The Power of Laughter

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“What do you call an alligator in a vest? An investigator.” Did that pun make you laugh? If so, congratulations – you just strengthened your immune system, lowered your stress level, and got in a little bit of exercise. A simple laugh can cause the above health benefits, as well as many others,  to happen within your body. We have all heard the quote “laughter is the best medicine,” but do you know why?

Laughter has been known to be a positive healing force. It has physical, mental, and social advantages. When looking at your physical health, research shows a good laugh helps boost your T-cells. These cells are specialized immune system cells which, when activated, help your body fight off sickness. In addition, laughing releases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. When they are released, chronic pain can be relieved. Another benefit is lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels. Lowering a person’s blood pressure helps reduce their risk of stroke and heart attacks. Stress and anxiety levels can also be decreased, which triggers the T-cells to increase your body’s immune resistance. Lastly, humor can help a person add exercise into her day. When you are laughing, your stomach muscles expand and contract, providing effects similar to doing ab workouts. Along with your abs, laughing gets your heart pumping and can burn as many calories as walking at a slow to moderate pace. Can’t complete a physical activity due to injury, illness, or another health problem? Start laughing to get your body moving.

Humor has many mental health benefits. When a person’s stress and anxiety levels are decreased, a sense of well-being and joy can occur. Laughing is known to help create a positive and optimistic outlook. It helps a person shift her attitude and perspective during a disappointing and difficult time. Psychological research states humor allows people to see things more realistically and stop them from feeling overwhelmed. Another benefit is when you are laughing, you can’t feel any other emotions. You can’t be angry or sad when you have a smile on your face. Instead, your energy is increased, giving you a sense of hope and strength to face life’s challenges. A simple smile or small chuckle can go a long way, no matter how you are feeling.

Lastly, relationships are strengthened, and your social health can improve through laughter. There is a reason why people say laughter is contagious because when one person starts laughing, it is easy to join in. It helps people connect and share a moment of humor and happiness. Humor can be used as a way to communicate and produce positive feelings among people. When a positive bond is created, people will be more spontaneous, express their emotions more, and there are fewer disappointments and disagreements.

All people learn how to laugh as babies. However, as you grow up, it can be harder to find things that humor you. Life’s challenges could make it hard or you might not feel like laughing because of one thing or another. Sometimes you have to make an effort to laugh during the tough times. Easier said than done, right? Try bringing humor into your day by completing small tasks, such as renting a funny movie, reading a funny book, or watching a funny television show. Every Sunday, your newspaper has a section dedicated to making you laugh, so why not check it out? Also, take a walk down memory lane and remember the hilarious moments of when things didn’t go right. Keep up to date on good jokes and stories, or play with a pet or children. Finding laughter in your everyday life can be trying, but take the time to do fun activities with your family and friends. Be silly and goof around. Once you start laughing, you’ll recognize the many benefits. After all, Charlie Chaplin once said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”

xoxo,

Megan

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The Power of the Pause in a Busy Life

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The days are busy and the hours are packed with items to complete on our to-do lists. Let’s all admit it – life can be hectic, no matter what stage of life you are in. It can be easy to get into a routine of working all the time with little to no rest. Yet, this habit can make one tired, stressed, and not the best version of themselves. To renew your energy and add more balance to your life, practicing the power of the pause is key.

According to CEO of The Energy Project, Tony Schwartz, “human beings perform best and are most productive when they alternate between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.” In addition, author Cara Bradley writes in her article on mindful.org, that it is a commitment to practice the pause, but “taking the time to just be still and quiet gives your nervous system a chance to regain balance.” Sounds persuasive, right? Pausing in a bustling lifestyle is a form of self-care and one that should be done, often. Practicing the pause can be done for a couple of minutes, hours, or longer. One thing to keep in mind that no matter how long you pause, you need to omit noise and embrace silence.

Noise is all around us. Outer noise in our various environments and inner noise in our heads. Bradley is correct when she states that “we are over-stimulated with noise.” Don’t you hate it when you are trying to get to sleep and the thoughts in your head keep you awake? Well, practicing the silence side of the pause helps. Just like noise, there is outer and inner silence.

Pausing for a Short Period of Time:

First, whenever you are ready or in need of a break or pause, turn off all the outer noises, such as phones, televisions, etc. Also, try to get yourself in a silent environment away from distractions. To find inner silence, begin relaxing with breathing exercises and meditation. One way to do this is through the exercise below:

  1. While sitting down, place your feet on the floor, hands on your thighs, and close your eyes.
  2. Think about your feet and pay attention to where they are on the ground. Notice everything around you.
  3. Find your heartbeat and focus your mind on the rhythm of your pulse. Do the same for your breathing. At this point, you should begin to feel at ease and your body should start to relax.
  4. Continue this for a few minutes or however long you need to pause.

Practice this method by scheduling 1 to 2-minute breaks every hour. Pauses can happen at any time, such as getting in and out of your car, before heading into a meeting, or finishing a hectic errand. Always include a short pause when you wake up in the morning and right before you go to bed at night.

Pausing for a Longer Period of Time:

Inner silence can last longer than only a few minutes. Settle down with your favorite activities, such as an evening bath with candles and music, an afternoon walk, or reading and napping on a rainy Saturday. Get in the mindset with the same techniques as listed above. Trust me, there is no harm in taking a whole day and doing nothing. Find what “pause” works best for you and add it into your schedule.

There are many benefits to the power of the pause. Reduced stress, more balance, and focus increase in awareness of healthy choices, and a better you are just a few of the reasons. Make sure you practice the pause daily and more peace will be added into your life.

