of them to your diet!

Meditation and Relaxation Techniques

It’s been proven that natural relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation, will be of great benefit to anybody troubled by anxiety orders, and they will improve energy, concentration, and mood. By learning to calm and balance your mind and emotions your heartbeat will benefit and you will suffer from less panic attacks.

SAMe

SAMe is a long name, (S-adenosylmethionine) and what it is is a molecule within our bodies, but as we age, less is produced. In theory this can help treat depression holistically with very few side effects. A downside is that it is expensive and may interact badly with certain other medications. As always ask before taking anything.

 

Please share with family and loved ones.

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Dr M Williams

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Rx to Wellness, Uncategorized

How to Take A Mental Health Day

how to take amental health day

How to Take a Mental Health Day

Sometimes, you just need a break. Some folks call this a “mental health day,” but I like to keep things in a positive light (and out of respect for those who do have legitimate mental health diseases), so let’s rename this concept a self care day. A day dedicated to you.
Regardless of what you call it, though, taking a timeout is pretty essential, and in today’s culture, we can easily overdo it. In general, downtime is looked upon as lazy, or not really necessary. Things are changing, but it’s up to us as individuals to know when we need a break, and to make space to take it. How to Take a Mental Health Day

Here’s a quick guide on how to take a self care day.
Clear Your Schedule, Un-apologetically
The main requirement of a self care day is to ditch the scheduled appointments. Frankly, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t mind a few less calendar appointments in their life.
If your appointments are with other people or recurring obligations, you don’t need to explain that you’re taking some self care time if you don’t feel it is helpful. In my opinion, if you’re just honest — sorry, something personal’s come up, I need to reschedule — then no harm, no foul.
I do mean clear everything possible; if you have children, find someone who can help you out.
Downshift
Now that you’ve cleared some space, downshift. A self care day is not “a day I catch up on errands and clean the house.” The laundry can wait. Weed the garden tomorrow. Do not wash the dishes in the sink unless you truly enjoy washing dishes. Nope. This is a day for you.
Start it out with activities specifically geared towards downshifting. Some examples/ideas to get you thinking: Something warm to drink, light some candles, run a hot bath, take a nap, stretch, meditate. What does slowing down mean to you?
Treat Yourself
I think the perfect self care day requires a little treat of some kind. Treating yourself means different things to different people, so do not think you need to be getting pedicures and eating dark chocolate. Choose things that really feel like a treat to you (think “guilty indulgences” without the guilt): pancakes, a walk, a swim in the pool, hug a tree, take an online yoga class.
Of course, if treating yourself feels like just reading in bed or laying on the couch and watching a fun movie on Netflix, so be it.
Pause to Reflect at the End of the Day
At the end of a self care day, I think it’s important to take a few moments to just reflect on the day and your experience. Perhaps you want to promise yourself that you will take a time out again when needed — maybe put it on the calendar now? Maybe you realized that one of your favorite treats you can be incorporated into you daily ritual instead. If nothing else, share some gratitude with yourself and give yourself a nice pat on the back for taking good care of yourself.

Remember: no matter how many responsibilities you have, your primary responsibility is to take care of YOU, so that you can show up fully to those other pieces in your life.
Please share with your family and loved ones.

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

How Being Good to Others Can Be Good For You

beinggoodtoothers

How being good to others can be good for you.

 

Treating other people well isn’t just good for your karma. It’s good for your health and vitality, too.

 

Psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, author of Love 2.0: Creating Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection, studies how “micro-moments” of connection with others, like sharing a smile or expressing concern, improve emotional resilience, boost the immune system, and reduce susceptibility to depression and anxiety.

 

In Fredrickson’s view, our psyches need affirmative human connection in much the same way that our bodies need wholesome food.

 

“Moments of uplifting positive emotions function like nutrients for creativity, growth, and health,” she says.

 

Still, while none of us wakes with the intention to curse other drivers, snap at our kids, or shame our employees, we do — more often than anyone likes.

 

Moments of uplifting positive emotions function like nutrients for creativity, growth, and health.

 

And according to psychologist Elisha Goldstein, PhD, author of Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, this may be because our brains contain a “negativity bias,” which favors cautious, fear-based thoughts over generous, positive ones.

 

We’ve evolved this defense mechanism to protect us from lurking danger, he notes, but it doesn’t protect our relationships very well. And in our fast-paced culture, where we compete for everything from parking spaces to pay raises, our primal survival behaviors are triggered routinely.

 

“We live in a kind of fundamental scarcity,” explains Kristi Nelson, executive director of A Network for Grateful Living, a nonprofit that promotes gratitude practice. “That sense of scarcity tends to run our lives.”

