Resolutions and Maintaining Healthy Lifestyle Choices with the Help of Neuroplasticity by Lauren White, MA, LPCC
Imagine that you’re walking through a field of grass. As you take a step, the green blades bend and flatten, but return to their upright position after some time. Now, if you walked through that same field of grass everyday, in the same spot, eventually the grass would flatten and die and you would build a small bunny trail. The longer you use the bunny trail, the wider and deeper it would grow, until you had a sizable walking path.
The human brain is, in many ways, a field of grass - our repetitive thoughts and behaviors build hundreds of different bunny trails, some healthy and some unhealthy. As the new year begins, many people will make resolutions to try to build a new healthy habit or discontinue an unhealthy one and many will find that they do not stick to the changes long term. Understanding neuroplasticity, and how to utilize your brain to your advantage, could help make you more successful.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to learn, change, and adapt. For many years, many believed that the ability of the brain to do this was limited from birth until we reached our mid-twenties and our frontal lobes finished developing. Thankfully, this is not the case, and we are able to build new neural pathways throughout our lives, and benefit greatly from doing so.
So, how could this be useful for your therapy, general well being, or New Year’s resolutions? Luckily, you can intentionally choose to build new neural pathways; we do this all the time when we listen to a new song, or learn a new skill, and there are some steps that can help make the process faster and more effective. Brains already use so much of our body’s daily energy that building new neural pathways is often a struggle. How many of us have resolved to do something healthy...and the next thing we know we’ve failed again? It isn’t because we don’t WANT to do the healthy behavior, or think in a healthier way, but because our brain already has a REALLY BIG bunny trail for the maladaptive behavior and...completely untouched grass for the healthy one. From an energy cost perspective, doing what we’ve always done is just easier and less costly at that exact moment. Of course, given enough time, not building healthy neural pathways can result in a multitude of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that ultimately hurt us more. So, if you’ve ever wondered why you feel like you can’t just DO the thing you want to, rest assured it happens to most of us, and your brain is basically acting like a fussy toddler.
As a clinician, the complaint I hear the most is “I’m doing all the healthy stuff and I still don’t feel better yet. It’s not working!” What most people don’t realize is that building a neural pathway takes a long time. How long have you engaged in an unhealthy habit, or a maladaptive thought? Weeks? Months? Years? For many, their struggles have been long standing. If we go back to the field analogy: walking on the same path for 5, 10, or 15 years is going to look MUCH different than if you’ve walked on a path for 5 weeks. The problem isn’t that it isn’t working, it’s that the first neural pathway is still bigger and more powerful.
We just need to make the new pathway bigger. Here are a few steps that can help do that.
1. Tip of the iceberg. When we engage in an unhealthy thought or behavior, our brains are wired in such a way that you don’t only have our immediate unhealthy thought, our brain will also subconsciously supply us with every bit of evidence it has to support that belief. So, if you think “I can’t succeed,” your brain will go through every memory and thought it has related to failure. Likewise, when we think positively, our brain will supply us with all of those similar positive experiences. The more you think and engage in healthy behaviors, the more positive feedback loops you tap into, and the more likely you are to keep thinking and doing better.
2. Repetition, repetition, repetition. When it comes to building a neural pathway, your brain has an awful time at determining truth/lie, good/bad, and healthy/unhealthy. It typically has a tendency to go “the most experienced must mean truth,” which basically means that whatever you do and think the most becomes your truth and sense of self whether it’s true or not. Most of us can probably identify an unhealthy belief we hold about ourselves that isn’t actually logical or even correct, but we’ve thought it so long we accept it as true. In therapy, these are commonly known as cognitive distortions. Repeating new cognitive reframes or affirmations is a great way to build those new positive pathways. Once you have come up with some healthier thoughts and behaviors, just keep practicing them over and over.
