Today’s Extra: 9 Gifts for the Dog Lovers in Your Life

9 Gifts for the Dog Lovers in Your Life

Dogs are easy to shop for. Toys, treats, a comfy bed — and they’re happy. But what about dog lovers? If you’re searching for the perfect gift for a dog lover, check out these nine options.

1. PERSONALIZED DOG GEAR

As a dog parent, you might eye those collars, leashes, toys, beds, etc. that you can personalize with your dog’s name. But you just can’t justify the cost when you already have perfectly fine gear at home. That’s where gifting comes in. Treat the dog lover in your life with personalized canine gear. This company, PrideBites, even puts your pup’s image on its products. Dog lovers already swoon over their furry friends, so they’re bound to love something personalized just for their animal.

2. A PAW PRINT KEEPSAKE

For the crafty dog lover, consider a clay paw print impression kit, so they can create a cherished keepsake. The kits — such as this one that forms an ornament — typically include nontoxic clay, which you roll out and press your dog’s paw into. Then, you either bake or air-dry the clay, depending on the product. And you can paint your creation to truly customize it. Plus, if you don’t want to gift a ready-made kit, you can easily create your own for a more personal touch.

3. CUSTOM CANINE ART

Your dog-loving friend probably thinks their animal is the most adorable pooch ever to walk the Earth. So why not spoil them with custom artwork of their fur kid? There are many business options out there that can turn a dog’s photo into a lifelike piece of art. And though you aren’t the one who created it, handmade gifts like this are always appreciated.

4. A DOGGIE DNA TEST

If the dog lover in your life happens to have a mixed-breed pup, consider gifting them a canine DNA test kit. It’s a fun way for them to learn a little more about their animal, and it might actually be a gift in disguise for the dog, too. “Once predominant breeds are established, owners can take their results to their veterinarian to discuss potential health issues associated with specific breeds,” according to WebMD. For instance, you might find out your dog’s dominant breed is prone to arthritis, so you can take steps to protect its joints. Regardless, the kit makes a fun gift and conversation piece for dog lovers.

5. DOG-FUR YARN

If you share your home with a dog, odds are you’ve uttered something along the lines of: “I could make a sweater with all the fur you lose!” Well, you actually can. There are companies that will spin your dog’s fur into yarn, which you then can turn into any sort of knitted garment. According to the American Kennel Club, dog-fur yarn — or chiengora — is soft like angora wool and even warmer than sheep’s wool. (And don’t worry — you won’t smell like a dog once it’s cleaned and spun.) You need about a grocery bag of fur to create small items, such as mittens. So as a gift, you can do the legwork (i.e., brushing) and gather that fur if you’re able. But if you can’t, you still can offer to fund the process for a truly original present.

6. PERSONALIZED APPAREL

If wearable dog fur isn’t quite what you’re looking for, how about a custom item with the image of your gift recipient’s animal? Just like with the custom artwork, there are many businesses that specialize in turning a pet’s image into apparel for humans. For instance, this company will put your dog’s face onto a vibrant pair of socks, so you can always feel like you’re taking your dog for a walk. And this business features a necklace to which you can add charms stamped with your dog’s name — perfect for people with multiple animals. There’s definitely something out there for any dog lover’s taste.

7. A SUBSCRIPTION BOX

Another product many dog parents eye but haven’t tried is a monthly subscription box of dog gear. For you, it’s an easy gift option that’s sure to please the recipient — and more importantly, their dog. Yes, this is really a gift for the canine companion, but a true dog lover will find joy in it, as well. And many of the subscription companies have gift options that essentially are just trials of the service. For instance, BarkBox allows you to give a subscription for one, three, six or 12 months. For the gift recipient, it’s a great way to try a service that’s probably already piqued their interest.

8. DOG-THEMED BAKEWARE

For the dog lovers who love to cook, consider gifting them some dog-themed bakeware. There are many kitchen items with paws prints and funny sayings about dogs. (And odds are the dog lover you’re shopping for has some of them.) Check out these silicone baking molds with both paws and bones. They’re fine for making human food. But they’re even better if you bake homemade dog treats for your pup. Plus, you can use them to mold frozen treats, as well.

9. A DONATION IN THEIR HONOR

Regardless of whether the dog lover in your life has a pup of their own, they still clearly care about dogs. Honor their passion by donating in their name to an organization that helps dogs. Try to learn whether your gift recipient has a favorite animal charity, as many dog lovers do. Or do your research, and choose a worthy cause. Some groups even allow you to sponsor a specific dog, which can add some fun to your gift. Or you can gift a membership to an animal organization, which usually comes with several perks for the recipient. No matter what, you’re showing your dog lover friend that you love dogs, too.

 

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Today’s Extra: Do Pets Really Make People Healthier?

Do Pets Really Make People Healthier?

