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Doctors Explain How Hiking Actually Changes Our Brains

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While it may seem obvious that a good hike through a forest or up a mountain can cleanse your mind, body, and soul, science is now discovering that hiking can actually change your brain… for the better!

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Hiking in Nature Can Stop Negative, Obsessive Thoughts

Aside from the almost instant feeling of calm and contentment that accompanies time outdoors, hiking in nature can reduce rumination. Many of us often find ourselves consumed by negative thoughts, which takes us out of the enjoyment of the moment at best and leads us down a path to depression and anxiety at worst. But a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that spending time in nature decreases these obsessive, negative thoughts by a significant margin.

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To conduct this study, researchers compared the reported rumination of participants who hiked through either an urban or a natural environment. They found that those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and they also had reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain related to mental illness. Those who walked through the urban environment, however, did not report decreased rumination.

The researchers noted that increased urbanization closely correlates with increased instances of depression and other mental illness. Taking the time to regularly remove ourselves from urban settings and spend more time in nature can greatly benefit our psychological (and physical) well-being.

Hiking While Disconnected From Technology Boosts Creative Problem Solving

A study conducted by psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer found that creative problem solving can be drastically improved by both disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. Participants in this study went backpacking through nature for about four days, during which time they were not allowed to use any technology whatsoever. They were asked to perform tasks requiring creative thinking and complex problem solving, and researchers found that performance on problem solving tasks improved by 50% for those who took part in this tech-free hiking excursion.

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They also noted that both technology and urban noise are incredibly disruptive, constantly demanding our attention and preventing us from focusing, all of which can be taxing to our cognitive functions. A nice long hike, sans technology, can reduce mental fatigue, soothe the mind, and boost creative thinking.

Hiking Outdoors Can Improve ADHD in Children

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is becoming more and more common among children. Children who have ADHD have a difficult time with impulse control and staying focused, get distracted easily, and exhibit excessive hyperactivity.

While raising children who have ADHD can be difficult for parents, the usual solution — opting for prescription medication — may be doing more harm than good, particularly when natural solutions can work just as well. A study conducted by Frances E Kup, PhD, and Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD, found that exposing children with ADHD to “green outdoor activities” reduces symptoms significantly. The results of this study suggest nature exposure can benefit anyone who has a difficult time paying attention and/or exhibits impulsive behaviour.

Hiking In Nature Is Great Exercise and Therefore Boosts Brainpower

We already know that exercise is fantastic for our overall well-being. Hiking is an excellent way to burn between 400–700 calories per hour, depending on your size and the hike difficulty, and it is easier on the joints than other activities like running. It has also been proven that people who exercise outside are more likely to keep at it and stick to their programs, making hiking an excellent choice for those wishing to become more active on a regular basis.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume — the part of the brain associated with spatial and episodic memory — in women over the age of 70. Such exercise not only reduces memory loss, but helps prevent it as well. Researchers also found that it can lower stress and anxiety, boost self esteem, and release endorphins. Many people take medication to solve each and every one of these issues, but the solution to these ills may be a lot simpler than you think!

How Can You Begin Hiking?

Luckily, hiking is one of the easiest and least expensive sports to get involved in, and it can have great benefits for the whole family, including grandma! Start out small and test your abilities. Do what works for you; if that means just walking through trails in a park, that’s fine. Any exercise outdoors is better than none. You can easily find maps of trails around your home online, and there are plenty of smartphone apps to map them out, too. I recommend turning off your signal and your phone while hiking though, so you can reap the most benefits of the hike (though it may be wise to at least carry it with you in case of emergency).

Make sure you have some good sturdy hiking shoes, a hat, and a water bottle, and be sure to layer your clothing so you can take things on or off easily as you warm up and cool down. You may want to consider using trekking poles as well, which can increase your speed and take some of the pressure off your knees. Now, can you just do one thing for me?

Go take a hike!

