Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Take a Break: Scandinavian Christmas-Tomtem Garland


With Christmas approximately four weeks away, “take a breaks” will focus on Scandinavian holidays. This week is all about creating a Tomtem garland.

Tomte are Swedish gnome like creatures who are responsible for the protection and welfare of the home and farm. Often described as an older, little man about the size of a young child, he wears old often ragged clothes, usually gray or navy, and sports a bright red cap on his head. Residing in the pantry or barn, he watches over the household and farm and is responsible for the care of the farm animals, especially the horses. The tomte has an enormous capacity for work but will not tolerate anyone’s interference. It is believed that a clean and orderly home or farm is an indication that this domestic sprite resides there.

The Norwegians have a similar character named nisse.

Tomtar and nisser require very little of the humans they work for. They demand only the respect and trust of the farmer and a bowl of julegrøt (Christmas porridge) with butter on Christmas Eve. These spirits will not remain in a home where respect is lacking and thus the farm will not thrive and the farmer will be reduced to poverty.

The present day version of the julenisse is very different form the legends of the domestic tomte or nisse. The julenisse is portrayed as an older, good natured, adult-sized man (not surprisingly the size of an uncle or father) with a long white beard and a red hat and suit. He carries a sack of toys on his back, visits children in their homes on Christmas Eve and always asks, “Are there any good children here?” (“Er det noen snille barn her?”) Many Scandinavian children also believe he lives at the North Pole where he has a workshop.

Learn more about the Legend of the Nisse and Tomte.

Make a Tomtem Garland out of red and white triangles and a circle for the face. Click here for directions. This is a good project to do with kids.

Not interested in today’s activities, try the Take a Break Pinterest Board.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Life with Chronic Conditions: Having faith in humanity

 It is not uncommon for those affected by long illnesses to question both their faith in humanity as well as the purpose of life. Below are three famous people’s responses to these questions E.B. White, writer of "Charlotte's Web"; Albert Einstein (scientist); and the Fourteenth Dalai Lama:

E.B. White
March 30, 1973

"Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society - things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, and his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
E. B. White"

Albert Einstein
A woman wrote to Einstein saying, We were having one war after another — first we had the First World War, then we had the Second World War and I just couldn’t see any point to the whole thing. So I wrote him a letter and I said, “What’s the point of living with what we’re going through here — having one war after another?”

April 28, 1951
Dear Miss Block:

The question “why” in the human sphere is easy to answer: to create satisfaction for ourselves and for other people. In the extra-human sphere the question has no meaning. Also the belief in God is no way out for in this case you may ask “Why God.”

Sincerely yours,
Albert Einstein

The Dalai Lama
ONE GREAT QUESTION underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life?  I have considered this question and would like to share my thoughts in the hope that they may be of direct, practical benefit to those who read them.

 I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy.  From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.  Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this.  From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment.  I don't know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves.  Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.

From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.

Read the entire letter online at Compassion and the Individual by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Take a Break: Honor Thanksgiving with an Act of Kindness

This week a friend sent me the most incredible letter. Sadly, just eight months ago, her spouse died unexpectedly, and while this could so easily be the worse Thanksgiving of her life, instead she's chosen to do it differently. The letter begins, “This has indeed been a devastating and difficult year. However, as we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself being thankful for so many things. I felt I needed to share them with you, because you are someone I am thankful for!”


Thanksgiving ushers in the holidays, which can often be a reminder of our impermanence. It is for this reason that holidays can be incredibly sad reminders but it’s also a time to acknowledge what we do have by simple acts of kindness, such as the letter my friend sent me. Need some other ideas:

• Hug someone
• Participate in Tie One on Day (that would be an apron)
• Make holiday ornaments for friends, neighbors as a way to usher in the season and remind them that they matter to you.
• House, pet or baby sit for someone free of charge
• Place a giant pile of pennies next to a fountain with a note about how you hope their wishes come true
• Check out 101 Random Acts of Kindness, paying particularly attention to the 101st idea.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Not interested in today’s activities, try the Take a Break Pinterest Board.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Journal Watch November 2018

New Guidelines Issued for Patellofemoral Pain Management: The National Athletic Trainers' Association has issued recommendations for identifying and managing patients with patellofemoral pain (PFP); these recommendations form the basis of a position statement published in the September issue of the Journal of Athletic Training. 

