What Being in Love Does to The Brain?

We have all heard about the “look of love” but love has a lot more to do with the brain than the eyes. To some, love seems mysterious – people fall in love in mysterious ways. There was song from the 90’s, Love Moves in Mysterious Ways.  But science clearly provides an explanation. When a person is falling in love with another individual, their brain gets flooded with hormones and chemicals that generate feelings of pleasure, attachment and obsession. So, what does being in love do to the brain?

Hormone Rush

When someone is in love for the first time, their brain experiences a certain hormonal rush. Oxytocin, also called the “love hormone”; dopamine, or the “pleasure hormone”; and testosterone and estrogen, the sex hormones are the ones that get activated. Other hormones, such as adrenaline, cause the heart to beat faster. Levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, also increase during this stage. As cortisol levels go up, neurotransmitter serotonin levels start to deplete.

Increased dopamine concentrations in the brain are linked with a relatively unique or novel environment. Increased dopamine levels are also linked with heightened motivation, attention and objective-directed behaviors. These parallels indicate that dopamine levels are going up in the person as they focus their attention on a beloved.

Becomes Addictive

Falling in love could lead to obsessive thoughts and an intense desire to spend as much time possible with the person one is in love with. And the person feels like they are addicted to the other person. Neuroscience research studies have found that falling in love with another individual activates the same part of the brain that cocaine addiction triggers. Romantic love could activate the opioid system of the human brain. And when a love relationship goes wrong or it comes to an end abruptly, there is a major risk of emotional distress and depression for both or one of the individuals involved.

Hurts Focus

People who have been in romantic relationships could know how distracting the feeling of love could be. Besides major changes in attention and emotion, passionate love also reduces cognitive control. However, the same passionate love leads to enhanced attention toward the beloved. Many people have reported that they expend 85 percent of the time they’re awake thinking about their beloved.

Serotonin levels dip when a person falls in love. And this depletion of serotonin precipitates intrusive, vexingly preoccupying thoughts. When the link between cognitive control and passionate control was examined among a group of students who recently were embroiled in a passionate relationship, it was deduced that the increased intensity of passionate love correlated with their reduced cognitive control efficiency. 

 Strengthens Empathy

 A romantic relationship activates the human brain’s emotion and empathy-processing centers. It also makes the individual less self-focused. Falling in love, like meditation, increases the brain’s grey matter volume, which is linked with emotion processing. However, this empathy is a lot more toward the person one is in love with and not necessarily for other people around them. When in love, a person would be able to feel the pain of their romantic interest a lot more earnestly than anybody else and will also willingly forgo anything for the other person.

 Differential Impact

 The impact love has on the human brain varies with the actual stage of love the concerned person is in. MRI scans can help accurately ascertain the stage of passionate or romantic love the individual is in, based on their cerebral activities. If someone has recently fallen in love, their brain’s reward center gets activated since it’s experiencing a significant amount of pleasure. This also produces a variety of emotional and physical responses, such as racing hearts, flushed cheeks, sweaty palms and feelings of anxiety and passion. The reward center experiences a decline if the person in love breaks up with the other person, causing a dip in the associated pleasure. At this stage, there is also a sharp reduction in functional connectivity and activity.

 Lifelong Impact

 With everlasting love, people invariably do not fall out of love and stay connected with the individual for the rest of their life. This explains why some couples – who fell in love early in life – remain in love even during their 60s, 70s, and beyond. According to a 2011 study, certain regions of the brain among happily, long-time married couples exhibit similar activity. When one of the two is not around, the other person feels irritable or restless. They may resent friends and family even though they spend pretty much all their free time together. When love is in the air, things look beautiful, everywhere you look.  Close your eyes and think back to Barry White signing Love Is in The Air or google it!

 https://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/love-and-brain

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11031-013-9380-3

https://www.dana.org/article/brains-do-it-lust-attraction-and-attachment/

6 MOOD BOOSTERS TO TRY IF YOU’RE SINGLE ON VALENTINE’S DAY

For individuals in relationships, Valentine’s Day can be tremendously thrilling. Particularly if you have an affinity for grand gestures of love, this day can be the perfect justification for going all out. However, if you’re single on Valentine’s Day, “love day” might remind them of how alone you feel.

For some, the day of romance can feel like a burden, especially those who are grieving the absence of a relationship. These can bring up bittersweet or unpleasant memories of the past and feed into feelings of loneliness. Below are some tips on how singles can stay upbeat and occupied on when you’re single on Valentine’s Day.

