well-ness noun [wel-nis]
1. the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.
2. a dynamic state of health in which an individual progresses toward a higher level of functioning, achieving an optimum balance between internal and external environments.
3. A philosophy of life and personal hygiene that views health as not merely the absence of illness, but the full realization of one's physical and mental potential as achieved through positive attitudes, and the avoidance of unhealthful practices.
These days it feels like we never stop. Between work, friends, family, and all the other daily stressors we encounter it can be easy to find yourself in a low place. Tired, difficulty concentrating, unmotivated to do anything, feeling hopeless or irritable, loss of interest in activities you like; all of those can be signs of depression. Depression is not uncommon and more people now than ever are taking antidepressants. However, antidepressants are not a necessary or even wanted solution for all of us. If you have mild to moderate depression there are other approaches to feeling better, a handful are listed here:
1. Sunshine – When you’re feeling down or even exhausted, getting sunshine is a great way to improve your mood. Sunlight provides our bodies with vitamin D; vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to a variety of chronic illnesses including depression. Research has shown that increasing Vitamin D by light therapy or by supplementation can help to reduce the symptoms of depression. However, if you choose to go out in the sun, sunscreen does prevent absorption of vitamin D, so if you can, spend small amounts of time in the sun frequently throughout the day.
2. Exercise – Regular exercise is vital to preventing and reducing symptoms of depression. Endorphins are chemicals released into the body that help to reduce pain. Exercising is one way you can get your body to produce endorphins. Research has shown that endorphins not only reduce pain, but also help to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Hence the term “Runner’s high”; continuous exercise between moderate and vigorous intensity activates the production of endorphins during exercise. Exercise also improves sleep duration and quality (also important to reducing depression). Other ways to induce endorphin production are excitement, laughing, and receiving comfort or hugs in a safe space.
3. Eating healthy – While emotional health and diet may seem to be unrelated, a number of recent studies have suggested that there is an association between what we eat and symptoms of depression. One such study showed that people who reported eating “processed foods” like sweetened desserts, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains and high-fat dairy products were more likely to report symptoms of depression than people who reported eating more “whole foods” such as fruits and vegetables. Most recently, a large study conducted by the National Institute of Health, found that increased consumption of sweetened drinks was associated with depression, especially diet soda, diet fruit punch and diet iced tea which contain artificial sweeteners. Eating a diet rich in particular nutrients such as vitamin B-complex, Omega-3 Fatty acids, and vitamin D have also been shown to reduce symptoms of depression.
4. Meditation – Numerous research studies have found that practicing mindfulness meditation can help to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of awareness of emotions, feelings both mental and physical, and being non-judgmental and present with those feelings. The purpose of this type of meditation is to acknowledge all of the emotions and feelings you are experiencing in that moment instead of ignoring them; alternating between positive thoughts and negative thoughts in hopes to invoke peace and awareness.
5. Mindset – Changing your mindset is another way to increase your ability to overcome depression and deal with the challenges and stress of our daily lives. If there is something you are unhappy about or a particular situation that is causing you to feel depressed, try to come up with a few positive outcomes of the situation or how the situation could be worse. Even though it may seem challenging to be optimistic write down a list and continuously use it to remind yourself to be positive. Also, consistently remind yourself of even the smallest things in your life that are going right, that make you happy, and you have to be proud of.
If you're going through something now, keep your head up, you're not alone, and you most definitely can confront any challenge!
Marisa Molina has a B.S. in Molecular Biology and Master’s in Public Health, Epidemiology. She currently manages a research study on obesity and exercise funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in South San Diego County. She has a passion for all things health-related and hopes to increase health awareness by sharing current scientific research with mainstream audiences.
About the Author
Eric Santos is a blogger, growth hacker, and entrepreneur. Eric is the co-founder and Business Guy at WishBooklet, a gift crowdfunding web-app that makes getting the gifts you really want easy. Eric is also the co-founder of Dwibbles and former founder and CEO of Soshowise Inc. Eric received a B.S in Entrepreneurship from CSUF.
By Catherine Guthrie
When Amy Buttell separated from her husband in 2005, her anxiety spiked off the charts. A suddenly single mother, Buttell didn’t have a lot of money to throw around. Still, in the wake of her marital upheaval, she made massage a priority. It helped her weather the storm, she says, and today, she still finds that getting one or two massages a month helps keep stress at bay. And that helps her defend against physiological tension, too.
“When I’m anxious, I feel all clenched up,” says the 49-year-old marketing communications director from Erie, Pa. “My massage therapist untangles my knots.” Like many people, Buttell values not only the hands-on healing but also the opportunity to power down her brain and nervous system for an hour or so. “Even if I’m short on money,” she says, “I find a way to make it happen.”
