The Wellness Boost of a Purposeful Life

Len Canter wrote . . . . . . . . .

Research has long shown how psychological disorders lead to poor physical health. Now scientists are learning more about the flip side of emotions, how living a purposeful life may have as many physical benefits as inspirational ones.

Having purpose in life is simply believing that your life has meaning and that you live according to goals you set for yourself.

One study found that a purposeful life has protective health benefits as you age. It can help people maintain the physical functions necessary for day-to-day life, such as good walking speed and grip strength. Another found that it improves sleep quality — life-altering sleep disturbances like sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome were less likely among people who feel good about themselves.

One explanation for this deep mind-body connection could be that people with greater purpose in their lives tend to follow numerous healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercising, managing stress and taking preventive wellness steps. But one thing’s for sure: It can’t hurt for you to try it on your own and see how it makes you feel.

Living a more purposeful life starts with self-reflection. This can involve using practices like meditation and writing in a journal to better understand yourself, what’s most important to you, how you want to live and how to be open to new possibilities. The second step is to find ways to put your goals into action, taking steps, big and small, to live that life.

Source: HealthDay


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Walking Slower and Pausing for Rest May Enable Older Adults to Maintain Outdoor Mobility

When functional ability declines, changing the way of walking by, for instance, walking slower, pausing for rest or using walking aids, can facilitate older adults’ outdoor mobility. These were the findings of a study conducted at the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä.

As functional ability declines, older people may start to have difficulties in walking long distances. At this point, older people might change their way of walking consciously or unconsciously.

“Changes may be seen, for instance, in lowering walking speed, pausing walking for rest or even in avoiding long walking distances altogether. These early changes in walking are called walking modifications,” doctoral student Heidi Skantz explains.

Previous research on walking modifications has implicitly considered modifications as an early sign of functional decline and such modifications have been shown to predict walking difficulties in the future. This previous research, however, has emphasized mainly the negative side of the use of walking modifications. We think that the potential positive, enabling, effects of walking modifications should also be considered.

“We wanted to find out if some of these changes in walking would be beneficial in maintaining outdoor mobility,” Skantz says.

Using walking aids, lowered walking speed and pausing for rest were categorized as adaptive walking modifications, since they were considered to reduce the task demand, whereas reduced frequency of walking and avoiding long walking distances were categorized as maladaptive modifications. This categorization was shown to be meaningful.

“Those older people who used maladaptive walking modifications had smaller life-space mobility and they perceived that they lacked possibilities for outdoor mobility,” Skantz says. “As for those older people who had chosen to utilise adaptive walking modifications, they were able to maintain wider life-space mobility and they were also satisfied with their outdoor mobility opportunities.”

As functional ability declines, walking long distances might become a harder and scarier task than before. In such a case, it still remains important to continue covering long distances by walking, even if with walking aids or by pausing walking, in order to maintain outdoor mobility.

“Encouraging older people to opt for adaptive walking modifications might be possible by designing age-friendly environments, for instance by providing opportunities to rest when walking outdoors. However this warrants further studies,” says Skantz.

The study participants were older people between the ages of 75 and 90, who were living in the Jyväskylä and Muurame regions in central Finland. The study was conducted at the Gerontology Research Center and Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä. This study was supported by European Research Council, the Academy of Finland, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the University of Jyväskylä.

Source: EurekAlert!

Evidence Builds That Optimism Might Lengthen Your Life

Alan Mozes wrote . . . . . . . . .

A sunny outlook on life may do more than make you smile: New research suggests it could also guard against heart attacks, strokes and early death.

In the review of 15 studies that collectively involved almost 230,000 men and women, the findings were remarkably consistent, the study authors added.

“We found that optimists had a 35% lower risk for the most serious complications due to heart disease, compared to pessimists,” said lead author Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of cardiology at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City.

That mind-body connection held up across all age groups, said investigators, ranging from teenagers to those in their 90s. That “suggests that optimism may be an asset, regardless of age,” Rozanski noted.

The studies also found the more positive one’s outlook, the less one’s risk for heart trouble or death.

Ten of the studies specifically looked at positivity’s impact on heart health, while nine looked at how a person’s outlook affected their risk of dying from a wide range of illnesses.

Many of the investigations asked basic questions touching on expectations of the future. In response, some participants indicated that they generally felt upbeat despite the uncertainty of what’s to come. Others said they never assume that things will pan out well down the road.

Over time, those who held more positive viewpoints were more likely to remain heart-healthy.

Yet, despite suggesting that “the magnitude of this association is substantial,” Rozanski and his colleagues stressed that the review can’t prove that optimism directly protects against heart disease and premature death.

Still, the team pointed to a whole host of potential reasons why positivity — directly or indirectly — may help stave off illness.

Some of the studies in the review indicated that optimistic people are more adept at problem-solving, better at developing coping mechanisms, and more apt to realize goals. And those are the kind of skills that could drive someone to take a more active interest in monitoring and maintaining their health, the researchers said.

“Consistent study has shown that optimists have better health habits,” Rozanski noted. “They are more likely to have good diets and exercise,” and they may be less likely to smoke.

“Increasing data also suggests that optimism may have direct biological benefits, whereas pessimism may be health-damaging,” he added. “This biological connection has already been shown for some other psychological risk factors, such as depression.”