3. “Do, or do not, there is no try.” I’m quoting Yoda, here, but he’s right. Even if you do not currently believe the healthy thought or positive affirmation you are practicing, or even if you don’t like engaging in the healthy habits you are trying to adopt, the more you do them, the better it becomes. You don’t have to believe or like it for it to positively rewire your brain. Say your reframes and positive affirmations out loud. Sing them. Jump around and recite them. Write them down. Put them on sticky notes everywhere. Go out and do whatever healthy behaviors you have planned. Bringing our physical body into the equation helps integrate your experiences more deeply, as you are tapping into multiple sensory systems in your brain. Which means, you’re still building a new bunny trail, but now you have a lawn mower. A lot of people feel fake when they are first trying a new reframe or positive affirmation. I often hear “but I don’t actually feel this way about myself.” I know. That’s the unhealthy neural pathway and you’ve fallen onto it again. Your brain only thinks it’s true because it’s heard it so many times. You’re not going to feel different until that new path is there and you have to build it. Doing these healthy behaviors will help you build it and then someday soon you will actually believe all the good stuff about yourself.
4. Once more, with feeling. Now that we’re doing and thinking better, it’d be nice to give our new neural pathway some major fire power. Our brains are wired to remember strong emotional moments, so anything we can do to add any emotional boosts is good. Physical exercise, music, positive podcasts or social media influences, the buddy system, creative endeavors, etc., are all great options. Music is especially helpful in eliciting powerful emotions and playlists are a great way to boost your mood. The more positive emotion you can add to these exercises, the better. Like physically moving your body, you’re supercharging your brain with feel good neurochemicals, and that will help reinforce new thoughts or habits. It’s like the emotional equivalent of giving your brain a cookie. Who doesn’t want a cookie? Cookies are good, and your brain wants healthy emotional ones.
5. Channel your inner tortoise. The good news is that even if your unhealthy neural pathway took years to develop, you probably did it unconsciously. Consciously focusing on new thoughts and behaviors will build the new one WAY faster. It may still take several months, but that’s still a lot less than multiple years. Be patient and STICK TO IT. You can’t see your neural pathways building and, unfortunately, this is a major reason people stop doing healthy things. But the neural pathways are building and are there, so stay the course. It will help. I promise.
6. Birds of a feather. Remember, your brain believes what it hears the most. Make sure you are spending time with people and influences that are consistently helping to feed into healthy beliefs and lifestyle choices. If you need to take a break from social media, or spend less time with someone who puts you down and makes you feel bad, then do so. Surround yourself with people and influences that are channeling the same healthy energy that you are, and will uplift, encourage, and support you.
7. Be concrete. The more specific and definite your goals or thoughts are, the better. Try to avoid vague statements like “I will hopefully be more motivated tomorrow” and, instead, say something like “I will accomplish _____ tomorrow.” Don’t leave gaps for your unhealthy beliefs to sneak in and derail you. If you are already doing this, and still struggling to accomplish your goals, try breaking them down into smaller and more easily managed tasks to see if that helps fix the problem. We have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew, even when we aren’t operating as our best selves.
8. Sleep, meditation, medication. As in all things, you need sleep. Sleep allows your brain a break to process the new skills you’re building and integrate them more fully. Also, no one functions well when they’re tired and cranky. Meditation or mindfulness exercises also allow your brain the space to keep building and making those new, healthy connections. It also allows you the time to sit and examine whether you are staying in your healthiest mindset. And, of course, if you are on a prescribed medication, continue taking it. Or, if you have been getting help for some time and are seeing very limited improvement, medication may help give your brain the boost it needs so that your work will be more effective.
9. It’s a journey, not a destination. The last most common problem I see happens after people have successfully been engaging in healthy changes for a few weeks or months. They start to feel better, and then stop doing all of their healthy coping skills. Remember, those unhealthy neural pathways have probably been forming for a huge portion of your life. If you want these changes to be long lasting, you’re going to have to do them for a really long time. Although, if you’re choosing healthy options, the change may well be lifelong because it’s good for you and hopefully enjoyable. You’re feeling and doing better because the skills and changes are working. Don’t stop, or you could regress and start feeling worse again.
