Posts tagged with "Self-care"

Try Good Housekeeping’s 30-day mental health challenge!

April 15, 2019

You’ve heard of ice-water challenges, dietary challenges, and social media challenges—but the most popular competition right now is all about your mind and stress. Searches for 30-day mental health challenges have increased by by 668% over the past year, Pinterest recently revealed.

Do these mini, month-long resets actually work? They can, but you have to approach them the right way, Helen L. Coons,  clinical director of the Women’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Service Line at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, recently told Good Housekeeping magazine.

“We know that small, realistic, and attainable steps help us sustain good health behavior,” she said. “So if we think that we’re going to lose 50 pounds this week, we tend not to do it, but if we think … ‘I’m going to skip the cookie today,’ that’s a good start. Same thing in mental health.”

The magazine’s editors teamed up with Dr. Coons to create a 30-day mental health challenge that aims to help you leave you feeling calmer and happier at the end of the month. Even better: You don’t need to spend a lot of money or have tons of free time to participate.

Before starting the challenge, GH recommends that participants position themselves for the best results by following four core guidelines:

  • Don’t think it’s selfish: “When we’ve taken good care of ourselves, not only do we have more energy for others, but we tend to be more focused and more present,” Dr. Coons advises.
  • Tap a friend:When we share our goals, we do better. Get a group of two, three, or four friends, for added accountability.
  • If you miss a day, don’t give up:The goal isn’t to be perfect. Even if you just do 25 or 15 days, that’s still an improvement from the previous month.
  • Keep it up afterward:Improving your well-being is an ongoing process, so adopt one or two new habits that changed your mood for the better.

Now, take a look at the activities below—one for each day of the next month, no matter when you start.

The upcoming month is all about focusing on self-care and finding ways to make physical and mental health a bigger part of your life, which may sound like a lot but in practice is pretty simple. The editors have designated one easy task per day, so that participants won’t feel too overwhelmed.

1. Do a deep breathing exercise: Count backwards from ten, breathing low and slow. Try it before a meeting, in the car, or before you greet your kids or partner after a long day.

2. Catch up with a good friend: Having a strong social support system is linked with a reduced risk of depression and high blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic.

3. Schedule something to look forward to: Plan a fun day later this month, whether you sign up for a cooking class, plan a mother-daughter movie marathon, or use the weekend to go on a mini road trip.

4. Donate or recycle something you never use: Visit givebackbox.com to download a free USPS shipping label, pack up your donations in an empty Amazon box, and it will go directly to Goodwill.

5. Do 30 minutes of yoga: Women who took twice-weekly yoga classes experienced a bigger decrease in chronic stress compared to a control group put on a wait-list, found a 2016 study published in the journal Cogent Psychology.

6. Plan a healthy meal: It’s no secret if you eat well, you feel well.

7. Ask for help with something: Tap into that support system for some assistance where you feel spread thin. After all, it takes a village.

8. Listen to your favorite happy music: In the car, in your home, in the shower…. Bonus points if you sing along.

9. Take 10 minutes to read: Either good stuff or junk! 

10. Go for a walk at lunch: Walking for 30 minutes in a natural or urban environment is linked with reducing stress hormone levels and improving mood, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

11. Budget 20 minutes of spa time: Whether it’s a manicure or a blowout, do whatever makes you feel good. “Not because of the superficial nature of it,” says Dr. Coons, “but when we tend to feel good about how we look, that also helps our well-being.”

12. Practice a favorite hobby: Coloring, doodling, and drawing all increase blood flow to the reward circuit in the brain, according to a 2017 study out of George Washington University, but do whatever creative activity brings you joy—knitting, jewelry making, you name it.

13. Let yourself get distracted by a movie: Go out or queue something up at home.

14. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier: Getting enough sleep can improve your mood, memory, and immune system, according to the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine.

\15. Drink water instead of alcohol or soda today: You’ll save money and avoid empty calories. Win-win.

16. Schedule a game night: Enjoy some friendly competition around a game board.

17. Set a mini goal: Make sure you eat breakfast every day this week, or find a friend sign up for a 5K with you.

18. Cross a lingering item off your to-do list: You know that doctor’s appointment you’ve been meaning to make for months?