 

Who exactly are the people sharing their homes with animals? And how does it affect their lives? One large study aimed to explore just that. It’s been widely reported that pets can improve our health — both mentally and physically. But it might not be that simple. Here’s what researchers have learned about the differences between pet owners and non-owners.

PET OWNERS VERSUS NON-OWNERS

Researchers from the RAND Corporation and UCLA analyzed data from a California health survey of more than 42,000 adults with diverse backgrounds. They aimed to learn how pet owners and non-owners differed “across a variety of socio-demographic and health measures.”

The study broke down pet ownership into four groups: non-pet owners, dog owners, cat owners and people who had both dogs and cats. (Other types of pets were not included in the data.) Here’s what it found.

  • About 26.2 percent of the respondents had a dog, 21.5 percent had a cat and 8.5 percent had both.
  • Women were more likely than men to be either a cat or dog owner (or have both).
  • White people were much more likely to have dogs or cats compared to other races and ethnicities.
  • Pet owners were more likely to be homeowners and married.
  • Pet owners also were more likely to have full-time jobs and make more money than non-owners.

The upshot? “Overall, pet owners are more likely to be: single females or married, younger, White, live in more rural areas, live in homes, and belong to households where everyone is employed full time,” according to the study. So what about the differences in health?

PETS AND THEIR HUMANS’ HEALTH

The respondents were asked to rank their general health. They also reported their body mass index and whether they had asthma. Here’s what the data showed.

  • Dog and cat owners ranked their general health as slightly better than non-owners. But once the study controlled for other factors that influence health — such as income and marital status — the differences between the groups disappeared.
  • Pet owners were more likely to have asthma than non-owners, though this survey couldn’t say whether the pets caused the asthma, the people already had it or there was another factor at play.
  • Dog owners were slightly more likely to have a higher BMI.

Besides that, the study found no other remarkable differences in health between pet and non-pet owners after it controlled for socio-demographic factors. “Some of the health differences observed between pet owners and non owners could be over- or underestimated due to differences in socio-demographic variables such as age, race, gender, employment, income, and housing, and not necessarily (or solely) differences in pet ownership patterns,” the study says. For instance, because pet owners tend to have higher incomes — a factor that’s associated with better health — it might appear as though pets have a greater influence on health for those people than they actually do.

Thus, the study points out how difficult it is to determine a causal relationship between pets and health. And it suggests research that doesn’t adjust for other variables could draw erroneous conclusions.

THE BOTTOM LINE

This isn’t to say you won’t see any health benefits from having an animal in your life. As the study says, it’s hard to determine how much each variable contributes to health. So for one person, having a dog might increase their activity level and help them to lose weight. But another dog owner might keep living a sedentary lifestyle and not boost their health.

Still, research has found some promising signs of human-animal interactions, though the results are mixed. “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure,” according to the National Institutes of Health. “Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.”

Plus, therapy animals work wonders for people with certain health conditions — though there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to this either. For instance, the National Institute of Health cites a study in which one group of teens with diabetes was given a fish to care for, and another group was not. All of the teens also had to keep track of their blood glucose levels. The researchers found the teens with fish were better about monitoring their blood glucose, which suggested that pet ownership helped them to become more disciplined. But there could have been many other factors at play, as well.

The bottom line is having a pet is what you make of it. And our bonds with our animals are highly subjective — the strength and benefits of which likely can’t be truly measured in any study. So if you feel your life is more fulfilling with an animal, there are plenty out there who need homes.

 

Care2.com

Today’s Extra: 8 Ways You Can Make a Difference for Wildlife

8 Ways You Can Make a Difference for Wildlife

Food, water, energy, medicine — nature provides humankind with invaluable resources. Yet we’re not doing nearly enough to protect it.

The World Wildlife Fund recently published its Living Planet Report — and the news was “sobering.” “On average, we’ve seen an astonishing 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years,” according to the report. “The top threats to species identified in the report link directly to human activities, including habitat loss and degradation and the excessive use of wildlife such as overfishing and overhunting.”

If this inspires you to take action, here are eight ways to make a difference in protecting wildlife.

1. CREATE A BACKYARD HABITAT

A major problem for wildlife is habitat loss. So the National Resources Defense Council suggests turning your property into comfortable terrain for plants and animals. Landscape with native plants — especially ones that require little maintenance and attract pollinators. And make sure you provide enough shelter for birds and other small animals, who help the ecosystem thrive.

If you’re not sure where to begin, check out the National Wildlife Federation’s requirements for a certified wildlife habitat. And find local organizations that can guide you toward what’s right for your area.

2. AVOID PESTICIDES

No matter how you landscape, it’s always better for wildlife when you don’t use toxic pesticides. There are plenty of natural methods to control pests and unwanted vegetation. For instance, choose plants that naturally repel insects, and pull invasive vegetation by hand. It may be a little more work, but you’ll prevent harmful chemicals from damaging the ecosystem.