Cultivating a healthy mindset and lifestyle are not always easy and require consistent work and dedication. Those struggling with mental health issues have even more to contend with, but hopefully some of these suggestions will help you better understand your mind, struggles, and come up with more effective solutions for continuing to be your best self. These are only a few of the multiple options available to try, and some of these suggestions may not be effective for treating certain mental health issues. However, they can be utilized by anyone for overall mental health and wellness. There are several wonderful books and resources that talk about neuroplasticity that provide help on healthy cognitions and other activities. For an easy, comprehensive look at neuroplasticity in its totality, I’d recommend “The Power of Neuroplasticity” by Shad Helmstetter.
Now that 2020 is over, hopefully we can all take the time to consciously choose how we want to proceed into the new year, and make 2021 a better year than last year was. I wish you all health and happiness, and I believe each of you has the power within you to keep reaching for your best self. Although, should you need a little extra help, we are all here to help you however we can. Happy New Year!
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), you should do what’s best for you and your loved ones this holiday season. This may mean taking care of yourself, doing what’s best for your household, and spending time with those in your own household.
What can you do to decrease or manage the stress associated with the upcoming holiday season when you can’t be with friends and family in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Here are some suggestions:
Remember that none of these strategies will work perfectly the first time you try them and they won’t work right away. They take practice and they may take a while to work. Stick with them. If one doesn’t work, try another. Try them all. Also remember that you are not alone. Many people out there feel the same way and are trying to manage their stress. Keep going. It will get better! The pandemic will end eventually. We will get to a new normal again. Hang in there!
As the fall days turn into winter months, the days shorten, the air turns colder, and the sun seems to disappear for months at a time, especially in the Midwest. For some, this lack of sunshine can make the days seem to last forever. Some of us are more sensitive to these darker days and can feel our energy drain and our mood dampen. It’s not uncommon to feel a little less energetic and a little more down during the colder months and develop the so-called “winter blues”.
However, if you are among the approximately 5% of people who develop clinical depression during the darker and colder winter months, you likely experience many more symptoms and have a much harder time functioning. Some of the signs to look for to let you know that you may be experiencing seasonal depression include worsening mood during the fall and winter, lower energy levels during this time, difficulty focusing and concentrating while feeling down, changes in sleep (either sleeping more or difficulty sleeping) in the fall and winter, changes in hunger (either eating more or eating less) in the colder months, less interest in doing things that normally would bring you joy during the darker days, feeling worthless or having lots of negative thoughts and feeling guilty about things that you have no control over during these winter months, being less motivated or more agitated during the fall and winter, and/or having thoughts of death or dying during these less sunny days. If you have a majority of these symptoms, you likely have clinical seasonal depression and should talk to a professional about it.
Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly why seasonal depression happens. There are a few different theories about it, however. Some ideas include a change in the way your body regulates serotonin during the winter months. Serotonin is one of the chemicals in the brain that create feelings of positivity and when that chemical is disrupted, we can feel down or agitated. Another theory about seasonal depression is that when it is dark outside more than usual our brains continue to produce melatonin during the day. Melatonin is normally a hormone that makes us sleepy at night, and if we don’t stop making it, we will feel sleepy and tired throughout the day. And research also shows us that too much melatonin can create feelings of depression. As you can imagine, being inside more, possibly eating more, being less active, maybe sleeping more, and seeing other people less often during the winter months can also have a negative impact on our moods.
But the good news is that we can do things proactively to help decrease seasonal depression (or just the winter blues), and there are treatments for it.
If you know you are affected by the winter blues or seasonal depression, try one or all of these suggestions. Have a talk with your healthcare provider. Recognizing the signs of depression early is the key to feeling better faster. The earlier you implement these strategies and if you practice them consistently, the more likely they are to work.
The team at Providers for Healthy Living is here to help if you need it! We offer a wide range of therapy and medication management services for depression, anxiety, and many other mental health diagnoses. If you find that you need more intensive help this winter, reach out to us. We can help. Register as a new patient on our website if you are interested in receiving assistance. If you need immediate help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available at 800-273-8255.
This year has been a challenging year for most of us. From the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to the still lingering election controversies, it seems the list of stressors for the year 2020 keeps growing. And many of us turn to food for comfort. Being inside and alone can mean that food becomes our only comfort at times. We feel stressed, lonely, cooped up, and panicked. Eating does temporarily increase our serotonin levels and makes us feel good for a short period of time, but that feeling doesn’t last and we find ourselves searching for something else to eat because we need more comfort.
