- Dr. Mel McDonald, ND, DAOM, LAc999 Baxter Street
Athens, GA 30606(706) 208-1199
- • 5 Ways to Stay Fit This Winter •
- • 4 Budget Friendly Family Activities •
- • Staying Healthy This Winter •
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Improve Your Mental Health with Regular Meditation
Meditation has a reputation for several health benefits but what is it exactly? It is defined as the regular process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. There are some key reasons you might want to consider establishing a regular meditation routine. The overall improvement in your health and wellbeing just might surprise you.
Research proves that meditation can really be a stress reducer. Too much stress in your life can cause sleep issues, depression, anxiety, and even high blood pressure. An 8-week study published in 2013 found that “mindfulness meditation” actually reduced the inflammatory response caused by too much stress.
As mentioned previously, as stress levels decrease, so does anxiety. A 2014 study examined the transcendental meditation technique and found that it reduced anxiety significantly. However, that’s not the only technique that reduces anxiety. Additional research has found that a variety of techniques can reduce anxiety levels. It doesn’t matter what technique you try, just get started!
After the pandemic, we all know just how important it is to maintain our mental health. Regular meditation has been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression by decreasing the levels of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in response to stress. It can also help people experience fewer negative thoughts.
Studies also show that regular meditation practices can lead to enhanced performance on visual tasks and a greater attention span than those who don’t regularly practice meditation. And you don’t need to set a goal of meditating for hours on end. Other studies have indicated that even short periods of meditation each day can be a benefit.
And, in case you haven’t noticed yet, each of these benefits just continues to cascade to additional benefits! Now that you know that regular meditation can lead to improvements in attention and clarity, you might be happy to hear that both benefits lead to keeping your mind young and healthy overall.
Studies have found that in addition to fighting the normal age-related memory loss that comes from getting older, meditation can at least partially improve memory in those suffering from dementia. It can also help to control stress and improve coping skills in caregivers.
Even the Mayo Clinic touts the benefits of meditation. They also outline the different types including guided meditation, mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, Qi gong, tai chi, transcendental meditation, and yoga. They also advise that meditation takes practice, and you will get better at maintaining your focus and breathing the more you engage in the practice.
The bottom line is that meditation is something that everyone can try to improve their mental and emotional health. You don’t have to have a particular level of athletic ability; it doesn’t require a special location or equipment and you don’t have to buy a membership at a gym to try it. A simple Google or YouTube search can get you started. Trying out a variety of styles to see what might work best for you is a great way to begin your meditation journey.
Staying Active and Healthy in the Warm Summer Months
After the cold winter and unpredictable Spring weather we’ve been having, everyone is ready for a warm summer with longer days filled with rest, vacation, and family time. However, the warmer temperatures can often bring unanticipated health risks like seasonal allergies, heat stroke, and bug bites. Read on for a few tips to keep you not only active, but healthy as you embrace those dog days of summer.
The summer months are a great time to get outside and get moving, especially if you live in a climate that doesn’t allow you to get out much during the winter and early spring months. That additional physical activity can lead to healthy hearts and maybe a trimmer waistline. As the temperatures heat up, it might be tempting to stay inside and enjoy the air conditioning but don’t fall for an all or nothing trap! If it gets too hot in your area, take a walk or an early morning bike ride before the heat is unbearable. If early mornings aren’t your thing, try a late evening stroll to get a little extra fitness in your day.
If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean or close to national parks, then hiking and biking on those gorgeous trails should be on your summer to-do list. A jog along the beach or an ocean swim are also great options. And don’t forget, your body isn’t the only thing that will benefit from the increased physical activity, your mind with thank you as well. Exercise is a great way to boost your mental health and improve your sleep.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
While getting outdoors is great, it also comes with risks. Too much UV light from the sun can be hazardous to your health, contributing to skin damage and increased cancer risk. Too much UV exposure can lead the skin to lose elasticity, get deeper wrinkles, and contribute to an overall premature aging of the skin.
To protect yourself, make sure you choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 50. And make sure you reapply your sunscreen after swimming or sweating. Getting outside is great for your mental and physical health but not if you burn in the process!
In addition to sun protection, it’s important to make sure you are consuming plenty of fluids in the warmer temperatures. It might be tempting to indulge in those fruity alcoholic drinks, but they are not effective against dehydration, and neither is caffeine. They make it more difficult for the body to stay properly hydrated because they increase the body’s fluid output. Chronic dehydration can lead to serious complications such as kidney failure and shock.
Signs you might be dehydrated include:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Little or no urination
Saying healthy and active is definitely doable over the summer with just a little bit of planning and awareness. So, get outside and enjoy these long, warm days while you can!
Three Tips to Stay Mentally Strong This Summer
While many look forward to the summer months filled with vacations, time outside, and less structure, others can feel overwhelmed and out of control. For those struggling with anxiety or depression, the care-free days of summer can feel anything but. Read on for three simple tips to help keep your mental health in check this summer.
Tip #1: Get Outside and Get Active
The first tip is to get outside and get moving! Getting regular exposure to natural sunlight increases your level of vitamin D and serotonin which are known mood-boosters. Take an evening or early morning walk to beat the heat, take a walk on the beach and feel the sand between your toes and the waves lapping at your ankles, or simply sit on a porch and watch the sunset. Outdoor hobbies like gardening, biking, or hiking are also great ideas to incorporate into your summer plans.
If you aren’t the gym type, try a simple yoga class or just taking a walk outside. It’s easy to use the heat as an excuse to binge-watch Netflix and chill, but don’t do it! Even just 20 to 30 minutes of activity each day can help you feel fit and boost your mood. You will be surprised by how good you feel as you develop this habit over the summer.
