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Apr 20

50 Things Money Can’t Buy


0 Things Money Can’t Buy
1. Respect
2. Well-adjusted kids
3. Work-life balance
4. Natural beauty
5. Manners
6. Common sense
7. A clear conscience
8. Purpose in life
9. Integrity
10. Good friends
11. A long life
12. Close-knit family
13. An open mind
14. A worry-free day
15. Trust
16. A new beginning
17. Clean arteries
18. A great idea
19. An honest politician
20. Peace of mind
21. A good hair day
22. Patience
23. Luck
24. A good epitaph
25. Happy memories
26. Time to relax
27. A strong work ethic
28. A positive attitude
29. A happy home
30. Everything you may want
31. Good karma
32. Appreciation of the simple things
33. True love
34. A new shot at a missed opportunity
35. Peace in the world
36. A golden anniversary
37. Talent
38. A second chance in life
39. Quality time with your kids
40. Wisdom
41. Happiness
42. Humility
43. A good reputation
44. 25-hour day
45. Relationship with your kids
46. Youth
47. Class
48. Justice
49. A proper perspective
50. Selflessness

Apr 19

The Power of a Positive Attitude


By Frank Sonnenberg
Do you think you’re a positive person? A positive mental attitude can improve your health, enhance your relationships, increase your chances of success, and add years to your life.

The fact is, most people are bombarded by negativity each day. Sure, it’s easy to cast blame by saying you’re surrounded by negative people. The reality: A lot of the negativity is self-inflicted…influenced by the company you keep and your personal perspective on life’s realities.

Take a minute…

Think how often in the day you’re besieged by people who argue over money, worry about the possibility of failure, complain about someone’s actions, criticize mistakes, mistrust someone’s intentions, blame others to avoid condemnation, envy someone for personal achievements, and gossip about trivial garbage. (No wonder we’re exhausted at the end of the day.)

Let’s take a closer look at the negativity that we face every day…

Arguments. Many arguments are the result of poor communication, the lack of open mindedness, or the clash of opposing values and principles. People also argue to force their viewpoint on others or just to let off steam.

Worry. Others worry about losing control. They desire certainty in an uncertain world. These people feel that worrying is productive, even though they’ll be the first to tell you that they’re driving themselves crazy because they can’t get these thoughts out of their head.

Fear. Some people fear the unknown. Just as pollution damages the environment, fear is toxic to individuals and companies. Fear encourages people to withdraw, keep information close to their vest, hide mistakes, and refuse to take risks. Whether their fear is caused by something real or imagined, perception is reality.

Blame. Criticizing and insulting people in front of their peers, challenging their competence, demanding impossible deadlines, and cutting them out of the information loop are tactics that create negativity. Furthermore, when something goes wrong, people often look to others to cast blame. The result is that everyone watches out for #1 — themselves.

Complaints. The reason many people complain all the time is not necessarily because they’re unhappy with their lives or circumstances. The fact is, compulsive complainers don’t even realize that they’re complaining. Perpetual complainers grumble out of boredom or a desire to turn an awkward moment of silence into a conversation starter. Or sometimes, people complain just because it makes them feel better to vent.

Criticism. There’s a difference between constructive feedback and biting criticism. While constructive feedback is offered with good intent, constant and biting criticism can lead to stress, anxiety, and reduced self-esteem.

Mistrust. How much time is wasted and how much ill will created as a result of mistrust? People spend endless hours second-guessing intent, peering over shoulders, and creating elaborate approval processes to check and recheck.

Jealousy. When is enough, enough? We live in a society where many people aren’t satisfied with their own accomplishments. If our neighbor buys a new toy, if our colleague receives a promotion, or if the TV celebrity flaunts a new design, we want it too. The problem is, after the excitement wears off, the finish line moves as well. Whether it’s affordable, deserved, or needed never comes into question.

Gossip (our national pastime). People gossip to fit into a group, fill a void in conversation, prove that they’re in the know, take revenge on a person, put someone in their place, or merely to gain attention. Gossip is a disease spread mouth to mouth. It’s one of those distractions that keep us from focusing on our own lives.

It Pays to Be Positive
There’s a direct correlation between a positive attitude and better relationships, superior health, and greater success.

A positive attitude can boost your energy, heighten your inner strength, inspire others, and garner the fortitude to meet difficult challenges. According to research from the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can increase your life span, decrease depression, reduce levels of distress, provide greater resistance to the common cold, offer better psychological and physical well-being, reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and enable you to cope better during hardships and times of stress.

Here are several ways to adopt a positive mental attitude:

Surround yourself with positive people. Spend time with people who are positive, supportive, and who energize you. Remember, if you get too close to a drowning victim, he may take you down with him. Pick a positive person instead.

Be positive yourself. If you don’t want to be surrounded by negative people, what makes you think others do? Learn to master your own thoughts. For example:

When you visualize a goal, it makes you more likely to take the actions necessary to reach it. Visualize yourself winning the race, getting the promotion, accepting the award, or landing the new account.

Control your negative thinking. This can be accomplished in the following ways:

See the glass as half full rather than half empty.

Anticipate the best outcome.

Stay the middle ground. Don’t view everything in extremes — as either fantastic or a catastrophe. This will help you reduce your highs and lows.

Mistakes happen. Negative people blame themselves for every bad occurrence whether it was their fault or not. Don’t let this be you.

Consciously resist negative thinking. Be cognizant of and mentally avoid negative thinking. This will help you modify your behavior.

Be nice to yourself. Unfortunately, some people say the meanest things to themselves. If you criticize yourself long enough, you’ll start to believe it. This negativity can drag you down over time. It may be time to fire the critic and hire the advocate.

Set realistic, achievable goals. There’s nothing wrong with setting a high bar — unless you beat yourself up for not achieving your goals. The key is to build confidence by setting realistic goals and by hitting a lot of singles rather than swinging for the fences.

Keep it in perspective. Life is all about prioritizing the things that matter most in your life and focusing your efforts in these areas. This means that trivial things that go wrong every day shouldn’t get you down. Learn to address or ignore small issues and move on. It’s time to sweat the big stuff.

Turn challenges into opportunities. Instead of letting challenges overwhelm you, turn them into opportunities. (Rather than hitting the wall, climb over it or go around.)

Count your blessings. Be grateful and give thanks for the special things in your life rather than taking them for granted. Some people do this by giving thanks around the dinner table, keeping a written journal, or posting one special item each day on Facebook. Remember, some of the greatest possessions in life aren’t material. Take every opportunity to make a wonderful new memory.