19. Compliment someone: Put a little good karma into the world.

20. Plan a night in with friends: Gossip, laugh, eat, drink.

21. Try a 5-minute meditation: Download a free mindfulness app like Headspace and you can do it anywhere when you have a spare moment.

22. FaceTime with a family member: Just seeing Grandma happy will probably make you happy.

23. Do something outside: Walk the dog or find an empty bench to soak up some sun. Or look at the moon and stars before bedtime.

24. Book a date night with your partner: If you’re single, no problem. Call up a friend who appreciates you and plan something fun instead.

25. Unfollow negative people on social media: Those influencer accounts who make you feel any bit less-than? See ya, won’t miss ya.

26. Say no to something: Take a task off your calendar or move it to a more convenient or less stressful time.

27. Have a phone-free night at home: The blue light emitted by your screen can mess your with sleep hormones, so putting the tech away early will not only let you catch up on a new book, but also help you fall asleep faster.

28. Watch a silly video that makes you laugh: Remember, it’s the best medicine.

29. Write down something good that happened today: Even if you’ve just had the worst day, jot down what you’re grateful for instead.

30. Adopt a new habit: Reflect back on the past 30 days and think about making a change. Should game night become a weekly occurrence? Did going to a walk at lunch make feel that much ready to take on the rest of day? The month may be over, but you can make your favorite activities a regular, lifelong thing.

Research contact: @goodhousemag

Ten steps to better skin? Dermatologists weigh in.

January 31, 2019

American women are buying into Eastern wisdom bigtime: While hordes of U.S. females are following “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo of Japan; many others have gone on to buy and try board-certified esthetician Charlotte Cho’s Soko Glam ten-step Korean Skin Care Routine.

Founded in 2012 with products curated from South Korea, Soko Glam advances an already rampant trend: If there’s a skin “problem,” there must be a cream, mask, serum, or scrub for that.

And, as the Huffington Post points out in a January 29 story, at a time when high-profile politicians— yes, we’re talking about Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) —are sharing their own skin care secrets, and other beauty-obsessed influencers are boasting about their own favorite elixirs and panaceas; it’s easy to convince ourselves that more is more, and more is better—especially on the path to “perfect” skin.

But are all those products really helping us? Do we really need to be spending all that money and piling a ton of stuff on our faces to keep our skin at its best? The HuffPost spoke to dermatologists to get some answers.

It’s true that plenty of people out there really do love their skin care routines. As Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, told the news outlet, “I think part of this whole trend of wanting to do multi-step skin care comes from a real need or desire in our society to do more self-care.”

So it feels good, but is that a good reason to spend so much time and money on your skin?

“Need is a relative term,” Dr. Anna Guanche, a board-certified dermatologist at Bella Skin Institute in Calabasas, California, told the HuffPost via email. She explained that if someone has, say, a ten-step process, that would be “optimal if all ingredients are compatible, stay active on the skin when layered, penetrate, and most importantly, are applied consistently.”

And therein lies one problem: compatibility. There’s a good chance most people aren’t scientists who’ve studied every ingredient in every formula and know exactly how all their products interact with each other.

Chwalek noted that skin care and beauty products are studied for their efficacy on an individual basis, not as part of a layered routine. When you put multiple layers of products on your skin, you can’t always be sure the active ingredients in each of them are penetrating as deeply as they should be for the results you want, she said.

“Not only that, you’re also adding on top of something where there are other ingredients that could be deactivating the active ingredient, or affecting the pH at which the active ingredient works,” Chwalek told the online news source. “It’s hard to know if the active ingredient of the last thing you added actually got [to where it needed] to be in the skin, and if it wasn’t deactivated by something else you put on.”

Chwalek and Guanche both agreed that doing too much to our skin can actually irritate it. And if you’re using so many products, it becomes difficult to pinpoint which one or which ingredient is causing that reaction.

