“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” Albert Einstein
Have you ever felt like you are operating on autopilot? So often we establish our daily routines and find ourselves doing the same things over and over again, often without even thinking too much about it. While there is certainly comfort and stability in routine, it can also make us feel like life has become too predictable and a little boring. One of the best ways to both exercise your brain and challenge yourself is to commit to learning something new. It can be something small and relatively easy to do, like reading an article about a topic that interests you, or it can be something large and may require a significant commitment, like growing a garden. Either way, there are many benefits that can be felt by learning something new. Research has shown that ‘mental sweat’ helps your brain build new cells and strengthen connections between the cells; specifically, when you learn something new you are exercising your brain, which can help improve cognitive functions such as concentration, attention to detail, memory recall and problem-solving, and also reduce the chance of developing dementia1. Additionally, learning something new can create a sense of achievement; specifically, setting yourself a goal to learn something new, then achieving it, is super rewarding and gives you a sense of accomplishment1. Finally, learning something new can be a lot of fun and you may find it really enjoyable to be pushed out of your comfort zone when you try something new1.
The sky is truly the limit when it comes to finding new and interesting things to learn. There are many lists available online and talking with friends or family is sure to also help brainstorm some things you have always wanted to try.
Here are some ideas of new things that you can try to not only build your knowledge but also increase your feelings of accomplishment:
• Learn a new language (or at least a few phrases)
• Learn to play a new game (board, card, or video)
• Learn about a foreign place (watch a documentary or do online research)
• Learn to play an instrument (take private lessons or watch tutorials)
• Learn to build something (it can be big or small, for use or decoration)
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“Drinking water is essential to a healthy lifestyle.” Stephen Curry
We hear it all the time: drink more water! Sure, it does not have caffeine or sugar, but what is the big deal about this clear drink? According to experts, there is a lot of positives to drinking enough water each day and staying hydrated. Perhaps the most well-known purpose of staying hydrated is that water helps the body to excrete waste through perspiration, urination, and defecation1. It helps fight off illness and can help prevent certain medical conditions such as kidney stones, exercise-induced asthma, urinary tract infections, and hypertension(1). Staying hydrated also helps to create saliva and prevent constipation, as well as aids in digestion, nutrient absorption, and weight loss(1). Drinking enough water each day maximizes physical performance, improves blood oxygen circulation, keeps skin bright, and regulates body temperature in addition to protecting your tissues, spinal cord, and joints(1). Your water intake is also linked to boosting energy, improving mood, and increasing cognitive function(1).
Clearly drinking enough water is linked to a multitude of physical and mental health benefits, so how can you make sure you are getting enough? Research has shown that most people get about 20% of their daily water intake from food so ideally, you would need to consume between about 73 ounces (2.12 liters) to about 100 ounces (3.0 liters) of water and water-based beverages daily to ensure proper hydration(1).
Below are some tips to help increase your water intake each day(2):
- Add some flavor: steeping fresh fruit (grapefruit, strawberries, lemon), veggie slices (cucumber, ginger, celery), and herbs (basil, mint, lavender) in your carafe can make consuming your daily ounces a little more exciting
- Connect drinking water to daily activities: making morning coffee? Drink a glass of water while you wait. Taking a bathroom break? Drink a glass of water after you finish. Making dinner at home or waiting at a restaurant? Drink a glass of water while cooking or waiting.
- Keep water bottles everywhere: having water readily accessible can make a huge impact on what we reach for when we are thirsty, so keep full water bottles in your most trafficked places as well as in bags and in your car. There’s no bad place to keep a full water bottle!
- Monitor your water intake each day: this both serves to keep you on track and lets you be proud of reaching your goal. You can use a water bottle that is marked to show progress, check in at scheduled times each day to evaluate progress, or use an app on your phone that will monitor your intake.
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Happy Women’s History month! Since 1982, the United States has designated March as Women’s History month to annually acknowledge and celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women in addition to raising awareness about continued gender inequalities being faced still today.
One of the greatest inequalities women face is in healthcare, as, historically, nearly all research (including clinical studies and drug studies) was based on the experiences and symptoms of (white, cisgender) men; because of this, many women went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for hundreds of years despite advancements in medical science. It was not until 1993 when The National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act began to require research studies and other clinical trials to enroll numbers of women and minority subjects representative of their numbers in society; this requirement heralded the era of government-sponsored, gender-based studies in medicine(1).
Mental illness and mental health treatment has been no different for women. For hundreds of years, doctors were diagnosing women with “hysteria” to explain away symptoms of other disorders, from endometriosis to mental health issues(2). It wasn’t until the late 20th century that people began to recognize and validate women’s mental health issues; as women began to challenge societal norms and centuries-old gender roles, women’s mental health awareness became a global talking point and physicians began to diagnose and treat these conditions with various therapies and medications(2). But progress certainly has been slow: it was not until 1980 that the American Psychological Association changed the diagnosis from “hysteria” to “conversion disorder”(2). Currently, it is estimated that 1 in 5 women has a mental health diagnosis and, while research shows that women and men have similar rates of mental illness, the types of mental health diagnoses are typically much different3. Depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in women, with twice as many women experiencing depression than men(3). Generalized anxiety disorder is also twice as likely to be diagnosed in women as men, as is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)(3). Women also overwhelming make up the majority of individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder (e.g., anorexia nervosa or bulimia), with some estimates being as high as 95%(3).