Do Not Stay In

Make efforts to ensure that the night of Valentine’s Day is not spent alone at home. If your loved ones are unavailable, do some volunteer work, check out a cookery class, seek out a singles event or get otherwise involved. Typically, there are some ‘anti-Valentine’s’ events going on and you’ll be surprised by how many individuals head out alone.  This might take some amount of courage. However, it is a great reminder of the number of people who are in a similar situation as you. Sitting home alone, it can feel as if you are the only individual in the world who is not in a relationship. However, this is not the case.

Go Out with Loved Ones

single on Valentine's Day

There are many individuals in our lives who we adore, and a significant other is only one of those individuals. There is nothing that stipulates that because you are not currently involved in a relationship that you cannot spend the day with someone you love and care for. Make Valentine’s Day plans with your best friends, siblings or parents. Remind yourself of how difficult pinning some people down can be when they are in a relationship. You should also rejoice in the fact that you are able to dedicate quality time to other individuals in your life who you love.

Pamper Yourself

Being single on Valentine’s Day gives you the opportunity to engage in whatever you want to do. You don’t need to check in with anybody else. This time away from needing to compromise without having to worry about another person’s needs or wants presents a tremendous opportunity to unselfishly and deservedly concentrate on yourself. “Love day” provides a wonderful chance to pamper and celebrate yourself. Go ahead and spoil yourself by indulging in loving, self-care gifts. Try a scented bubble bath, a facial, a manicure, a pedicure, a massage or a makeover.

Go Get Physical

Traditionally, yoga studios, running trails and gyms are crowded on Valentine’s Day and this is for good reason. Since the heart is way more than just a symbol for Valentine’s Day, keeping it healthy is an essential part of self-love and care. Not being a part of a couple on Valentine’s Day makes it a remarkable time to get into a workout facility. Or even try a Zumba class and dance yourself happy.

Quit Complaining

Loneliness is a painful feeling that can gnaw at your gut and make you miserable; but only if you allow it. It is quite understandable that you might want to vent and grumble for a bit. However, constant complaining tends to annoy other people and make things seem worse than they really are. Among the things that take place when you are complaining repeatedly — even when individuals are caring enough to listen for the first few times — is that you reinforce the issues you are having. You are basically causing your brain to become aggravated repeatedly. Which will only feed the negativity and cause you to feel worse.

Find Satisfaction in Your Situation

If your circumstances do not permit you to date or you opt not to, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Thankfully, your self-worth is not defined by the existence of a significant other or the lack of thereof. There is definitely no need to rush to be in a relationship by Valentine’s Day. Just ensure that you are happy despite your relationship status.

Can Positive Affirmations Create Positive Changes in Your Brain?

Positive affirmations have more power than you think for improving attitudes and challenging those negative thoughts. Growing up I heard two phrases” you are what you eat” and “you are what you think”. As a teenager both were equally difficult to accept and change. Affirmations are positive thoughts that can be used for support and encouragement. When you repeat them daily and believe in them, they will help make positive change in your life.

 

The Power of Positive Thinking

 

Truly successful people in all areas of life don’t just stumble their way to success. They work hard to achieve their goals, and positive thinking can be the key to success. Positive affirmations can inspire and motivate you to take yourself to the next level, whether that is an extraordinary athlete, entrepreneur or top author.  

If you’re relatively new to the idea of expressing positive affirmations, they come in different designs.  Some help you to acknowledge the good that can come from daily life. Here a few of those:

  • I will learn something positive from each mistake I make.
  • I will find someone to share my life with by taking a greater interest in other people.
  • I will not give up on my dreams but pursue each goal steadily until I succeed.

There are affirmations that focus on what you can control and the choices you make in life. Some example of that would be;

Being happy is a choice I make daily and I am grateful for the opportunities that I accept. 

My life is just beginning and I will design it for a peaceful life style. 

My marriage is becoming stronger and stable every day.

What is most important is to believe in yourself and use verbal expression to strengthen your commitment.

Some people have more success by placing their affirmations in the present tense:

  • I am succeeding in my business goals monthly.
  • I make progress in losing weight each day.
  • I support my children as they achieve their goals

Reprogramming Your Thought Patterns

You can reprogram your thought patterns with daily positive affirmations. There is research that supports affirmations to be proven methods of self-improvement.  Just like exercise, utilizing affirmations will increase the production of feel good neurotransmitters that make us feel more positive.