Back pain shows significant association with mortality among older women: Researchers found that frequent, persistent back pain is associated with earlier death in a study of more than 8,000 older women who were followed for an average of 14 years. Journal of General Internal Medicine 

Pain can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: A new brain imaging study of 34 people found that when people expect to feel intense pain, they do, even if they aren't subjected to painful stimuli. Surprisingly, these false expectations can persist even when reality demonstrates otherwise, the study found. Nature Human Behaviour, 2018; 2
only small pain relief for tennis elbow, according to a review published online Oct. 31 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Only local corticosteroid injection improved pain at short-term follow-up; however, it was associated with pain worse than placebo at long-term follow-up. Laser therapy and local botulinum toxin injection improved pain at midterm follow-up. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy provided pain relief at long-term follow-up. Only laser therapy showed better outcomes for grip strength compared with placebo. All treatments increased adverse events compared with placebo. After receiving placebo, most patients experienced pain resolution within four weeks of follow-up.

Quitting Cannabis Tied to Improved Memory: Abstaining from cannabis is associated with improvements in memory and verbal learning in adolescents and young adults, according to a study published online Oct. 30 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 

New insights into the neural risks and benefits of marijuana use: Compounds in cannabis can impair or improve memory depending on age, disease: Research underscores both the dangers and the therapeutic promise of marijuana, revealing different effects across the lifespan. Marijuana exposure in the womb or during adolescence may disrupt learning and memory, damage communication between brain regions, and disturb levels of key neurotransmitters and metabolites in the brain. In Alzheimer's disease, however, compounds found in marijuana, such as the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may improve memory and mitigate some of the disease's symptoms. Society for Neuroscience

Home-based biofeedback therapy is effective option for tough-to-treat constipation: Biofeedback therapy used at home is about 70 percent effective at helping patients learn how to coordinate and relax bowel muscles and relieve one of the most difficult-to-treat types of constipation, investigators report. Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology 

Singing may reduce stress, improve motor function for people with Parkinson's disease: Singing may provide benefits beyond improving respiratory and swallow control in people with Parkinson's disease, according to new data. The results from the pilot study revealed improvements in mood and motor symptoms, as well as reduced physiological indicators of stress as well as reduced physiological indicators of stress. Society for Neuroscience 2018 conference.

Blue light can reduce blood pressure, study suggests: Exposure to blue light decreases blood pressure, reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, a new study suggests. During this study, published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, participants were exposed to 30 minutes of whole-body blue light at approximately 450 nanometres, a dose comparable to daily sunlight -- followed by exposure to a control light on a different day. Visible blue light, as opposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, is not carcinogenic. To assess the impact, participants' blood pressure, stiffness of arteries, blood vessel dilation and blood plasma levels of nitric oxide stores were measured before, during, and up to two hours after irradiation with both lights. Researchers discovered that exposure to whole-body blue light significantly reduced the systolic blood pressure of participants by almost 8 mmHg, compared to the control light which had no impact. The reduction of blood pressure from blue light is similar to what is seen in clinical trials with blood pressure lowering drugs.

• Approved an extremely potent new opioid painkiller, Dsuvia
• Approving a ban on most flavored E cigarettes in retail stores and gas stations
• Approved New Version of Over the Counter Primatene Mist
Approved Aemcolo (rifamycin), an antibacterial drug indicated for the treatment of adult patients with travelers’ diarrhea caused by noninvasive strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli), not complicated by fever or blood in the stool.
• Expanded the approved use of Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin) injection in combination with chemotherapy for adult patients with certain types of peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL).
• Warned patients and doctors, who use at-home or in-the-office medical devices to monitor levels of the blood thinner, warfarin, that certain test strips used with the devices may provide inaccurate results and should not be relied upon to adjust the drug dosage.
• Permitted marketing, with special controls, of the 23andMe Personal Genome Service Pharmacogenetic Reports test as a direct-to-consumer test for providing information about genetic variants that may be associated with a patient’s ability to metabolize some medications to help inform discussions with a health care provider. The FDA is authorizing the test to detect 33 variants for multiple genes.
• Permitted marketing of the PicoAMH Elisa diagnostic test as an aid in the determination of a patient’s menopausal status
• Approved Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil) for the treatment of acute uncomplicated influenza (flu) in patients 12 years of age and older who have been symptomatic for no more than 48 hours.

Age to Stop Cervical Cancer Screening Depends on Test Used: Continuing regular cytology screening up to age 75 years or performing an exit human papillomavirus (HPV) test to confirm the absence of oncogenic HPV strains past the age of 55 years offers preventive benefit for older women with a cervix, according to a study published online Nov. 1 in The Lancet Oncology.