Many women face unique challenges that impact their mental health and their ability to access appropriate mental health treatment. The American Psychiatric Association found the following to be risk factors and barriers for women(3):
- Women earn less than men: women who are full-time workers earn about one-fourth less than male counterparts in a given year; the poverty rate for women aged 18 to 64 is 14.2% compared with 10.5% for men. For women aged 65 and older the poverty rate is 10.3%, while the poverty rate for men aged 65 and older is 7.0%
Women face gendered and intimate partner violence: about 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime
Women are primary caregivers to both minor children and dependent adults: about 65% of caregivers are women and female caregivers may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than male caregivers
Women often face economic barriers, such as lack of insurance or inability to pay for services (including premiums and copays)
Women often face time/related support barriers, such as not being able to take time off work, find reliable child care, or have access to dependable transportation
Women often struggle with lack of awareness about mental health issues, treatment options, and available services as well as struggle with stigma
For more women-centered mental health information and resources, check out the Office on Women’s Health at https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/good-mental-health or call their helpline at 1-800-994-9662 (M-F 9am-6pm EST).
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“I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing” William James
When is the last time you belted out your favorite tune? Singing, even when off-key, is one of the easiest and quickest ways to perform self-care. Scientists have found that singing can have a calming but energizing effect on people; it can also help tame stress, lift the spirits, improve concentration, increase memory recollection, improve mental alertness, as well as alleviate anxiety and stress1. You can sing new songs, old songs, songs in your primary language, songs in a foreign language, funny songs, or sad songs: the important thing is just to sing.
Below are a few links to spark some vocal inspiration:
50 Songs for Parents and Kids
The 51 Best Kids’ Songs Almost Any Parent Can Sing
50 Best Karaoke Songs
Online Choir Performances
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Perhaps one of the most well-known quotes in modern cinema is uttered in 1967’s Cool Hand Luke: what we’ve got here is failure to communicate. This classic line resonates with so many people because of the shared human experience of the struggle to not only communicate our own thoughts and feelings but the difficulty in trying to understand the thoughts and feelings being communicated by others. Communication can be viewed as one of the pillars of not only interpersonal communication but society and civilization as a whole. Without being able to effectively share our ideas, needs, and worries with others, many of us see our relationships struggle and our self-confidence plummet. So, if communication is so essential to our lives, why do nearly all of us find it so hard to master? We have all been in situations where we feel that we are just not being understood by the other person despite our best efforts. And we have all experienced conflict because we have failed to understand what a friend or loved one is trying to tell us. Is there a way to become better communicators?
One of the most basic ways to break down communication styles is through the “aggressive-assertive-passive” continuum. Identifying these differences both within ourselves as well as others can help us start to ensure that we are communicating efficiently and effectively with others. Aggressive communicators express their emotions and opinions in a way that hurts other people; they may use physical or verbal assaults, will try and dominate others, using humiliation, blame or attacks to control them, which can lead to these individuals alienating others or themselves, being hated or feared, and unable to identify or conquer their issues1. The opposite of aggressive communicators are passive communicators, who tend to be quiet, speak softly, and allow others to infringe on their space, time, and even rights; they often have issues with a low sense of self-worth, low self-respect, and don’t think that their own needs have importance1. The final communication type, and the one that is most effective in communicating with others, is the assertive individual; specifically, they clearly state their opinions and feelings, advocate for themselves and their needs appropriately, create an environment of respect, set healthy boundaries, and are direct about their wants and needs while being considerate of the rights, needs, and wants of others1. It is important to work towards developing a greater understanding of how to identify each communication type and how they impact the quality of communication between people.
There are many skills that you can practice which may help you communicate better with the people around you as well as help you to increase your confidence in your communication abilities. Utilize active listening, which is a technique where you focus on listening more than talking, remain engaged and interested in what is being said, limit interruptions, and reflect back what you have heard2. Clarify, summarize, and ask questions about the information the other person is sharing; this not only demonstrates your commitment to the conversations, this also allows you to gain more information and reach a mutual understnading2. Be aware of your non-verbal communication signals, such as eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice, and body posture, as all of these factors influence the ways you are perceived by others2. Finally, remember to approach communication with empathy and a genuine interest to learn about the other person’s perspective2. Remember to practice these skills as often as possible, as repetition helps to develop habits and good communication skills will certainly have a positive influence in your life.
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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou
From the time that written language was invented, people have been writing down their thoughts, experiences, hopes, and feelings as a way to document their experience, work through complicated emotions, and keep a record of daily events. It has been long documented that journaling can have a positive impact on both mental and physical health; specifically, journaling daily can reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger as well as less doctor visits, better immune systems, and reduced symptoms of chronic disease (like arthritis)(1). Furthermore, journaling daily can lead to a greater sense of meaning and purpose in addition to increasing the ability to work through life stressors and leading to high levels of self-awareness(1). And journaling can take many forms, from traditional pen and paper to bullets written on a phone app: there are benefits in all of its many forms.
Below are some tips for getting started and increasing your comfort with journaling(2):
- Start small and have realistic expectations: you do not need to spend a lot of time (start with just five minutes) or write anything prolific (you are writing) to experience the positive effects.
- Write at the time of day that is best: some people prefer to write before starting their day, others make it the last thing before bed. Do what works best for you.
- There are no wrong topics: write what you want, whether that is a story about your day, things you would like to accomplish, or simply listing what you are grateful for. Again, make this experience your own.
- Be accountable: it is better to write for a short period of time on a busy day than to not write anything. Make the commitment each day to journal and stick with it.
- Make your journal private: this should be a space for you to discuss things that are deeply personal so your journal is not something that you have to share with others. Keep your journal in a private place.
Remember: if you get stuck or need some fresh ideas, a Google search will produce many different writing prompts and examples of what works for others.