The upcoming holidays can bring about a variety of emotions. For some, the holidays are a time for reflection, friends, family, and festivities. For others, the holidays are a time of stress and anxiety. With increased stress, food can sometimes become an easy method for coping. This year, due to the pandemic and restrictions on travel and large gatherings, our holidays may look different. We may be home alone instead of gathering with friends and family. This may increase our feelings of isolation and sadness, leading to more opportunities to overeat or to comfort ourselves with food.
If you tend to turn to food for comfort and emotional support, here are some strategies that could help you deal with holiday stress without overeating.
By practicing these few simple strategies, it is possible to get through the holidays without turning to food for comfort. Pay attention to your body. Eat when you are hungry. Be mindful and slow down while eating. Stop eating when you feel full. Drink plenty of water. Oh, and don’t forget to exercise every day.
Have fun this holiday season! But if your eating gets the best of you, remember that Providers for Healthy Living offers nutritional counseling by our licensed dietician, Kelsey Russell, RDN, LD, and cognitive behavioral therapy and obesity medications by our obesity medicine specialist, Matthew Lowe, DO. We are here to help you regain control of your eating and help you meet your nutrition and weight goals, if you need us. Register as a new patient on our website if you are interested in receiving assistance.
According to a recent survey, over ⅔ of Americans are stressed about this year’s election. If you are in this majority, you may be feeling increased anxiety, difficulty sleeping, trouble focusing on work, or feeling more irritable and on edge. These are all natural responses to increased stress. As the election approaches tomorrow, we are bombarded with commercials, TV interviews, social media posts, and news shows focusing on “what if” scenarios. It’s hard to escape. And given the current pandemic and the number of absentee votes cast by mail, we likely won’t know the outcome of the election for days or even weeks after election day. So, the stress is likely to continue and maybe even increase for days after the election.
What can you do to decrease or manage the stress associated with the upcoming election and the days following? Here are some suggestions:
Remember that none of these strategies will work perfectly the first time you try them and they may not work right away. They take practice and they may take a while to work. Stick with them. If one doesn’t work, try another. Try them all. Also remember that you are not alone. Many people out there feel the same way and are trying to manage their stress. Keep going. It will get better!
As the new year approaches and open enrollment periods for insurance elections begin soon, it is important to understand all the terms associated with insurance plans and what to look for when making choices for next plan year.
The first thing to know when choosing insurance for next plan year is what a plan summary is. A plan summary (or benefits summary) explains all the benefits of your plan. This document, which is available from your employer, insurance broker, etc., should be examined carefully. Make sure it covers all the benefits that you (or your family) need. Any specific treatments or types of care that you or your family needs should be questioned to see if it is covered under the plan.
The costs of the plan are also important for you to understand. The costs of the plan include the monthly premiums, but so much more. If the plan has a deductible, this is the amount of money you will need to pay for your own care or your family’s care before the plan pays anything. Sometimes there are copays for office visits separate from or in addition to the plan deductibles that need to be paid. Some plans have a coinsurance percentage (anywhere from 10% to 50% sometimes) that you must pay even after you’ve met your deductible. All plans should also have an out-of-pocket maximum limit that you are required to pay for the plan year, which generally includes deductibles, copays, and coinsurance amounts. Once you’ve paid that out-of-pocket maximum for the plan year, the plan pays 100%.
Here’s an example: Jon pays $1000 per month for a single employee plan. His insurance coverage includes a $3000 plan year deductible with a 20% coinsurance after the deductible is met. He has a separate copay for medications of $10 for generic medications, $30 for name-brand medications, and $100 for speciality medications. He also has a $30 copay for primary care, mental health, and walk-in clinics, and a $60 copay for urgent care visits. None of these visits require him to meet his deductible and only require a copay. His plan has a $5000 out-of-pocket maximum per plan year. If Jon goes to an urgent care, he will pay $60 for his copay. The copay would cover his visit with the urgent care provider. If the provider at the urgent care orders labs or x-rays, however, those charges would be applied to his deductible, and he would be responsible for those costs since he has not yet met his deductible. If he had met his deductible, he would still need to pay 20% of the costs of his x-rays and labs. If the urgent care provider prescribed Jon a medication, he would pay a copay at the pharmacy - either $10 for a generic medication or $30 for a name-brand medication. Once he has paid out a total of $5000 for the plan year, including deductible, copays, and co-insurance amounts, his plan would cover 100% of the costs for the remainder of the plan year.
