Long-Term Couples May Inherent Each Other’s Bad Habits

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health – there’s a long line of research that associates marriage with reducing unhealthy habits such as smoking, and promoting better health habits such as regular checkups. However, new research is emerging that suggests married straight couples and cohabiting gay and lesbian couples in long-term intimate relationships may pick up each other’s unhealthy habits as well.

Corinne Reczek, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of sociology, reports three distinct findings into how unhealthy habits were promoted through these long-term, intimate relationships: through the direct bad influence of one partner, through health habit synchronicity and through the notion of personal responsibility.

Reczek reports that gay, lesbian and straight couples all described the “bad influence” theme, while in straight partnerships, men were nearly always viewed as the “bad influence.”

“The finding that one partner is a ‘direct bad influence’ suggests that individuals converge in health habits across the course of their relationship, because one individual’s unhealthy habits directly promotes the other’s unhealthy habits,” reports Reczek. An example would be how both partners eat the unhealthy foods that one partner purchases.

“Gay and lesbian couples nearly exclusively described how the habits of both partners were simultaneously promoted due to unhealthy habit synchronicity. For these individuals, one partner may not engage in what they consider an unhealthy habit on their own, but when their desire for such a habit is matched by their partners, they partake in unhealthy habits,” writes Reczek.

“Third, respondents utilized a discourse of personal responsibility to describe how even when they observe their partner partaking in an unhealthy habit, they do not attempt to change the habit, indicating that they were complicit in sustaining their partner’s unhealthy habits. The final theme was described primarily by straight men and women,” says Reczek.

Reczek adds that the study is among the first of its kind to examine how gay and lesbian couples promote each other’s unhealthy habits.

“While previous research focuses nearly exclusively on how intimate relationships – particularly marriage – are health-promoting, these findings extend this research to argue that intimate partners are cognizant of the ways in which they promote the unhealthy habits of one another,” states Reczek.

Peer Pressure Drives “Sexting” in Teens

Both young men and women experience peer pressure to share sexual images via the new phenomenon of ‘sexting’, preliminary findings from a University of Melbourne study has found.

‘Sexting’ is the practice of sending and receiving sexual images on a mobile phone.

The study is one of the first academic investigations into ‘sexting’ from a young person’s perspective in Australia. The findings were presented to the 2011 Australasian Sexual Health Conference in Canberra.

Ms Shelley Walker from the Primary Care Research Unit in the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne said the study not only highlighted the pressure young people experienced to engage in ‘sexting’, it also revealed the importance of their voice in understanding and developing responses to prevent and deal with the problem.

“The phenomenon has become a focus of much media reporting; however research regarding the issue is in its infancy, and the voice of young people is missing from this discussion and debate,” she said.

The qualitative study involved individual interviews with 33 young people (15 male and 18 female) aged 15 – 20 years.

Preliminary findings revealed young people believed a highly sexualized media culture bombarded young people with sexualized images and created pressure to engage in sexting.

Young people discussed the pressure boys place on each other to have girls’ photos on their phones and computers. They said if boys refrained from engaging in the activity they were labeled ‘gay’ or could be ostracized from the peer group.

Both genders talked about the pressure girls experienced from boyfriends or strangers to reciprocate on exchanging sexual images.

Some young women talked about the expectation (or more subtle pressure) to be involved in ‘sexting’, simply as a result of having viewed images of girls they know.

Both young men and women talked about being sent or shown images or videos, sometimes of people they knew or of pornography without actually having agreed to look at it first.

Ms Walker said ‘sexting’ is a rapidly changing problem as young people keep up with new technologies such as using video and Internet via mobile phones.

The Australian Communication & Media Authority reported in 2010 that around 90 percent of young people aged 15-17 owned mobile phones.

“Our study reveals how complex and ever-changing the phenomenon of ‘sexting’ is and that continued meaningful dialogue is needed to address and prevent the negative consequences of sexting for young people,” she said.

Source: University of Melbourne

Speak Your Mind, Literally

For most of us, speaking isn’t much of an issue. However, for those that suffer from paralysis, or other diseases that render them speechless, a new study to be published in Journal of Neural Engineering shows promise of translating neural activity into computerized speech, according to e! Science News. This is managed using a series of micro-electrodes that are placed atop the brain below the skull. These electrodes are non-invasive, and incredibly small—making them available for long-term use among these paralyzed patients.