Much Love

Photo Credit: Mike Heller

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Awareness

Tips On Overcoming Sleep Problems During Pregnancy

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Getting a Good Night’s Sleep in the Third Trimester is a Challenge

As the body changes, a pregnant woman may suddenly find a handful of reasons she can’t get to sleep at night. Try these tips for an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

A common complaint among pregnant women, particularly those in their third trimester, is the inability to fall (and stay) asleep at night. Many factors are often to blame, making it difficult to know exactly how to address the issue. From growing size to frequent urination, there seems to be no break for a rest. But some very basic techniques can help pregnant women get the sleep they need.

Why Can’t I Sleep?

As the body changes throughout the first and second trimesters, some women may notice changes in their sleeping pattern. Most, however, aren’t too affected until they reach month seven or so. As the body rapidly adapts to the growing baby, some issues may arise:

Frequent urination can be a huge annoyance. As the kidneys do double-duty to filter the increased blood volume (about 40% more than normal), the body produces more urine. At the same time, the baby’s growth has increased pressure on the bladder, making the time between bathroom trips very short. Babies active at night may also increase the number of trips for some mothers.

A rapid heartbeat is needed to pump that extra blood throughout the body, but some women find it difficult to relax in these circumstances.

Shortness of breath, due to pressure on the lungs and the release of certain hormones, can make it a challenge to fall asleep at night. As the fetus grows, the diaphragm will compress more and more, increasing the pressure on the lungs.

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Aches and pains are quite common, since a pregnant woman’s center of balance shifts and places extra pressure on new areas. Leg cramps and lower back pain are a typical night-time complaint since the hormone relaxin is working to stretch out and loosen the ligaments to prepare for delivery. Injuries and strains become more likely later in pregnancy.

Digestive problems, like heartburn and constipation, abound as the process of digestion slows down. Food backs up in the digestive tract, taking longer to break down, and the result is mom’s discomfort.

Get Comfortable

Doctors recommend that pregnant women lay on their side at night to allow proper blood flow throughout the body. For stomach- and back-sleepers this might be difficult, but it’s important. Choosing a comfortable mattress and pillows is a must as they will help make a pregnant woman more comfortable at night. Use pillows under the belly, behind the back, and between the legs. Try experimenting with different pillows (body pillows, wedges, etc.) and different positions.

Get Prepared

When it’s almost time to get to sleep, start preparing the body for bedtime. Take a relaxing bath, have a glass of warm mylk, or a night-time massage. Putting the mind at ease can help make the transition to sleep easier. For some, foods high in carbohydrates, like a snack of bread or crackers, will help with sleep troubles. And to limit bathroom trips, be sure to avoid drinking fluids too close to bedtime!

Get Healthy

The right nutrition and exercise can go a long way, especially during pregnancy. Certain things should be avoided and added to optimize sleep:

Adding calcium to the diet will help to curb those painful leg cramps.

Protein-rich diets can ward off those unpleasant pregnancy nightmares.

Skipping caffeine, or limiting it as much as possible, can have a dramatic effect. Many pregnant women’s bodies cannot break down caffeine, so it remains in the system much longer than usual.

Avoid foods that trigger heartburn.

Get enough fibre to reduce constipation.

Try yoga for relaxation, walks to keep joints limber and moderate activity to help promote sleep. Adding exercise every day might be the key to getting to bed at night.

Paying attention to the body, staying relaxed, and getting the right nutrition is essential to quieting the mind and getting a good night’s sleep during pregnancy. Follow these tips and try to stay positive; only a few more months (or weeks) to go!

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Lifestyle

10 Quick & Nourishing Smoothie Recipes That Taste Great

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Smoothies are a great way to pack a lot of nutrients into a filling, delicious meal any time of the day. In our fast-paced world, they help provide a great way to stay healthy on the go.

  • Reflect On:

    If you find combining sugars and fats bloat you, keep them separate. Sugar that comes from eating whole fruit is not the same as added sugar!