Association of Cardiorespiratory Fitness With Long-term Mortality Among Adults Undergoing Exercise Treadmill Testing: Cleveland Clinic researchers have found that better cardiorespiratory fitness leads to longer life, with no limit to the benefit of aerobic fitness. Researchers retrospectively studied 122,007 patients who underwent exercise treadmill testing at Cleveland Clinic between Jan. 1, 1991, and Dec. 31, 2014, to measure all-cause mortality relating to the benefits of exercise and fitness. The study found that increased cardiorespiratory fitness was directly associated with reduced long-term mortality, with no limit on the positive effects of aerobic fitness. Extreme aerobic fitness was associated with the greatest benefit, particularly in older patients (70 and older) and in those with hypertension. The risk associated with poor cardiorespiratory fitness was comparable to or even exceeded that of traditional clinical risk factors, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and smoking. The study's findings emphasize the long-term benefits of exercise and fitness, even to extreme levels, regardless of age or coexistent cardiovascular disease. JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1(6):e183605. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.3605

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Updated: Key guidelines for recommended physical activity in Americans have been updated, according to a special report published online Nov. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association To enhance growth and development, preschool-aged children should be physically active throughout the day. At least 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily is recommended for children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 years. Adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination, as well as muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week. Multicomponent physical activity that includes balance training and aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities is recommended for older adults. Nearly everyone will benefit from moving more and sitting less.

Urinary Incontinence Common in Women over 50: Nearly half of women older than 50 years report having urinary incontinence, according to the results of the National Poll on Healthy Aging, published on Nov. 1.

USPSTF Recommends Screening Adults for Unhealthy Alcohol Use: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that primary care clinicians screen all adults, including pregnant women, for unhealthy alcohol use and provide brief behavioral counseling to reduce unhealthy alcohol use. These findings form the basis of a final recommendation statement published in the Nov. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Aggressive Control of BP, Lipids in Type 2 Diabetes May Up Kidney Risk: Intensive blood pressure (BP) control and fenofibrate use in patients with type 2 diabetes who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease may increase the risk for adverse kidney events, according to a study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

Hands-only CPR training kiosks can increase by stander intervention, improve survival: Prompt action from a bystander can impact the likelihood a person survives cardiac arrest that occurs outside of a hospital. One common and proven intervention that anyone can learn is Hands-Only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Hands-Only CPR training kiosks are becoming more widespread and are an effective training tool, a new Annals of Emergency Medicine analysis finds. 

Pilot study suggests pedal desks could address health risks of sedentary workplace: A recent pilot study by kinesiologists found that pedaling while conducting work tasks improved insulin responses to a test meal. Investigators found that insulin levels following the meal were lower when sedentary workers used a pedal desk compared to a standard desk. In addition, work skills were not decreased in the pedaling condition. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

Weight lifting is good for your heart and it doesn't take much: Lifting weights for less than an hour a week may reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent, according to a new study. Spending more than an hour in the weight room did not yield any additional benefit, the researchers found. The results show benefits of strength training are independent of running, walking or other aerobic activity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2018; 

Different types of physical activity offer varying protection against heart disease: While it is well known that physical activity is important for heart health, neither research nor recommendations consistently differentiate between the benefits of different types of physical activity. New research found that while all physical activity is beneficial, static activities -- such as strength training-- were more strongly associated with reducing heart disease risks than dynamic activities like walking and cycling. ACC Latin American Conference 

Phone app effectively identifies potentially fatal heart attacks with near accuracy of medical ECG: Can your smart phone determine if you're having the most serious -- and deadly -- form of heart attack? A new research study says it can -- and may be a valuable tool to save lives. Science Daily

Social isolation linked to higher risk of death: A large American Cancer Society study links social isolation with a higher risk of death from all causes combined and heart disease for all races studied, and with increased cancer mortality in white men and women. The study, appearing in the American Journal of Epidemiology, says addressing social isolation holds promise if studies show interventions are effective, as they could be relatively simple and could influence other risk factors, as social isolation is also associated with hypertension, inflammation, physical inactivity, smoking, and other health risks.
Untreated Hearing Loss ups Costs & Conditions: Older adults with untreated hearing loss have increased total health care costs and an increased risk for medical comorbidities, according to two studies published online Nov. 8 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery

Grief linked to sleep disturbances that can be bad for the heart: People who have recently lost a spouse are more likely to have sleep disturbances that exacerbate levels of inflammation in the body, according to new research. These elevated levels of inflammation may increase risk for cardiovascular illness and death. Psychosomatic Medicine