3. ANIMAL-PROOF YOUR TRASH

If you have outdoor trash cans, make sure they’re secure from the area’s wildlife, especially predators. “This will help reduce potentially negative run-ins and foster coexistence between your family, your pets, and neighboring wildlife,” the National Resources Defense Council says.

Likewise, PETA recommends crushing cans and cutting open containers and other items animal might get stuck in. There’s always the possibility an animal might sneak into your trash, so taking a few extra seconds to make it safe could save a life.

4. LIMIT PLASTICS IN YOUR LIFE

Plastic waste pollutes water, kills animals who ingest it and even makes humans sick. It’s difficult to completely avoid plastic use, but there are many ways to be more eco-friendly about it. Avoid single-use plastics, such as water bottles, whenever possible. Buy used items to cut down on plastic packaging. And recycle everything you can.

It might not seem like you can make much of a difference with all the plastic out there. But if you save even one sea turtle from suffering with a plastic straw lodged up its nostril, you’re doing your part.

5. KEEP CATS INDOORS

If you’re a cat owner, there are numerous reasons to keep your pet indoors. It’s not only much safer for the cat, but it saves the lives of many birds and other small animals. One study estimates cats in the United States kill 1.3 billion to 4 billion birds and 6.3 billion to 22.3 billion mammals every year. Those small animals are vital to the ecosystem and can’t afford such drastic hits to their numbers by a non-native predator, such as the domestic cat. If you absolutely cannot keep your cat indoors, at least attach a bell to its collar to warn its prey.

6. PLACE DECALS ON YOUR WINDOWS

Speaking of birds, millions die each year due to collisions with man-made structures — especially windows and glass doors. Fortunately, there are several effective methods to collision-proof windows. “Screens, grilles, and shutters work wonders,” according to the National Resources Defense Council. ”Frosted glass, window film, and taped or etched stripes and dots — placed either two inches apart horizontally or four inches apart vertically — all significantly reduce collisions as well.”

Remember, birds provide natural pest control by eating insects, such as mosquitoes. And they help to disperse seeds and nutrients throughout the soil. Those services to your local environment are well worth a few adjustments to your windows.

7. PROPERLY DISPOSE OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS

If you need to get rid of hazardous materials, such as paints or batteries, don’t just pour them down the drain or throw them in the trash. “Things like paint thinner, furniture polish, and antifreeze can pollute our water and land, impacting people as well as wildlife,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Most communities have organizations that collect and properly dispose of hazardous substances. But it’s up to you to seek them out and keep your wildlife safe.

8. BE A VOICE FOR NATURE

Turn your passion for nature into action by volunteering at local wildlife organizations and working to educate your community. “Speak up at community forums where topics connected to wildlife or natural habitat are on the agenda, take local action, such as organizing a tree-planting project or a cleanup of one of your area’s waterways, or advocate for town ordinances that prevent pesticide use in parks or on lawns,” the Natural Resources Defense Council suggests.

You can make an impact on a global scale, as well, by helping to raise awareness and funds for certain causes. The World Wildlife Fund’s Action Center is a good place to start to find causes that need support. It might seem like a daunting task, but for all the wrongs humankind has inflicted on wildlife, there are passionate people around the globe working to make them right.

Care2.com

Today’s Extra: Why Is ADHD on the Rise?

Why Is ADHD on the Rise?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition characterized by symptoms like inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It can persist into adulthood and affect a person’s social, academic and professional life.

The cause of ADHD is unknown. ADHD is linked to genetics and brain biology, but these factors don’t explain the dramatic rise in ADHD diagnoses over the past 2 decades. A 2018 study found that the estimated prevalence of ADHD in children and adolescents in the United States (US) rose from 6.1 percent in 1997 to 10.2 percent in 2016. That means 1 in every 10 children in the US has now been diagnosed with ADHD.

Researchers continue to debate what has caused this trend, but these are some of their key findings on what may be contributing to the rise in ADHD diagnoses.

1. DIFFERENT CLINICAL DEFINITIONS

ADHD has no known cause or biological markers to assist with diagnosis. This has caused different definitions of the condition to arise, which can affect the number of diagnoses. A 2015 study found that the estimates of ADHD prevalence vary greatly depending on what definitions and criteria for ADHD are used.

Another study found that the definition of ADHD in the US is different than internationally. Psychiatrists and doctors in the US use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) for diagnosing psychiatric disorders.

Whereas, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is preferred internationally.

The ICD has a much narrower definition of ADHD than the DSM, which may be one reason why ADHD is diagnosed less often in other countries. Although, the study found that the DSM definition is catching on, which may be fueling a rise in ADHD diagnoses globally.

2. FOOD ADDITIVES

No evidence exists that any food additives cause ADHD, but research has shown a few that may increase hyperactivity and make the condition worse. These are some food additives to watch out for:

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Artificial colors and dyes
  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Pesticides
  • High-fructose corn syrup

Most of these are added to junk foods and soft drinks, which are best avoided whether you have ADHD or not. A well-balanced, whole foods diet is consistently recommended by health professionals for everyone, and it has also been shown to be helpful for those with ADHD.