You might have to experiment to find the perfect formula for making positive affirmations, but the technique works and has been proven in scientific studies. The self-affirmation theory has been tested in neuroscientific research, and the findings include evidence that positive affirmations strengthen key neural pathways related to self-worth and taking positive action. Studies also show that positive affirmations reduce stress, reinforce media messages about the best practices for good health and have a positive impact on diet and exercise.

https://positivepsychology.com/daily-affirmations/

https://www.thecut.com/2015/11/why-self-affirmation-works.html

http://www.brainsync.com/blog/rewire-your-brain-with-affirmations/

COULD CBD BE A NEW SOLUTION FOR DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY?

What exactly is CBD?  It is a kind of natural compound called a cannabinoid, which is derived from the cannabis plant.  It is directly derived from the hemp plant which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. This is where it gets confusing, which plant does it come from? The main difference is the level of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the cannabis plants contain.  THC is linked to a “high;” however, CBD is made from industrial hemp that does not contain THC. Even the minuscule trace amounts found in full-spectrum CBD are sterile and don’t have psychotropic effects.

You may find CBD advertised everywhere you look in many different formations. I saw a collagen mask with CBD oil in a wellness store being touted as an anti-aging product. In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of CBD as new studies explore the potential health benefits.  Several studies suggest that CBD products, like the oil, may be helpful for symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia.

How It Can Help

If you are considering the use of CBD for therapeutic reasons, it is important to understand that the studies around CBD are non-conclusive. In the last decade, many studies were conducted. However, the majority were done using animals.

This indicates that the possible benefits of CBD being an effective treatment for depression in human beings are speculative. Still, CBD appears to have several benefits for depression, particularly for dealing with:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Anxiety

In addition, CBD and THC may be beneficial for conditions possibly related to depression, like chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using animals, that CBDD applied to the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis.

>READ: ADD CBD OIL TO YOUR FIGHT AGAINST CHRONIC INFLAMMATION?

Research Findings

Experts believe the potential benefits of CBD for depression and anxiety are associated with its positive outcome on serotonin receptors in the brain. It is highly likely that low amounts of serotonin are linked to depression. CBD does not necessarily improve levels of serotonin, but it could impact how the chemical receptors in your brain react to the serotonin that is currently in your system.

 

 

A 2014 study conducted on animals found that the effects CBD has on the brain receptors are both anti-anxiety and antidepressant.  A more recent study conducted in 2018 concluded that CBD contains anti-stress effects, which could lower stress-related depression. The studies are promising, but bottom line, without high-quality evidence in human studies we can’t pinpoint effective doses.

This area is being actively researched and new reviews and studies are published each year. As researchers start to have a better understanding of CBD and its potential concerns or benefits, information on how to use the product most effectively will continue to change.

>READ: WHY CANNABIS IN OINTMENTS, LOTIONS AND DRINKS IS A THING NOW

Side Effects

So far, it does not appear that CBD causes many side effects. However, there are some individuals who might be more sensitive to the compound and experience side effects like:

  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability

It is challenging to know whether CBD results in any long-term side effects because of a lack of research. At this point, no major long-term risk has been identified by experts. Bear in mind that this is not an indication that there is none. It just means researchers have yet to encounter any.

In a review conducted by the World Health Organization in 2017, it was concluded that CBD is safe in general. However, they noted that adverse effects could result from interactions between certain medications and CBD. Also, be sure to note that CBD is not regulated by agency. So be sure you are getting high-quality CBD, from a reputable source that uses effective extraction methods.

To lessen the risk of side effects, ensure that you have a discussion with your healthcare provider prior to using CBD. This is vital if you take herbal supplements, over-the-counter medications and prescription medications.

>READ: WILL CBD HELP THE PAIN IN YOUR JOINTS AND MUSCLES?

4 Ways to Use CBD

 

 

There are four formulations in which CBD is available.  They are:

  • Vaping With CBD Oil. This is one method of quickly ingesting the compounds. However, some debate is there about the long-term safety of this technique. Additionally, it can cause throat irritation and coughing as well.
  • Oral. This includes oils, sprays, capsules and tinctures. The mixes can be taken as is or they can be used in coffee, smoothies or other preparations.
  • Edible. There is an abundance of CBD-infused gummies, foods and drinks currently available on the market.
  • Topical. CBD-infused creams, lotions and other beauty products are currently quite popular. The products contain CBD and you apply directly to skin.  However, it is likely that this formulation is better for pain and not necessarily mental health uses.

Research has revealed that the compound is generally safe. However, it could interact with existing medications. As such, it is wise to speak with your healthcare provider and get a professional review of your medications and other supplements you currently take before you start using CBD. But CBD is becoming a popular remedy for a variety of health issues, including anxiety and depression.

Make 2020 the most successful New Year yet!