Tip #2: Plan a Vacation
Everyone needs a little getaway now and then and using your vacation time to plan a trip and unplug is key to refocusing your energy and clearing your mind. It’s tempting to use your vacation time to accomplish household chores or other things that need to get done in your personal life, but you also need to enjoy yourself and recharge your batteries.
If funding limits how far you can travel, a staycation works, too. Just don’t try to clean the garage or remodel your kitchen. Read that bestseller you’ve been putting off, hit a local pool or the beach if you live close by. Take a day trip to a museum or water park to get a change in scenery. Just do something fun! Getting away from your everyday routine can clear your mind and boost your mood. It’s important to unwind and refocus when you can.
Tip #3: Establish a Healthy Sleep Schedule
With summer comes relaxed bedtimes and sleeping in later than usual. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Experts recommend 8 to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night and going to bed and waking up at about the same time every day helps, too. This doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally indulge in a late morning, but keeping things consistent helps you maintain good sleep hygiene habits which also contributes to your physical and mental well-being.
Use these tips to check in with yourself and make sure you are on track to stay physically and mentally strong this summer.
Planning the Perfect Summer Vacation
It’s that time of year when the perfect summer getaway is within reach. Whether you are looking for a beach vacation or a mountain retreat, it’s never too early to begin researching the perfect summer vacation. Here are a few suggestions to get you started and ensure a successful and relaxing trip!
Book Early vs. Last Minute Deals
The summer season is often the peak vacation time for many destinations so if that’s the case with your preferred location, you might want to book early to take advantage of any flight, hotel, or rental car deals. Set alerts or, if you can be flexible, fly during non-peak times during the week as opposed to the weekends. You can also set alerts for your preferred hotel company or join their loyalty program to take advantage of any offers there.
While planning ahead can be a great way to score a deal before prices rise, sometimes leaving a little wiggle room for any last-minute deals can score even bigger savings. Venues might offer discounts for unclaimed tickets or cancellations. Don’t be afraid to ask about any sales or promotions. It’s always best to keep your options open!
Get Family Buy-In
You might have grand plans about a Hawaiian beach getaway, while the rest of the family is thinking theme park extravaganza. It’s important when planning a family vacation that you get buy-in from everyone on the location and itinerary. Make sure you include activities for each member of the family and get everyone involved in the planning process. When everyone is excited and looking forward to going, you won’t have unexpected battles to fight down the road. Pro tip: If you have kids, keep them busy wherever you go! From activities to keep them busy on the flight to daytime fun when you reach your destination, you want to make sure the kids are active enough to have fun and be ready for bed when the day ends.
Less Stress, More Relaxation
Everyone in your family may have a different idea of what a stress-free and relaxing vacation looks like. Some people like to pack every minute full of activities as they explore a new place while others want to lie on the beach or by the pool all day every day. No matter what your speed, plan some time to relax and take in your surroundings.
And definitely don’t add unnecessary stress to your vacation. If flying is too much for your family, consider a road trip. If getting to the airport is the most stressful part of the trip, consider a ride share option so you don’t have to worry about parking. Also, check your credit card rewards to see if you have access to an airport lounge. A lounge is a great way to relax before a flight.
And the most important advice is to enjoy the experience and make memories with your friends and family no matter where your trip takes you.
Healthy Choices for a Healthy Spring
After a long cold winter, Spring is a time for renewal and growth. The flowers and trees begin to bloom once again and the grayness of winter transitions to the brightness and warmth of Spring. If you have struggled to keep those New Year’s resolutions going, Spring is a great time for a fresh start with healthy choices. Here are a few tips to keep you and your family healthy and ready to enjoy the longer days of summer that are just around the corner.
Freshen Up Your Fitness Routine
If your fitness routine didn’t get off to a great start in the new year, it might be time to shake things up a bit as you head into Spring. With warmer temperatures and longer days, rethink how you approach your fitness plan and look at it as a chance to have some fun. Sign up for a 5k or join a weekend softball or basketball league. Pickleball and tennis are gaining in popularity across the country as well. And if a team sport isn’t your cup of tea, try hiking, biking or swimming.
Freshen Up Your Diet
Spring fruits and vegetables are coming back into season, so this is a great time to choose unprocessed whole foods rather than those full of sugar and preservatives. Avoid foods with corn syrup, dextrose, and fructose. If you are prone to afternoon snacking, choose raw foods like nuts, carrots, zucchini, or broccoli. Spring fruits and veggies are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients so hit that farmer’s market and stock up on the bounty of options.
Freshen Up Your Me Time
Whether single or married, kids or not, it is important to schedule some “me” time and make it a priority, just as you would a doctor’s appointment. And it doesn’t have to be a long time and it doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be something as simple as a morning walk before work with a good cup of coffee in hand. Or it could be a hot soak in the tub with a glass of wine and a good book. Or it could be time spent in the garden after a long day of sitting at your desk. And if you try something you thought would nourish your soul and it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to try something else.
Freshen Up Your Social Life
Use these longer days to connect with people in your life. Schedule game nights, movie nights, walks, hikes, or happy hours to enjoy time with family and friends. Force yourself to do a digital detox and put down the phone, tablet, or laptop and step away from social media. Other ideas include volunteering, getting involved in a new hobby or sport are great ways to meet people and connect in new communities.
Another great tip is to make sure you are getting enough sleep every night. It is best for adults to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Establishing all these healthy habits in Spring can set you up for a great summer and beyond.