3. LACK OF EXERCISE

Children in Western countries are getting far less exercise than they did a few decades ago. This lack of exercise may contribute to the rise in ADHD. When you exercise, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released. Among other benefits, dopamine enhances attention and focus. Medications used for ADHD do the exact same thing—they increase the amount of dopamine your body produces.

Research has shown that children with ADHD who exercised regularly did better on attention tests, and had less impulsivity and aggression. This was true even for children who weren’t taking medications. Other studies have discovered that exercise also improves working memory, academic performance and flexibility when switching between tasks.

4. DIGITAL DEVICE USE

A 2018 study concluded that teens who are heavy users of digital devices are twice as likely to show symptoms of ADHD. The study followed nearly 2600 teenagers for two years and focused on the mental health consequences of modern digital diversions, such as social media, streaming video, text messaging, music downloads and online chatrooms.

Researchers chose to study teenagers because adolescence is a common time for ADHD diagnosis, and they specifically started with teenagers who did not have pre-existing ADHD symptoms. Considering that 43 percent of high school students use digital media three hours or more per day, the study’s findings could highlight a concerning trend that’s contributing to the rise in ADHD symptoms.

5. GREATER AWARENESS & PROMOTION

ADHD advocacy groups spread and promote information about ADHD, as well as pharmaceutical companies that produce medications for ADHD. This is helpful for raising awareness about the condition and encouraging those who may have ADHD to seek professional help and get properly diagnosed.

Providing public information about ADHD and possible treatments is important, but experts warn that this wide spread promotion could have a downside. Now you can easily fill out a self-test online that may falsely conclude you already have ADHD. Or you may read an advertisement that suggests you can simply take a drug and ADHD symptoms will disappear.

Some doctors are concerned this could trivialize a serious condition and lead to unnecessary diagnoses. Extensive drug advertisements may also promote the use of medications instead of other treatment methods. In addition, research has found that the current abundance of information, and sometimes misinformation, may put pressure on doctors to diagnose ADHD more often.

ADHD is far more complex than a simple online quiz can tell you. If you have any concerns that you or someone you love has ADHD, speak to your doctor or a psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD. And keep in mind there are many other effective treatments for ADHD to try before medications.

6. MODERN EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS

In his book The A.D.H.D. Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance, Dr. Stephen Hinshaw’s research suggests that the US education system and government-dictated academic standards may contribute to the country’s higher rates of ADHD diagnoses.

For example, when the US introduced the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, education funding suddenly became dependent on collective student test scores in each state. Dr. Hinshaw found that there was a surge in ADHD diagnoses soon after the Act was introduced.

Research has shown that treatment of ADHD can improve academic performance. Dr. Hinshaw believes many schools pushed for more ADHD diagnoses so children could receive treatment, which could boost test scores and local funding. After 2007, when the Act was changed, the rate of diagnoses tapered off in the same schools.

ADHD is a serious medical condition, but we need to be careful that we aren’t over-diagnosing ADHD simply because a child is not performing well in school. Perhaps we need to look at other ways of educating children who naturally have more energy and creativity.

Sir Ken Robinson gave an excellent TED talk discussing how important it is to build an education system that encourages all children to flourish, rather than trying to fit everyone into the same mold. Check out his talk here.

 

Published on Care2

Today’s Extra: 15 Wooflicious Dog Biscuit Recipes for the Holidays

15 Wooflicious Dog Biscuit Recipes for the Holidays

Everyone loves delicious, homemade treats, and your canine pal is no different. Why not spoil them with some wooflicious dog biscuits these Holidays? You’re in the kitchen anyway and besides, they deserve it.

Baking your own dog treats is a great way for kids to hone their kitchen skills. It’s an opportunity for family time too, since you can get cracking on the Christmas cake, while the youngsters make biscuits for Fido. It will also save you money, which is always nice.

WHY STORE-BOUGHT DOG TREATS AREN’T A GOOD IDEA

There’s another, even more compelling reason for baking from scratch for Fido. Store bought dog treats aren’t always safe for your dog to eat. The FDA polices the pet food industry retroactively, which means it will only investigate a brand once a complaint has been made.

The dark truth behind these seemingly harmless treats is sobering to say the least. Earlier this year four pet food brands were recalled after dogs and cats fell ill and died. Last year the FDA issued a warning saying that store-bought dog bones could be fatal.

Fortunately, not all dog treats are toxic. The Spruce Pets put together their top pick of healthy dog treats for 2018 that they claim are nutritious and delicious. Their review process is thorough, so you can rest assured you’re buying the best.

Bottom line: if you are going to buy dog treats, make sure you know what they’re made of. These guidelines from Healthy Pet offer some insight into what you should look out for. But if you have the time, making your own is first prize for Fido.