The end of the year is a perfect time to reflect and many of us have evaluated the last few months and are looking for what we can do better.   The new year, the new decade, brings hope and excitement for the future. In our enthusiasm we can set unrealistic goals that could leave us burnt out or frustrated. Here are some tips that will give you a clearer vision on how to set yourself up for success in 2020.

 

1. Ask yourself what is really important to you.

 

Make a list of all the things you would like to accomplish next year and think about why you have included each item. Why are they important? What do they mean to you? Are these goals part of a larger long-term plan? Are you just trying to impress your friends? You need to answer these now to have a solid mental foundation. When things get tough, you can draw on your motivations to keep going instead of giving up. For example, you might want to run your first 5K race to lose weight and be healthy for your children. 

 

2. Establish your priorities.

 

You have several goals and only one year to accomplish them. You need to set clear priorities in order to make meaningful progress. After all, you have a limited amount of free time each day. Your resources are also limited and, you still have work and other responsibilities to attend to. Focus your energies on those that matter most. What would make the biggest positive impact on your future? It really depends on where your priorities lie. Of course, priorities can change so be prepared if that happens.

 

3. Be flexible.

 

It is common to overestimate what we can actually finish. We also fail to anticipate possible challenges along the way. When we fall behind, we get frustrated and lose motivation. It is better to set realistic goals and provide a level of flexibility around each goal.  For example, you might want to read a book per week or 52 books in one year. When you set this goal consider your available time to read, and whether this is all done on personal time. If the reading is for professional enrichment may be some can be done during the work day.

 

4. Create a system that will help you achieve your goals.

 

It is easy to do something good from time to time. However, doing this consistently is difficult. Most people start out guns blazing in January but falter from February onwards. It’s not that they were lazy or incapable. They simply did not have a system that could ensure continued achievement day in and day out. Runners make it a point to wake up early every morning to finish their workouts before responsibilities take over. If they only ran when they found free time, then they are unlikely to train consistently to get faster.

 

5. Optimize your environment.

 

Discipline is surely a vital part of maintaining a system. However, you cannot rely on willpower alone. It will quickly get exhausting if you are in a constant struggle to do what is right. Consider optimizing your environment instead. Make it easy to accomplish your tasks. For example, set a daily alarm to wake yourself up early. Open the curtains facing east to welcome the sun. Prepare healthy meals in advance so you can just heat them up when you’re hungry. Get your shoes, socks, and running clothes ready before going to sleep.

 

6. Eliminate distractions.

 

Even if we know what we should do, we often drag our feet and give in to distractions. We waste countless hours on our phones checking social media, chatting with friends, or playing games. These aren’t bad as long as we limit them. Install an app that can track your phone usage. If you are distracted at home, then work or study in a library.

 

7. Stay focused on your goals.

 

Sometimes we can’t get a rhythm going because we keep thinking about other things we want to do. These may be good ideas you don’t want to forget so write them down in a notebook. Park them for later and resume working on your main task. Get back to these at the end of the day if time allows and tackle them one by one. 

The New Year is a great time to learn from past mistakes and establish better habits. Ensure that you reach your goals this time by keeping them realistic and setting yourself up for success.

https://www.success.com/44-ways-to-kick-start-your-new-year/

https://www.gailgazelle.com/new-years-resolutions-10-tips-to-set-yourself-up-for-success/

https://www.inc.com/marla-tabaka/why-set-yourself-up-for-failure-ditch-new-years-resolution-do-this-instead.html

Relax And Be Cheerful This Holiday

The approaching holiday season invariably fills us with feelings of warmth and joyful anticipation. We can spend more time with family and friends, go on a vacation, take time away from work, relax and get refreshed. That said, unless we welcome the holidays with the right mindset, they can turn into sources of stress and anxiety.

The words “holiday stress” have in fact become part of popular jargon these days and for good reasons. We work all year long and when the holidays are approaching, it is only natural that we will try to make the best of them. However, the problem seems to lie in the fact that often in our eagerness to get the most out of the holidays or the festive season, we sometime end up overdoing things a little and this may often lead to stress, frustrations, disappointments, etc.

Don’t run after a “perfect holiday.” Quit trying to make the perfect holiday. This should be your basic guideline for cutting off the stress factor from your holidays. No matter what we are doing during the holiday season, visiting or preparing special dinners with family members and the friends, we always set certain expectations. And that is only natural. However, as it is with everything in life, things often don’t turn out exactly as we had planned. No matter how diligently you’ve planned your activities some slight disasters may still ensue. Kids may break out in tears when you were least expecting it, or you may get into arguments with your spouse. It is all how you look at it. Don’t see these things as spoiling your vacation. Take them in stride and do your best to make light of them and everyone will be happier for that.