The technology is certainly not perfect at this stage, but does show great effectiveness and promise for more accuracy with more research. The researchers from the University of Utah used these micro-electrons to track brain signal activity as patients read 10 different words. These words included yes, no, hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, hello, goodbye, more and less—though to be useful words for one who is paralyzed. They used the observed brain signal patterns to try to distinguish one word within a pair. This patterning lead to the researchers being able to “distinguish brain signals for each word 76 percent to 90 percent of the time.”

When they attempted to distinguish one word within the whole set of 10, accuracy dropped to a success rate of 28 to 48 percent—still much higher than chance, but not quite effective enough to allow someone to speak their mind effectively. The technology is there, but obviously needs to be improved, and will be if these researchers have their way about it—using larger micro-electrode grids in the future for better accuracy.

It seems great strides are being made to assist those suffering of paralysis and “Locked-In Syndrome” to access improved modes of communication, a very dire need. With more research and testing it seems that the researchers at the University of Utah will be on to something.

Source: The Brain Speaks on e! Science News




Keeping Resolutions Strong Year Round

It’s that time of the year—the time when we all set out hefty goals… that go unnoticed a month later. The motivation of the New Year may seem well-intentioned, but how do we go about keeping up the steam to follow through with it year round? Here are a few tips for making sure your goals stay center stage.

Put it in paper.

If you have a goal, whether a New Years Resolution or otherwise, make sure to write it down and keep it somewhere visible. Put these little reminders of your goals in places that are relevant to the goal. For example, if your goal is to improve your diet, putting a post-it displaying that goal on the refrigerator or your cupboards will keep this in mind when you’re preparing your meals. Setting a time to check back in on these goals—perhaps weekly or monthly—will help you keep track of progress and adjust to better reach those goals.

Make an actionable plan.

Saying “I want to drop ten pounds” is good and well, but you’re not going to follow through with that goal if you don’t detail exactly how you are going to accomplish that goal. For each task you want to accomplish, break it down into smaller, short-term goals that are more manageable and concrete. Trying to eliminate debt? Set a monthly amount that you would like to allocate to your debt, and different ways you might try to save money, or make a bit of extra income. These smaller goals, too, should be in a visible place that you check back with frequently. Assigning a reward for the completion of all of these parts, too, is a great way to stay motivated. The trick, however, is to make sure the reward is not counterproductive to your goal—for example, using sweets as a reward for weight loss. Instead, try a 30 minute massage or a cute new outfit to show off your fantastic progress.

Make life changes, not resolutions.

A New Years Resolution holds great energy, but not quite as much commitment as a decision to lead a different, healthier, or better life. Understand your goals. Don’t only consider what they are, but why they are as well. Why do you want to spend less money? Perhaps it’s because you want to free more of your work hours to spend more time with your kids. Why do you want to drop weight? Perhaps you want to feel healthier, more energized, and avoid health problems in the future associated with the extra poundage. Along with putting your goals in a visible place, keep these reasons there as well. Put images of the life you want to lead in plain view so that you understand why you are working toward your goal and don’t get discouraged. Further, give yourself the motivation! Put up reminders that you can do it, that you are a capable, strong person that has the drive to make the changes toward a better life.

No matter what, don’t give up hope. Goals may need to be tweaked or changed—life does happen, but you can do it if you organize your goals into bite-sized tasks that are realistic. Don’t forget to have fun! You’re on a wonderful path to a new you!

Memory – Not too Much, Not too Little

What happens if you cannot remember events? What happens if you remember too much?

Ordinarily memories change, deteriorate or fade away over time.  Imagine if time had not modified these memories. With a pleasant experience, recollection with vividness is desired. But what if it is a terrifying event?

Begin by understanding how memories are created and stored up. Then you can follow the steps laid down to help control your memories. First understand the scientific basis and then re-analyze the same concept in simple language.