DOG BISCUIT RECIPES

The recipes outlined below are easy to make and you’ll find you probably have most (if not all) of the ingredients on hand already. The one thing you might not have is a dog bone cookie cutter set, which (IMHO) every self-respecting doggie biscuit chef needs.

Disclaimer: A lot of these recipes sound similar, but the pooches featured in the post photos were so adorable I couldnt resist including them all.

1. Homemade Peanut Butter Dog Treats / Eating Bird Food

Taste-tested by Olive, the cutest pup ever, these four-ingredient treats take only half an hour to make (including bake time). Check out the video to see how to make them (and meet Olive).

2. Apple Oatmeal Homemade Dog Treats / Brownie Bites

Hounds Dexter and Dewey gave these fruity biscuits two paws up. Using only six ingredients (one of which is water), these chewy treats sound like something I’d happily dip in my morning coffee.

3. Homemade Frozen Pupsicle Treats / Good Housekeeping

Frozen pupsicles aren’t biscuits, but they’re still a treat. All you need is yoghurt, banana and peanut butter and some human grade dog treats to use for sticks.

4. Mega Healthy Dog Biscuits / The Daring Gourmet

These mega-healthy dog biscuits sound mega-delicious, too. The ingredient list is slightly longer, but the recipe is pretty straightforward. You’ll still be done in under and hour, including bake time.

5. Apple Crunch Pupcakes / Miss Candiquik

If I had a dog, I’d make these just because of the name. I mean, pupcakes, right!? Adding the icing decorations is obviously more for you than your pooch, but it’s still a nice touch. I’m sure Lola and her office pals appreciated the effort.

6. Sweet Potato Fries for Dogs / Beagles and Bargains

Also not biscuits, but who doesn’t like sweet potato fries? Nobody, that’s who. The recipe is super simple, and your dog is guaranteed to love them. Why? ‘Cos Luna pup says so, and she should know.

7. Banana Almond Puppy Treats / Pretty Fluffy

Four ingredients and a grand total of five minutes in the oven and you’ve got the happiest puppy ever. What’s not to love? The only problem I can foresee is stopping yourself from eating them.

8. Homemade Dog Treats / Pinch of Yum

These holiday pup treats are smothered in a bacon PB glaze which you may want to rejig, if your pooch is vegan (or on a health kick). Check out the video to see how to make them (and watch Sage devouring a biscuit):

9. Healthy Homemade Dog Treats / Bren Did

Okay, so these are also just one-ingredient sweet potato treats, but the photos of Gus snacking on them are so sweet. Also, the post includes a link to an upcycled dog treat jar tutorial. What dog wouldn’t love to find one of those under the Christmas tree?

10. Homemade Dog Treats / Love from the Oven

Jack’s human reckons he’s a big fan of her homemade dog treats, and if the photos are anything to go by, she’s absolutely right. This seven-ingredient recipe is kindergarten easy and includes peanut butter. Yum.

11. DIY Pumpkin Oatmeal Dog Treats / Good Housekeeping

It’s that time of year where pumpkin features in just about everything, so why not your furry best friend’s treats as well? I’m sure I was a dog in my previous life, because these sound really delicious. There’s also a how-to video featuring a fluffy mutt.

12. Ginger Apple Dog Treats from Lola the Pitty

Combining brown rice flour, apples, Greek yoghurt, ginger and coconut oil impressed the heck out of Lola and Rio, so chances are these treats will have a similar effect on your canine pal, too. They sound so good, I think I’ll make a vegan version for myself.

13. Simple Pumpkin Cookies / My GBGV Life

Staying with the pumpkin theme, Emma the French Scent Hound shows us how whip up some simple (yet clearly tasty) pumpkin cookies. Click here for the actual recipe. Be sure to check out her YouTube channel as well.

14. Pumpkin Carrot Bites / Pawsitively Pets

Hopefully you’re not ‘pumpikinned’ out just yet, because this recipe is super simple. Mix up the four ingredients, roll into small balls and bake for 30-35 minutes. You’ll end up with four dozen crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-in-the-middle treats for Fido.

15. Pumpkin Squeaks / Care2

We’re on a roll, so let’s end off with one final pumpkin-inspired recipe to wow your pooch. These cinnamon-infused treats have loads of peanut butter that’s sure to have your hound howling for more.

There you have it, a bunch of tail-wagging dog biscuit recipes that are sure to keep Fido coming back for more. When you’re done snacking, you can work off those extra holiday pounds together.

By: Angela Horn

Care2

Today’s Extra for December 3: 6 Habits Guaranteed to Trigger Holiday Stress

6 Habits Guaranteed to Trigger Holiday Stress

Movies and social media make it seem like holidays are a perfect season filled with fun, love, and laughter. Unfortunately, trying to keep up with this image can lead to stress.

