The physical effects of a good laugh provide instant relief for stress and anxiety. While researchers find it difficult to pinpoint exactly how laughter produces these results, there is evidence to suggest that a good chuckle improves health. Not only does laughter produce changes that are linked to a decreased risk for chronic disease, these changes also influence weight loss.
Laughter and Weight Loss
Research shows that laughter causes physical changes that are similar to those produced by a mini workout. Heart rate and blood pressure increase, which delivers oxygen to tissues throughout the body. A study conducted at Vanderbilt University estimated that 10 to 15 minutes of laughter can burn 50 calories.
Laughter alone won’t replace exercise as a tool for weight loss, but there are other benefits that can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. After laughter produces the effects of a mini workout, muscle relaxation and a decrease in blood pressure follow, which can result in improved sleep. Adequate sleep influences the hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin increases appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. Leptin signals fullness. Sleep keeps these hormones in balance, helping you to better control appetite and reach weight loss goals.
Positive Attitude and Chronic Disease
Studies suggest that over time negative feelings such as stress, anger, fear, and anxiety can influence health so much that they increase risk for chronic disease. Regular laughter is related to positive thoughts that trigger the release of neuropeptides and decrease the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. As a result, laughter helps to fight stress and negative thoughts that can lead to disease. The influence of laughter on health was supported by a study from the University of Maryland Medical Center which concluded that regular laughter may help protect against heart disease.
Research shows that laughter also reduces pain. Laughing causes a release of feel-good hormones (endorphins) that act as natural painkillers. Reduced pain can lead to ease of movement and the motivation to be more physically active. Regular exercise helps to improve mood and attitude and reduces risk for chronic disease.
Tea leaves are full of phytonutrients that protect against disease. When freshly brewed and sipped regularly, tea is not only a part of a daily ritual that can calm you and reduce stress, it provides unique plant chemicals that can change your health for the better.
Beneficial flavonoids and antioxidants in tea have been found to protect against cancer and heart disease, reduce blood cholesterol levels, and reduce risk of stroke.
Polyphenols in tea may increase insulin activity improving insulin sensitivity, a characteristic that is especially beneficial to those with type 2 diabetes.
Some studies show that drinking tea can boost calories burned contributing to an increased metabolism and weight loss.
The polyphenols in tea may help strengthen bones, reducing risk for fractures.
Research shows that drinking tea can improve mood, alertness, relaxation, and concentration.
Tea provides a healthy alternative to high-calorie, high-sugar beverages.
What to Drink
When choosing a tea, look for green, black, white, oolong, or pu-erh (a pressed black tea) as they are all well recognized for their ability to improve health. Processing tea reduces the content of beneficial plant nutrients like polyphenols, catechins, and flavonoids. As a result, bottled teas and instant tea powders will give you very little, if any, nutritional benefit when compared to a cup of freshly brewed hot tea.
Removing the caffeine from tea is also a form of processing and it leaves decaffeinated teas with fewer polyphenols that caffeinated varieties. Freshly brewed tea chilled in the refrigerator does provide some benefit, but because iced tea is often made in larger quantities with fewer tea bags, it’s phytonutrient content is less concentrated. Fermentation slightly reduces the phytochemicals in black and oolong teas to levels below that of green tea, but fermented teas still maintain plenty of health benefit.
Flavored and herbal teas can be a good drink option, but check labels carefully. Be sure that green, black, white, or oolong tea appears in the ingredient list. Some herbal teas contain no actual tea leaves and some flavored teas contain artificial ingredients and added sweeteners.
How to Prepare It
Everyone has their preferred way of brewing tea to bring out what they feel is the best flavor, but studies suggest a few guidelines for obtaining the most health benefit. Researchers have analyzed green tea and found that small, loose leaf tea leaves may be the best for extracting the most phytonutrients. Contrary to tips for brewing tea for flavor, boiling water has been found to help extract more polyphenols than water at cooler temperatures. The tea should also be steeped for two to five minutes. The longer the tea steeps, the higher the polyphenol content of the drink.
Normal blood pressure is less than 120 millimeters of mercury over less than 80 millimeters of mercury. Maintaining a normal blood pressure reading is important for heart health, but lifestyle, food, and the environment can cause numbers to creep up to unhealthy levels. Here are a few ways to prevent high blood pressure and promote heart health.
Monitor your weight and waist
Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. If you are overweight, losing as little as five pounds can help lower your reading. In addition to the number on the scale, waist circumference also plays a role in your risk level. Men who have a waist greater than 40 inches and women with a waist greater than 35 inches are at greater risk for high blood pressure.
Pay attention to more than sodium
Health experts recommend that sodium intake be limited 2,300 milligrams per day, but regulating blood pressure involves more than sodium. Potassium helps to lessen the effects of excess sodium and regulate blood pressure. Research also shows that getting adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium also helps to keep blood pressure at healthy levels.
Regular exercise helps keep blood pressure within normal ranges as you age. It is also a key component of losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight. If your blood pressure begins to increase, research shows that regular physical activity can decrease systolic blood pressure (the top number) by four to nine millimeters of mercury. This is similar to the effect of some blood pressure medications. Be patient and stay active. It takes one to three months for exercise to have an influence on blood pressure levels.