If you want to achieve happiness, better health, stronger relationships, and continued success, you may not have to look any further than the mirror. “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.”* Do you see the glass half full or half empty? True happiness may depend on how you view the world and who you look to for inspiration. It pays to be positive.

*Author unknown. See

Apr 18

ADD / ADHD Medications


Are ADHD Drugs Right for You or Your Child?

Medications for Treating ADHD: Risks, Benefits and Regimens
Medication can help reduce symptoms of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity in children and adults with ADD/ADHD. However, medications come with side effects and risks—and are not the only treatment option. Whether you’re the parent or the patient, it’s important to learn the facts about ADD/ADHD medication so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for you or your child.
Medications for ADD / ADHD
Stimulant medications
Stimulant safety concerns
Non-stimulant medications
ADD/ADHD meds & children
Medication alone is not enough
Taking medication
Dealing with side effects
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Medication for ADD & ADHD: What you need to know
Making ADD/ADHD medication decisions can be difficult, but doing your homework helps. The first thing to understand is exactly what the medications for ADD and ADHD can and can’t do. ADHD medication may help improve the ability to concentrate, control impulses, plan ahead, and follow through with tasks. However, it isn’t a magic pill that will fix all of your or your child’s problems. Even when the medication is working, a child with ADD/ADHD might still struggle with forgetfulness, emotional problems, and social awkwardness, or an adult with disorganization, distractibility, and relationship difficulties. That’s why it’s so important to also make lifestyle changes that include regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep.

Medication doesn’t cure ADD/ADHD. It can relieve symptoms while it’s being taken, but once medication stops, those symptoms come back. Also, ADD/ADHD medication works better for some than for others. Some people experience dramatic improvement while others experience only modest gains. Because each person responds differently and unpredictably to medication for ADHD, its use should always be personalized to the individual and closely monitored by a doctor. When medication for ADD/ADHD is not carefully monitored, it is less effective and more risky.

Generic vs. Brand-Name Drugs
Generic drugs have the same use, dosage, side effects, risks, safety profile, and potency as the original brand-name drug. The main reason why generic drugs are cheaper than brand-name drugs is that the generic drug manufacturer does not need to recoup huge expenses for developing and marketing a drug. Once the patent for the original drug has expired, other manufacturers can produce the same drug with the same ingredients at a markedly lower cost.
Occasionally, brand-name drugs have different coatings or color dyes to change their appearance. In rare cases, these extra ingredients will make the generic form of the drug less tolerable, so if your condition worsens after switching from a brand-name to a generic drug, consult your doctor. In most cases, however, generic drugs are just as safe and effective as brand-name drugs.
Stimulant medications for ADD & ADHD
Stimulants are the most common type of medication prescribed for attention deficit disorder. They have the longest track record for treating ADD/ADHD and the most research to back up their effectiveness. The stimulant class of medication includes widely used drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine.

Stimulants are believed to work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, attention, and movement. For many people with ADD or ADHD, stimulant medications boost concentration and focus while reducing hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.

Short-acting vs. long-acting stimulants for ADD / ADHD
Stimulants for ADD/ADHD come in both short- and long-acting dosages. Short-acting stimulants peak after several hours, and must be taken 2-3 times a day. Long-acting or extended-release stimulants last 8-12 hours, and are usually taken just once a day.

The long-acting versions of ADD/ADHD medication are often preferred, since people with ADHD often have trouble remembering to take their pills. Taking just one dose a day is much easier and more convenient.

Common side effects of stimulants for ADD & ADHD:
Feeling restless and jittery
Difficulty sleeping
Loss of appetite
Upset stomach
Irritability, mood swings
Racing heartbeat
Stimulant medications may also cause personality changes. Some people become withdrawn, listless, rigid, or less spontaneous and talkative. Others develop obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Since stimulants raise blood pressure and heart rate, many experts worry about the dangers of taking these ADD/ADHD drugs for extended periods.

ADD / ADHD Stimulant safety concerns
Stimulant Medication Red Flags

Call your doctor right away if you or your child experience any of the following symptoms while taking stimulant medication for ADD or ADHD:

chest pain
shortness of breath
seeing or hearing things that aren’t real
suspicion or paranoia
Beyond the potential side effects, there are a number of safety concerns associated with the stimulant medications for ADD/ADHD.

Effect on the developing brain — The long-term impact of ADD/ADHD medication on the youthful, developing brain is not yet known. Some researchers are concerned that the use of drugs such as Ritalin in children and teens might interfere with normal brain development.
Heart-related problems — ADD/ADHD stimulant medications have been found to cause sudden death in children and adults with heart conditions. The American Heart Association recommends that all individuals, including children, have a cardiac evaluation prior to starting a stimulant. An electrocardiogram is recommended if the person has a history of heart problems.
Psychiatric problems — Stimulants for ADD/ADHD can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of hostility, aggression, anxiety, depression, and paranoia. People with a personal or family history of suicide, depression, or bipolar disorder are at a particularly high risk, and should be carefully monitored when taking stimulants.
Potential for abuse — Stimulant abuse is a growing problem, particularly among teens and young adults. College students take them for a boost when cramming for exams or pulling all-nighters. Others abuse stimulant meds for their weight-loss properties. If your child is taking stimulants, make sure he or she isn’t sharing the pills or selling them.
ADD / ADHD stimulants are not recommended for those with:
Any type of heart defect or diseases
High blood pressure
High levels of anxiety
A history of drug abuse
Non-stimulant medications for ADD & ADHD
In addition to the traditional stimulant drugs, there are several other medications used to treat ADD/ADHD, including Strattera, atypical antidepressants, and certain blood pressure medications. In most cases, non-stimulant medications are considered when stimulants haven’t worked or have caused intolerable side effects.

Strattera Suicide Risk in Children

Strattera may cause an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions in some children and teenagers, especially if your child has bipolar disorder or depression in addition to ADD/ADHD.

Call the doctor immediately if your child shows agitation, irritability, suicidal thinking or behaviors, and unusual changes in behavior.

Strattera, also known by its generic name atomoxetine, is the only non-stimulant medication approved by the FDA for ADD/ADHD treatment. Unlike stimulants, which affect dopamine, Strattera boosts the levels of norepinephrine, a different brain chemical.

Strattera is longer-acting than the stimulant drugs. Its effects last over 24 hours—making it a good option for those who have trouble getting going in the morning. Since it has some antidepressant properties, it’s also a top choice for those with co-existing anxiety or depression. Another plus is that it doesn’t exacerbate tics or Tourette’s Syndrome.