According to the American Psychological Association, nearly half of the women in the U.S struggle with stress during the holiday season, which increases the risk of diseases. Most Canadians also report the holiday season to be the most stressful time of year. And the worst part is, most use food and alcohol to deal with the stress.

HABITS THAT TRIGGER HOLIDAY STRESS

Your holiday season can be more fun and less stressful for you if you avoid the common habits below that trigger holiday stress.

1. Overspending

Many of us end up spending more than we would like to during the holidays, and most times we spend our money on things that have a very low emotional return on investment.

Even though every expenditure feels equally important, you have to weed out the ones you’re unhappy with. Restrain from making purchases simply because everyone else is, and make a plan to manage your money during this pricey time of year. You can go further and ask family members to break from expensive holiday traditions.

2. Striving for Perfection

Trying to create the perfect experience for the kids or the entire family can be stressful. Perfect holidays only exist in movies and novels.

Look out for signs of holiday perfection—such as making sure all gifts are handmade, prepping meals the entire day and doing too many things—in order to enjoy the holiday to the fullest.

You can overcome holiday perfection by relaxing your standards and being easy on yourself. It’s possible to have fun even when everything isn’t perfect.

3. Family Arguments

Have you ever vowed not to argue, only to find yourself in the middle of a heated family disagreement? Certain issues always seem to rear their ugly heads, despite our best efforts to avoid them.

With a little self-control, you can avoid engaging in arguments that will leave you feeling miserable. Since you can’t control what others say, plan on how to deal with disagreements when they arise.

4. Not Getting Enough Sleep

With so much to do during the holiday season, you might fail to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. The unhealthy activities we engage in, such as drinking too much wine or high caffeine intake, also contribute to sleeplessness.

Try to maintain a regular sleeping schedule during the holidays, and avoid eating two hours before bedtime.

5. Skipping Workouts

Exercise eases stress, but most of us slack during the holidays. We spend most of the time eating unhealthy foods and sitting down, which leads to weight gain and low energy levels.

You don’t have to stick to your regular routine during this period, but stay active by engaging in simple exercises like walking and jumping rope.

6. Unpreparedness

Unpreparedness usually leads to holiday stress, because you end up overwhelmed by shopping, cooking, activities and visiting friends. Make shopping lists early enough, and assign duties to different people before the D-day.

How do you avoid stress during this time of year? Do you know what triggers holiday stress for you? 

Source: Care2

Today’s Extra for December 2: What Produce is In-Season in December?

What Produce is In-Season in December?

Because of modern agriculture and our ability to ship produce all over the globe, most foods are available year round. But just because we can eat a tomato in the dead of winter, doesn’t mean we should be doing it.

Eating seasonally is one of the best things you can do both for your health and for the environment. Not only does it promote a genuine connection with the earth’s resources, eating locally-grown, seasonal foods helps limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we generate by shipping foods where they don’t naturally belong. Not to mention seasonal produce is more nutritious!

Once upon a time, eating seasonally was the only way to survive. Today, it’s a choice — and one that has both environmental and physical impacts. Ready to start? Here’s what’s in-season in December. Yum!

FRUIT

1. Apples

2. Dates

3. Citrus fruit

4. Pears

5. Bananas

6. Pomegranate

7. Persimmons

VEGETABLES

1. Broccoli

2. Leeks

3. Brussels sprouts

4. Cabbage

5. Onions

6. Parsnips

7. Potatoes

8. Winter squash

9. Sweet potatoes

10. Rutabagas

11. Parsnips

12. Pumpkins

13. Kale

14. Garlic

15. Celery

16. Beets

17. Radishes

18. Turnips

No excuse to avoid those veggies now!

 

Source: Care2

Today’s Extra: Anger’s Surprising Upside

Anger’s Surprising Upside

Sometimes, a burst of anger can be productive and have health benefits.

Anger is usually considered a negative emotion — something that needs to be restrained or at least “managed.” Our aversion to anger makes sense. Persistent rage can take a toll on our mind and body, and on our relationships: Studies link chronic anger to depression, back pain, sexual dysfunction, and more; other studies find fiery outbursts can spark heart attacks and strokes.

All anger is not equal, however. There are destructive and productive forms of anger.

Anger-management expert John Schinnerer, PhD, who served as the psychological consultant for the animated Pixar film Inside Out, differentiates chronic irritability — a long-term outlook characterized by perceiving the world through a hostile, persecutory lens — and the momentary angry response, which we all exhibit from time to time.

Anger of the flash-in-the-pan variety is not only normal; it has some real benefits.

That burst of anger triggers a battery of physiological responses, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, which are crucial to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. If we learn that our child is being bullied or we catch a pickpocket snagging our wallet, reacting with anger can be both adaptive and productive.

Anger is helpful not just in moments of duress but also in the broader scheme of our relationships. For one thing, exasperation may compel us to say how we feel instead of bottling it in. And when we express those feelings respectfully (think taking a deep breath, saying our piece, then listening to what the other person has to say), our anger is helping to promote growth and change and may even contribute to a longer life.

