You may think what you eat only affects your digestive system and your waistline, but you’re wrong. The especially scary part about this is that researchers are finding that the effect can be passed on from one generation to the next. You have probably heard of that Kansas State University professor who went on a Twinkie Diet a couple years ago and lost weight. Underlying Metabolic Imbalances QuizTake this quiz to see if you have underlying metabolic imbalances!
Happiness is so interesting, because we all have different ideas about what it is and how to get it. I would love to be happier, as I'm sure most people would, so I thought it would be interesting to find some ways to become a happier person that are actually backed up by science. You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it's actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression. Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 ? 40 mins exercise and 6 ? 40 mins reading.
We've explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier, as you can see in the image below.
We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day. Another study tested how employees' moods when they started work in the morning affected their work day.
Researchers found that employees' moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it. Sleep is another topic we've looked into before, exploring how much sleep we really need to be productive. Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute. Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts.
We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends. The men's relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra ?85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. I think that last line is especially fascinating: Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier.
This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. The connection between productivity and temperature is another topic we've talked about more here. One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness.
A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity.
Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. As opposed to actually taking a holiday, it seems that planning a vacation or just a break from work can improve our happiness.
One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent. If you can't take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar--even if it's a month or a year down the road. Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it's been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier live. Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through mediation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that however we feel and think today isn't permanent.
This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I've personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook.
The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. There is an essential resiliency skill that will help you not only take it, but bounce back from the really tough emotional times in your life. The essential skill that Lori modeled is that of being in the moment and understanding that things can change. Psychotherapist Bobbi Emel specializes in helping people face life’s significant challenges and regain their resiliency.
Last updated: 14 Feb 2012Views expressed are those solely of the writer and have not been reviewed. In this post, I’m going to let a true expert in the field take over and provide you with an incredible lecture on brain changes that can be accomplished through contemplative practices. The major theme of Davidson’s research into contemplative and meditative practices is the observance that something goes on in the mind, or at least the brain, of individuals trained in meditative practices.
Recent brain-imaging studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have implicated insula and anterior cingulate cortices in the empathic response to another’s pain.
The brain and the cardiovascular system influence each other during the processing of emotion.
Jerome Stone is a Registered Nurse and the author of the book Minding The Bedside: Nursing from the Heart of the Awakened Mind. Compassion Doesn’t Have to Hurt, in Nursing or OtherwiseAre Thoughts the Mind, or Just a Product of it? Download TWO FREE CHAPTERS of Minding the Bedside: Nursing from the Heart of the Awakened Mind and a FREE E-Book! It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. Back in the olden-days when food was scarce, we needed to store up energy whenever we could get our hands on it. You can actually create such a deficit of neurotransmitters that you can’t correct it without supplementation for the rest of your life.
Eating too many Twinkies can leave a permanent mark on your brain that you can pass to your children! It's also no surprise that it's the Nr.1 value for Buffer's culture, if you see our slidedeck about it. So if you thought exercise was something you didn't have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

In a study cited in Shawn Achor's book, The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with either medication, exercise, or a combination of the two.
It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don't lose any weight.
Using a facial recognition task over the course of a day, the researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions.
However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers' moods. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.
If you want more evidence that it's beneficial for you, I've found some research that proves it can make you happier right now. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally.
Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger. So we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as if we increased the strength of our social relationships. Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Twenty minutes is a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments. It also found that happiness is maximized at 13.9°C, so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.
In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts - such as a tropical vacation or a child's recital - improve their mood and withdraw less. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants' brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you're grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.
But the thing that struck me the most was how she referred to “today.” Three times she mentioned how today was a day in the trenches, today she felt guilty, and today she was feeling alienated. She knew that although today was a bad day for her, it didn’t necessarily follow that tomorrow would be bad or that her life was always a struggle. I found that if I could just tolerate the most agonizing moments of emotional pain, they eventually ebbed away enough for me to get my breath back if not actually feel better. Think about your experience in the present moment rather than falling prey to words like always and forever.
Take a deep breath and tolerate the painful emotion, holding on to the certainty that it won’t last forever. In addition to seeing clients in her private practice, Bobbi is a well-regarded speaker and writer. The “something” that occurs varies depending upon the scope of the study, but a key similarity between his studies of meditation is that the brain of an individual who has a regular meditative practice appears more adept at reorganizing or recruiting certain neural pathways and processes to deal with challenges than does the brain of someone who does not have such a practice. Davidson and his colleagues have enrolled long- and short-term meditators, some monks and other lay practitioners, to determine whether mindfulness and meditation have any observable affect on the brain and neural correlates of cognitive processes.[i] [ii] [iii] What Davidson and his colleagues have observed in these groundbreaking studies is that specific regions of the brain responsible for information-processing and emotional regulation can be mediated and modulated through the means of meditative practices.