On the other hand, Strattera doesn’t appear to be as effective as the stimulant medications for treating symptoms of hyperactivity.

Common side effects of Strattera include:

Abdominal pain or upset stomach
Nausea and vomiting
Mood swings
Abdominal pain or upset stomach
Nausea and vomiting
Mood swings
Straterra can also cause insomnia and appetite suppression, but these side effects are more common in stimulants.

Other ADD & ADHD medication options
The following medications are sometimes used “off-label” in the treatment of attention deficit disorder, although they are not FDA approved for this purpose. They should only be considered when stimulants or Strattera aren’t viable options.

High blood pressure medication for ADD/ADHD – Certain blood pressure medications can be used to treat ADD/ADHD. Options include clonidine (Catapres) and guanfacine (Tenex). But while these medications can be effective for hyperactivity, impulsivity, and aggression, they are less helpful when it comes to attention problems.
Antidepressants for ADD/ADHD – For people suffering from both ADHD and depression, certain antidepressants, which target multiple neurotransmitters in the brain, may be prescribed. Wellbutrin, also known by the generic name bupropion, is most widely used. Wellbutrin targets both norepinephrine and dopamine. Another option is the use of tricyclic antidepressants.
ADD/ADHD medications and your child
Even when armed with all the facts, deciding whether or not to let your child take ADD/ADHD medication isn’t always easy. If you’re unsure, don’t rush the decision. Sometimes other medical conditions–or even normal childhood behavior–can be mistaken for ADD/ADHD symptoms, so be sure to eliminate all other possible causes before considering medication for your child. Take your time to weigh the options and get your child’s input in the decision-making process.

Most importantly, trust your instincts and do what feels right to you. Don’t let anyone–be it your physician or the principal at your child’s school–pressure your child into medication if you’re not comfortable with it. Remember: medication isn’t the only treatment option. For young children especially, medication should be viewed as a last resort, not the first course of treatment to try.

Questions to ask an ADD / ADHD specialist
Consulting with an ADD/ADHD specialist or an experienced psychiatrist can help you understand the pros and cons of medication. Here are some questions to ask:

What ADD/ADHD treatments do you recommend?
Can my child’s symptoms be managed without medication?
What medications do you recommend and what are the side effects?
How effective is medication for my child’s ADD/ADHD?
How long will my child have to take medication?
How will the decision be made to stop medication?
For Parents: Helpful questions about ADHD medication and your child
When deciding whether or not to put your child on medication, Jerome Schultz, Ph.D., ADHD expert, says to first consider the following questions:
Has my child been helped by non-medication approaches? Self-calming techniques, deep breathing, and yoga often can help children with ADHD.
Has the school tried to teach my child to be more attentive and less active?
Is the decision to put my child on medication the result of behavioral observations over time and in different settings, such as in school and at home?
When is my child at his or her best? Fishing with his uncle or playing video games? Help the physician understand how pervasive or selective the problem is.
Does my child have other conditions that can be mistaken for hyperactivity? Children exposed to toxic chemicals or who have undiagnosed learning disabilities and low-level anxiety disorder may produce similar behaviors.
Source: Family Education Network
Talking to your child about ADD / ADHD medication
Many kids and teens with ADD/ADHD don’t take their medication correctly—or stop taking it without talking to their parents or doctor—so if your child is on ADD meds, make sure that he or she understands how to take the medication correctly and why following prescription guidelines are important.

Encourage your child to come to you with any medication-related concerns so you can work together to solve the problem or find another treatment option. It’s also important to remember that ADD/ADHD medication should never have a numbing effect on a child’s energy, curiosity or enthusiasm. A child still needs to behave like a child.

Monitoring Medication’s Effects on Your Child
Here is a list of questions you should ask when your child begins medication therapy, changes dosage, or starts taking a different medication.
Is the medication having a positive impact on your child’s mood and/or behavior?
Do you think the dosage or medication is working?
Does your child think the dosage or medication is working?
Does the dose need to be increased or decreased?
What was the change in a specific behavior or set of behaviors that caused you to conclude that the medication needed to be evaluated?
Is your child experiencing any side effects, such as headaches, stomachaches, fatigue or sleeplessness, (or suicidal thoughts if taking Strattera)?
What is the likelihood those side effects will last? (Ask your doctor)
Do any lasting side effects (if any) outweigh the medication’s benefits?
Do you or your child think a medication or dosage level has stopped working?
Source: From Chaos to Calm: Effective Parenting of Challenging Children with ADHD and Other Behavioral Problems, by Janet E. Heininger and Sharon K. Weiss.
Medication alone is not enough
Treatment for attention deficit disorder isn’t just about seeing doctors or taking medication. There is a lot you can do to help yourself or your child tackle the challenges of ADD/ADHD and lead a calmer, more productive life. With the right tips and tools, you can manage many of the symptoms of your ADD/ADHD on your own. Even if you choose to take medication, healthy lifestyle habits and other self-help strategies may enable you to take a lower dose.

Exercise regularly. Exercising is one of the most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Physical activity boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. Try walking, skateboarding, hiking, dancing or playing a favorite sport. Encourage your child to put down the video games and play outside.
Eat a healthy diet. While diet doesn’t cause ADD/ADHD, it does have an effect on mood, energy levels, and symptoms. Set regular snack and meal times. Add more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet and make sure you’re getting enough zinc, iron and magnesium.
Get plenty of sleep. Regular quality sleep can lead to vast improvement in the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Simple changes to daytime habits go a long way toward resting well at night. Have a set bedtime and stick to it. Avoid caffeine later in the day.
Try therapy. ADD/ADHD professionals can help you or your child learn new skills to cope with symptoms and change habits that are causing problems. Some therapies focus on managing stress and anger or controlling impulsive behaviors, while others teach you how to manage time, improve organizational skills, and persist toward goals.
Maintain a positive attitude. A positive attitude and common sense are your best assets for treating ADD/ADHD. When you are in a good frame of mind, you are more likely to be able to connect with your own needs or your child’s.
Guidelines for taking ADD & ADHD medication
If you decide to take medication for ADD/ADHD, it’s important to take the drug as directed. Following your doctor and pharmacist’s instructions will help you maximize the effectiveness of medication for ADD/ADHD and minimize the side effects and risks. Here are some guidelines for safe use:

Learn about the prescribed medication. Find out everything you can about the ADD/ADHD medication you or your child is taking, including potential side effects, how often to take it, special warnings, and other substances that should be avoided, such as over-the-counter cold medication.
Be patient. Finding the right medication and dose is a trial-and-error process. It will take some experimenting, as well as open, honest communication with your doctor.
Start small. It’s always best to start with a low dose and work up from there. The goal is to find the lowest possible dose that relieves you or your child’s symptoms.
Monitor the drug’s effects. Pay close attention to the effect the medication is having on your or your child’s emotions and behavior. Keep track of any side effects and monitor how well the medication is working to reduce symptoms.
Taper off slowly. If you or your child wants to stop taking medication, call the doctor for guidance on gradually decreasing the dose. Abruptly stopping medication can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, depression, and headache.
Dealing with the side effects of ADD & ADHD medication
Most children and adults taking medication for ADD/ADHD will experience at least a few side effects. Sometimes, side effects go away after the first few weeks on the medication. You may also be able to eliminate or reduce unpleasant side effects with a few simple strategies.