Do not pander to other’s expectations. We often put unnecessary stress on ourselves by putting undue emphasis on other’s opinions and expectations. Giving and receiving gifts, for example, often acts as a common source of anxiety and stress during the holiday season. Have we chosen the proper gifts for such and such a person? Will he/she be happy with the gifts? Don’t fret too much over these things. Gifts do not make the holidays. It is the mutual sense of joy and camaraderie that does. As long as you’ve chosen your gifts with care and thought that must suffice since that is the best you can do after all.

Sometimes, even your kids may feel not happy with their gifts and that may feel bad for you. Nevertheless, don’t let that spoil your mood. Instead, try to reason with them. Kids are kids after all, and we cannot expect them to be all rational all the time, right?

How much money do you have to spend? Closely associated with the problem of gifts is the question of money, especially if money is a bit tight during holiday season. It is common to let the lack of money get in your way of enjoying the holidays to the fullest.

However, it needn’t be so. Come up with some creative ideas. For adults, a White Elephant gift exchange is a good idea. You may also consider some non-material gifts such as framed family pictures or notes or drawings from your kids are good options. Work within your means and those who really care for you will appreciate receiving such thoughtful gifts.

The same goes for decorations and other holiday preparations. Again, do not strive for perfection. The Christmas tree does not have to be the most spectacular in your neighborhood. Instead, try as much as possible to engage family and friends in the process. So, for instance, assign certain responsibilities for decorations to the kids alone. And you can be certain that the kids will be happy and proud of their handiwork and so will you and your guests.

Look back on your year and feel grateful. Finally, take some time to reflect on the past year and dwell on the good things that it has brought you. Of course, there will be a few things that didn’t turn out quite according to expectations. That is only natural (and expected, right?). So, don’t dwell on the negative but reflect on the good things and feel sincerely grateful that they have happened to you. We now know that feeling truly grateful gives us a natural high as these feelings release in our brains compounds such as serotonin and dopamine — responsible for immediately lifting our mood and making us feel happy and serene from inside.

On a final note, the most important thing is to be able to relax and feel joyful. If you can achieve that, the holidays will turn out to be a ‘perfect’ one for you.

A Fox News Radio contributor, Richardson has spent her educational and professional career learning human behavior. She holds a Master of Science in Counseling from the University of North Texas and is working to integrate cognitive behavioral therapy into the treatment programs for many clients. In April 2009, Richardson opened The Brain Performance Center.

 

 

7 TIPS TO GET YOUR BRAIN TO SAY NO TO HOLIDAY SWEETS

Sugar is all around us. We want to fit in and celebrate with our family, friends, and co-workers, yet we know that an over-abundance of sweets has its repercussions. While it may not be as easy as pie, you can say no to the extra goodies that love saying your name. Use these strategies to help your brain say no to holiday cookies and sweets, and make this your most enjoyable holiday season ever.

1. Think About The Side Effects

Think of how you felt when you last ate a box of candy. Sure, it felt great while you were chewing, but did you feel wonderful afterward? Probably not. If your stomach was as hard as a rock, you most likely got sick and wanted to eat a nice meal but was too stuffed to enjoy it.

Eating many sweets daily robs you of eating more of the nutritious food. What’s more, sugar contains empty calories. For example, for the same number of calories, you can possibly eat three or four pieces of favorite fruit instead of one cupcake. This means that you need more sweets to feel full, yet you may not feel satisfied in the end.

2. Remind Yourself That Weight Management is All Year Round

If you treat yourself to dessert occasionally, say once a week, continue to do that around the holidays. Remember that having a routine to manage your weight doesn’t stop around the holidays. If you take a few months off, you might be tempted to go on a fad diet when the holidays are over. Fast weight loss is harder to keep off. Stick to your routine even during the holidays to help say no to excess sugar.

>READ: THE BEST PLAN FOR WEIGHT CONTROL AFTER 50 JUST GOT BETTER! 

3. Moderation is a Lifestyle

 

moderation is key to say no to holiday cookies

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that one sweet will ruin our diet. One cookie, one time, won’t ruin it. The repetition does. It’s the consecutive days of eating unhealthy snacks that influences our brain to say yes repeatedly to them. In order to eat sweets and office snacks in moderation, you’ll need to learn the realistic portions of food and how often you should eat them. When eating in moderation becomes a lifestyle, your brain can say no to many holiday temptations.

4. Stick With Your Exercise Routine

Exercise is a mood enhancer, depression buster, and excess weight eliminator. Our bodies are stronger, we stand up straighter and we smile more after an exercise session. It doesn’t have to be stringent or long. Studies show that as little as 5 minutes of daily running improves our health. If you’re one to exercise just enough, skip the excess holiday cookies and sweets. Tell yourself you don’t want to have to step up your exercise plan.