However, virtually nothing is known about the impact of the voluntary generation of compassion on this network. The study of the interactions of these systems during emotion regulation has been limited in human functional neuroimaging, despite its potential importance for physical health. This deficit is believed to result from competition between the two targets for limited attentional resources. He also has over thirty years in a variety of health-care settings and is a long-time practitioner in meditation, with an emphasis in the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism and Christian and Kabbalistic Contemplation.
It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. But now that we are surrounded by endless options of these high calorie foods, our wiring is really working against us. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger) that activates the happy and pleasurable centers of the brain. Your body tries to compensate the deficit by sending you signals to eat — which leads to overeating and weight gain.
If your brain is constantly telling you to eat a Twinkie, you are eventually going to eat it. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive late in the day to negative emotions like fear and anger.
Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future. Due to the shock of the reunion, a large portion of the infrastructure of volunteering (e.g.
Even forcing a smile when we don't feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition). Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.
She was limiting her experience to just that day rather than assuming the worst about all of her future days.
Sometimes the difference is subtle, but once you begin to see the transitions, you will have more confidence that your pain will eventually change, too.
Davidson at the end of this introduction (you can go directly there by scrolling to the end of this post). Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior, the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience and the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is responsible for many of the innovative inquiries into meditation that have been carried out at the Keck Lab.
To investigate these questions we assessed brain activity using fMRI while novice and expert meditation practitioners generated a loving-kindness-compassion meditation state.
We have previously reported that mental expertise in cultivation of compassion alters the activation of circuits linked with empathy and theory of mind in response to emotional stimuli. Here we show, using performance in an attentional-blink task and scalp-recorded brain potentials, that meditation, or mental training, affects the distribution of limited brain resources.
Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site.
The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent! To probe affective reactivity, we presented emotional and neutral sounds during the meditation and comparison periods. Guided by the finding that heart rate increases more during blocks of compassion meditation than neutral states, especially for experts, we examined the interaction between state (compassion vs. Three months of intensive mental training resulted in a smaller attentional blink and reduced brain-resource allocation to the first target, as reflected by a smaller T1-elicited P3b, a brain-potential index of resource allocation. In fact only two – a Superintendent of Schools and a Nobel laureate – have been able to answer the final Million Dollar Question.Ease your brain back into gear by playing along with trivia game shows like this, Jeopardy and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. In other words, you have to eat more Twinkies to feel as satisfied and as happy as you’re expecting.
Neurotransmitter imbalance is one of the main underlying metabolic imbalances that prevents people from losing weight when they think they are doing everything right. You have to fix the underlying problem — rebalance the neurotransmitters before you will be able to reach your health and wellness goals.
Based on a comparison of the change in subjective well-being of these people and of people from the control group who had no change in their volunteer status, the hypothesis is supported that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

My guilt over wanting my life (before it was chucked under the special needs bus) back is outweighing my good will today. Our main hypothesis was that the concern for others cultivated during this form of meditation enhances affective processing, in particular in response to sounds of distress, and that this response to emotional sounds is modulated by the degree of meditation training.
Furthermore, those individuals who showed the largest decrease in brain-resource allocation to T1 generally showed the greatest reduction in attentional-blink size. Better yet, challenge the kids to the board game versions of these shows, or other brain training classics like Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble.By the way—“K” in the periodic table is for potassium. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is any blow to the head that's hard enough to affect the brain's function. The presentation of the emotional sounds was associated with increased pupil diameter and activation of limbic regions (insula and cingulate cortices) during meditation (versus rest).
Our findings revealed that BOLD signal in the right middle insula showed a significant association with heart rate (HR) across state and group. These observations provide novel support for the view that the ability to accurately identify T2 depends upon the efficient deployment of resources to T1.
How Your Brain Can Get HurtA hard blow to the head can shake the brain inside the skull, resulting in bruising, broken blood vessels, or nerve damage to the brain. During meditation, activation in insula was greater during presentation of negative sounds than positive or neutral sounds in expert than it was in novice meditators.
The results also demonstrate that mental training can result in increased control over the distribution of limited brain resources.
Next time you have to help calculate the amount for a tip, to convert from pounds to kilograms in a recipe or double-check the grocery bill, do it all in your head!
When you take a hard hit to the head but there's no outward bleeding or opening in the skull, it could result in a closed brain injury. The strength of activation in insula was also associated with self-reported intensity of the meditation for both groups.