Tips for minimizing side effects
Loss of appetite – To deal with reduced appetite, eat healthy snacks throughout the day and push dinner to a later time when the medication has worn off.
Insomnia – If getting to sleep is a problem, try taking the stimulant earlier in the day. If you or your child is taking an extended-release stimulant, you can also try switching to the short-acting form. Also avoid caffeinated beverages, especially in the afternoon or evening.
Stomach upset or headaches – Don’t take the medication on an empty stomach, which can cause nausea, stomach pain, and headaches. Headaches can also be triggered by medication that’s wearing off, so switching to a long-acting drug may help.
Dizziness – First, have you or your child’s blood pressure checked. If it’s normal, you may want to reduce your dose or switch to a long-acting stimulant. Also make sure you’re drinking enough fluids.
Mood changes – If medication is causing irritability, depression, agitation, or other emotional side effects, try lowering the dose. Moodiness may also be caused by the rebound effect, in which case it may help to overlap the doses or switch to an extended-release medication.
If troublesome side effects persist despite your best efforts to manage them, talk to your doctor about adjusting the dose or trying a different drug. Many people respond better to the long-acting or extended release formulations of ADHD medication, which build gradually in the bloodstream and then wear off slowly. This minimizes the ups and downs caused by fluctuating medication levels and causes less of a rebound effect, where symptoms return, often worse than before, as the drug wears off.

Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Damon Ramsey, MD.

Apr 17

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

1st Trimester Antidepressant Use Tied to Autism RiskA new Johns Hopkins study discovers an association between prenatal exposure to antidepressant medications, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and developmental delays (DD) in boys.

Researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public Health found that early prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — commonly prescribed for depression, anxiety, and other disorders — increased the risk for ASD three-fold.

Common SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), and sertraline (Zoloft).

The study of 1,000 mother-child pairs is published in the online edition of Pediatrics. In the study, investigators analyzed data from large samples of ASD and DD cases, and population-based controls.

Importantly, researchers used a uniform protocol to confirm ASD and DD diagnoses by trained clinicians using validated standardized instruments.

The study included 966 mother-child pairs from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study, a population-based case-control study based at the University of California at Davis’ MIND Institute.

The researchers broke the data into three groups: Those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), those with developmental delays (DD), and those with typical development (TD).

The children ranged in ages two to five. A majority of the children were boys — 82.5 percent in the ASD group were boys, 65.6 percent in the DD group were boys, and 85.6 percent in the TD were boys.

While the study included girls, the substantially stronger effect in boys alone suggests possible gender difference in the effect of prenatal SSRI exposure.

“We found prenatal SSRI exposure was nearly three times as likely in boys with ASD relative to typical development, with the greatest risk when exposure took place during the first trimester,” said Li-Ching Lee, Ph.D., Sc.M.

“SSRI was also elevated among boys with DD, with the strongest exposure effect in the third trimester.”

“Serotonin is critical to early brain development; thus, exposure during pregnancy to anything that influences serotonin levels can have potential effect on birth and developmental outcomes,” said the researchers.

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In the U.S., the prevalence of ADS continues to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in 68 children in the U.S. is identified with ADS, and it is almost five times more common among boys than girls.

One may question whether the increased use of SSRI in recent years is a contributor to the dramatic rise of ASD prevalence.

“This study provides further evidence that in some children, prenatal exposure to SSRIs may influence their risk for developing an autism spectrum disorder,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D., M.P.H.

“This research also highlights the challenge for women and their physicians to balance the risks versus the benefits of taking these medications, given that a mother’s underlying mental-health conditions also may pose a risk, both to herself and her child.”

Regarding treatment, the authors note that maternal depression itself carries risks for the fetus, and the benefits of using SSRI during pregnancy should be considered carefully against the potential harm.

The researchers also note that large sample studies are needed to investigate the effects in girls with ASD.

Limitations of the study acknowledged include the difficulty in isolating SSRI effects from those of their indications for use, lack of information on SSRI dosage precluded dose-response analyses, and the relatively small sample of DD children resulted in imprecise estimates of association, which should be viewed with caution.

Source: Johns Hopkins

Apr 16

Is It Anxiety or Stress?



StressChronic anxiety and chronic stress often share a lot in common. They have similar emotional symptoms, they result in similar physiological reactions, and can easily be confused with the other. In a fast paced world, experiencing stress and anxiety is common and frequently people experience them simultaneously; however, it is important to understand the etiology of the symptoms and luckily there are differences which can help tell them apart.

Chronic anxiety sufferers who have experienced therapy are often aware of their triggers, they can identify when they are ruminating about something and implement techniques such as thought stopping to help control worrying, and with practice they can learn to let go of irrelevant things to focus on the important ones. They have learned to prioritize and with time lead a medication free life. However, things are not always this black and white.

Let’s look at Anna as an example. Anna became overwhelmed with family changes, added responsibilities, demands at work, and demands of life. She was adjusting to new additions to her home, suddenly responsible to care for a family while trying to manage increasing work demands. Social engagements were pressing in, adding time constraints to her already busy schedule. Although she was fully aware of their importance, maintaining relationships and self care became challenging because she was already overwhelmed.

Anna recognized her these symptoms, and quickly implemented the coping strategies that she has previously mastered. She started by focusing in on her worrying, she tackled these by prioritizing her responsibilities and making a To Do: list which freed up her mind from worry. She did relaxation breathing to calm panic and worry, and tried to reduce her feelings of being overwhelmed by delegating tasks, and systematically working to reduce her worry.