Buttell is not alone. Despite massage’s reputation as a self-indulgent luxury, an increasing number of people are embracing it — not just as a “spa treatment,” but as a powerful therapeutic tool.
Americans currently log more than 114 million trips to massage therapists every year. Massage therapists are the second most visited complementary and alternative medicine providers behind chiropractors. All told, Americans spend up to $11 billion a year on massage. And statistics from the American Massage Therapy Association project that over the next five years, that number is likely to grow considerably.
What we’re getting for our money, whether we realize it or not, is an access code of sorts — a healing key capable of opening the body’s stickiest locks.
Scrunching our shoulders, craning our necks, sitting for hours, driving in rush-hour traffic — such mundane activities can create patterns of muscle tension (referred to as “holding”) in the body. And when muscles are chronically tense or tweaked, it can have a nasty effect on both our bodies and our minds.
Persistent musculoskeletal tension can restrict blood circulation and nutrient supplies to the body’s organs and tissues. As the weblike connective tissue (fascia) that envelops the muscles gets increasingly dense and less mobile, it can negatively affect posture and breathing. The experience of low-grade, habitual tension can contribute to chronic hormonal, biochemical and neurological problems of all kinds.
Massage interrupts such stress-inducing patterns, and helps nudge the body back into a natural state of balance.
So what is massage, exactly? Scientists who study its health benefits often use the therapy’s broadest definition: “The manipulation of soft tissue for the purpose of producing physiological effects.”
That clinical definition hardly does massage justice, though. So read on to find out more about the subtleties of various types of massage, and the powerful healing potential they might hold for you.
In conventional medicine, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are the gold standard. But massage and most other forms of bodywork don’t lend themselves well to such studies. Therefore, scientific “proof,” both for massage’s efficacy and its means of function, runs a little thin. But convincing clinical evidence is accumulating.
For example, in 2004, Christopher Moyer, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin–Stout, published a meta-analysis on massage therapy research and found that, on average, research subjects who received massage had a lower level of anxiety than those who did not.
“My research consistently finds that massage does have an impact on anxiety,” says Moyer. “We don’t know exactly why, but people who get massage have less anxiety afterward.”
One popular explanation is that massage lowers the body’s levels of cortisol, the hormone notorious for triggering the body’s fight-or-flight response. “No matter how we measure cortisol — in saliva or urine — or how often, we always find that massage has a beneficial effect,” says Tiffany Field, PhD, a researcher at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.
Although Moyer is yet to be convinced of the cortisol connection, both he and Field agree that massage is potentially very therapeutic for what’s known as “state” anxiety. Unlike generalized anxiety disorders, state anxiety is a reaction to something you can pinpoint, such as a troubling or traumatic event, circumstance, or setting.
Although more research is needed, says Moyer, “some experts posit that the reported alleviation of state anxiety could be a result of something as simple as the social and psychological environment where massage takes place.”
Aside from stress, if there’s one thing that drives people to the massage table in droves, it’s pain. Especially lower-back pain, which up to 85 percent of Americans experience at some point during their lives.
In 2008, the Cochrane Collaboration (a global, independent, nonprofit organization that reviews the usefulness of healthcare interventions) published an examination of the evidence linking massage to relieving lower-back pain. Reviewing 13 clinical trials, they found massage to be a promising treatment.
“Physical pain is like the alarm system of a house,” says Andrea Furlan, PhD, a clinical epidemiologist who specializes in massage at the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto. “With acute pain, like a burn or a broken bone, the pain signal indicates something is wrong. But, if you have pain every day, like chronic back pain, the alarm is malfunctioning. Massage may not be able to turn off the alarm, but it can lower the volume.”
Theories abound on how massage interrupts the body’s pain loop. One of the oldest and most well-regarded explanations is called the gate-control theory. Proponents surmise that pain signals to the brain are muffled by competing stimuli. More specifically, pain travels on small-diameter nerve fibers, while massage stimulates large-diameter ones. Larger nerve fibers relay messages to the brain faster than smaller ones. In essence, says Furlan, the sensation of the massage “wins” over the sensation of pain.
One word of advice from fitness experts, though: You’ll get more lasting, long-term relief of lower-back pain by supplementing massage with isometric core exercises, such as planks, that focus on strengthening the muscles that support and guide the spine’s movements.
Tension leads to headaches, so it follows that massage would help ease them. And for many, trigger-point therapy can prove particularly effective.
