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Study Shows What Living In A ‘Greener’ Neighbourhood Can Do For Your Health

A new Canadian study recently proved just how beneficial living close to or within nature can be, as living in a greener neighbourhood could actually lower your risk of early death.

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If you’ve ever experienced living in both a downtown core as well as a suburb full of greenery, the juxtaposition is pretty astounding. Many of you reading this probably could have guessed that living around nature is better for your health, because many of us simply feel better when we’re outdoors.

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Do you ever feel like you just need to go lay in the grass, or go outside for a breath of fresh air? I live in a busy downtown core, so I definitely feel the hustle and bustle becomes a little too much for me sometimes. But my ‘quick fix’ is always to head to the park and chill in the grass, and I’m definitely not the only person who feels this way!

A new study recently proved just how beneficial living close to or within nature can be, as living in a greener neighbourhood can actually lower your risk of early death.

Study Finds Living in a Greener Neighbourhood Can Improve Your Health

A recent study published in The Lancet Planetary Health Journal titled “Urban greenness and mortality in Canada’s largest cities: a national cohort study” revealed just how beneficial living close to or within nature can be.

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick collected data on 1.3 million non-immigrant Canadian adults living in the 30 largest cities in the country. The data analyzed was dated from 2001-2012, and the researchers measured the amount of greenery around the participants’ houses, from giant trees to tiny shrubs.

Their findings suggest that the more greenery people live around, the lower their risk of premature death. “There was a lot bigger effect than I think any of us had been expecting,” explained Dan Crouse, a health geographer and lead author of the study.

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The study used satellite images and data in order to determine how much greenery was present near the participants’ houses. Then, using NASA’s Aqua satellite, the greenery around each house was assigned a measurement on a scale of zero to one (zero meaning there were no plants, and one meaning there was an abundance or complete coverage of greenery).

The study suggests that for every 0.15-point increase in greenery found near the participants’ house, there was an 8-12% decrease in risk of death. Keep in mind that the researchers accounted for other factors such as air pollution, and even after removing them, there was still a strong link between more green space and lower death rates.

Perhaps the biggest take away of this study is that you don’t need to be living near a conventional park in order to experience the benefits of greenery. Although parks are obviously awesome because they provide a concentrated amount of greenery, people can still benefit from nature by simply having trees and other plants around their houses.

“What we’re able to show with this study is really just having trees around where people are living is really important,” Crouse said.

The researchers provide no explanation for why this causal link exists, but nevertheless demonstrate the importance of their findings.

“That space is still representing an absence of traffic congestion, an absence of the noise and pollution from cars. It’s going to have a real cooling effect in an urban area,” Crouse said. “Just having a view of nature from your window … can be restorative. There’s a lot of ways that the greenness could be benefiting your health.”

Final Thoughts 

Being in nature provides countless benefits for our bodies and minds, and I’m sure you’ve experienced many of them! Scientists have proven that walking in nature and hiking can literally change your brain chemistry and make you happier, peaceful, and less stressed.

So, it’s not too far fetched to think that simply being near nature could benefit us. However, this research could also indicate that people living around more greenery simply exercise more or make more of an effort to spend time in nature.

After all, people living in busy cities probably live there for a reason, and perhaps one of those reasons is that they don’t like being in nature quite as much as someone living in the middle of a forest does!

Even if you don’t live near greenery, this research represents an excellent reminder that it’s important to spend time outdoors. With that, maybe throw on your running shoes and go for a hike. You may find that you not only enjoy it, but your health improves over time as well!

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Meditation Changes The “Structure & Function of the Brain” In A Positive Way

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A recent study has found found that different types of meditation can actually effect different areas of the brain.

  • Reflect On:

    Should meditation be included in the school curriculum, and used to treat certain mental ailments?

If you look at most ‘masters’ in the field of meditation, a common theme that currently exists is a big misconception about meditation, that it has to be done a certain way, that you have to sit a specific way or do something in particular in order to reap the benefits. These masters will be the first to tell you that it doesn’t have to be one specific way.

That being said, many spiritual groups, like certain monks for example, are taught different types of meditation in several different ways, so really, there’s no correct way to meditate, and the process of connecting with one’s higher self and quieting the mind can be done in multiple ways and practiced at various levels.

When meditating, one shouldn’t try to “empty” their mind, but instead, try to let ones thoughts, feelings, and whatever emotions end up ‘popping’ in there, pop in there. There should be no resistance to thoughts, no judgement of them. Simply let them be, don’t attach to them and just be at peace with it. You’re not doing anything wrong, just focus on your breath.