After a few weeks of this, things were getting worse. Anna could not understand why she was continuing to feel overwhelmed. In the past all these coping strategies had worked wonders for her, but now they didn’t seem to help. She didn’t have the worried thoughts in her head, she didn’t spend time ruminating about her problems, and yet she was experiencing an increasing amount of emotional and physical symptoms. She couldn’t sleep, she was emotionally fragile, easily pushed over the edge to tears and could be overwhelmed with the smallest problem, she was more irritable, and withdrawn.

After some exploration further, Anna realized that she was managing her anxiety but she had been overcome by the emotional symptoms of chronic stress. Emotional symptoms of chronic stress in women often include depressed mood, mood swings, and irritability. Behavioral symptoms of chronic stress include an increase in addictive behaviors such as nicotine, alcohol, and drug usage. They also include changes in sleep patterns, eating habits, poor concentration, increased forgetfulness and indecision when they are stressed. These symptoms of stress are comparable to symptoms of stress found in men.

With anxiety and stress being so similar in presentation and symptoms it can be hard to really understand how they differ. The difference between the two becomes very important when receiving treatment or when trying to manage symptoms. For example, an effective way to treat anxiety is to focus on calming the mind, through meditation, mindfulness or thought stopping techniques. Stress can be managed differently by focusing on giving the body a rest. A simple approach to managing stress is taking time to drink peppermint tea, schedule down time regularly, and always remember the soothing elements of a hot bath/shower. These changes are often very good at managing stress levels but will not address the cognitive aspects of anxiety.

Understanding the etiology of symptoms will ultimately help you understand the best way to conquer your own symptoms. Having knowledge as to whether you are experiencing either or both will affect the approach to treatment that you decide to take. If you are unsure about your symptoms or they are persistent, you should contact a mental health professional to help accurately diagnosis your symptoms.

Apr 15

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

Internet Use Can Reduce Depression Risk in ElderlyLoneliness can fuel depression in older adults, and experts estimate that as many as 10 million older Americans suffer from depression.

Now, a new study suggests information technology, specifically use of the Internet, among the elderly can reduce the chances of depression by more than 30 percent.

Researchers followed the lives of thousands of retired older Americans reviewing data collected by the Health and Retirement Survey — a survey collecting information from more than 22,000 older Americans every two years.

“The 30 percent reduction is a very strong effect,” said Shelia Cotten, Ph.D., a Michigan State University professor of telecommunication, information studies and media who led the project.

“And it all has to do with older persons being able to communicate, to stay in contact with their social networks, and just not feel lonely.”

“This is one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of its kind,” Cotten said.

Other smaller studies have been inconclusive about the role Internet use and technology, in general, play in helping people overcome depression.

One way in which this study was different is it took into consideration the subjects’ depression levels before they began using the Internet. The researchers wanted to know if past depression affected current depression.

What they found is yes, some people did remain depressed despite Internet use, although it wasn’t substantial. “Internet use continues to reduce depression, even when controlling for that prior depressive state,” Cotten said.

The researchers also confirmed what was found in other studies that for older people who live alone, Internet use had a greater impact on their levels of depression.

“This study makes significant contributions to the study of Internet use and depression in the older, retired population,” Cotten said.

She said it all comes down to how you choose to use your technology. As with most things in life, moderation is best.

“If you sit in front of a computer all day, ignoring the roles you have in life and the things you need to accomplish as part of your daily life, then it’s going to have a negative impact on you,” Cotten said.

“But if you’re using it in moderation and you’re doing things that enhance your life, then the impacts are likely to be positive in terms of health and well-being.”

Research findings are published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

Source: Michigan State University

Apr 14

Casual Pot Smoking Early On May Cause Brain Changes


By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

Casual Pot Smoking Early On May Cause Brain Changes A new study suggests that casual marijuana use during youth and young adulthood is associated with structural changes in specific brain areas.

Specifically, researchers found that the size and shape of two brain regions involved in emotion and motivation may differ in young adults who smoke marijuana at least once a week.

The findings, as published in The Journal of Neuroscience, highlight the importance of research aimed at understanding the long-term effects of low to moderate marijuana use on the brain.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with an estimated 18.9 million people reporting recent use, according to the most current analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health. Regular use is often associated with motivation, attention, learning, and memory impairments.

Previous studies exposing animals to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the main psychoactive component of marijuana — show that repeated exposure to the drug causes structural changes in brain regions involved with these functions.

However, less is known about how low to moderate marijuana use affects brain structure in people, particularly in teens and young adults.

In the current study, Jodi Gilman, Ph.D., Anne Blood, Ph.D., and Hans Breiter, M.D., of Northwestern University and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compare the brains of 18- to 25-year-olds who reported smoking marijuana at least once per week with those with little to no history of marijuana use.

Although psychiatric evaluations ruled out the dependence on the drug, imaging data revealed significant brain differences.

The nucleus accumbens — a brain region known to be involved in reward processing — was larger and altered in its shape and structure in the marijuana users compared to non-users.

“This study suggests that even light to moderate recreational marijuana use can cause changes in brain anatomy,” said Carl Lupica, Ph.D.

“These observations are particularly interesting because previous studies have focused primarily on the brains of heavy marijuana smokers, and have largely ignored the brains of casual users.”

The team of scientists compared the size, shape, and density of the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala — a brain region that plays a central role in emotion — in 20 marijuana users and 20 non-users.

Each marijuana user was asked to estimate their drug consumption over a three-month period, including the number of days they smoked and the amount of the drug consumed each day.

The scientists found that the more the marijuana users reported consuming, the greater the abnormalities in the nucleus accumbens and amygdala. The shape and density of both of these regions also differed between marijuana users and non-users.

“This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” Breiter said.

Source: Alpha Galileo/Society for Neuroscience (SfN)


3 Tips for Being Mindful at WorkTwelve of us sit in a circle at the third session of the mindfulness-based stress reduction course (MBSR) offered at the hospital. The program was developed 35 years ago by Jon Kabat-Zinn at his Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It is meant to help persons with difficult and chronic illnesses better manage their symptoms, work with pain, and find peace of mind in their day.

I am making slow but steady progress on learning how to “dance in the rain,” a concept I explained last week about approaching treatment-resistant depression and chronic pain with a welcoming spirit, instead of a fighting heart.

The daily meditation is hard. I hate it much of the time. However, I sense an inner calm that is new — something that I need to get through the more stressful hours of my life.

Today we talk about the seven attitudinal foundations of the mindful practice that, according to Kabat-Zinn, constitute the major pillars of mindfulness practice as taught in the MBSR. In his book Full Catastrophe Living, Kabat-Zinn describes each:

Non-judging: Not getting caught up in our ideas and opinions, likes and dislikes.