How memories are formed and stored

When you experience an event, the information from your sensory organs is first sent to a little organic pulp in your brain called the thalamus. This information is processed and directed to two nearby areas called the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Once the information is sent it takes the amygdala just a split second to make a quick assessment. If this stimulus is considered dangerous, the body’s stress response is triggered. At the same time, if the prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for higher mental functions) decides that the threat is not serious, it instructs the amygdala to calm down. If the threat is perceived as real, then the prefrontal cortex allows the stress response to go ahead. In response to a perceived real threat your brain is in high alert. This stress response includes a raise in heart rate, blood pressure, tensing of muscles and several cascade of biological changes to prepare you for a fight or flight response, which throws you into a predator mode. That little bubble in your head suddenly explodes into fear and aggression.  Re-experiencing similar events can create an endless succession of events and can set off a vicious loop. People experiencing circumstances over which they have no control eventually become conditioned to thinking of themselves helpless even when circumstances change.

Memories are not permanent

Memory involves multiple pathways and connections of nerves and their effect on hormones. The bottom line is; memory is not an entity stored in a single place.  It is quite intriguing to even begin to contemplate how these feedback loops are executed let alone comprehend how all these areas of the brain are given their respective “roles”. There is a marvelous contingency plan built in an intricate cooperative venture. Even more mysterious is that when this loop is once formed this ‘pathway’ is somehow stored in a virtual memory bank. This loop is also dynamic. This means that it is changeable and allows it to be overwritten literally rewiring itself in response to the environment. In other words nothing is permanent in our memory bank.

Current prescription therapy

Now imagine that you are introducing a chemical (in the form of a drug) into your brain at one or more levels. How can you measure the innumerable effects of this chemical at different levels of the brain and its effects on the entire body? If you think psychotropic drugs were a great invention consider this fact; ‘despite advances in our understanding of mind and its illnesses, the current treatments leave patients no better off today than they did almost half century ago’.

Why popular psycho therapies have little success?

Common therapies involve desensitization with repeated stimulation or replacing one thought with another through self-control. But what if the next event that causes stressful memories is different from the last one? You customize treatment for each troubling experience, essentially becoming hostage to therapy clinics.

Putting it all together

With this basic understanding simplify the concept without the scientific terms: ….sensory information that is perceived as threat is sent to different parts of your brain and processed at different levels to activate your fight-flight response. If you re-experience a similar event, you are wired to reactivate this pathway but not in a threatening way. Over time, memories fade away and new pathways are made. This is a cooperative venture with various parts of your brain and other areas of your body. So no single drug or single therapy is effective. This is the essence of the entire process. If you are having problems letting go of the unpleasant memories the first impulse may be to run away from the issue or suppress the thoughts by using some prescribed drug or some therapy. As a society we are increasingly relying on drugs and therapies instead of looking into the core of the problem.

Action Plan

Step one

When there is an unpleasant memory of events the first thing to do is to not run away or resist the thought. Instead of rationalizing the thought process, be consciously aware of your mind and its effect on the body. Your heart may be racing and muscles tightening. Try to stay with it. If you are reading the entire article you will know that your reaction to the experience is biologically and environmentally wired to help you deal with various life events. Remember it is only a memory. When this memory or thought passes away watch the silence, the space between two thoughts. Abide in that silence for as long as you can. Be a witness to this entire process. Over time you will get to a point where you could oversee the whole forest while counting the branches. You will be a witness not a victim to the experience.

Step two

Once you understand the mind and its various effects on the body while laying down memories shift your attention to two more actions that will complement your effort.  We as humans operate on an inherent internal rhythm in relationship to everything from biological functions to emotional responses. The two important aspects that will help you in this process are restful sleep and rhythmic breath. Make sure you get enough sleep. The blankness of deep sleep is due to the lack of specific memories. Restful sleep has healing qualities. Regulate your Breath. Breathing is the bridge between our inner and outer selves.  It is the only major function of our body that is controlled by both the voluntary and involuntary nervous system. Other vital functions like heartbeat, blood circulation and digestion are all involuntary. In the initial stages of this evaluation and exercises if you do not see the desired effects, it is impulsive to think of yourself as having “depression” or an “anxiety disorder”. Resist the temptation to succumb to prescription drugs or therapies. Give yourself enough time to see the effects.

Here are few other activities that will immensely complement your efforts:

  1. Take a break from your using routine- go on a retreat.
  2. Try to be in the company of people who have a positive outlook in life.
  3. Most important – dedicate 5-10% of your time and/or money helping others. This is the most powerful of all the tools.