The positive coupling of HR and BOLD was higher within the compassion state than within the neutral state in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex for both groups, underlining the role of this region in the modulation of bodily arousal states.
Our study supports the idea that plasticity in brain and mental function exists throughout life and illustrates the usefulness of systematic mental training in the study of the human mind. I hear people gripe and moan about “normal” problems and I want to cause them bodily harm!  Some days are frustration! This state effect was stronger for experts than novices in somatosensory cortices and the right inferior parietal lobule (group by state interaction). These data confirm that compassion enhances the emotional and somatosensory brain representations of others’ emotions and that this effect is modulated by expertise. Future studies are needed to further investigate the impact of compassion training on these circuits.
Together these data indicate that the mental expertise to cultivate positive emotion alters the activation of circuitries previously linked to empathy and theory of mind in response to emotional stimuli. Or was that Gilbert Blithe??Decades later, characters and stories from the classics you once read and loved in school may now not exactly be top of mind.
What is a Concussion?A concussion is caused by a jolt that shakes your brain back and forth inside your skull.
Any hard hit to the head or body -- whether it's from a football tackle or a car accident -- can lead to a concussion. Tote these smart snacks around for you and your kids to enjoy at anytime.Give it a rest The last weeks of summer don’t have to be all about study…remember to take a moment to relax and recharge your batteries. Although a concussion is considered a mild brain injury, it can leave lasting damage if you don't rest long enough to let your brain fully heal afterward. How Do You Know It's a Concussion?After a fall or hit to the head, you may be knocked out for a few seconds.
Dizziness, nausea or vomiting, blurry vision, headache, and trouble thinking clearly are all signs that you need to see a doctor to get your head injury checked out. Healing After a ConcussionJust like you need to rest your ankle after a sprain, you need to rest your brain after a concussion.
Getting a second concussion before the first one has healed can slow your recovery and increase the risk for permanent damage.
If the sharp edges of a fractured skull bone press into the brain, they can damage the delicate tissues and lead to bleeding in the brain.
Bleeding in the BrainYour brain can bleed if it's injured and blood vessels inside it are damaged. If the hematoma puts pressure on the brain, it can squeeze or cut off blood flow to the brain -- a medical emergency.
Diagnosing Brain InjuriesYour doctor can tell whether you have a brain injury by doing a series of tests.
You may be asked questions to check your memory, concentration, problem-solving ability, and other brain functions. If you have long-lasting or more severe symptoms, you may have a brain scan called a CT or MRI. Brain Injuries and MemoryAn injury can damage the parts of your brain you need to store and retrieve information.
That's why you may have a harder time remembering your birthday, what you ate for breakfast, or the accident that caused your brain injury. Brain Injuries and MovementAn injury can also damage parts of your brain that help you balance and walk. Physical therapy and other rehabilitation can improve your balance and movement after a head injury. Up to half of people experience symptoms of depression -- including persistent sadness and sleeplessness.
Problems thinking, moving, and controlling your emotions may not go away, especially if you've taken many hits to the head (from sports, for example). There's some evidence that having a TBI increases your risk for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, and other brain disorders as you get older. Recovery from Severe Brain InjuryFor mild injuries like concussions, the best therapy is to rest and give your brain a chance to heal. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy can help with the physical and mental side effects of severe brain injuries. Counseling sessions with a psychologist or psychiatrist can help you learn to live with your injury. But hundreds of thousands of serious brain injuries happen every year.  Children and Brain InjuriesBrain injuries rank among the leading causes of disability and death in children.
Nearly half a million kids -- more boys than girls -- visit an emergency room for a brain injury each year.
Luckily, kids are pretty resilient, and most bounce right back from a small bump on the head. But if your child won't stop crying, is throwing up, says his head or neck hurts, or has trouble waking up after a fall, call the doctor right away. Safety on BikesOnce they reach school age, kids are at risk from sports injuries and bicycle and car accidents.
Teach kids to wear closely fitting helmets and other safety gear during sports and recreational activities.
Head Injuries from SportsHead injuries are common in professional and amateur sports like football, baseball, and hockey. Some professional leagues have even improved their sideline policies to treat athletes' head injuries more effectively. If you don't want to be carried off the field, wear a helmet that fits snugly every time you play.
Safety in CarsA car accident can thrust your head forward -- or worse, propel you from the vehicle headfirst. Before you put the key in the ignition, put on your seatbelt and buckle your child in an age-appropriate safety seat.
To avoid taking a tumble, clean up the clutter, cords, and other hazards that may cause you to fall. Install lights above hallways and stairs so you don't stumble while going to the bathroom at night.

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