Positivity may also work its magic by lowering inflammation and improving metabolism, the authors suggested.

This is not the first study to find such a link. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August found an upbeat view of life boosted the odds of living to a ripe old age.

Looking ahead, Rozanski’s team pointed to the potential for developing new mind-body treatments, likely in the realm of behavioral therapy, designed to cut down on pessimism and boost optimism.

“However, further research will need to assess whether optimism that is enhanced or induced through directed prevention or intervention strategies has similar health benefits versus optimism that is naturally occurring,” the report cautioned.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Dr. Jeff Huffman, director of cardiac psychiatry research at Massachusetts General Hospital, cowrote an editorial that accompanied the study.

The review provides “yet more evidence that optimism seems to be an independent predictor of superior cardiac health,” he said.

As to why that is, Huffman agreed that optimism is “associated with more physical activity, healthier diet, and a range of other healthy lifestyle behaviors, and it is likely this association that explains a lot of the benefit.”

But optimism also impacts biological processes, he added. And ultimately, “the mechanism by which optimism leads to better health is likely a combination of biology and behavior.”

Source: HealthDay

Study: How Happy Couples Argue

In marriage, conflict is inevitable. Even the happiest couples argue. And research shows they tend to argue about the same topics as unhappy couples: children, money, in-laws, intimacy.

So, what distinguishes happy couples? According to “What are the Marital Problems of Happy Couples? A Multi-method, Two-Sample Investigation,” a study published this August in Family Process, it is the way happy couples argue that may make a difference.

“Happy couples tend to take a solution-oriented approach to conflict, and this is clear even in the topics that they choose to discuss,” said lead author Amy Rauer, associate professor of child and family studies and director of the Relationships and Development Lab in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.

Rauer and three colleagues—Allen Sabey of Northwestern University, Christine Proulx of the University of Missouri, and Brenda Volling of the University of Michigan— observed two samples of couples who describe themselves as happily married. Fifty-seven of the couples were in their mid- to late 30s and had been married an average of nine years; 64 of the couples were in their early 70s and had been married an average of 42 years.

Couples in both samples similarly ranked their most and least serious issues. Intimacy, leisure, household, communication, and money were the most serious, as well as health for the older couples; couples in both samples ranked jealousy, religion, and family as the least serious.

When researchers observed couples discussing marital problems, all couples focused on issues with clearer solutions, such as the distribution of household labor and how to spend leisure time.

“Re-balancing chores may not be easy, but it lends itself to more concrete solutions than other issues,” Rauer said. “One spouse could do more of certain chores to balance the scales.”

The couples rarely chose to argue about issues that are more difficult to resolve. And Rauer suggests that this strategic decision may be one of the keys to their marital success.

“Focusing on the perpetual, more-difficult-to-solve problems may undermine partners’ confidence in the relationship,” Rauer said.

Instead, to the extent it is possible, focusing first on more solvable problems may be an effective way to build up both partners’ sense of security in the relationship.

“If couples feel that they can work together to resolve their issues, it may give them the confidence to move on to tackling the more difficult issues,” Rauer said.

As to which issues may be more difficult to resolve, couples avoided discussing challenges regarding their spouse’s health and physical intimacy. These issues may be more difficult to address without challenging their partner’s sense of competence or making the partner feel vulnerable or embarrassed, resulting in more conflict.

“Since these issues tend to be more difficult to resolve, they are more likely to lead to less marital happiness or the dissolution of the relationship, especially if couples have not banked up any previous successes solving other marital issues,” Rauer said.

Researchers also found that couples who were married longer reported fewer serious issues and argued less overall. This is consistent with previous research suggesting that older partners’ perceptions of spending less time with each other may lead them to prioritize their marriage and decide some issues are not worth the argument.

In other words, couples may want to choose their battles wisely, according to Rauer.

“Being able to successfully differentiate between issues that need to be resolved versus those that can be laid aside for now may be one of the keys to a long-lasting, happy relationship.”

Source: The University of Tennessee Knoxville

How to Fight Hidden Causes of Inflammation

Len Canter wrote . . . . . . . . .

Tamping down inflammation is a must for people with a chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. But you can be exposed to damaging inflammation without having a specific medical condition.

Inflammation prevents the body from adequately reacting to stressors and puts the aging process on an unwanted fast track, increasing the likelihood of problems like heart disease. The negative effects of inflammation can be so significant that leading researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy coined the phrase inflamm-aging. So making anti-inflammation lifestyle choices is good for everyone.

How to Avoid Inflamm-aging

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet focusing on foods like fatty fish, fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind that sugar is highly inflammatory.
  • Get active with moderate cardio exercise. Remember: Good health guidelines call for 30 minutes a day on at least five days per week.
  • Lose excess weight, especially if you’re carrying those pounds around your middle.
  • Avoid exposure to all forms of secondhand smoke, and of course, if you smoke, quit.
  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day if you’re a woman, two if you’re a man.
  • Clock seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Some people need more, others need less, but this is the sweet spot between not enough and too much.
  • Manage stress. Stress is often unavoidable, but you can minimize its effects with techniques like deep breathing and meditation.
  • Stay social with strong connections to friends and family.

Also, talk to your doctor about ways to boost heart health and any other steps appropriate to your needs to counter inflammation.

Source: HealthDay