Asserting anger productively requires some back and forth, but if we do it calmly and assertively, says Schinnerer, “it helps us speak up for what we need and let others know when our boundaries are being violated.”

Anger also deserves credit for providing a proverbial kick in the butt, especially in comparison to the paralyzing effect of other negative emotions.

Take sadness. Feeling blue generally leads us to view life through what psychologists call an “external locus of control,” or a belief that good or bad things occur because of factors beyond our control. Anger does the opposite, corresponding with an “internal locus of control” — the belief that we have a say in what happens to us.

“Being mad can [also] be good for society; it motivates us to work toward positive change,” notes Schinnerer. “Things like #MeToo or the civil rights movement wouldn’t exist without anger.”

Still, it’s important to distinguish between anger as an impetus for positive change and anger as a catalyst for heart disease, damaged relationships, or a fist-size hole in the wall.

To differentiate between normal, healthy anger and chronic irritability, Schinnerer encourages us to consider three elements of our anger:

  • Duration, or how long the emotion lasts.
  • Frequency, or how often it happens.
  • Intensity, or how strongly you experience it.

Intensity is especially important, explains Schinnerer, because it helps us think about anger in context.

“There’s a difference between being intensely angry about something like racial injustice or sexual harassment and flying off the handle every time you get caught in traffic. One way to maintain perspective is to ask yourself, ‘Will this matter in five years?’”

Ultimately, the key to using anger productively rather than destructively lies in being mindful of our feelings and finding a healthy way to release them before they get too big. Schinnerer encourages us to cultivate a habit of rating our anger as it arises, using a scale of 1 to 10.

“I tell clients to express themselves before they reach a 5. That way they speak up for what they need while they’re still relatively calm.”

When we channel our frustration instead of letting it fester, we can turn what seems like a negative emotion into something powerful and productive. Sometimes that may not amount to much more than a sternly worded email to customer service, but as long as we get it out somehow there’s no reason to fear angry feelings.

“It’s not about anger being good or bad,” explains Schinnerer. “It’s what you do with it that matters.”

PRODUCTIVE OR DESTRUCTIVE ANGER: FIVE WAYS TO TELL

  1. How does your anger affect others? Productive anger leads to positive outcomes like compromise, empathy, even intimacy. Destructive anger leads to others feeling afraid, disrespected, or hurt.
  2. On an anger scale of 1 to 10, can you differentiate between level 2 and level 9? This requires cultivating awareness around how anger feels in your body at every stage. (For instance, at a low level, your teeth might clench; at a medium level, your hands might shake; at a high level, it might be difficult to breathe).
  3. Do you consistently wait until you’re at a 5 (or higher) before you say how you feel? If you frequently let yourself stew — or stew then spew — your anger is likely more destructive than productive.
  4. Do you frequently blame others for your angry feelings — or the consequences? Anger can be empowering, but only if you take ownership of it.
  5. Do you accept anger as a natural, human emotion or do you push it away? If you feel ashamed of yourself every time you experience anger, you’re more likely to shut out the underlying messages your anger is trying to communicate (That isn’t fair! This doesn’t feel right!)

by Alexandra Smith, LPCC

Today’s Extra for November 28: 5 Cozy Ideas for Winter Self Care

5 Cozy Ideas for Winter Self Care

Winter is such a love-it-or-hate-it time of year. For some of us, winter is snowflakes, hot chocolate and cable-knit sweaters. For others, it’s dry skin, cold feet and getting up early to scrape the windshield.

Whether you’re looking forward to autumn leaves turning to frost-adorned branches or counting down the days till spring, it’s impossible to argue that winter doesn’t come with its own set of challenges. Dark winters can take their toll, physically, mentally and emotionally. Fortunately, we have some whole-body self care ideas that will help see you through

1. TRY RESTORATIVE YOGA.

Winter might be the hardest time of year to get moving, but it’s as vital as ever. If your body starts to feel heavy and tired from a lack of exercise, try engaging in a stretching or yoga practice on a daily basis.

2. EMBRACE HIBERNATION.

Winter is a wonderful opportunity to retreat inward and enter “rest and reflect” mode. If the sun going down at 5 p.m. makes you want to bundle up in pajamas and enjoy a bowl of soup on the couch, you’re not the only one. Winter was made for cozy moments like this!

3. START DRY BRUSHING.

Cold temperatures and dry winter air have the tendency to suck the moisture right out of our skin. Dry brushing can help remedy this by boosting circulation, stimulating the lymphatic system and removing dead skin. Follow with a coconut oil massage. It’ll feel delicious!

4. GET FESTIVE.

Whether or not you enjoy the holidays, there is something truly special about celebrating the changing seasons. Start by making your home smell more festive ━ light a beeswax candle, warm cinnamon sticks on the stove ━ or turning on a seasonal playlist.