 

It also leads to perpetual rushing, which only makes matters worse. In Nelson’s view, the “preoccupation with always getting somewhere and getting more” drives an unhealthy tendency toward self-focus. We start to believe “it’s me or them.” All the time.

 

Under this kind of pressure, the very idea of being kind — keeping the needs and feelings of others in mind, showing care and empathy — can start to seem like a luxury at best. At worst, it just seems foolish.

 

Yet the act of focusing on others can reduce our eat-or-be-eaten anxieties. And in the process, it may actually improve our health and well-being.

 

In 2013 Fredrickson conducted a six-week study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that tested the effects of meditation on stress. Instead of focusing on a mantra or the sound of the breath, participants were instructed to meditate on compassionate thoughts toward themselves and others — including people they did not like.

 

After six weeks, participants were tested for the effects of their practice on the vagus nerve, a cerebral nerve that stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to regulate digestion and cardiovascular health. In participants who reported an increase in positive feelings and social connections, “vagal tone” was also improved.

 

And kindness does get easier with practice. When we’re good to others, says Goldstein, our mental habits of scarcity, negativity, and rigidity begin to shift. We become less and less worried about getting our share.

 

Interested in encouraging that positive shift within yourself? Here are eight simple ways to begin.

 

CULTIVATING KINDNESS

Strategies for growing compassionate connections with yourself and others.

 

ADJUST YOUR AUTOMATIC RESPONSES.

Stress triggers us to act in unkind ways — maybe cursing the driver who cut us off, or snapping at our kids when they’re slow getting dressed. Then we feel bad about it, which creates more stress.

 

“We get stuck in these anxious, negative loops,” says Goldstein. “So we seek out comfort where we can find it, and end up overeating, or paying too much attention to our smartphones, or otherwise constantly trying to distract ourselves.”

 

Fortunately, we can hack these automatic tendencies by consciously building new mental habits. “The brain has the wonderful ability to make things automatic,” Goldstein says. “When you have awareness that you want to be kind, and then you practice it, you’re essentially rewiring the compassionate part of your mind.”

 

When you notice an irritated thought, redirect your mind, he suggests. Don’t try to be kind right away; it will only annoy you further. Instead, take a breath and see if (counter to your automatic thoughts) you have what you really need and are basically OK.

 

You might still have time to get where you’re going, even if your kids are being pokey. Or you might realize that even if you are going to be late, you don’t want to waste time fuming about it. That’s all it takes to shift your mind into a kinder mode.

 

PUT YOUR HAND ON YOUR HEART.

This technique seems almost too simple to work, and yet it’s unbelievably effective for creating a sense of compassion and empathy, says Kristin Neff, PhD, University of Texas associate professor in human development, culture, and learning sciences, and author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

 

Our physiology is hardwired to recognize this simple gesture as self-soothing. Trauma expert Peter Levine, PhD, theorizes that the hand-on-heart exercise works because the human nervous system is responsive to touch; like babies, we respond to being held by relaxing and calming down. That touch also brings us back into connection with our bodies and, in particular, our breath.

 

“It seems weird at first, when you start practicing this,” Neff admits. “But your mammalian system kicks in immediately when you place your hand on your heart. You begin to use a warmer, gentler tone with yourself and with others.”

 

SHIFT YOUR FOCUS TO WHAT’S WORKING.

Cultivate a sense of satisfaction whenever you get the chance. Even when you feel like life is a chaotic mess and you’re not getting the love, respect, or paycheck you deserve, take a step back to recognize a few good things in your world, advises Nelson.

 

“Often, kindness is just about stopping in your tracks and becoming aware of what you have,” she says.

 

Being grateful for amorphous blessings like health and love is fine, but a more helpful inventory might include overlooked gifts like clean water, warm clothes, even the ability to read these words.

 

Nelson calls seeking and naming these fundamental gifts “the radical commitment to take nothing for granted.”

 

When life feels abundant, it’s easier to be generous — and avoid the trap of scarcity thinking.

 

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OBLIGATIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES.

Most of us have schedules, calendars, and other tools to keep us on track. Unfortunately, the quest to get things done can take precedence over our interactions with others. Marketing meeting: done. Oil change and brake repair: scheduled. Lunch with friend to talk about her divorce: check. What’s next on the day’s agenda?

 

“Many people are so wrapped up with their to-do lists that they treat people as obstacles, or as a means to some end that’s related to achievement,” says Fredrickson. “Why not slow down and really spend time in someone’s company? To do so is a gift to both you and the other person.”