Most Supplements Contain Prohibited Stimulants: Many supplements contain one or more stimulants that have been the subject of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-issued public notices, according to a research letter published online Oct. 22 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Plant Based Diets Beneficial for Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: For adults with type 2 diabetes, plant-based diets can improve psychological health, quality of life, hemoglobin A1c levels, and weight, according to a review published online Oct. 30 in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

Limited Benefit forn-3 Fatty Acids in CVD, Cancer Prevention: Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D do not significantly reduce major cardiovascular events or cancer incidence, according to two studies published online Nov. 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Trial finds diet rich in fish helps fight asthma: The international study found children with asthma who followed a healthy Mediterranean diet enriched with fatty fish had improved lung function after six months. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

Resistant bacteria: Can raw vegetables and salad pose a health risk?: Salad is popular with people who want to maintain a balanced and healthy diet. Salad varieties are often offered for sale ready-cut and film-packaged. It is known that these types of fresh produce may be contaminated with bacteria that are relevant from the point of view of hygiene. Researchers have now shown that these bacteria may also harbor bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Consumers should always wash raw vegetables, leaf salad and fresh herbs thoroughly with drinking water before eating them in order to minimise the risk of ingestion of pathogens or antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems as a result of advanced age, pre-existing conditions or medication intake should additionally refrain from eating pre-cut and packaged salads as a precaution against foodborne infections and should instead prepare salads themselves using fresh and thoroughly washed ingredients shortly before consumption. Federal Institute for Risk Assessment

Nuts for nuts? Daily serving may help control weight and benefit health: Eating Brazil nuts and other varieties of nuts daily may prevent weight gain and provide other cardiovascular benefits, according to two separate preliminary studies. American Heart Association

Should You Eat a Low Gluten Diet?: When healthy people eat a low-gluten and fiber-rich diet compared with a high-gluten diet they experience less intestinal discomfort including less bloating which researchers show are due to changes of the composition and function of gut bacteria. The new study also shows a modest weight loss following low-gluten dieting. The researchers attribute the impact of diet on healthy adults more to change in composition of dietary fibers than gluten itself. Nature Communications

Drinking coffee may reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer's, Parkinson's: A new study suggests drinking coffee may protect you against developing both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. "The caffeinated and de-caffeinated dark roast both had identical potencies in our initial experimental tests," says Dr. Mancini. "So we observed early on that its protective effect could not be due to caffeine." Frontiers in Neuroscience

Drug Recall: Certain lots of irbesartan are being recalled by SciGen because they contain an industrial chemical that is a suspected carcinogen, CNN reported. The recalled drugs have "Westminster Pharmaceuticals" and "GSMS Inc." on the label.

Aggressive Control of BP, Lipids in T2DM May Up Kidney Risk: Intensive blood pressure (BP) control and fenofibrate use in patients with type 2 diabetes who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease may increase the risk for adverse kidney events, according to a study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology to coincide with its presentation at the American Society of Nephrology's Kidney Week, held Oct. 23 to 28 in San Diego.

Link Between Statins, Non-CVD Outcomes Lacks Evidence: There is a lack of convincing evidence for an association between statin use and non-cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes, according to a review published in the Oct. 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The researchers found no convincing (class I) evidence, two highly suggestive (class II) associations (decreased cancer mortality in patients with cancer and decreased exacerbations in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), 21 suggestive (class III) associations, and 42 weak (class IV) associations for the observational studies. There was a sufficient amount of evidence with no hints of bias for one outcome from the RCTs (decreased all-cause mortality in patients with chronic kidney disease). Observational studies had suggestive evidence that statins increase the risk for diabetes and myopathy. No statistically significant effects on myopathy, myalgia, or rhabdomyolysis were found among the RCTs.

Icosapent Ethyl Cuts CV Risk From Elevated Triglycerides: Icosapent ethyl is associated with a reduced risk for ischemic events among patients with elevated triglyceride levels despite taking statins, according to a study published online Nov. 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with the annual meeting of the American Heart Association.