Patience: An understanding and acceptance that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.

Beginner’s Mind: Seeing things with fresh eyes, with a clear and uncluttered mind.

Trust: Trusting in your intuition and your own authority.

Non-striving: Trying less and being more.

Acceptance: Coming to terms with things as they are.

Letting Go: Letting our experience be what it is.

These are our instruction guidelines — to be cultivated consciously as we sit down to do our formal meditations and in our efforts to bring mindfulness into daily living.

Among the most challenging for me are the foundations of “non-judging” and “non-striving.”


The inner critic who lives inside my head rent-free is one loud and obnoxious tenant. He has something to say about everything, and I mean everything, I do and say, from the way I sort the dirty laundry on a tired Saturday morning to how many pieces of fruit I consume in a day, from my not-so-consistent pattern in disciplining the kids to my sloppy prose.

The judging mind can make a 10-minute meditation seem longer than a root canal. As soon as your attention strays from your breath, your left toe, or whatever you are concentrating on, you hear the indictment of yourself as a meditation moron. You try to file the indictment simply as a thought and return to the breath. But if you are like me, you start to judge the judging, and then you judge that you are judging the judging.

A minute or so of this and you wish you had never read the research that said that mindfulness meditation can relieve and prevent depression and anxiety.

Kabat-Zinn writes, “When you find the mind judging, you don’t have to stop it from doing that, and it would be unwise to try. All that is required is to be aware of it happening. No need to judge the judging and make matters even more complicated for yourself.”


Non-striving doesn’t make sense if you’re immersed in a hyper-competitive, goal-obsessed culture like most of us are. A friend of mine who is training to swim the English Channel just stuck a “Swim 25.0” sticker on the back of his car.

I said to him, “Good thing it says SWIM on there, because you wouldn’t want anyone thinking you only ran 25 miles and didn’t make it the rest of the 1.2 miles to the finish line of a marathon.”

I am a goal-oriented person and live in a corner of the world that breeds overachievers, so the idea of setting aside a half hour to do nothing (meditation is non-doing) makes me uncomfortable.

I twitch. I adjust my legs. I stretch my neck. I see the long to-do list pop up in my vision as I shut my eyes, and I do my best to let it go. Even scarier is a life of non-striving.

Trish Magyari, my MBSR instructor calls herself a “recovering striver.” Twenty years ago she was immersed in a high-pressure and successful career as a genetics counselor. Too much pushing and striving resulted in a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

She was unable to work full-time for five years. The practice of mindful meditation and mindfulness practice allowed her to reclaim her life. Now she is so passionate about it that she has dedicated her career to helping others become “recovering strivers.”

I belong in her flock. The debilitating depression that descended on me last summer has slowed down many of my biological systems. A lingering cognitive haze makes it impossible to accomplish what I used to be able to do in short periods of time.

Before the crash, I was able to crank out ten blog posts a week. Now I’m happy to publish three. With meditation, there are no numbers or goals.

Kabat-Zinn writes:

[Meditation] has no goal other than for you to be yourself. The irony is that you already are. This sounds paradoxical and a little crazy. Yet this paradox and craziness may be pointing you toward a new way of seeing yourself, one in which you are trying less and being more.

Each of the seven foundations relies on each other and influences how easily we cultivate the others. For example, if I can cultivate acceptance of where I am with a chronic illness, I can better let go of the goals I once set for myself and practice “non-striving.” And if I can pay attention to my thoughts without judging them, I can more easily develop a basic trust in myself and in my feelings.

As I apply each of the seven to my formal meditation practices, they become a foundation on which to build each waking moment, as well.

Apr 10

What Truly Successful People Know That You Don’t


by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.
Six research-based strategies to help you overcome barriers to success
Published on November 10, 2013 by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. in The Mindful Self-Express

Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result –Oscar Wilde
Do you aspire to be a truly successful person, yet run out of time and energy to get things done? Or perhaps you are performing well at a demanding job, being a supermom, or a straight “A” student, but the stress is getting to you and you know you can’t keep it up. You look enviously at that colleague, boss, or neighbor who seems not to have the same struggles. They have the same time limits and demands as you, but seem so much further ahead in their career path, or they look fit and relaxed whereas you feel tired-eyed and bedraggled. Do they have boundless energy, superhuman capabilities, or have they figured out the secret of not needing sleep? The truth is “None of the above.” These successful people have likely figured out the secret of working smarter, rather than harder. They understand the secrets of willpower and know how to schedule their priorities, rather than prioritize their schedule. They manage their stress and nurture their relationships. Read on to find out how you can do this too.

Decide What’s Most Important

In the information age, there are constant demands on our attention and energy. We face a barrage of demands that are urgent—that just have to be done by a certain date and time. These may include doing the laundry, studying for an exam, responding to an e-mail, preparing a presentation, taking the dog for a walk, attending your son’s soccer game, or having Thanksgiving dinner with your relatives. The problem is that by the time you’ve attended to all the urgent things, it’s much more difficult to do the more complex, difficult, uncertain, but important tasks that will really move you forward towards your goals. To get to the next step in your career, find a new job, write a book, or start a small business, you need to put in a lot of time and cognitively intense effort. It all takes planning, research, networking, and preparation of materials. Unless you devote several productive hours to these activities each week, it’s not going to happen. Whereas most of us underestimate the time it will take and overestimate our willpower, successful people are realistic about the effort involved. They are clear about their priorities, have a vision of where they are headed, and are truly committed to these goals. That means they limit the time they put into the urgent stuff and sometimes just do what’s absolutely necessary, so they preserve time for building their dreams.

Be Accountable

Successful people understand that it’s not enough just to set goals; you also have to keep track of your progress and create incentives for yourself. Otherwise it’s all too easy to put off doing the complex and difficult tasks. Changing your habits and routines is a very difficult task, and it takes commitment, effort, and persistence. Research shows we are motivated by short-term rewards and find it difficult to sustain unrewarded effort for long periods if the task isn’t intrinsically satisfying. While following your passion may give you a pleasant sense of accomplishment eventually, you have to put up with the initial uncertainty and feelings of being overwhelmed or not up to the task. The best way to tackle this is to break up larger tasks up into short-term goals, which you track and check off to give you a sense of accomplishment. At the early stages, goals will probably consist of finding information and making contacts. So, instead of beating yourself up for not finishing your first chapter, you can happily check the box for finding a well-written chapter by another author that can guide you in structuring yours. That way, when you do write your own chapter, you will do so more efficiently and effectively. And a weekly check-in on your progress can help you adjust your goals and estimates to be more realistic, and reinforce your sense of progress and accomplishment.