Personally, I believe that meditation is a state of being more than anything else.  Throughout the day, one can resist judging their thoughts, letting them flow until they are no more, or just be in a constant state of peace and self awareness. Contrary to popular belief, you can meditate anywhere, it can be done before bed, in the shower, while you are going for a walk, or even while washing the dishes.

That being said, I do also believe, speaking from my experience, that sitting down and doing the proper breath work and being present is a slightly different method and can sometimes create a more powerful experience, but there seems to be different variations of the exact same thing.

What’s interesting about meditation is the fact that it’s been practiced for thousands of years, and several ancient cultures were well aware of not only the non-physical benefits but its physical benefits as well, something modern day science is just starting to discover.

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One of the most recent studies has found that different types of meditation can actually effect different areas of the brain.

As Alice G. Walton, a writer for Forbes points out,

“Meditation and mindfulness training have accumulated some impressive evidence, suggesting that the practices can change not only the structure and function of the brain, but also our behaviour and moment-to-moment experience.”

She is correct, probably even more so than she knows. The evidence showing just how strong the mind-body connection is can actually be overwhelming. In fact, studies in the field of parapsychology have just as much, if not more, statistical significance via peer-reviewed research than the science which has been published to approve several different drugs, like antiplatelets, or the science that shows a daily dose of aspirin can help prevent a heart attack. It was published in 1999, by a statistics professor at UC Irvine.

This new study, which was recently published by the Max Planck Institute found that three different types of meditation are associated to changes in corresponding brain regions.

Watson goes on to explain,

“Participants, who were between 20 and 55 years of age, engaged in three different types of training for three months each, totalling a nine-month study period. The first training was dubbed the “Presence” module, and was very similar to focused awareness meditation, an ancient practice that’s been studied a lot in recent years. In this study, participants learned to focus their attention, brining it back when it wandered, and to attend to the breath and to their internal body sensations.” 

The second phase of training was called “Affect,” and its purpose was to increase compassion and empathy for others. The participants learned about a specific meditation dealing with “loving-kindness,” and again, the sole intention here was to enhance one’s compassion and empathy.

The last one was called the “Perspective” module, where the focus was simply to observe one’s own thoughts without judgement, while enhancing their understanding towards the perspectives of other people.

The researchers hypothesized that these methods would lead to volume increases in corresponding parts of the brain.  Numerous studies have proven the many physiological benefits of meditation, and the latest one comes from Harvard University of a study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)  who determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes in grey matter over time.

This recent study found the same thing, and they discovered that when they scanned the participants’ brains at the end of each module and then compared the groups against one another:

“Training in Presence was linked to enhanced thickness in the anterior prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which are known to be strongly involved in attention. Affect training was linked to increased thickness in regions known to be involved in socially driven emotions like empathy: and Perspective training associated with changes in areas involved in understanding the mental states of others, and, interestingly, inhibiting the perspective of oneself.” 

These results further elaborate on a wealth of previous studies showing what meditation can do to the brain.

Walton goes on to emphasize,

“Lots of research has found that experienced meditators have significantly altered brain structure and function, but a growing number of studies has also found that relatively brief meditation training in novices (for instance, the well-known eight-week MBSR program) can also shift brain function, improve well-being, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.” 

The authors of the study mention:

“With growing globalization, interconnectedness, and complexity of our societies, ‘soft skills’ have become increasingly important…Social competences, such as empathy, compassion, and taking the perspective of another person, allow for a better understanding of others’ feelings and different beliefs and are crucial for successful cooperation.” 

Why This Is Relevant & Important

Imagine if this type of practice became a requirement of multiple school boards, what do you think would happen? For most of us, since the day we are born we’re all encouraged to follow the same path, and one of those paths is spending a large portion of our lives, for many years, for the entire day, at school. Then, as we age into adults, we do the same thing with ‘work.’ This type of human experience is far from natural, which is why I believe it to be one of the reasons (out of many) that stress, diseases, and mental health issues, among other rates, continue to rise exponentially.

While going through this process, we’re never really taught how to question the experience, we simply comply and are never really taught any sort of emotional education, at all. We don’t learn to deal with our emotions, we don’t learn about empathy, compassion, and stepping into another persons shoes… We’re not really taught what we are naturally gifted with from birth. It’s our empathy and compassion, our concern for others that makes human beings so special, but growing up, we don’t really talk about these things.

The world is changing in many different ways, and awareness about this kind of practice is spreading around like it never has before. Multiple schools are incorporating mindfulness education into their programs, and many parents from my generation are also incorporating these important concepts into their child’s development.

This is great to see, and as time unfolds, the more we tap into non-physical science and its tremendous benefits, the more we will speed up the changes that are so desperately needed on our planet right now.