Aspirin alone a good clot buster after knee surgery: When it comes to preventing blood clots after a knee replacement, good old aspirin may be just as effective as newer, more expensive drugs, such as rivaroxaban (Xarelto), according to a orthopedics study. Science Daily  

Hepatitis C treatment can be shortened in 50 percent of patients, study finds: Hepatitis C drugs cure more than 90 percent of patients, but can cost more than $50,000 per patient. Findings from a new study could lead to significant cost savings. In 50 percent of patients, the standard 12-week treatment regimen could be shortened to as little as six weeks without compromising efficacy, the study found.  Science Daily

Diabetic foot ulcers heal quickly with nitric oxide technology: Around the world, 425 million people live with diabetes and upwards of 15 percent develop foot ulcers, which increases their risk of death 2.5 times. A new nitric oxide-releasing technology has the potential to cut down the healing time of diabetic foot ulcers from 120 days to 21 days. Medical Sciences

Scalpel-free surgery enhances quality of life for Parkinson's patients: A high-tech form of brain surgery that replaces scalpels with sound waves improved quality of life for people with Parkinson's disease that has resisted other forms of treatment, a new study has found. "In our initial study that looked at the outcomes of focused ultrasound surgery in Parkinson's disease, we primarily described post-operative improvements in motor symptoms, specifically tremor," said Scott Sperling, PsyD, a clinical neuropsychologist at UVA. "In this study, we extended these initial results and showed that focused ultrasound thalamotomy is not only safe from a cognitive and mood perspective, but that patients who underwent surgery realized significant and sustained benefits in terms of functional disability and overall quality of life." Neurology

Psoriasis Linked to Increased Risk for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Psoriasis appears to be significantly associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to a review published online Oct. 24 in JAMA Dermatology.

Access to In-Home Support Soon to Be Available for Seniors: In-home services such as help with household chores and caregiver respite will be available to seniors with private Medicare Advantage plans in more than 20 states next year. A health-related reason is needed to qualify, and costs will vary depending on the plan. With some plans, there will be no added cost. There will be limits on benefits, the Associated Press reported. The number of states where the new services are available is expected to grow over time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Take a Break: Celebrate National Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month.  Start with the Native American Heritage Month website and connect with all sorts of activities taking place on-line as well as at various places around the country.

Watch the PBS series Native America, which is being aired this month. Native America is a four-part PBS series that challenges everything we thought we knew about the Americas before and since contact with Europe. It travels through 15,000-years to showcase massive cities, unique systems of science, art, and writing, and 100 million people connected by social networks and spiritual beliefs spanning two continents. The series reveals some of the most advanced cultures in human history and the Native American people who created it and whose legacy continues, unbroken, to this day. You can watch on-line as well learn so much more from the website including sacred stories; native voices etc.

Not interested in today’s activities, try the Take a Break Pinterest Board.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Life with Chronic Disease: Practice Optimism

Given the response to last weeks post, Life with Chronic Disease A dose of optimism  I thought it might be helpful to provide ways to practice optimism each day. After all, the mind and thinking takes it shape from whatever it rests upon. If we continually ruminate on fear, anger, self criticism and helplessness it’s wears us down ultimately causing bad moods and less resiliency and healing. Therefore the more ways to increase optimistic thought the better you’ll feel,

• Commit an act of kindness (check out 103 Random Acts of Kindness for lots of great ideas )
• Take care of your corner of the world. Making small positive changes-even as simple as helping to clean a neighborhood park or watering plants while your neighbor is away, adds up.
• Spend time with a person(s) who has a positive outlook
• Love-give, receive and invest
• Smile at someone-It will make you and them feel better
• Work on things you can control
• Count the positives in your life
• Be realistic-For every down there will be an up.
• Recognize that you are not alone and every one has issues and problems yet they continue to move on. The human spirit is an amazing thing.
• Practice mindfulness by purposely drawing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Be mindful of your choice of words and what they convey.
• Let go of the past, the “what if’s” and the mental chatter which is negative 
• Remind yourself that what you most fear isn’t happening at this moment; if it does happen you can handle it; and recognize you are causing yourself to suffer.
• Plan an activity that you can look forward to.
• Think about a pleasant memory
• Stay off social media
• Limit news coverage
• Listen to music.
• Sing out loud
• Dance
• Exercise
• Talk a walk in nature
• Work hard, recognizing that failure is okay
• Write a letter (e-mail, text) of gratitude
• Think before you react.
• Laugh.  Make someone else laugh.
• Find opportunity in a challenging situation
• Accept things you cannot change
• Stop doing something that’s making you miserable
• Treat yourself to a spa day.
• Have lunch with a friend
• Enjoy a sunset or sunrise
• If you have a special talent such as musician, writer, poet, artist etc. share it with someone.
• Ease up on yourself. Forgive yourself for past errors (real or imagined) and move on.