My hope is that you understand the information you need to know before making your choice about insurance for the next plan year and that you are more aware of the terms used by insurance companies so that you can make an informed choice. When in doubt, ask your human resources manager, supervisor, or plan administrator.
There are many reasons why people experience poor sleep. Some men and women have one of the several medical conditions related to insomnia, such as arthritis or lower back pain. An uncomfortable sleeping environment can also have an impact on your rest, as well as your overall health.
According to the doctors at Harvard Health, external factors such as a room that is too warm or bright can cause you to sleep less or experience less restful sleep throughout the night. If you do not improve your sleep space, your insomnia or medical conditions can get worse.
Wondering whether you need to adjust the conditions of your room? Read the following facts. They are sure to inspire and motivate you to improve the way you rest at night.
1. Increased Risk of Disease
If an uncomfortable room causes you to have insomnia, you may be increasing your risk of developing a serious medical problem. Experts on sleep and health say that some of the most common conditions related to insufficient sleep include diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. When you do not get enough rest, you may also be suppressing your immune function. This could make you more susceptible to seasonal illnesses, such as the common cold.
How to fix it: A quiet room can help ensure you fall asleep fast and keep resting until it is time to wake up. If you are a light sleeper, try using a fan or a sound machine. The moderate amount of white noise can help to block out any outside traffic or noise inside the home. Some sound machines come with color-changing properties or nature sounds, so you can help lull yourself to sleep and stay in a peaceful state throughout the night. If you already have a chronic health condition, make changes to your space as soon as possible so you can get enough sleep. Talking to your doctor about your insomnia can help them monitor your symptoms and, if necessary, find additional treatment options.
2. Changes in Mood or Energy
When you are experiencing sleep deprivation, it is common to feel more cranky than usual. This is because a lack of sleep is tied to your energy level and mood. Unfortunately, this irritability and anger can negatively affect your personal relationships and may even hinder your performance at work. It can even make you more susceptible to developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you already have one of these health conditions, they could become worse.
How to fix it: Try one of the many relaxation techniques for winding down at night. Self-massage, a warm bath, and aromatherapy with essential oils are just a few of the activities you can do before bed to help you to de-stress. Among the most common essential oils for sleep is lavender, but you can also try cedarwood or bergamot. If you think you are experiencing mood changes as a result of poor sleep, talk to your doctor. They can help you find the best way to feel better, as well as recommend their favorite ways for you to enhance your sleeping environment.
3. Loss of Memory
When you sleep at night, says WebMD, your brain gets the time to process information from the day. It also forms memories of what you have learned. If you do not give yourself the time to go through each sleep cycle, you could experience memory loss. It may even be more difficult to recall information, such as old facts or past events. By getting the right amount of sleep each night, you can help to improve your memory and processing.
How to fix it: Be sure you are getting the right amount of sleep for your age and personal needs. Make sure your room temperature is cool and comfortable, so you do not wake up as much throughout the night. Choosing the right sheets and blankets for the temperature and season can also help to prevent discomfort and sweating.
4. More Back Pain
Sleep problems due to an uncomfortable environment can also contribute to increased lower back pain. According to Spine-Health, a lack of restorative sleep only enhances pain and tension in the body. When you are tossing and turning, you become more aware of the discomfort. Waking up frequently can also make it more difficult to find a relaxing position. If you do not have the right pillows or mattresses, it is possible to experience more pain and soreness.
How to fix it: Invest in a body pillow or cushion to put between your legs. This small adjustment can help you find the right position for sleep, even if you are living with lower back pain. Consider installing light-filtering or blackout blinds, which will help to block out the sun, as well as streetlights. Declutter your room so you can stretch or do relaxation activities before bed. A clean and neat space will help you find your Zen as you meditate, breathe deeply, or rest your legs and back.