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Ways to Make Time for Yourself

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Let’s be honest with ourselves – life is busy. The days are filled with work, family, errands, appointments, and more. Sometimes we become stressed and tired, especially if we spend more time caring for others and neglect caring for ourselves.

Whether it is five minutes a day or an hour a week, make it a goal this new year to add self-care into your schedule. Some of the many self-care ideas are below. However, it is important to always choose an activity that is fun and relaxing for you.

  1. Exercise: Take a walk, join a gym, or participate in a fun class at the Y. Being active is good for your mind, body, and spirit. Research suggests aiming for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Don’t consider yourself too busy to exercise. If 30 minutes seems too much at one time, break it into smaller increments. Try 10 minutes at a time and then build up to adding 30 minutes into your daily schedule.
  2. Schedule a digital detox: We are attached to our electronic devices and rely on them most of the time. However, when we are dedicated to a screen, such as our phones or computers, we are detached from those around us and from ourselves. Make it a priority to devote an hour or two per day to place your devices in a different room and not to touch them. Then, try it for an afternoon or whole day during the weekend. Think about it – don’t you feel stressed out by constantly checking your emails, looking at social media profiles of others, comparing your life to theirs? The more time you spend away from your device, the more time you’ll feel relaxed and more confident in your own life.
  3. Develop a new hobby just for yourself: One of the main things in self-care is making sure you are putting yourself first. It isn’t a time to feel guilty that you aren’t taking care of others or indulging in something you normally won’t do. It is a time to better yourself, so you can be a better person for your loved ones. A way to do just that is by developing a new hobby or restarting one that you had given up, one that is just for yourself. Maybe it is reading a book each night, sewing, coloring in a coloring book, or listening to a podcast. A hobby should be something you enjoy and want to do in your “me time.”
  4. Declutter: For me, I can get stressed out when things are all over the place and in a mess. To help with that, decluttering and cleaning up is the key. Every now and then, declutter a certain area in your home. It might be changing your wardrobe every three months and giving away pieces of clothing that you haven’t worn in a long time. Or you could use five minutes of each day to tidy up a corner of a room until it is done. When things are in place, our minds are calm.
  5. Educate yourself and learn something new: If you or a loved one are dealing with an illness, major life change, etc., research the situation and learn about all the different elements of how you are able to help. Sometimes being in the know about something takes away a great deal of stress. Also, learn something to broaden your horizons. Have you always wanted to learn another language or how to do a special skill? Now is the time.
  6. Change things up: Take a different route to work or go to that new restaurant you have always wanted to try. It is pivotal to have a routine, but every now and then, be spontaneous and try something new. An example could be making each Friday night the night to do something different. Do a new activity with your family and friends each week.
  7. Reward yourself after accomplishing a small or difficult task. Overcoming all types of obstacles should be celebrated. Reward these times with a pedicure, going to a fancy store, etc.

Self-care needs to be a priority for everyone and a part of a person’s to-do list. Find something that helps you and don’t feel bad taking the time to focus on you. As mentioned above, self-care makes you a better person.

xoxo,

Megan

Care for the Caregiver

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November is National Family Caregiver month. Each year, caregivers are celebrated for their contributions and efforts in assisting others. This month also raises awareness for the stress caregivers experience while putting others before themselves. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 1 in 3 adults in the United States are caregivers, and a caregiver can be defined as anyone actively helping others. This includes family members providing for older adults. While the job is wonderful, selfless, and rewarding, many caregivers experience emotional and physical stress. They may feel overwhelmed, constantly worried and tired, have frequent headaches, gain or lose weight, deal with depression, and become easily irritated or angry. If you are a caretaker and are showing some of the symptoms below, it might be time to reenergize. Below are some tips to help manage some of the caregiver stress.

  • Focus on how you can assist and what care you are able to provide: No one can be there to help with everything all the time. The important thing to understand is that you are doing the best you can and shouldn’t feel guilty about not being the perfect caregiver.
  • Ask for and accept help: There is no shame in asking for others to assist you. Create a list of things others can do and let them decide on the task. For example, the helper could cook dinner one night, or run an errand. You never know who will lend a helping hand until you reach out.
  • Find support for yourself: Most communities have caregiver resources. Types of aid include support groups, caregiving services (transportation, meal delivery, etc.), and health professionals. Also, stay in touch with your family and friends. Your loved ones can offer emotional support without being judgmental.
  • Practice self-care: Sometimes there is nothing better than a hot bath after a long day. Set aside time each week to focus on yourself and relax. Go for a walk each night, read a book before bed, etc. It is important to create a good sleep routine, eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water. Don’t forget to be physically active at least three times during the week.
  • Talk to your doctor: Before starting, make sure you are up to date on vaccines and your yearly physical. Plus, this helps establish a deeper relationship with you and your physician. That way, whenever something occurs, or you need someone to talk to, your doctor is able to offer assistance.

In addition, establish a relationship between you, the care recipient and the care recipient’s physician. Most of the time, the caregiver takes the care recipient to doctors’ appointments. Because of this, the caretaker needs to be on top of medications and treatments. Creating this relationship allows for more communication and understanding of how to better provide for the care recipient. If needed, prepare questions before the appointments to make sure the caregiver understands the care recipient’s healthcare plan. Lastly, don’t be afraid to call nurses or doctors with any questions or concerns.

If you are a caregiver and feeling stressed, try some of these activities. Remember to take time for yourself and relax. After all, you can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself.

xoxo,

Megan