Watch this video. It’s funny but packs a powerful message-when you find yourself complaining follow it with “And I’m really very blessed.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Take a Break: Create an Optimism Reminder

 During and after WWII, caregivers found that orphaned refugee children couldn’t sleep, though they were safe, well cared for and had ample food. However, by giving them a piece of bread to hold at bedtime, they would sleep.  It was the most basic reminder of being optimistic-“I ate today and I’ll eat tomorrow.”

Today’s “take a break” is about finding reminders “to hold,” that will remind you to be optimistic in spite of whatever is going on in your life, or the world at large. Some ideas include:
• A piece of jewelry-could be from a friend, something you made but it should be associated with a joyful and hopeful moment.
• A tiny stone, such as a pebble from the beach or someplace you like, or object that you keep in your wallet, pocket or near by.
• A photograph, quote or saying that you see each time you check your cell phone, open your laptop or turn on your computer.
• An item that you will see throughout the day-vase, dish, rocks, picture, doll etc.

When you need to, touch the object that is acting as your reminder.

Not interested in today’s activities, try the Take a Break Pinterest Board.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Life with Chronic Conditions: A dose of optimism

One of my kids has a chronic condition. While under control, I realized recently that health issues, including surgery, combined with a barrage of negative media, was contributing to his feelings of discontent and anxiety. He isn’t alone. It as if the dementors-the creatures from Harry Potter that feed on human happiness-have invaded the planet.

In response to the constant barrage of doom and gloom, I posted on my personal Facebook page 23 Charts and Maps that Show the World is Getting Much, Much Better.  Only two people bothered to “like” it and one mentioned Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist and author of “ Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.” I then posted Pinker’s TED talk, “Is the World Getting Better or Worse, A Look at the numbers,” which had even less responses. 

In his TED Talk and books, Pinker provides data sets that show that significant strides have been made in every single measure of human well being (life span, hunger, education, poverty, violence etc.) yet almost no one knows about it or acknowledges it.

Take for example plane crashes. The odds of a plane crash are one for every 1.2 millions flights, with odds of dying being one in 11 million. Yet, when there is an airplane accident, the news coverage is endless and there are now TV shows called “Air Disasters,” which keeps the fear alive between incidents. Flying is overwhelmingly the safest mode of transportation with the drive to the airport more dangerous as the odds of dying in a car or traffic accident are one in 5,000.

While we’re discussing statistics, a few more to make the point- the odds of being killed by lighting are 1 in 161,0000 or being killed by a shark 1 in 3.7 million. Murder rates in most countries, including the US have fallen significantly in the past 15 years and deaths from terrorist attacks around the world were lower in the past 15 years than in the previous 15.

We’re mortal beings and no we can’t control that ultimately we all die. However, in the interim we don’t have to endlessly make ourselves miserable obsessing and worrying over things that will never happen, or if they do happen usually aren’t as horrific as we thought they would be. According to Pinker, No one can prophesy that a cataclysm will never happen. But, as with our own mortality, there are wise and foolish ways of dealing with the threats to our existence. Some threats turn out to be figments of cultural and historical pessimism. Others are genuine, but we must treat them not as apocalypses-in-waiting but as problems to be solved.

If you think about it, it’s no mystery that we’re genetically programmed to believe bad news more readily than good. Our brains store positive and negative differently, with the negative more accessible so it’s a no brainer that the media is based on “if it bleeds it leads.”

Evolutionary, worrying about the shadows in the bush being a lion ready to pounce was important when life expectancy was 26 years. However, today, with a life expectancy close to 80, strategies that were once helpful are becoming counterproductive.

If you are still thinking, “but just look at the most recent headlines.” Sure they scream of horrific news, and they always will. However, not so readily available to readers are stories about people who are making contributions above and beyond to make things better. These may appear to be few in number, but they add up, hence Pinker’s data is showing a very different trend than what the media broadcasts.

I’m not advocating burying your head in the sand but being news obsessed to the point of numbness is not okay either. Know what’s going on in the world, but practice moderation. Making a point of seeing something positive first thing in the day is probably going to be much better for your outlook than watching CNN.

Maybe most important of Pinker’s and others work, which focuses on the positive and not the negative, it gives hope, and with the recent string of hate crimes we need hope now more than ever.

Ultimately, we are responsible for the climate of our mind. If our mind is calm and relaxed we can approach life and each other from a kinder, gentler and saner approach than if it is wrapped in anger and fear.

I end this post recommending that you watch Sylvia Boorstein's recent video where she discusses how everyday mindfulness practices can make a difference.