Have you ever compromised on a nourishing and filling breakfast because you are running late for work? Well, it has happened to all of us, especially women with kids.

And the good news is, smoothies! That’s right! Smoothies are nutrient-rich, delicious and can be made within minutes. You can replace it with your coffee on-the-go as it is much more healthy, filling, and tasty.

Here are 10 such smoothies prepared using a variety of fruits, veggies, and other ingredients. Some of the ingredients are rich in antioxidants, some are protein packed, and a few others are the best anti-inflammatory foods. So indulge in a smoothie marathon and try out one of the below smoothies each day; either as a fully-loaded breakfast or as a filling snack.

Breakfast Smoothie

This is a protein-rich breakfast which is clean and detox-friendly. It consists of,

  • 180ml of coconut milk
  • 1tsp cacao 1tsp coconut oil
  • 120 ml coconut water
  • 25 grams of oats
  • half a banana (either fresh or frozen)
  • 1tsp almond butter
  • 3 ice cubes

Blend everything together and you are ready to kick start your day on a super healthy note. It contains protein, fibre and all the essential nutrients required for a wholesome breakfast.

Peanut Butter Banana Apple Smoothie

Another protein packed smoothie that is just delicious! This recipe is as easy as it comes.

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  • Add two tablespoons of peanut butter
  • a banana
  • some sliced apples and
  • a few ice cubes

There you go! Banana will give you instant energy, protein from peanut butter, and loads of vitamins and minerals from apple. Nothing can get better than that!

Watermelon Basil Smoothie

Another simple and quick smoothie with just three ingredients. It is healthy, quick and delicious. This smoothie includes watermelon, basil and coconut water. It is super-hydrating and healthy. Watermelon is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C, and many other nutrients. It aids conditions such as inflammation, obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. Basil is an amazing source of vitamin K, magnesium, copper, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and omega 3 fatty acids. What more do you need?

Cherry Vanilla Protein Smoothie

Cherries are the best summer fruit ever! Put one cup of cherries along with one cup coconut milk and one scoop of protein powder. It is naturally sweet, creamy and full of deliciousness. This will fulfil your daily dose of protein in a single gulp! Cherries are packed with antioxidants and cancer-preventing elements. Studies show that it also promotes sleep by increasing melatonin levels, relieve arthritis pain, reduce belly fat and is an excellent post-workout snack that can reduce muscle pain.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

 This healthy and tasty smoothie has only three ingredients; Strawberry, banana and non-dairy milk or water. Just throw all the ingredients and then blend! It’s creamy, colourful, healthy and delicious! Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C, folic acid, and dietary fibre good for skin health and can beat the top moisturizers in terms of the benefits offered. It will help to keep skin healthy and glowing and fights aging, acne, and wrinkles. The banana provides increased energy throughout the day. It can be consumed as a perfect healthy breakfast or as a snack.

Pineapple smoothie

With just two ingredients, it is possible to have a tropical beach experience at home. Don’t know how? This pineapple smoothie is just what everyone needs. Frozen or fresh pineapple and almond milk are the only ingredients in this. It is quick, easy and a perfect after workout drink. This combination can never go wrong. Pineapples improve bone strength, eyesight, delays muscle degeneration and aids in digestion. Having this smoothie first thing in the morning can help with smooth bowel movement.

Banana Blueberry Chocolate Smoothie

Who doesn’t love chocolates? This smoothie can fix the craving for chocolate and in a healthy way. Adding sugar and other sweeteners can ruin the whole purpose of having a healthy smoothie. Cocoa powder is a perfect substitute that can solve this issue. And blueberries offer a myriad of benefits such as regulate cholesterol and heart diseases. It has fibre, potassium, Vitamin C and other essential nutrients.

The ingredients are

  • 1 sliced banana
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Water or crushed ice can be added.