>READ: SECRETS OF OLDER ATHLETES ANYONE CAN ADOPT FOR A HEALTHIER LIFE

5. Say No to Outside Influence and Peer Pressure

 

say no to peer pressure when it comes to holiday cookies

Your family may have a history of diabetes, heart conditions, or other health problems that could have been derailed by maintaining better eating habits. Decide to break the cycle while you celebrate the joyous season. Practice responses before you attend a holiday party such as, “I’m watching my sugar intake today.” You might start a trend. Or simply say, “I’m full,” or “Thanks anyway, but I don’t have a taste for sweets right now. It looks delicious though.” Caring friends, family and co-workers should respect that.

6. Eat Regular Meals and Regular Meal Times

Skipping meals leads to overeating the wrong foods for a quick energy fix. Therefore, another way to get your brain to say no to the extra holiday cookies, cakes and office snacks is to plan a healthy and filling breakfast, lunch and dinner.

>READ: MINDLESS EATING AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

When you get used to filling up on nutritious food, you’ll look forward to preparing and eating it. On that note, there are so many options to select from in the variety of meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains, so only eat what you like. If you don’t prepare food at home that is both healthy and delicious, it’s easy for your brain to say yes to holiday sweets.

7. Bring a Healthy Dish to the Holiday Party

 

Whenever you’re invited to an office party or a family get-together, make a fruit salad, green salad, chicken salad or another type of dish that you can eat too. Look up recipes on how to reduce the calories of your favorite comfort foods. Don’t depend on others to cater to your dietary needs. Come to the event prepared.

The Holiday Festivities are Meant to be Enjoyed

You can be victorious in your efforts of how to get your brain to say no to the extra holiday cookies, cakes and office snacks. Focus more on the company of friends, relatives, and co-workers, and not so much on the food.  Also, keep in mind that the key jubilant months of the year are November and December. That’s only two months out of twelve. This leaves ten months out of the year where the pressure to eat sweets on a regular basis isn’t so high. Remain in control. You got this.

WHAT DO THE HOLIDAYS HAVE TO DO WITH THE LONELINESS EPIDEMIC?

It is thought that the holidays are spent with loved ones and friends. From gift-giving to sharing fine meals, the holidays are synonymous with festive and happy gatherings across the world. However, not everyone looks forward to the holidays. Especially folks that are alone or isolated from their families and friends. This is a season that is supposed to be about happiness and the human spirit. However, for many loneliness gets worse during the holidays. Feelings of isolation deepen when it seems everyone else is surrounded by family and friends. Dealing with loneliness around this time can lead to depression, obesity, and more. It does seem like the loneliness epidemic does get worse during the holidays, but there may be some good news when it comes to treating loneliness.

The Loneliness Epidemic

Whether due to family issues, work-related problems, or society in general, loneliness is rapidly becoming an epidemic across the nation and globe. In fact, a recent study by the Angus Reid Institute found that nearly half of Canadians find themselves alone around the holiday season. Similarly, the number of Americans who feel alone and isolated has tripled since 1985. Industry experts have stated that while praying to God is an ideal solution, it does not negate the growing existence of loneliness for people from all walks of life. With persistent loneliness on the rise, alcoholism and binge-eating seem to be on the rise as well.

>READ: WHAT FACTORS DRIVE WOMEN TO BINGE EATING AT NIGHT?

This is because lonely people tend to feed their emotional problems with food or alcohol. This provides temporary happiness and a break from the norm — loneliness. The rise of social media has also contributed to this mess. We as humans have become digitized and de-sensitized in many ways, which has led to increased feelings of isolation and hopelessness.

Is There a Cure?

The loneliness epidemic is all too real. Whether the blame falls on social media, western politics or the rise of populism/individualism, more people are alone today than ever before. Several case studies and surveys cement the signs and symptoms of isolation. As mentioned earlier, overeating and alcohol abuse is a way for some folks to substitute feeling good for feelings of being alone, neglected or unwanted. However, did you know that researchers are working on a pill to combat loneliness?

What Does the Study Show?

The University of Chicago’s Brain Dynamics Library conducted the study over an eight-week period with placebo or pregnenolone. The latter is a hormone naturally produced by the body’s adrenal gland. The research team monitored participants who consumed both placebo and pregnenolone. Two hours after swallowing the tablets, participants looked at photos of emotional faces and neutral images.