5. WARM YOUR BELLY.

Feel chilled to your bones? Indulge in a nourishing hot drink. We especially love this Hormone-Balancing Hot Chocolate and this Turmeric Chai Latte. Bonus points if you make one for a friend and go for a long walk outside.

Today’s Extra For November 27: 5 Ways Sitting Too Much Can Harm Your Health

5 Ways Sitting Too Much Can Harm Your Health

Are you sitting down? You might want to stand.

Experts long have warned that able-bodied people are sitting too much. And that can have some serious consequences for your health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued new physical activity guidelines, advising people to sit less throughout the day. So why should you stand up and get moving? Here are five ways sitting can harm your health — as well as some tips to add more activity into your life.

1. YOUR MUSCLES GET WEAK AND STIFF

Use them, or lose them — your muscles, that is. Sitting all day might result in muscle stiffness and weakness in your lower body. And this can even lead to pain, numbness and something called “dead butt syndrome.”

“Constant sitting weakens the gluteus medius, one of the three primary muscles in the buttock,” according to Cleveland Clinic. “It also tightens the hip flexors.” The gluteus medius stabilizes your hips and pelvis. And weakness can cause hip and lower back pain, as well as nerve compression. Cleveland Clinic recommends standing for at least 20 minutes per hour to help prevent this problem.

2. YOUR SPINE HEALTH SUFFERS

If you’re not sitting with perfect posture, you’re at a higher risk of aches, pains and degeneration in your spine. “Sitting for prolonged periods of time can be a major cause of back pain, cause increased stress of the back, neck, arms and legs and can add a tremendous amount of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs,” the UCLA Spine Center says. “Additionally, sitting in a slouched position can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the spinal discs.”

For instance, if you work on a computer and your monitor isn’t at the correct height, you can put an incredible strain on your neck. “When your neck is bent to 45 degrees, your head exerts nearly 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of force on your neck,” according to Mayo Clinic. “In addition to straining joints and muscles in your neck and shoulders, the pressure affects your breathing and mood.” So it’s important to constantly check in with your posture and stretch your spine as often as you can.

3. SITTING MIGHT LEAD TO MEMORY LOSS

A recent study from UCLA researchers found sedentary behavior might influence brain health. The study’s 35 participants reported their activity levels, as well as how many hours they sat per day. Then, they received MRI scans of their brains.

The researchers found regardless of physical activity, the people who sat the most showed thinning in the part of the brain that’s involved in memory formation. But because this was a preliminary study, further research still must be done to explore these results.

4. YOU’RE AT A GREATER RISK OF MANY DISEASES

There are many health conditions that studies have associated with prolonged sitting. “They include obesity and a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that make up metabolic syndrome,” according to Mayo Clinic.

You’re also at a higher risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. In fact, one study found people who sit a lot have a 147 percent higher risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event — e.g., a heart attack, stroke, etc. Plus, prolonged sitting can lead to dangerous blood clots forming in your legs.

5. SITTING MIGHT SHORTEN YOUR LIFE

You might be knocking some time off your life if you stay seated. One study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found “sitting for more than three hours per day is responsible for 3.8% of all-cause mortality deaths.” And the researchers estimated that sitting for fewer than three hours per day would increase a person’s life expectancy by an average 0.2 years. If you can’t cut your sitting by that much, the study fortunately found even a 10 percent reduction in sedentary time lowered death rates.

Another study on older women found those who reported the most sedentary time had a higher risk of dying from any cause. And that was true even for participants who exercised regularly if most of their other hours were spent sitting. So getting consistent activity throughout your day is key to reducing that risk.

HOW TO ADD MORE MOVEMENT INTO YOUR LIFE

t can be extremely difficult to break a sitting habit. Office jobs, health conditions and many other factors make it all too easy to sit too much. But if you’re able to add more movement into your life, you should.

Harvard Medical School offers a few tips to reduce your sedentary hours.

  • Move every 30 minutes. Set an alarm, use an activity tracker or partner with a friend to move more. Do whatever you need to avoid sinking into your chair, losing track of time and realizing you haven’t moved all day.
  • Pace during phone calls. Even taking a few steps back and forth is better than remaining seated. And if you can, hold walking meetings with friends and colleagues instead of sitting at a table.
  • Don’t binge-watch TV. Use those commercial breaks (or the pause button) to your advantage. Get up to grab some water, do a quick chore or simply stretch. If you’re really feeling ambitious, take those minutes to do a few exercises, such as squats or lunges.
  • Walk wherever you can. If a destination is within walking distance, get out and pound the pavement. Or park as far from an entrance as possible to get in some more steps. Plus, take the stairs whenever you can. And for extra motivation, use a fitness tracker to log your daily steps.

Every step counts toward your health. And when you do finally take a seat, make yourself comfortable. You’ve earned it.

 

Source: Care2