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

This is a nutrient-packed smoothie with simple and easily available ingredients. Simply put 1 avocado, 1 banana, 1 scoop of green powder, one tablespoon vegan yogurt, two handfuls of spinach, some almond milk, few mint leaves and 1tsp cocoa powder. The greens offer plenty of vitamins and minerals along with the benefits of avocado. Mint acts as a palate cleanser and improves digestion and bowel movements. It also reduces the symptoms of inflammation, depression, asthma, respiratory diseases, promotes oral care, cures nausea and headache and even prevents cancer.

Post-Workout Smoothie

Tired of the same old peanut butter? Try this smoothie recipe with non-dairy milk, almond butter, bananas, one tablespoon of flaxseeds, natural oats, and honey. It is packed with protein, dietary fiber, omega 3 fatty acids and plenty of other nutrients. Needless to say, extremely delicious. Makes up for an excellent post-workout snack that promotes muscle strength, repair of damaged cells and provides energy.

Beetroot Cinnamon Smoothie

The ingredients are,

  • 1 small raw beetroot
  • 1 handful of almonds
  • 1 handful of baby spinach
  • ripe banana
  • ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

This smoothie can be customized by adding more fruits or greens. It is perfect for breakfast or as a snack option. Beetroot is a good source of iron, nitrates, magnesium and other antioxidants. It also improves skin health and glows, lower blood pressure and prevent dementia. This smoothie is an ideal option for a pre-workout meal.

So what are you waiting for? Try out these incredibly easy and healthy smoothies and pamper yourself with a great breakfast that nourishes your soul. It’s time for some self-love!

References

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886.php
https://bellatory.com/skin/Top-5-Benefits-of-Strawberry-for-Skin
https://www.livescience.com/45487-pineapple-nutrition.html

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Consciousness

8 Comics Showing How Much Today’s Childhood Differs From Ours

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The childhood experience today is inevitably affected by--and sometimes even centered on--technology.

  • Reflect On:

    What is technology giving to our children, and what is it taking away? Should we be more proactive about our children's exposure to technology?

When I was a child, there was no shortage of getting told by our parents and other adults about how much better we had things than they did when they were children.  Stories of having to walk for miles to go to school, sleeping in the same bed until they became an adult, having the same food all the time, and having only a few simple toys to last them several years were not uncommon at all. There was a definite sense that as society modernized, things were getting better for children.

And as children we certainly didn’t disagree — hearing our parents’ stories did indeed make us feel that we were better off than they were. We certainly would not be inclined to exchange our childhood for their more rugged, austere version. And yes, to some extent these stories gave us a bit more ‘appreciation’ for what we had, despite not showing enough of it to satisfy our parents.

How About Today?

Today, I’m not sure that familiar line of conversation that has spanned many generations is going on anymore between parents and children. As the father of a 4-year old, the most immediate difference I notice is that we seem to have less time for our children than our parents did, especially if both parents are working full-time, which is just about a requirement these days.

The other major difference is the level of technology children have access to. And in some ways, technology has come in and ‘filled the gap’ where a parent’s attention is absent. Now, undoubtedly, there are some benefits to technology for our children. But when we take time to reflect on it, we might recognize that we have come to a particular stage in the modernization of our society where most of us are not sure that ‘newer, bigger, faster, more convenient’ is necessarily better, especially with regards to the type of childhood that serves as a foundation for a happy and prosperous adult life.

Here are 8 pictures comparing childhoods then and now, where technology has become ubiquitous in the lives of our children. Do you think our children have it better than we did?

Are they having more fun?

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Are they being more creative?

Are they more ambitious?

Are they healthier?

Are they understanding consequences better?

Are they feeling things more deeply?

Are they experiencing more frustration?

Is their sense of wonder being cultivated more?

How Did You Score It?

How you answer these questions might give you some insight into how much you want your children’s early experiences to be influenced by technology. As everyone knows, childhood is the most formative time of a person’s life, which is why, as parents, some of the choices within our control that we make about our children’s exposure to technology might have a significant impact.

Drawings courtesy of Sergey Raskovalov.

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