“A trigger point is an area of tightly contracted muscle tissue,” says Albert Moraska, PhD, a researcher focused on complementary medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. “Trigger points in the shoulder and neck refer [relay] pain to the head. By reducing the activity of trigger points, we can reduce headaches.”
Moraska’s work, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, explores how massaging the neck and shoulders can ease tension-type headaches. “We think massage can disrupt trigger points by forcing apart the tightly contracted sarcomeres (proteins responsible for contraction) within the muscle cells; as a result, the cells relax and subsequently muscle tension dissipates.”
Roughly one in five Americans suffers from sleep deprivation, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. That’s a problem, because lack of sleep alters the body’s biochemistry, making it more vulnerable to inflammation and lowered immunity, and more sensitive to pain.
“The relationship between pain and sleep deprivation is a vicious cycle,” says Tiffany Field. “Your body doesn’t get
the rest it needs to heal.”
Although studies of massage therapy and sleep quality are few, the findings suggest that massage can promote deeper, less disturbed sleep, especially in people with painful chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia. Massage therapy indirectly promotes good sleep by relieving pain and encouraging relaxation.
Because massage therapy stimulates the body’s parasympathetic “rest-and-relax” nervous system (the opposite of its sympathetic “fight-or-flight” response), it counters both physical and mental stresses — giving you a better shot at enjoying the sleep you need to repair tissue during the night and to cope better during the day.
It may seem surprising that physically manipulating the body can help counter a malady we associate with the brain. But, in his oft-cited 2004 review, Christopher Moyer found that depression is particularly responsive to massage.
The average research subject who received massage had a level of depression that was lower than 73 percent of those who did not. These findings are on par with more conventional approaches to treating depression, including psychotherapy.
Field’s research on depression shows that massage boosts the body’s natural levels of serotonin, a substance that works “much like Prozac” in the brain. Her studies show that massage also encourages the brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine, a mood enhancer, as well as oxytocin, a hormone that generates feelings of contentment.
While the exact mechanisms are unclear, it seems evident that a good massage has a variety of positive psychological implications as well, from receiving nurturing touch from another person, anticipating that the experience will be beneficial, or feeling empathy from the therapist.
Given how positively it affects the rest of the body and mind, and how well it moderates stress, it probably comes as no surprise that massage therapy can also benefit the heart — in part by reducing blood pressure. In his meta-analysis, Moyer found that massage significantly lowers blood pressure, at least temporarily.
He notes that the findings are consistent with the theory that massage can trigger the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which helps prompt the body to return to biochemical balance and emotional ease after enduring a stressful event.
But perhaps the bigger takeaway here is that massage can help unlock the body’s healing potential not by any one means, but rather by many. As epidemiologist Andrea Furlan points out, “Well before drugs or surgical procedures were developed, people used massage to treat almost everything.” Still, today, she notes, “when we get hurt, our first instinct is to rub.”
Amy Buttell, for one, doesn’t need any more evidence than her own transformation. “I don’t know if it’s the touch, the warm table, or the fact that I get to turn my phone off for an hour, but I do know that massage is worth every penny.”
Catherine Guthrie is an Indiana-based health writer and a regular contributor to ExperienceLife.com
Mangos are packed with powerful and healthy nutrients. They are also soothing to the intestines, and easy to digest. So, if you have stomach problems or indigestion, try a mango. Mangos contain a lot of vitamin C and P (Bioflavonoids: This nutrient acts together with Vitamin C to help maintain healthy blood vessels, promote circulation and stimulate bile production; it also has an antibacterial affect, fighting allergies and asthma, etc.), in combination with calcium. In India, mangos are used to stop bleeding, to strengthen the heart, and to benefit the brain.
Because of their high content of iron, mangos help build the blood, and can help people suffering from anemia, and are beneficial for women during pregnancy and menstruation. The potassium and magnesium content of mangos may help to relax muscle cramps, and fight acidosis. The potassium content of mangos also makes them ideal for those experiencing heart problems.
Mangos also contain loads of vitamin A, B3, B5, B6, and E. Vitamin A, or beta-carotene, protects the skin, and the mucus membranes, helps the eyes, and stimulates the metabolism. Mangos are one of the richest natural sources of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a very effective and powerful antioxidant that fights free-radicals, and helps to prevent degenerative diseases. One mango supplies more than your daily need of beta-caroten. Mangos also contain Luteocanthin and Violoaxanthin. These B-vitamins strengthen the nervous system, help the body to deal with stress, and are partly responsible for pigmenting the skin and hair. Vitamin E is an antioxidant as well, and is often called the "vitamin of fertility."