Improving Your Sleeping Environment
By adjusting your sleeping environment, you can improve your sleep hygiene. You can also help to reduce symptoms of chronic conditions, including lower back pain. To help yourself sleep at night, try laser therapy for back pain. This therapy uses a technology known as photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT), also formerly often referred to as low-level light therapy (LLLT). Wearing a safe PBMT device for just 30 minutes per day can help to enhance your comfort, mobility, and function both day and night.
Now you have a variety of solutions at your fingertips. Follow the suggestions above and use the tools we have included in this guide to make your room more acceptable for rest and your body more ready for sleep. Staying committed to improving your sleep routine can enhance your whole body wellness.
About the Author: Mark Broadly graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2016 with a double major in Biology and Chemistry. He is now a student at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta working towards his Masters in Clinical Research. In the little free time he has, he loves writing about his experiences and knowledge in the health and wellness field.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people around the world suffer from depression. Many don’t realize that depression not only changes one’s mood, but can result in body aches, especially back pain. This article will explore more behind this mental health concern and how back pain is connected to it.
What Causes Depression?
Depression can be caused by a handful of things. This includes:
Signs of Depression
This health issue affects people in many different ways:
How Depression Triggers Back Pain
Many often don’t realize that depression can result in back pain. This is because it causes tension in the body, especially toward the lower back. In fact, studies have shown that those with depression tend to feel pain more than others which can make their back pain even more intolerable.
Ways to Help Reduce Back Pain When Suffering From Depression
Use Natural Antidepressants
Using natural antidepressants will not only boost your mood, but will prevent pain.
This herb has long been used to help acute back pain. It’s able to do this thanks to the high levels of glycerine, a type of amino acid. Drinking a warm cup of chamomile tea isn’t only soothing, but can reduce anxiety and ease tense muscles.
A few studies have shown that lavender could help improve the body's central nervous system, something that affects how the brain functions. Lavender not only helps with releasing more serotonin (a chemical that positively adjusts your mood), but is anti-inflammatory. This can help with swelling and tension caused by back pain.
Omega-3, especially in the form of fish oil, could help improve back pain. In a 2006 study, 250 patients with neck or back pain were given fish oil as a natural NSAID (anti-inflammatory). Toward the end of the study, 125 participants found that fish oil helped with their pain. In addition to helping with back discomfort, Omega-3 could also improve mood due to its high amounts of fatty acids that keep the brain healthy.
It might surprise you to learn that peppers can be used as a natural antidepressant. Due to their high levels of capsaicin, this vegetable can boost your mood. Peppers are also anti-inflammatory, which can help with reducing back pain caused by depression and can help heal the affected areas.
Kiwi is packed with vitamin C which is needed for producing collagen. Collagen is believed to help keep your muscles healthy which can reduce back pain. In addition to this, kiwis can prevent fatigue and give you more energy.
This tangy spice has been found by numerous studies, including one published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences, to be helpful against depression. While it’s not known exactly why it’s able to do so, many believe it boosts serotonin levels in the brain and prevents oxidative stress. Saffron can also improve back pain because it stops muscle weakness and inflammation.
This leafy green has an impressive amount of tryptophan and folate which both increase your body’s serotonin levels. Because it’s also packed with magnesium, it can prevent and treat back pain by relaxing your muscles.
Sometimes back pain can be caused by stress due to an overflow of emotions. By journaling, you might find that releasing these feelings can help muscles in your back to relax because you aren’t building tension in them.
Exercising has been shown to help significantly decrease back pain. In one study published in the medical journal Healthcare, over 32% of participants who completed a home exercise routine found that their back pain dramatically reduced. By doing simple exercises, like walking or jumping jacks, you’ll encourage your body to release endorphins. These natural chemicals are a type of painkiller that often lead to euphoria. By moving around and keeping your body active, you’ll not only prevent tension that can cause back pain, but will also improve your mood.