Related CE Articles:

Scientists Demonstrate What Meditation Does To Your Gut & Your Brain

Mind-Body Connection During Meditation Can Now Be Measured – Thanks To Science

Study Outlines What Prayer, Meditation & Yoga Can Do To The Human Body

Physicists Examine Consciousness & Conclude The Universe Is Spiritual, Immaterial & Mental

Physicists Say Consciousness Should Be Considered A State of Matter – The Non-Physical Is Real

This is How Powerful The Mind/Body Connection Really Is

Nepals Military Set To Use Transcendental Meditation To Relieve Global Collective Stress To Stop War

“I Was Sort of a Jackass Before Meditation” – This Is How We Can Change Police Brutality

Tibetan Buddhist Master Monk Explains How Meditation Is Not What Most People Think It Is

How To Meditate: 6 Method That Can Get Anyone Meditating

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Dr. Lawrence Palevsky Testimony: Unvaccinated Children Are “The Healthiest Children I’ve Ever Seen”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Dr. Lawrence Palevsky, a NY licensed paediatrician, speaks at a forum on vaccines in Connecticut, discussing the repeal of the religious exemption for childhood vaccines.

  • Reflect On:

    Why is vaccine hesitancy on the rise?

It’s always worrisome publishing an article about vaccine safety and posting it on Facebook. But why is that? One would think that discussions and concerns about vaccine safety would be encouraged. However, the opposite is true–Facebook has been cracking down on any information that they deem as “anti-vaccine.”

Does this mean that reporting on a study addressing the concerns of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines, for example, will be prevented from spreading and possibly even labelled as “fake news,” despite the fact that it’s been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal?

Does this mean that a paediatrician, like the one below, will also be censored for sharing his opinion based on his research and experience?

Dr. Heidi Larson’s Comments at WHO Summit

I’d like to point out that many scientists presented facts about vaccines and vaccine safety at the recent Global Health Vaccine Safety Summit hosted by the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. At the conference, Professor Heidi Larson, a Professor of Anthropology and the Risk and Decision Scientist Director at the Vaccine Confidence Project, emphasized that doctors and professionals should forego name-calling with ‘hostile language’ such as “anti-vax”.

She recommended encouraging people to ask questions about vaccine safety. After all, it makes sense–in order to make our vaccines safer and more effective, you would think everybody would be on board with constant questioning and examination. After all, that’s just good science, and it’s in everyone’s best interest. She also brought up the issue of confidence in vaccines:

The other thing that’s a trend, and an issue, is not just confidence in providers but confidence of health care providers. We have a very wobbly health professional frontline that is starting to question vaccines and the safety of vaccines. That’s a huge problem, because to this day any study I’ve seen–and we’re constantly looking on any studies in this space–still, the most trusted person on any study I’ve seen globally is the health care provider. And if we lose that, we’re in trouble.

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You can read more about the concerns brought up by scientists at that conference, in detail, here.

Dr. Lawrence Palevsky

One of those doctors who is losing confidence in vaccines is Dr. Lawrence Palevsky, a practicing paediatrician trained at the NYU School of Medicine who did his residency at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. He spent the first nine years of his career working in emergency rooms running a neonatal intensive care unit. He recently spoke at a forum on vaccines in Connecticut, discussing the repeal of the religious exemption for childhood vaccines. In the video below, he provides a great summary as to why so many parents and physicians continue to become concerned about vaccine safety.

The parents that I work with in New York, that I see around the country are very concerned that their rights are being taken away, that their knowledge about the science is being pushed away by an agenda that only says, unvaccinated children are a problem.

No study has every been done in this country, appropriately, to address the health outcomes of children who are vaccinated versus the children who are unvaccinated. I have been seeing families in my practice for over 20 years, that have opted out of vaccination, they are the healthiest children I’ve ever seen.

Vaccine hesitancy among among health professionals is no longer a secret. A study published in the journal EbioMedicine outlines this point:

Over the past two decades several vaccine controversies have emerged in various countries, including France, inducing worries about severe adverse effects and eroding confidence in health authorities, experts, and science. These two dimensions are at the core of the vaccine hesitancy (VH) observed in the general population. VH is defined as delay in acceptance of vaccination, or refusal, or even acceptance with doubts about its safety and benefits, with all these behaviors and attitudes varying according to context, vaccine, and personal profile, despite the availability of vaccine services VH presents a challenge to physicians who must address their patients’ concerns about vaccines and ensure satisfactory vaccination coverage.

The Takeaway

The scientific community should never stop questioning, especially when it comes to medication. Based on the information that’s come out at the conference mentioned in this article, and the testimony shown above, it’s quite clear that there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the development of vaccines and vaccine safety overall. Discussion is always encouraging, as long as it’s peaceful and facts are presented in a proper manner.

