We Finally Know What About Meditation?

Meditation comes up in the news all the time as the newest “hot thing” to do for your heath. It has tons of research support for improving mental and physical health, but I was shocked to learn that its benefits for stress were only confirmed in the past few days.

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We know meditation can help quiet the mind, but this new study showed the meditation also helps calm the heart. When we are stressed, our heart physically beats differently and researchers have now found how to observe the combined changes of meditation, heart beat, and stress. Yoga meditation was found to have the strongest effect and the positive effects aren’t limited to only the period of time spent meditating. The physiological benefits, such as a calmer heart rate, persist even after the meditation session has ended. Some of those positive effects include mental ability for goal-oriented thinking, which requires strong executive control.

Again, we often underestimate the interconnectedness of mind and body.

I personally do not meditate as much as I would like–meaning I don’t make it a priority in my life. I’ve downloaded Headspace and really need the catalyst to commit and turn it into a daily practice.

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I pride myself on learning about health, integrating healthy habits into my life, and setting a positive example, although this is one are I just can’t seem to budge.

Everyone struggles with certain things like this. For example, I work at a company focused entirely on wellbeing. We preach mindful eating and taking short breaks at work, yet everyone eats at their desk while working…what’s up with that? It’s HARD to make the right healthy choices. We have to prioritize them. My coworkers would have to think “well, this email can wait until I’ve enjoyed my salad and caught up with a friend”, and I would have to say-, “pause your anxious mind for these five minutes and simply be.”

When it comes down to it, we all have to pick our battles and choose the ways we want to honor our wellbeing.


What are healthy habits you are striving toward? What’s stopping you?


Ted Talk Friday: Best-Self Activation

What a wonderful talk; this came out only a few days ago and it might be one the best talks I’ve seen in a while. Dan Cable, a new name to me, wove together a beautiful, complex, and persuasive story of what it means to “activate our best selves” and how we can do it more often.

I’ve completed the peer surveys for friends in the past and see it as such a valuable tool. Cable also mentioned a test to determine your values and positive character strengths–I highly recommend taking it. The survey is called the VIA and can be found here.


When do you feel like your best self is activated?

Ted Talk Friday: My story is painted on my body

I picked this talk randomly while looking for a shorter talk. At first I was not enjoying this, but it quickly took a turn halfway through. I was so intrigued how a young girl who was bullied then became a bully herself. I am sometimes naive to think that empathy is inherent and that we always learn by experience. Hearing this young woman reflect on her experiences really made me pause and think.

Are you surprised she was a bully after being bullied?

Our Negativity Bias & What It Means For Social Media

Dr. Rick Hanson offers one of the most simple, clear explanations of negativity bias:

“the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.”

This served us well during evolution; for example, remembering that lions are dangerous is much for useful than remembering how nice a rose smells. In order to stay alive, we prioritize the negative memories and experiences. As Dr. Hanson perfectly describes:

“The alarm bell of your brain — the amygdala (you’ve got two of these little almond-shaped regions, one on either side of your head) — uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news: it’s primed to go negative. Once it sounds the alarm, negative events and experiences get quickly stored in memory — in contrast to positive events and experiences, which usually need to be held in awareness for a dozen or more seconds to transfer from short-term memory buffers to long-term storage.”

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I studied PTSD at-length while in college, and one of the promising theories is that the disorder is actually the brain stuck in this negative cycle to an extreme point–over-activating the negative response (fear, startle, racing heart). The trauma is primed to be triggered by any similar negative experience.

Now, how does this relate to your social media consumption?

A recent study found that negative interactions on social media have a much stronger impact than positive interactions. Every 10% increase in positive interactions/experiences on social media was associated with a 4% decrease in chances of depressive symptoms, but those results were not statistically significant, which means that the findings could simply be due to chance (aka positive social media experiences might not effect us). On the flip side, for every 10% increase in negative experiences, there was a 20% increase in the odds of depressive symptoms–a finding that was statistically significant. Remember, correlation does not equal causation; while social media might increase depressive symptoms, it’s also possible that individuals with depressive symptoms seek out negative social media experiences.

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What we can we do about this?

Unfollow. Unfriend. Remove all the negativity from your news feed.

That girl who posts stunning photos that makes you feel ugly and boring? Unfollow.

That acquaintance who makes a snide remark on your new profile picture? Unfriend.

Think about how you feel looking at different posts, comments, and photos and make sure to use your social media mindfully. It can be a wonderful tool for connection when used with a focus on positivity, networking, and friendship.


Do you find yourself feeling sad while on social media? When was your last social media purge?

Ted Talk Friday: The harm reduction model of drug addiction treatment

The public health model of harm-reduction is one of the most powerful, and controversial, models I know of. While it might seem counterintuitive to provide the tools to use safely, think about addiction–addiction is a mental illness. If there are drugs available, addicts will seek them out, whether they can use them safely or what. Learn more about Harm Reduction here and watch the talk below to understand its value:





What  do you think of the harm reduction model?

News alert: IIFYM, Sugar, & Sweeteners

I have always been fascinated by the strange world of nutrition science (or lack thereof); every day there is a new diet in the news or a new supplement with promises for weight loss or muscle gain. It’s exhausting to follow all of the new trends, but one trend that has caught on across social media is called IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). This diet, or lifestyle, is about breaking down your diet by nutrient: carb, fat, & protein. It’s not about what you’re eating, but instead about the nutritional breakdown. For example, x amount of cotton candy is 50 carbs, but so is a huge bowl of fruit–and thus, those two food choices are counted equally.

A lot of individuals say this makes them feel free to eat “unhealthy” foods without guilt; if that is what it takes for you to have a balanced diet, then more power to you. I personally think food should never come with guilt–whether you’re choosing to eat that cotton candy or the fruit. Instead, see how you feel. I know I would savor and enjoy the fruit, while the cotton candy would leave me on a sugar high & crash. Sure, enjoying cotton candy at the county fair once a year is fun, but it’s not what I would consider a balanced diet.

Despite this IIFYM obsession, I read a recent article that concludes that sugar sweetened beverages, when compared to starchy carb equivalents, have a more harmful effect & increase cardiometabolic risk factors.

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These same researchers also concluded that there is no strong evidence supporting the idea that noncaloric sweeteners (like Splenda, aspartame, etc.) contribute to weight gain. A quick google search shows that popular media has run wild with the idea that fake sugars will only increase weight, but there is little support for this theory. Takeaway: If you’re going to drink Coke or Diet Coke no matter what, drink the Diet Coke.

Nutrition is about balance and for a lot of people, simple harm reduction. One fewer sugar-sweetened soda. One extra serving of veggies. All of these small daily choices add up over a lifetime. Use your common sense, and don’t believe everything you read.


How do you make your nutritional choices? Do you drink regular or diet soda?

Ted Talk Friday: How to live passionately–no matter your age

I love Isabel Allende; she has lived through such tragedies and has come out with such an inspiring, hopeful attitude about the world we live in. As I see people I love age, I think about what aging means today. We perceive those who are aging as weak and tired, but that is simply not the case. We need to tell ourselves the story that vibrance, passion, and excitement do not dissipate as we age, instead we can learn how to make those qualities grow even more.




Do you agree on Allende’s principals of living passionately? Do you live your life how she does?