If you do have a large arsenal of products you like using, Dr. Angela Lamb, director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice in New York City, suggested alternating them. “For example,” she told HuffPost “if you have two cleansers you love, use one in the morning and one at night. If you have two anti-aging serums, use one in the morning and one at night, or one Monday, Wednesday, Friday and another Tuesday, Sunday.”

In Guanche’s opinion, a few high-quality products and consistent application are key when it comes to skin care. Lamb agreed, noting that she likes to walk through exactly which products her patients are using and why.

“I try to pin down their goals for each product,” Lamb said. “Once I get my arms around that, then I can really trim down their regimens.”

Chwalek offered a similar viewpoint, saying that each product should have a purpose.

“Each time you’re putting something on your face, you have to ask yourself, why are you doing it? What is its purpose? If you’re using a bunch of stuff and you can’t say why you’re doing it or what it’s doing for you, I think you have to rethink it.”

It’s no surprise, therefore, that it turns out, it’s possible for a good skin care routine to be composed of only two or three basic products.

According to Guanche, the musts in beauty care are few: a cleanser, a sunscreen, and a moisturizer.

Some people might not even need moisturizers, Chwalek said, especially those who find that their skin naturally produces more oil. In her opinion, not every single person should be using the exact same products ― “it needs to be individualized,” she said ― but her typical recommendations include a gentle cleanser, a vitamin C or antioxidant serum in the morning and sunscreen.

Lamb’s essentials were similar: cleanser twice a day (once for those with drier skin), serum, eye cream, moisturizer and sunscreen. She did note, however, that some products, like combo moisturizers with SPF, can simplify things even more.

All three dermatologists told the HuffPost that toner is one product that’s not necessary for everyone. Chwalek noted it could be beneficial for those with oily skin, and Guanche suggested it for acne-prone individuals.

The reality with skin care, Chwalek said, is that we’re all “wowed by marketing and there’s new products coming out every day.”

“It’s such a huge industry. I understand the desire for people to want to use multiple things, but I do think keeping it simple is best,” she said.

Ultimately, “the best skin care is the is skin care you actually use,” Guanche said. And in this case, that doesn’t always mean more.

Research contact: @juliabruc

What reading at bedtime reveals about your personality

October 9, 2018

If you hit the books right after you hit the sheets—but before you go to sleep—what does that say about your personality?

According the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator—a free, online personality assessment program designed to help you better understand what makes you tick, how you relate to others, and how you can benefit from this knowledge in everyday life—if you read at bedtime, you just might be an introvert.

Specifically, Dr. Kim Chronister, a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and media commentator based in California, told Elite Daily by email this month, “The most typical personality type that reads before bedtime is an INFJ personality type.

INFJ,” Chronister explains, stands for “intuitive, feeling, and judging.” Basically, she says, INFJs — and people who like to read before going to bed — tend to be more introverted, and therefore more energized by alone time, and they often make decisions in an organized way, based on their own personal feelings and values, rather than as spontaneous or unplanned choices.

Nick Hobson, a behavioral scientist, lecturer at the University of Toronto, and co-founder of PsychologyCompass.com, told Elite Daily that being a voracious reader, in general, might indicate that you’re an open-minded person. “In particular, there is one main character trait from personality science called ‘openness to experience,'” he tells Elite Daily in an email. “People high in this trait tend to enjoy different forms of art and literature, especially fiction. Just as the [term ‘openness to experience’] suggests, these people crave and are open to new situations. And they derive a certain ‘joie de vivre’ from experiencing the novel and the different, including stories and literature.”

As for reading at bedtime, specifically? “To me it indicates a personality that is more conscientious and emotionally stable,” Hobson says. “These people ritualize their reading as a way to bring about some predictability in their life. Orderliness is a natural anxiety-reliever. And feeling calm is a great thing before the head hits the pillow.”

If you’re drawn to reading a lot of fiction, in particular, before you go to sleep, Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist and professional counselor, told the news outlet, this could mean you’re looking for a healthy escape from your everyday routine, which can also serve as a great form of self-care.

As long as your fictional escapes aren’t so enthralling that they’re causing you to furiously turn the pages for hours and miss out on a good night’s sleep, McBain says it’s a great nighttime ritual to adopt.

Research contact: @totalhellness