 

The practice of being present in the midst of other people — not checking your phone, not rushing to deliver advice as soon as someone starts describing a problem, not scheduling social engagements back to back — can have profound effects, adds Goldstein.

 

He recalls one of his mindfulness students relating an anecdote about dinner with friends. Instead of always thinking about what she had to do next, she focused on listening to the conversation.

 

“Her friends noticed immediately, and they felt grateful,” he says. “That one decision had a ripple effect, where everyone there began showing each other more kindness.

 

“That’s what happens when we’re truly present with each other. You inspire other people to do the same for you.”

 

RESPECT THOSE YOU HELP.

Giving to those in need is a beautiful act, but how you think about that gesture is important, says Nelson. She believes that “giving” is noble, but the notion of “charity” is inherently limiting. It doesn’t recognize how much we have in common with those we want to help, and it places us above them instead.

 

“Humility is one of the key ingredients to kindness,” she states. “When you’re being kind because you believe you’re better than someone else and they need your pity, then giving is less meaningful.”

 

Whatever the action is — volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating to a homeless shelter, or comforting a friend — there’s an enormous difference between being kind out of a sense of respect and doing it because you believe the other person is beneath you and has nothing to offer you in return.

 

“Pity sets up a hierarchy,” says Nelson. “It leads to us projecting our needs onto other people, not seeing what they truly need.”

 

Instead, she advises, keep in mind that we all are vulnerable and need help in our own ways. The kindness of generosity flows in all directions, including toward you. It feels good to give; you get something out of the interaction, too.

 

BE CONSCIOUS OF THE MONEY EFFECT.

As Nelson points out, being preoccupied with acquiring material wealth can lead to unconscious unkindness. But even having money on our minds (which is hard not to do when we’re constantly encouraged to make and spend more of it) can be enough to make us less friendly.

 

In a fascinating set of experiments, researchers primed one set of subjects to think about money, showing them phrases related to wealth, screensavers with pictures of dollar bills, and more. They primed another group with neutral imagery.

 

The money-primed subjects underwent two observable changes: First, they became more self-reliant and less likely than the other group to ask for help. Second, they became markedly less inclined to offer help to others in need.

 

For example, in one experiment a researcher walked through the room and spilled a bunch of pencils. The subjects who’d been primed to think about money consistently offered less assistance, picking up far fewer pencils than the other group.

 

For Nelson, overcoming the influence of money on our behavior involves staying conscious of our scarcity mentality. “That sense of scarcity is insidious,” she says, “and it takes engagement and mindfulness to run counter to that.”

 

Once again, reminding yourself that you do have enough — even if your resources are modest — is a powerful tool for inciting a mindset of kindness and consideration.

 

START AT HOME.

Studies in behavioral science have found that most of us are more likely to act cheerful toward complete strangers than the people we see and live with every day.

 

While any positive interaction boosts our baseline well-being, according to Fredrickson, it’s good to bring our kindness practice home, not least because it can be more difficult to be warm and caring toward the people we see routinely — and who occasionally annoy us, bore us, or treat us rudely. If we can rise to that challenge, we know we’re really growing.

 

“When we think about kindness, we often imagine these grand gestures, but we don’t need to join the Peace Corps to create more compassion in our lives,” says Nelson. “Start by looking closer to home. How do you treat the people you live with?”

 

REMEMBER THAT KINDNESS IS A PRACTICE, NOT A PROJECT.

In our quest for kindness, challenges are inevitable. Someone will always be driving slow in the fast lane or passing on the right. Mean-spirited gossip will forever be circulating at work. There will always be lines, angry online commenters, personal upheavals. And that’s OK.

 

“It’s better to see this as a playful adventure rather than a project that needs to get accomplished,” says Goldstein. “You’re trying to rewire yourself for a greater sense of well-being and purpose in the world, and that requires some lightness in your attitude. Once you become too aggressive or serious about it, then you’re going the wrong way.”

 

One trap many people fall into, according to Goldstein, is thinking of kindness as an achievement. This creates an idea of an endpoint: You did all the right things, so now you can check “being kind” off your to-do list.

 

A better approach, he suggests, is to strive to develop a growing awareness of what happens when we stray from kindness, and then gently direct ourselves back toward the compassionate path.

 

“You can cultivate kindness” says Goldstein, “by simply inviting yourself to begin again.”

HOW KIND ARE YOU

 

Our brains have a “negativity bias,” which predisposes us to fear-based, kindness-killing behaviors like rushing and defensiveness, explains Elisha Goldstein, PhD. But we can develop habits to help override those impulses.

 

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