Confront ”Mindlessness”

Life presents us with a myriad of distractions when we try to get things done. E-mail and social media can be a time drain. It’s much more fun to look at our friends’ vacation and family pictures or the beautiful nature scenes posted by life coaches than to practice a talk or finish Chapter Six. Even when you do try to write, your thoughts may drift away into making vacation plans or fretting about why your boss/spouse/neighbor/teenager is so disrespectful. It’s so easy to go mindless, especially when you are tired, sick, or stressed. Truly successful people know that they have to remind themselves to be mindful several times throughout the day. That is why top companies, such as Google, have a “Mindfulness Officer” to teach their employees these skills. To adopt the habits of these mindful, successful Googlees, you will need to set yourself cues for mindful check-ins. You could use the Mindfulness Bell app on your cell phone, just set your phone alarm, or use an external cue, such as every time the phone rings. At least once every hour, stop and ask yourself: “Where am I? What am I noticing, thinking, feeling, and doing right now?” And “Is this what I want to be thinking, feeling, or doing?” If the answer is “No,” gently redirect yourself back to where you want to be. You’ll be surprised how much more time you actually have for your priorities when you train yourself to be more mindful.

Set Boundaries & Say “No”

Another time drain for most of us is the things that we commit to out of feelings of obligation, unassertiveness, or just not thinking through how much time it will take. Sometimes we say “yes” impulsively just to feel like we’ve answered the e-mail and can check it off our list. This happened to me when I volunteered for the PTA at my daughter’s new school without finding out exactly how much time it would involve. I thought it would be a good way to make friends and integrate into the community. Instead, I realized that I really didn’t have the time, energy, and commitment that the position deserved, because I was also trying to build a clinical practice and begin a career as a writer. From this I learned that, even if you have good intentions, taking on too much, leads to stress, frustration and ineffectiveness. Successful people know that you have to give up some opportunities and potential rewards to honor your commitment to your highest priorities. Sometimes you even have to disappoint other people. This is easier to do if you give yourself permission to be “good enough,” rather than perfect.

Build Supportive Relationships

The English poet, John Donne, wisely said, “No man is an island alone unto itself.” Yet many of us forget these words. Your fear-based brain may narrow your focus exclusively onto your own goals and performance, so that you forget to care about others and support their progress. Perhaps you were raised to believe that we need to be self-sufficient and that asking for help is a sign of personal weakness. In the Western United States, where I live, many people’s ancestors were farmers or ranchers. Because the nearest town was often a distance away, people had to be self-sufficient and that mentality became ingrained through the generations. I once read, in a Family Therapy book, that “In the Western United States, a cousin is a distant relative.” Truly successful people know that doing it all alone can only take you so far. Our human brains are wired for connection and we need the support of others to persevere and put up with the disappointments on the road to success. We can also learn much from the examples and advice of people who have travelled the path before us, as well as from the mistakes and victories of colleagues travelling the same path. As the Social Learning Theorists discovered, we don’t have to be bitten by a snake to learn that snakes are dangerous. We can learn by watching other people’s behavior and consequences or even by verbal advice and anecdotes from others. So swallow your pride and ask for help. And schedule some time to reach out to others in your field both in person and through social media.

Make Time to Replenish Yourself

Researchers have spent thousands of hours studying both willpower and stress. From these studies, two main findings emerge: (1) While acute stress can be healthy, chronic, unrelenting stress is toxic for your mind and body, and (2) Willpower is like a muscle and wears down with overuse. Acute stress lasts for a defined period, followed by physiological recovery. This type of stress is a challenge that can be healthy and provide opportunities for growth and mastery. Examples of acute stress are: running a marathon or giving an important presentation. Chronic stress on the other hand, is often uncontrollable and continues over long periods with no end in sight. Examples of chronic stress are being exposed to bullying at work or school, distressed marriages, or ongoing threat of losing your job. Chronic stress of this type can put a strain on your heart and cause inflammation, increasing your chances of getting diabetes, asthma, arthritis or even the common cold.

With respect to willpower, expecting to maintain a high level of performance in many different areas over long periods can wear down your willpower muscle. If the stakes are particularly high or you worry and ruminate about potential bad outcomes, your subjective stress is increased and demands on your willpower increase. Emotionally intelligent people know that they need to learn “stress tolerance.” When you’re in it for the long haul, you need mental and physical breaks to replenish your stores of willpower and grit. You will not make it through unscathed if you don’t take the time for exercise, meditation, spending time with people you care about, reading a book, celebrating your successes, or doing other things that replenish you. Adequate sleep and nourishment can help both to decrease stress and strengthen your willpower. You can’t look after others if you don’t first look after yourself!

Last Word

Now you know the secrets of truly successful people, it’s time to take a good, hard look at your life and the habits that hold you back. Find the courage to do an accurate self-diagnosis and ask friends or family for feedback. Do you need the help of a psychologist or life coach or can you find a support group of like-minded friends? Then get going by setting a long-term goal and breaking it up into smaller steps. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,”or so the saying goes. Are you willing to make a commitment to behavior change over the long haul? If yes, you are following in the footsteps of giants and are on the way to achieving your dreams.

About The Author:

Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, and expert on Mindfulness, Managing Anxiety, and Depression, Succeeding at Work,, and Mind-Body Health. Dr Greenberg provides workshops and speaking engagements for your organization and coaching and psychotherapy for individuals and couples

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Apr 8

What’s the Most Important Question You Can Ask?



You’re Already Asking It!
We all are, but most of us aren’t aware of it.

It’s called a “virtual question,” a question that lives outside of our conscious awareness but affects almost all of our behaviors. Our virtual questions shape our experiences, influence our relationships and paint the backdrop of our lives—coloring everything.

And here’s the thing to remember . . .

Change Your Virtual Question and You Change Your Life
In my therapy practice, I was recently working with a client who is caring for her elderly mother. My client shared with me that she is in terrible pain—emotional pain—watching her mother grow old. She didn’t know what to do to feel better. But after we discovered her virtual question, she experienced great relief.

The virtual question my client had been asking was, “How much longer will I have my mother?” And the moment this question came to consciousness, my client said, “No wonder I’m scared all the time.”

I don’t like to frame things as being “good” or “bad,” but some virtual questions are good and some are bad—that’s just the way it is. My client’s virtual question was a bad one—at least for her. She scared and paralyzed herself with her own question.

So, here’s the cool thing . . .