Get a Massage
A popular and very calming way to stop back pain is to get a massage. This is one of the many benefits of going to a chiropractor as they offer various types of massages to help stop your pain. In a study done by the Mayo Clinic, massage therapy was shown to help relax participants and improved their mood. This is because it works to lower cortisol (a stress hormone) and release more serotonin.
There are a handful of massages that can be done to help improve mood and decrease back pain.
Meditation might also be useful to try. It’s able to slow your heart rate which can reduce stress and anxiety and has been shown to improve mood. Meditation also works to release built-up tension which can dramatically reduce back pain.
Depression is a serious mental health issue that can result in a variety of different symptoms, including back pain. However, by understanding how back pain is connected to it, you can work toward not only preventing it, but also reducing other complications caused by depression.
About the Author - Dr. Brent Wells founded Better Health Chiropractic Alaska in 1998. He is currently leading 10,000 Alaskans to more active and pain-free lifestyles without drugs or invasive surgeries. He brings a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care. Dr. Wells continues to further his education with ongoing studies in spine conditions, neurology, physical rehabilitation, biomechanics, occupational ergonomics, whiplash, and brain injury traumatology. He is also a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.
If you tend to toss and turn at night, your sleeping troubles could be due to stress, your health, or it may be the way your bedroom is currently structured. Whether you suffer from insomnia or experience occasional trouble getting a good night’s rest, there are some things you can do to enjoy a deeper, more restful sleep. One of the best things you can do for your health and well-being is to get adequate sleep each night. Read on to learn more about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep and how you can take proactive steps at home for a restful slumber.
The Importance and Benefits of Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Lack of deep sleep can have a major negative impact on your health. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you’ll feel sluggish and moody the next day. Some side effects of missing out on sleep include fatigue, an inability to focus, and overeating. Some studies have shown that lack of sleep can actually contribute to obesity since it increases your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that makes you feel hungry during the day. If you get enough hours of sleep each night, you’ll be more focused and alert. Lack of sleep can cause serious safety issues, such as car accidents or injuries at work. REM sleep provides plenty of benefits that can improve your health, including:
1. Improved learning and better brain function
2. Steady mood (no mood swings)
3. More energy – both physical and mental
4. Healthy heart and lung function
5. A stronger immune system
If you’re currently struggling with insomnia or find that you wake up several times throughout the night and can’t fall back to sleep, you can take proactive steps to create a more restful, relaxing environment. Practicing stress management techniques and learning how to deal with anxiety can help to improve sleep. Turning off your smartphone before bedtime will also promote a healthier sleep pattern.
Make Your Bed and Bedroom Comfortable
One way to get a good night’s rest is to create a soothing, comfortable sleeping environment. The wall color and bedding colors in your bedroom can have a significant impact on your ability to achieve a restful night of sleep. Consider changing your bedroom colors to soft pastels and neutral tones rather than bright, vibrant colors. Soft blue, gray, and tan can calm the mind and encourage your brain to slow down and rest. Add a few plants like Lavender or Golden Pothos to your bedroom to help promote better sleep. Houseplants are easy to care for and they clean the air and contribute to a soothing environment. When you shop for bedding, choose lightweight cotton sheets that are soft but also not too heavy. Look for pillows and mattresses that support your personal sleep style so you’re not putting too much pressure on the back and neck. Side sleepers and back sleepers tend to do well with memory foam, while stomach sleepers should look for hybrid mattresses or those with an innerspring coil system.
A consistent cycle of sunlight and darkness helps the human body produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. If your bedroom is too bright, it can interfere with melatonin levels which will make getting a good night’s rest much more difficult. To combat this problem, use dimmer switches in the bedroom and turn the light levels lower at least two to three hours before bedtime. If you enjoy reading before you head off to dreamland, swap the bulbs in your table lamp from a bright to a low-wattage bulb. As the light in your bedroom dims, it naturally tells the body it’s time to get ready for rest. If the sunlight coming through your windows keeps you awake, use a set of blackout curtains. These heavy curtains can keep the sunlight from filtering in, so your bedroom stays nice and dark until you’re ready to wake.