>READ: FEELING LONELY? YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE

Study volunteers conducted tests measuring the scale of loneliness. They found that many respondents had no one they could speak to in times of crisis. Many of their relationships felt superficial, forced and unreal. These respondents also stated they feel alone, isolated, and can no longer hold meaningful relationships with loved ones or friends. Similar studies in animals showed that pregnenolone can reduce threat responses and reactions to feelings of isolation. The latter is one of the main reasons for increased anxiety and panic attacks in humans. It also comes down to fear of the future, death or the unknown.

What Does This Mean for Loneliness and the Holidays?

While the drug cannot formally cure loneliness, developers believe it will reduce feelings of loneliness in human brains. The lead researcher on the project, Stephanie Cacioppo, a reputable neuroscientist, and her team have found that loneliness is not so much about self-preservation or ego. It is simply a desire to connect with others. The idea of the drug is to help people see and accept things as they are — rather than being skeptical of everyone and everything.The drug is still in the study and testing phase so we will have to see how it turns out in the near or distant future.

This holiday season if you are alone there are some things you can try.

Check out our guide for making friends in the digital age.
Consider volunteering. This will allow you to meet new people and increase good feelings since you will be helping others.
If you are dealing with feelings of self-harm this season or if you are self-medicating please reach out to a help group or counselor today.
Take care of yourself and be willing to ask for help if you feel you need it.

BEAT HOLIDAY LONELINESS AND HOST FRIENDSGIVING

We love our holidays in the U.S. so much we are creating informal ones to give us more to celebrate! Friendsgiving is a day where friends come together to eat and enjoy each other’s company. From the combination of the words, you can tell it is a blend of ‘friends’ and ‘Thanksgiving.’ Usually, the participants will share a large meal near or on Thanksgiving day. Some people are serious about Friendsgiving celebrations: there are how-tos, sample menus, and even “rules” for Friendsgiving. However, the day can be as involved or as simple as you would like! Pick and choose from our Friendsgiving ideas below to host a fabulous Friendsgiving event this year.

Why Host a Friendsgiving Meal?

Many women over 50 may wish to spend time with their family on holidays. Sometimes, their children or other family members can live far away though. It may be their year to spend with their spouse’s family. This makes it difficult to get together during the holidays. If this is the case the holidays may be lonely. However, hosting Friendsgiving can benefit mature Americans in many ways including:

  • Gathering with friends that they may not have seen in years
  • The chance to meet new people and make new friends in their community – invite “strays” in your office, neighborhood or groups
  • Learn new cooking skills and taste new meals
  • Indulge in recapping old memories
  • Those who may otherwise be alone for the holidays will get to spend time with people they actually like and start new traditions

Friendsgiving Ideas for Hosting

Friendsgiving celebrations are a day to focus on friends! Especially for people who may be missing family, you will want to wow them so they won’t feel like they’re missing anything. You can unleash the recipe you have been working on and invite some of your friends to showcase their skills. Food is a vital part of any Thanksgiving, and so should be vital to Friendsgiving as well. Traditional foods such as turkey and mashed potatoes can be an option. But remember the essence and value of all of you being together, so spend time celebrating instead of cooking elaborate dishes. It is advisable that you go for easy recipes, have ready-made food, and ensure you spend most of your time sharing the moments precisely as these Friendsgiving ideas indicate. Or, invite everyone early and cook all the dishes together (while maybe drinking wine and playing some danceable/singable music.)

If the thought of cooking at all seems too stressful, so many places offer catered feasts these days…from your local grocery stores, to restaurants, to the group off nextdoor that sells fried turkeys. Order in and laugh at how easy it all is.

>READ: THE MEANING OF FRIENDSHIP: SMALL CIRCLE, BIG SUPPORT

Friendsgiving Activities to Entertain Guests

When planning this celebration, many activity ideas come to mind. Have some fun, research and learn what will be appealing to the people you are inviting. You need ideas that will work with all your friends attending. Some of these unique ideas may include:

  • Make the meal a potluck! Ask everyone to bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish and a story about why it is their favorite. This will be a sweet way to think of Thanksgiving pasts.
  • Have a cookie decorating contest. Provide plain Thanksgiving-themed sugar cookies and some decorations then vote on the best cookie.
  • Volunteer for a few hours as a group. Serve food in a food kitchen, walk dogs at the local animal shelter, or spend time volunteering at a children’s hospital. Everyone will be hungry for a great meal after an afternoon spent giving back.
  • Make your own party favors. Provide some small gourds and craft supplies so people can create their own Friendsgiving masterpiece or set up a photo station and send people home with instant photos of the day.
  • Plan a wine pairing and tasting to try new types of wine and encourage conversation among guests about their favorite combinations.
  • Host after hours or a day later and serve the leftovers – If your friends are spending the big day with family, host it after and let people bring whatever’s left from that feast, including all ready open bottles of spirits. It’s the ultimate in casual fun.