Once you bring a virtual question to consciousness, you can change it. My client changed her question from, “How much longer will I have my mother?” to “How do I make the most of the time we have left?”

In changing her question, she changed her orientation—to her mother, to time—and she found a new purpose. She went from feeling powerless—waiting for her mom to die—to becoming an active player and figuring out how to make the most out of the time she had left with her mom.

When I was a kid, I was shy and introverted and my virtual question was, “Am I safe?” This is lousy virtual question for a kid. I mean it might have been appropriate if I was a kid living in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, in which over 200,000 people died. But I wasn’t. I was living in the suburbs of Boston, in a middle class family in which no one was abusing or neglecting me.

Back then I didn’t know what my virtual question was, I just wore it like a filter that colored the way I saw and experienced my world. My parents knew I was anxious and they used “atta’ boys” to make me feel better. It wasn’t the best strategy. But, 45-years later, I have no complaints.

What Follows Are Some Ideas About What Makes Good Virtual Questions and What Makes Bad Ones
Ultimately, you need to determine for yourself whether or not your virtual questions serve you well. Ideally, you want a virtual question to feel productive, which means that when you ask it, it stimulates a response that is forward looking, hopeful and relaxed.

So, here are some clues:
Virtual questions should not be binary. Don’t ask questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.” They usually set up a win/lose situation, which makes us anxious because we worry that we may lose. Examples include:

Am I good enough?
Will I be successful?
Does she think I’m a good lover?
Virtual questions should not begin with “what if.” “What if” questions tend to pull you away from the present and into the future.

What if she leaves me?
What if I stay depressed?
What if I can’t hold it together?
Virtual questions should not begin with “why.” Too many “why” questions can’t truly be answered, or the answer changes from day to day.

Why do I keep behaving this way?
Why does my life lack meaning?
Why can’t I find the right partner?
Helpful virtual questions often presuppose a positive outcome. They’re usually questions about you—what you can do—not about getting other people to do something or to change. They’re generally focused on the present . . . maybe leaning slightly into the future.

Here are some examples:

How can I make the best use of this situation?
What do I need to do to feel proud of myself?
What can I do to be a better partner for my spouse?
What boundaries do I need to establish so that I feel safe?
How can I help my partner/parent/child know that I love him or her?
How can I make my child feel safe and loved?
What can I do each day so that I feel like I’m making a difference?
Virtual Questions are NOT Affirmations
The point of a virtual question is not to sugar-coat something. They are questions designed to help you be honest with yourself, to get in touch with yourself and to be thoughtful. So, if you are treating your partner poorly, the idea isn’t to ask a question that denies your behavior. The idea is to ask a question that helps you acknowledge and change your behavior.

Here are some more examples:

What am I avoiding by treating my partner poorly?
What am I getting out of treating my partner poorly?
What do I need to do in my life so that I feel better about myself?
What one thing can I do every day to create more intimacy with my partner?
What could I reveal to my partner so that I’ll feel more fully seen by him or her?
So, what’s your virtual question?
What question roams around in the corridors of your mind? Do your virtual questions serve you well? If not, you can change them. And in doing so, you’ll be changing yourself.

If you want some help . . . send us your virtual question and we’ll give you a suggestion.

Apr 5

Early Morning Light Linked to Less Weight


By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

Dawn’s Early Light Linked to Less WeightA new study suggests the timing, intensity, and duration of your light exposure during the day is linked to your weight.

Northwestern University researchers discovered people who had most of their daily exposure to even moderately bright light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure later in the day. (BMI is a ratio calculated from a person’s weight and height.)

“The earlier this light exposure occurred during the day, the lower individuals’ body mass index,” said co-lead author Kathryn Reid, Ph.D. “The later the hour of moderately bright light exposure, the higher a person’s BMI.”

The impact of morning light exposure on body weight was not influenced by an individual’s physical activity level, caloric intake, sleep timing, age, or season. Researchers found this factor accounted for about 20 percent of a person’s BMI.

“Light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance,” said study senior author Phyllis C. Zee, M.D.

“The message is that you should get more bright light between eight a.m. and noon.” About 20 to 30 minutes of morning light is enough to affect BMI.

“If a person doesn’t get sufficient light at the appropriate time of day, it could de-synchronize your internal body clock, which is known to alter metabolism and can lead to weight gain,” Zee said.

The exact mechanism of how light affects body fat requires further research, she noted.

The study may be found in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Many people do not get enough natural light in the morning,” Zee said, “because the American lifestyle is predominantly indoors. We also work in poorly lit environments, usually about 200 to 300 lux.”

In the study, 500 lux was “the magic number” or minimum threshold for having a lower BMI. Even on a cloudy day, outdoor light is more than 1,000 lux of brightness.

It is difficult to achieve this light level with usual indoor lighting, the scientists noted.

“Light is a modifiable factor with the potential to be used in weight management programs,” Reid said. “Just like people are trying to get more sleep to help them lose weight, perhaps manipulating light is another way to lose weight.”

Giovanni Santostasi, Ph.D., a physicist by training, developed a new measure for the study that integrates the timing, duration, and intensity of light exposure into a single number called mean light timing or MLiT.

He searched for a correlation between light exposure timing, duration, or intensity in the study raw data, but none of those factors individually were associated with BMI. It was only when he began combining parameters, that he saw “the strong signal” when all three were examined together.

“I saw that what seemed to be most associated with body mass index was not just how much light you receive but when you get it and for how long,” Santostasi said.

The study included 54 participants (26 males, 28 females), an average age of 30. They wore a wrist actigraphy monitor that measured their light exposure and sleep parameters for seven days in normal-living conditions. Their caloric intake was determined from seven days of food logs.

The finding emphasizes the importance of “circadian health” in which exposure to light and dark is synchronized with your internal body clock.

“We focus on how too much light at night is bad; it’s also bad not to get enough light at the appropriate time during the day,” Zee said.

As part of a healthy lifestyle, people should be encouraged to get more appropriate exposure to light. Workplaces and schools should have windows.

Employees should be encouraged to go outside for lunch or breaks, and indoor lighting should be improved in the school and workplace.

“This is something we could institute early on in our schools to prevent obesity on a larger scale,” Zee said.

While duration and timing of sleep was not linked to the results, “owl” chronotypes, who stay up later and sleep later, would be a population affected by later light exposure. But even “larks,” those who wake early, would be affected by lack of early light if they stayed inside in the morning.

While the study was not designed to examine how light exposure affects body fat, previous research at Northwestern and elsewhere shows light plays a role in regulating metabolism, hunger, and satiety.

Source: Northwestern University

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