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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Why Travelling is Healthy

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Want to throw something different into your health and fitness routine? Travel. Huh? Yes, I’m not going to talk about a new superfood or plug in a better way to run a 5k; this time, let’s talk about taking a break.

Vacations are one of the most underrated health must-dos. Most people do not realize the health value of a hiatus away from home and the workplace. Travelling to places out of one’s common experiences is actually a boon everyone should take advantage of when given the chance. Novel environments, cultures, and experiences all stimulate and invigorate us physically, mentally, and spiritually by allowing us to gain new perspectives, boost our smarts, and even make us fitter (of course, watch that diet while on the road).

Novelty Breeds Creativity

Travelling abroad or living a few years in another country could jumpstart that latent creative side, big time. Our creativity somehow depends on how our synapses are wired. Our propensity to think up of new things or think out of the box becomes a little rusty after some time of fewer surprises, less stimulation, and predictability. When you feel you have hit a blank wall or believe life has nothing much to offer, it’s time to give your synapses new pathways.

Spending time abroad can effect mental changes because immersion in new experiences can change one’s mindset. New sensations and new knowledge generate new synapses which revitalizes the brain.

Adam Galinsky, a Columbia Business School professor and author of studies on the creativity-travel connection has this to say: “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.” Cognitive flexibility is an important factor in creativity and determines how much integrative ability the mind has in creating a concept from two different ideas. Galinsky believes in immersion, engagement, and adaptation when faced with new a environment as these important processes contribute to the degree of an individual’s creativity. This is why he says, “Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.”

Exploration Boosts Heart Health and Emotional Prowess

On the physical front, travelling may demand a certain level of mobility and activity. A new environment usually invites exploration. If you travel to experience the world, not just loll around sipping margaritas at a beach all week, then it can benefit your heart and muscles as much as a gym routine can and with more variety. If your vacation calls for some hiking or spelunking, you get to test your cardiovascular and muscle endurance. Even hoisting shopping bags and backpacks while walking several blocks around is a workout in itself. Whatever you need to do while on your travels gets you on your feet more than an at-home-vacay where you can simply be tempted to plunk yourself into a couch with a bag of chips before the telly. If you plan your vacation well, you may come home fitter, stronger, and more energized than when you left.

As exploration boosts cardiovascular health, it also enriches the mind. Exploration opens opportunities for discovering new things. New things may improve thought patterns by feeding the mind and keeping its cognitive and analytical abilities in shape. The Framingham Heart Study discovered that people who reneged on their vacations for many years were more likely to have cardiovascular attacks than those who took yearly vacations. People who gave themselves annual vacations were usually better able to manage stress and anxiety than people who opted to not to indulge in trips away from home and work. This means that people who travel for leisure enjoy more emotional health benefits, such as reduced depression levels, better outlook on life, and more mental flexibility and open-mindedness.

New Environments Enhances Sexuality

Studies of couples who travel for vacation together often find that these couples are more intimate and more active in bed. Being away from the daily routines and everyday tasks help keep the focus on one another and strengthen relationships. Admittedly, the travelling together formula may not work for every couple; but for those this does, it’s a fantastic way to touch emotional bases and keep the spark of romance alive.

The benefits from travelling are invaluable. Travelling opens your sense of adventure and wonder, letting you experience joy in life. It will help you find new perspectives and perhaps a new life purpose. While you still can, travel. As Helen Keller once said:

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

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Posted by on March 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Depression and Its Link To Childhood Trauma

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Clinical depression is a mental health problem that has become one of Australia’s pressing health issues. The Australian Bureau of Statistics documents over one million cases every year. Of these cases, the most common cause of depression is childhood trauma.

Childhood Trauma

In Australia, childhood trauma mostly stems from childhood abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional); neglect; bullying; sibling abuse; domestic violence; divorce or separation; and substance abuse more than any other cause such as natural disasters, war, or community violence.

When deeply distressing situations and practices are repeated, these inflict psychological pain and stress on children who are usually emotionally ill equipped to handle these traumatic experiences. Most people with clinical depression have survived some sort of childhood trauma, of which child abuse carves a large part.

Childhood Trauma and the Brain

The human brain is one of the largest organs that develops rapidly beginning in utero and continuing a few years after birth. By three years of age, a toddler should have a brain size 90% close to the size of an adult’s brain. Brain development also happens in sequence, with the most basal functions developing first, growing to more complex systems responsible for cognitive, behavioural, and other equally sophisticated functions. As higher functions develop in early childhood, the neuronal structures and how the brain is organised are determined during these early years. According to research by Perry and Pollard in 1998, “An experience in adulthood may alter the function of the organised brain, whereas an experience in childhood determines the organisation of the brain – the brain adapts to the environment the child is being raised in.”

Positive childhood experiences create a better systematised brain with stronger psychological coping mechanisms to adversity. The individual grows into adulthood more impervious to mental health illnesses than a structurally compromised mind exposed to repeated psychological stress or trauma in its formative years.

Child Abuse and Depression

Child abuse comes in many forms and all have significant impact on brain development. How a brain develops has a huge impact on whether a person grows up to be an emotionally stable individual or one with coping disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, and other negative behaviour.

The fallacious belief that children are emotionally and psychologically resilient is a dangerous concept as the obverse is true. Since children’s minds are developing, kids are particularly at their most psychologically vulnerable stage. The younger the child is, the more deleterious the effects of chronic stress and maltreatment are on his psychological makeup. As such, one may find abused or neglected children often antisocial, unable to form close relationships, possessing low inferiority complex, and other symptoms linked to clinical depression and anxiety disorder. Left untreated or rescued from their environment, these children survive psychologically damaged into adulthood with even more ingrained depression and other mental illnesses.

Brains of individuals with depression or substance abuse disorder show visual anomalies when subjected to brain imaging technology. Brain imaging tests done on subject teenagers who had developed depression and substance abuse disorder from being traumatised in childhood showed abnormalities in the amount of white matter that connects various areas of the brain. The brains of teenagers who had clinical depression or substance abuse issues displayed significantly lower amounts of white matter, a group of nerve fibre extensions of the neurons. As a consequence, areas that involves language processing, planning, emotional processing, and abstract thinking showed integrative problems.

This goes to show that clinical depression (including substance abuse, self-harm, and other mental problems and symptoms) is a true illness which an individual cannot simply snap out of without extensive psychiatric and medical help. Chronic trauma renders the brain debilitated and abnormally developed.

Depression and Community Awareness

Although there is a huge body of evidence that childhood trauma has a tenacious link to adolescent and adult depression, there are some people who manage to escape this tragedy. Genetic propensity toward depression and timing of childhood adversity are among the risk factors to consider. Depression however can be combated with good psychiatric treatment; but it could be a steep uphill climb for many.

For persistent community health and wellness, it is important then to safeguard the physical and mental well-being of its future tax-paying constituents…its children. If enough community citizens become highly aware of the repercussions a negative environment can impact children, perhaps the community may see less social problems and expense with depression, self abuse, suicide, and violence. Investment in sufficient mental care community services can have huge returns of psychologically sound individuals, able to contribute fully to the economic and social health of a nation.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
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Humor and Food

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Posted by on March 3, 2016 in Uncategorized