>READ: 12 TIPS FOR HOSTING A DINNER PARTY AND WINE PAIRING

Add an Extra Touch with Friendsgiving Decor!

You may want to be creative with the décor you set up for this day. For example, you can choose a unique color theme. Fall colors can be monotonous. You can break away by setting up totally a different theme color, like copper and green or navy and trendy rose gold. There is no standard Friendsgiving color, and you are free to try anything! Or purchase potted plants for a nice table centerpiece, either synthetic or live. Besides this, you can also purchase additional items to add a special touch of celebration for this day, like candles, name cards and fall-themed napkins. We’ve included some of our favorite options below!

 

HANDLING POLITICAL ANXIETY AS THE RACE GETS CLOSER

The 2020 presidential election is just over a year away; however, things are already heating up on both sides of the political divide. If the 2016 election is any indication, the period leading up to the 2020 election could get quite ugly. This will produce a lot of debates and there will be significant political anxiety as well.

Until the day of the election, there will be a gradual build-up of increasing coverage right around the clock. This will make it difficult for individuals to escape election-related news. If you are already concerned about what it will be like, there are some tips below on handling political anxiety as the race gets closer.

Unplug

Social media has made it so there is no lack of opinions about current events. There is a certain level of anonymity on social media; therefore, these platforms can turn into a vicious war zone of heated back-and-forth arguments between individuals of differing political views.

Political experts are expected to share their thoughts on the election. However, what increases anxiety for many individuals is seeing constant arguments between family and friends over their different stances. For example, if your brother and uncle have differing views and make personal attacks during arguments online or offline, this could negatively impact family gatherings. Social media talks result in a lot of wasted energy and can be extremely unhealthy for individuals.

Avoid Political Commentary

Keeping up with local and national news is important and this includes any newsworthy item leading up to Election Day. However, actual news only takes up a certain amount of television airtime. The same is true for newspapers and magazines. Therefore, for some additional “spice,” political commentary and the creation of “hot takes” are used to extend election coverage as the day approaches.

>READ: STEPS YOU CAN TAKE NOW TO MANAGE STRESS

While good points are made in some of these commentaries at times, the majority of them are only going to increase anxiety and stress. Every publication is more or less biased towards one side or the other and as such, many individuals simple seek out the views of those who are politically like-minded. Nothing is wrong with getting confirmation on your beliefs, however, consistently seeking out the opposition to get their take on issues is unhealthy. A heavy right-leaning or left-leaning media house is not really going to be making any new points.

Television stations are constantly seeking great ratings and views drive the online world. Keep this in mind when you hear controversial statements on these platforms.  Some of these people don’t even believe half of what they are saying! They are simply trying to get a positive and negative reaction from members of the two major political parties.

>EDITOR’S NOTE: Prime Women Media outlets will not be engaging in any political opinions or choosing any sides…so you’ll always have a safe haven of information here. 

Become Involved in the Community in an Objective Way

Going into the presidential election of 2020, among the biggest focuses is boosting the number of voters. Many individuals are not interested in voting in the election. Even though one vote might seem irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, the country needs increased participation in voting.

 

Volunteering to register people to vote is an overall positive move. It assists in spreading a good message, without having to take one side or the other.  This is among the most positive things an individual can do to assist with the upcoming election. Doing a bit of good is sometimes the best way to handle any type of anxiety.

Focus on Loved Ones

Whoever ends up winning the 2020 election, many people will be disappointed. Rather than allowing the election to direct the mood of a household, focus on the important people and things in your life.

>READ: 5 SIMPLE STRATEGIES FOR RELIEVING STRESS

Additionally, you should bear in mind that others may not share your political views. This is quite alright. Regrettably, there are family members who have such strong opinions against each other’s views that it sometimes breaks a family. But, is losing a relationship over political differences worth it in the end?

Regardless of who takes office, residents of the U.S. will continue to have a lot of control over their success and happiness. There is a good reason for the checks and balances system in the U.S. The winning president cannot just take office and change everything in a matter of a few years.

Strive to control what is within your control and do not allow a victory or a defeat to make a huge difference. Embrace your beliefs, work hard pursuing your individual goals and do not allow politics to consume too much of your energy. And if you are facing political anxiety know you’re not alone. The American Psychological Association has resources to help cope with political anxiety, and using our tips above can make a difference.