It’s better to understand the reasons why a lot of people, parents, scientists and physicians are hesitant about vaccination and appropriately respond, instead of simply using ridicule and hatred, because that’s never effective and both parties cannot move forward that way. At the end of the day, scientists should never cease to question.

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A Potential Solution To Reduce Snoring & Sleep Apnea

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I’d like to share with you a convenient alternative remedy that has helped all of my clients to reduce snoring and sleep apnea, and that is by wearing a tape to keep your mouth closed during sleep. A new study published this year also showed the efficacy of this treatment.

Snoring and sleep apnea not only represent a holistic health risk to an individual, the irritating noise at night can often create conflict in a couple’s relationship. I’d like to share with you a convenient alternative remedy that has helped all of my clients to reduce snoring and sleep apnea, and that is by wearing a tape to keep your mouth closed during sleep. A new study published this year also showed the efficacy of this treatment.

Major Cause of Snoring & Sleep Apnea

One major cause of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea is mouth breathing during sleep, especially when you sleep in the supine position. When you sleep in the supine position with an open mouth, gravity pulls down your jaw and tongue, which then compresses your throat. As a result, your airway gets suppressed and narrowed, leaving less space for the air to pass through.

Mouth breathing also introduces stronger air flow as you inhale and exhale, which exacerbates the airway soft tissue vibration, causing the loud snoring noise. Strong air flow during mouth breathing also induces strong negative pressure that sucks in the soft tissues around the throat area, further narrowing your airway and eventually causing it to collapse, resulting in obstructive sleep apnea.

The Quick Fix? Wear Tape To Keep Your Mouth Closed

As I mentioned earlier, one of the main causes of snoring and sleep apnea is mouth breathing. A quick fix to keep your mouth closed during the night is to apply a small piece of tape over it. When your mouth is closed and lips are together, it is harder for you jaw to fall back even when lying in a supine position. Keeping your mouth closed also forces you to breathe through your nose, which not only helps to regulate the airflow to reduce the negative pressure inside your airway, but also reduces soft tissue vibration

An otoralyngology study published this year in the American Academy of Otolaryngology Journal demonstrated the effectiveness of this technique, showing significant reduction in median AHI (Apnea-Hypopnea Index) score and snoring index [1].

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In the past few years, ENT specialist Dr. Hung Cheng Tseng and I have recommended wearing tape for all of our clients as part of our AirwayFit training program, and the feedback has been great. For some CPAP users, wearing tape on their mouth can help to eliminate the air leakage issue. In addition, if you often find yourself waking up with a dried mouth and throat, this method will also help you keep your mouth and throat moisturized throughout the night.

How To Apply?

In practice, wearing tape to sleep is actually a lot less daunting than it sounds.

Visit any drug store near you and pick up a small roll of medical grade paper tape. It should cost you no more than $10. I recommend ones that are hypoallergenic, porous, and non-waterproof. When you wear the tape, you want to roll your lips slightly inward so you don’t apply it directly onto your lips. Otherwise, your lips can really hurt when you remove it in the morning. Some people apply some lip balm or vaseline onto their lips first as a layer of protection.

You don’t have to wear the tape over your entire mouth. You can start by wearing it vertically, in the center, right beneath your nose, and that should suffice; as long as the tape keeps your jaw up, you should be fine. I also recommend you to pre-fold one of the corners of the tape, just so that there’s a corner you can grab onto easily in the morning to tear it off.  If you have sensitive skin and you find removing the tape hurts, you can wet it with water before you remove it in the morning. You could also reduce the stickiness of the tape prior to use by sticking it onto your forearm a couple of times before applying to your lips.

If you really are panicked by this idea, then as I mentioned before, you can try wearing it only at the center portion of your mouth. This will leave gaps on the two sides of your mouth but still keep your jaw in the upright position during sleep. Also, if it’s your first night trying this method, wearing the tape 30 minutes before you go to bed can help you adjust to the feeling.

Most people who have tried the tape method to keep their mouth closed find it convenient and more comfortable and cheaper than the alternative methods. However, I would caution against wearing tape to keep your mouth closed if you experience the following: nausea or epilepsy, or if you have consumed alcohol or any pill or medicine prior to sleep. Otherwise, give it a try today and you will find yourself waking up feeling much more energized and hydrated the next morning!

To learn more about your sleep trouble, visit www.AirwayFit.com

Source:

[1]    Huang TW., Young TH., “Novel Porous Oral Patches for Patients with Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Mouth Breathing: A Pilot Study” American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery 152.2 (2015): 369-373. Print.

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