Create stress outlets
Too much stress can lead to high blood pressure, but it is still unclear how this happens. It could be that stress affects other factors that contribute to elevated levels like overeating high-sodium foods, weight gain, or lack of exercise. It may also be the effect of elevated stress hormones. The bottom line is that reducing stress promotes healthy blood pressure. Finding outlets that relieve your stress will help to reduce its impact on your health. Take breaks for relaxation exercises, get in regular workouts, use your vacation days, or try yoga and meditation.
Smoking and second-hand smoke cause damage to the blood vessels, which increases the risk for high blood pressure. Stay away from smoky environments, and if you smoke, stop.
Research shows that sitting all day can increase risk for chronic disease and decrease life span. Unfortunately, this risk is not reduced by regular workouts, which makes adding more movement throughout the day essential for health.
Walk around your office when you are on a phone call.
Take regular breaks to stand and stretch.
Walk the stairs on your way to meetings.
Invite coworkers to meet while you walk together.
Switch to a treadmill desk or a standing desk.
Minimize stressful situations
According to the annual Work Stress Survey conducted by Everest College, 83 percent of Americans report that that their jobs cause stress. Excess stress can lead to emotional eating, physical aches and pains, and increased risk of chronic disease. Every job involves tough problems and unwanted encounters with difficult people. While you can often do little about project assignments or your work team, you can change how you react to these situations.
Create a work plan and tackle each task one step at a time.
Set boundaries and create blocks of time when you work uninterrupted and when you will take breaks.
Keep an open mind when working with others.
Talk out your problems and ask for advice from those you trust.
Take a break from stressful environments and go for a walk or perform deep breathing exercises.
Find an outlet for your stress. Exercise regularly, practice yoga, get a massage or carve out time for other activities that relax you.
Snacking can get out of control at the workplace. A candy jar on the front desk, donuts at morning meetings and afternoon vending machine stops can add up to hundreds of extra calories per day.
Eat before you get to meetings to avoid being tempted by unhealthy options.
Pack your own healthy snacks at home and skip the vending machine.
Don’t skip lunch. This will only lead to over-snacking in the afternoon.
Volunteer to bring healthy options to work meetings and potlucks.
Use your benefits
Many employers offer valuable benefits for the health of employees. Don’t overlook these resources. Talk to your human resources department about what is available and inquire with coworkers who currently take advantage.
Enroll in wellness programs offered by health insurance companies that allow you to earn points and prizes for reporting your healthy behaviors.
Attend free health screenings to monitor your blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index.
Take part in work-life seminars and workshops for healthy cooking, reducing blood pressure, and smoking cessation.
Use your vacations day. Taking a break and changing your environment, even if it is for one day, reduces stress and helps you return with a refreshed outlook.
Healthy eating starts at the market. Avoid these grocery shopping mistakes to ensure you get the best foods for your health and budget.
Shopping at eye level
A lot of research goes into product placement at the supermarket. The next time you visit, pay attention to the products at eye level. They are often prepared foods or meal kits and they are not always the healthiest option. Look high and low for less popular foods and generic brands with lower prices, which are often less processed. For example, regular dried beans are almost always on the bottom shelf.
Shopping when hungry
It takes self-discipline and commitment to resist the temptation to splurge when surrounded by unhealthy foods. Arriving at the supermarket hungry, makes it even harder to resist grabbing a quick, high-calorie snack. Avoid this scenario and shop right after a meal, or pack a healthy snack to eat on the way. If you must get something at the store, opt for a piece of fruit, a single serving bag of unsalted nuts, or a low-fat yogurt.
Not consulting the staff
Don’t settle for produce that isn’t at its peak. Ask members of the produce department if there is more available. If you know you will use it quickly and it hasn’t completely passed it’s prime, ask for a discount. At the meat counter, ask for the cuts with fat trimmed or smaller portions. Inquire about where the food came from, how it was raised, and when it was harvested. Fresher, more natural foods are often the most nutritious.
Rushing through the supermarket
Poor choices are often made when under pressure. While it is difficult to avoid a quick stop at the store for a last minute item, make food shopping a priority on your to-do list just like you do for your workout. Committing time to search for foods, reading labels, and asking questions will help you find the healthiest options. Sprinting down the aisle will only lead to impulse purchases that you may regret later.
Missing an opportunity to stock up
Fruits, vegetables, and lean meats freeze well for up to two to three months. When these foods are on sale, plan to buy extra to freeze and use throughout the coming weeks. Stock up on berries to add to smoothies and oatmeal. Freeze broccoli and cauliflower for soups and stews. Grab extra naturally-raised meats and sustainable fish when you find the best prices.
It’s frustrating when you find a great sale, but you have to pass because you aren’t headed home right afterward. Keep a small cooler in the trunk of the car and add ice packs before you leave each day. When you run into an unbeatable deal on cold foods, you won’t have to skip out on stocking up. Also, always come to the market prepared with a list. Even if you don’t follow it exactly, it will serve as a guideline for the foods you need to stay on track with your eating plan.