Pucker Up: Best Natural and Lip Care Products for 2012

Pucker Up: Best Natural and Lip Care Products for 2012

The winter does awful things to our skin—dry patches show up on elbows and knees, knuckles crack, and our lips (so constantly exposed) are left to chap. Keeping your lips hydrated is important all year long, but particularly this time of year when cracked and bleeding skin can increase the amount of bacteria making its way into your body. Natural beauty products abound, but everyone knows that not all lip care products are made equally. Here, we will divulge the top three natural products that will pump your poor lips without stickiness, constant reapplication, and with the tastiest flavors!

Crazy Rumors

The name may be misleading, but Crazy Rumors puts out a fantastic lip balm using certified organic Shea butter. They offer a huge variety of flavors, all falling under eight categories: HibisKiss (tinted lip balms), A La Mode (ice cream flavors!), Fresh Squeezed, Gumball, Soda Pop, Perk (coffee flavors), Brew (a selection of tea flavors), and Candy Cane (mint-infused flavors). Each balm prices at $3.99, but you can get a set of four for $15—I don’t know how you could choose just one anyway! Sign up for their rewards program to find even more savings.

Yes to Carrots

Also certified organic, the Yes to Carrots lip butter is paraben, petroleum, and phthalate free as well. Flavors of this fantastic product include (you guessed it) carrot, berry, citrus, melon, and mint. My personal favorite is the Melon, but you can get the entire set for only $12.99 online, so why not? The butter is as creamy as the name would suggest, and it’s longer lasting than others I’ve tried in the past. Goodness knows you can’t have too many, however! With the set you can put one in your purse, one on your nightstand, one in your coat pocket… the possibilities are endless, and you’ll never be without when your lips really need it.

Alba Coconut Cream Lip Balm

I suppose if you hate coconut, this is not the balm for you. If you do, however, Alba Coconut Cream Lip Balm is absolutely perfect for you. Made with organic coconut oil and plant waxes, this balm is also incredibly long-lasting. It has the perfect consistency for lips in need, and is probably my top choice for lip products overall. If you don’t like coconut, they also offer tangerine, pineapple, passion fruit, and vanilla flavored as well. A tube runs $2.99, but the downside is that it cannot be ordered online and finding it can be tricky. The website has a link to help you find it, and if you do—buy a few to last!

No matter what kind of lip balm you decide to purchase, make sure to apply it frequently and take good care of those puckers this season! You’ll thank yourself later.

Home Décor for Stress Relief

There are many things that add to the stress of daily life: money, coordinating the family schedule, and making time to relax and deal with it all. One area that oftentimes goes ignored, however, is the home. Many of us spend a great deal of time at home, and yet our space ends up cluttered, neglected, or was never really set up for healthy living in the first place. Though Feng Shui can be a great route to go when redesigning your home for a less stressful atmosphere, there are many ways that you can make small changes that don’t take the expertise of energy-décor.

Open your curtains. Many of us spend the majority of our time indoors, out of reach of natural sunlight. This can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency, which has many consequences—one of which being depression. Increasing the amount of natural light in the home, then, keeps you energized and aid in preventing depressive symptoms.

Think Color. What colors are on your walls? Research has shown that different colors provoke different emotional responses—meaning that your walls could be dictating your mood. Blues, greens, and purples give a calming quality to a room. Red is energizing, but oftentimes can overstimulate or make one feel hostile. Yellows and oranges are vibrant and stimulating, but likely aren’t the greatest pick for a living or bedroom. Picking the right colors for the different uses in your space will help prevent stress. Choosing lighter colors, too, will avoid the claustrophobic quality that darker walls instill .

De-clutter. Many of us have experienced the chaotic feeling of a cluttered room. A clear, simple room will allow for a clearer mind, and a cluttered room will prohibit focus and relaxation. This is the case with the kid’s things being everywhere, or simply in terms of decoration. There are times when less is certainly more.

The biggest factor in all of this, however, is to make sure that you make your space yours. If you have a sense of pride and ownership in your space, and put the time and effort in making it appropriate to your lifestyle, it will be a haven rather than a place in consistent need of cleaning and upkeep. Designate a particular place in your home for personal relaxation. This could be a yoga or meditation room, a quiet corner with a comfy chair for reading and sipping tea, or even your bathroom—that you redesigned to feel spa-like with natural plants and stress-fighting candles. There are so many ways to fight stress once these factors have been taken into account, but always remember that your space should reflect you, and the space that you want to live in.