Mangos are helpful in relieving stress because of their magnesium and potassium content, and are also good to elevate the spirit because they contain enzymes and tryptophan (an amino acid), the precursor of the "happiness hormone" serotonin. There are a lot of healthy enzymes in mangos, such as magneferin, katechol oxidase,and lactase, and these help the fruit to defend itself against insects. These enzymes also help stimulate our metabolism and purify the intestines. Hartwell claims in his book "Plants Against Cancer," that the phenols in mangos, such as quercetin, isoquercitrin, astragalin, fisetin, gall acid, and methylgallat, as well as the abundant enzymes, have healing and cancer-preventing capacities.
The amino acid content in mangos is noteworthy. Among these protein-builders is glutamin acid, which is an ideal nutrient for the brain, and beneficial for concentration and memory. Like the avocado and persimmon, mangos contain a whole and balanced amino acid profile, including arginin, asparagin acid, histidin, isoleucin, lysin, phenylalalin, prolin, threonin, tyrosin and salin. These amino acids are used by the body to form proteins, to build the blood, and to diminish stress. Mango top health benefits:
1. Prevents Cancer:
Research has shown antioxidant compounds in mango fruit have been found to protect against colon, breast, leukemia and prostate cancers.
2. Lowers Cholesterol:
The high levels of fiber, pectin and vitamin C help to lower serum cholesterol levels, specifically Low-Density Lipoprotein (the bad stuff).
3. Clears the Skin:
Can be used both internally and externally for the skin. Mangos clear clogged pores and eliminate pimples.
4. Eye Health:
One cup of sliced mangoes supplies 25 percent of the needed daily value of vitamin A, which promotes good eyesight and prevents night blindness and dry eyes.
5. Alkalizes the Whole Body:
The tartaric acid, malic acid, and a trace of citric acid found in the fruit help to maintain the alkali reserve of the body.
6. Helps in Diabetes:
Mango leaves help normalize insulin levels in the blood. The traditional home remedy involves boiling leaves in water, soaking through the night and then consuming the filtered liquid in the morning. Mango fruit also have a relatively low glycemic index (41-60) so moderate quantities will not spike your sugar levels.
7. Improved Sex:
Mangos are a great source of vitamin E. Research has shown balanced amounts (as from whole food) helps to spark your sex drive.
8. Improves Digestion:
Papayas are not the only fruit that contain enzymes for breaking down protein. There are several fruits, including mangoes, which have this healthful quality. The fiber in mangos also helps digestion and elimination.
9. Remedy for Heat Stroke
Juicing the fruit from green mango and mixing with water and a sweetener helps to cool down the body and prevent harm to the body. From an ayurvedic viewpoint, the reason people often get diuretic and exhausted when visiting equatorial climates is because the strong “sun energy” is burning up your body, particularly the muscles. The kidneys then become overloaded with the toxins from this process.
10. Boosts Immune system
The generous amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A in mangos, plus 25 different kinds of carotenoids keep your immune system healthy and strong.
To say that I love freshly squeezed orange juice would be a severe understatement. It’s probably more accurate to say that if I had the resources to fund a drinking fountain of endless fresh squeezed OJ for my home I’d combust from too much joy (and I’d probably attract a lot of friendly neighbors). Aside from the fact that it tastes so sweet and refreshing, the benefits of fresh orange juice are remarkable. It’s important to first recognize that fresh squeezed juice is much, much different than the array of processed blends that are available on supermarket shelves. Even though they look and smell almost identical, commercial OJ is highly engineered.
From a technical perspective, we know that after the oranges are squeezed, the juice is stored in giant holding tanks and, critically, the oxygen is removed from them. That essentially allows the liquid to keep (for up to a year) without spoiling– but that liquid that we think of as orange juice tastes nothing like the Tropicana OJ that comes out of the carton. To bring the flavor back in after pasteurization, the company adds artificial flavorings and additional nutrients. Unlike fresh, the processed juice lacks the the bioflavonoids and vitamin C that provide most of the health benefits. Thus, fresh-squeezed orange juice consumed within a few hours of preparing it is likely to have the most nutrients and in ratios that occur in nature.
To celebrate these rawesome benefits and my unwavering obsession with freshly squeezed orange juice, I whipped up this delicious juice blend that is sure to make you shine like the sun.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Servings: One smoothie (Approximately 3.5 cups)
1. To make the juice, peel and send the oranges and lemon wedge through the juicer. I personally use a Hurom HU-100 Slow Juicer, but any juicer will do.
2. Pour the juice into a blender and add the pineapple and mango. Blend the mixture until completely smooth.
For more freshly prepared raw recipes, visit www.withrawintentions.com
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