Achieve the Ideal Temperature for Sleeping
Most people sleep better in cooler temperatures, so it’s important that you’re able to achieve the right temps in your bedroom. As you get ready to fall asleep, your body temperature starts to drop. When you keep your room cool at temperatures between 60 and 67 degrees, it helps cool your body down to encourage deeper sleep. If you have a warm bedroom, you can remedy the problem with a fan that you can aim to blow cool air on your body. Turn your home’s air conditioning system to a comfortable level that will keep you cool throughout the night. Avoid sleeping in heavy pajamas that can make you feel hot. Instead, switch to lightweight cotton or breathable linen for your bedtime outfits or a light summer blanket.
More Helpful Tips for Better Sleep
Struggling with insomnia and sleep difficulties can have a ripple effect on your health and your mental well-being. If you set up a comfortable bedroom that uses calming colors, cooler temperatures, and dim lights, this should help you fall asleep faster and for longer. However, there are plenty of other things you can do to experience a good night of rest at home. Here are some other things that may encourage solid sleep that lasts throughout the night:
Sleeping Apps to Download
There are several apps for your smartphone that may help you get to sleep faster. These apps are designed to calm the mind and give you a sense of tranquility before you go to bed. Whether you have an Android or an iPhone, you can find these apps through your phone’s app store and give them a try. Here are a few of the most popular sleeping apps available today:
This app offers a variety of meditation practices you can try to help you feel calm before you go to bed. The app offers a unique new 10-minute meditation every day for users, so you’ll always have something different to try. It also features a variety of music selections that promote a calming feeling, and you can also pay for exercise videos, nature scenes, and sounds, or participate in a masterclass led by professional mindfulness experts.
The Sleep Cycle alarm clock app uses sound analysis to identify your unique sleep cycle patterns. The app looks at sleep states and tracks your movement while you’re in bed. Smart Cycle then uses a wake-up phase that ends when you set your desired alarm time. Throughout the phase, it closely monitors signals from your body and then wakes you up softly when you enter the lightest sleep stage.
If you’re new to the concept of meditation, the Headspace app is an excellent place to start. This app has a focus on mindfulness and provides detailed instructions to help you get started. Use your headphones when you use this app and enjoy calming meditations for all levels. Be sure to take advantage of the reminder system which will alert you when it’s time to participate in a new meditation session.
From a cooler bedroom to noise reduction, there are plenty of things you can do to help ensure you’re getting the sleep you need. With a good night’s sleep, you’ll feel stronger, more positive, and ready to face the day. Try these tips to see which ones may help you get back into a healthy sleep cycle.
**Originally posted on Porch.com**
About the Author: Rocio is a SEO Marketing Specialist and does Content Marketing at Porch. She is passionate about wellness and fitness, and her hobbies are reading, writing, and music.
Most of us know that physical activity has been widely correlated with a reduction in depression and anxiety. According to researchers, the general recommendation is for 30-60 minutes a day of physical activity on 3-5 times each week. More recently, achieving this recommendation by going to a gym or fitness facility has become literally impossible as most are closed for the foreseeable future.
What we often take for granted are the health benefits of less structured physical activity, such as walking, cleaning, playing, dancing, gardening, and meditative movements, like stretching and yoga. All of these can be done now, at home, whenever you have time, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What I hope many of you can put aside right now are the "traditional" motivators for exercise, which include: burning a certain number of calories, changing body shape or size (losing weight), and "earning" certain foods or "working off" certain foods.
Instead, use joyful movement to enjoy connecting with your body and to relieve stress. You can do it with friends, family, or alone for however long feels good to you. Your body will thank you for it.
Please DO NOT use this email address for medication refill requests or for emergency situations.
Click here for refill requests instead of using email:
Medication Refill Request Form
If you have a medical emergency, email is never the appropriate way to communicate your needs, and you should instead call 911 or go to the nearest ER. If you are having suicidal thoughts and need to speak to someone immediately, you can contact Suicide Prevention Hotline at the number (and link) below.
Communications via email are not secure. Although it is unlikely, there is a possibility that the information you include in an email can be intercepted and read by other parties besides the person to whom it is addressed.