6 Ways A Hug A Day Keeps Illness Away

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By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

friendsNew research suggests that prevention of infections and reducing stress-related illness might be as simple as a hug from a trusted person. The findings of this latest research were published in Psychological Science. It found that the physical act of hugging is associated with protection from the effects of depression and anxiety, as well as lessening the number of stress-induced infections and severe illness symptoms.

The research team studied hugging as an example of social support, because hugs are typically a marker of having a more intimate and close relationship with another person. People who have ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses and infection. The interesting fact is what hugging represents to the participants. They stated that hugging made them feel more connected, more supported, more validated and intimate with the hugger, which had a direct effect on their immune system. The researchers went on to say that those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection.

If you’ve decided that this is your year to be on a health kick, in addition to watching your diet and exercising, you may want to add hugging to your list of daily activities.

Here are six ways to protect your health and relationships with hugs:

1. Studies show people who are hugged regularly by their close friends and family have reduced blood pressure, lower heart rates and feel more connected to one another.

2. People who are contented in their marriages report frequent hugging and non-sexual touching.

3. Couples who report hugging or cuddling frequently also report feeling more emotionally connected to their partner. They also reported feeling more secure than non-hugging/minimal-touch couples.

4. Ten minutes of hand-holding or hugging greatly reduced couples’ reported stress and the harmful effects of stress on their body.

5. The release of oxytocin in the body from hugging helps foster a healthy immune system.

6. Children who grow up watching their parents hug feel more secure and perform better in school.

As you begin the new year, don’t forget the most important gift you can give all year round, the gift of belonging, being valued and being emotionally connected to your loved ones. Something as simple as a hug can provide those feelings and it doesn’t cost you a thing.

– Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at maryjorapini.com.

Tips From A Mom On Living Life To The Fullest With A Chronic Illness

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By Teri E

sunAs the summer approaches, it’s easy for busy moms to place their health needs second to work commitments and family activities. I recently learned that the average mom only gets 5.5 hours of free time each week – that’s equivalent to only 47 minutes per day! If you are like me, living with a chronic illness, or if you have any other health issue, it might be harder to “do it all.” It’s especially important for all women to take time for themselves and pay careful attention to their own health needs.

I’m a mom, a wife and a full-time school psychologist, but I also live with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that damages or destroys the protective covering (known as myelin) surrounding the nerves, causing reduced communication between the brain and nerve pathways. Common symptoms include visual problems, overwhelming fatigue, difficulty with balance and coordination, and various levels of impaired mobility. Not every person living with MS feels the same symptoms or has the same experiences – the disease is unique to each individual.

Since being diagnosed with MS in 1999, I’ve learned when to ask for help while balancing work, family and MS symptoms. Down time is important for everyone, especially when you’re a busy mom living with an unpredictable disease like MS. I have learned to set goals for myself to keep on track. Right now my goal is to keep up with my growing son and make sure I’m there to tuck him in at night. When living with a chronic disease, finding the right treatment plan is an important step toward living your best life – and that plan is different for everyone. For a long time after my diagnosis, I was only on one treatment to help manage my MS, and it didn’t end up working for me. I worked closely with my doctor to determine the best treatment plan and I am now on once-daily oral AUBAGIO. Taking that proactive step for myself has helped me manage my MS and balance the other aspects of my busy life with more confidence!

Here are a few quick tips to balance a busy life with a chronic disease…

1. It’s OK to say “no” to certain things, in order to say “yes” to things that matter, like spending time with family

2. Your house doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s ok to ask for help when you need it

3. Make time for yourself – a short walk in the neighborhood or a cup of tea is all it takes to recharge

4. Trust in yourself and what your body is telling you – take it slow if you need to, but realize that you are stronger than you may think

5. Prioritize the things in your life that are important to you

6. Maintain open communication with loved ones, including children, about how you are feeling

7. Don’t be shy to share responsibilities and call on others for help – your family, friends and healthcare providers are there for support

U.S. Adults With Mental Illness Have Higher Smoking Rates

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smokingFrom Your Health Journal…..”A very interesting release from The Robert Wood Johnson about adults with mental illness having a higher smoking percentage rate that those with no mental illness. A study found that 36 percent of adults diagnosed with a mental illness are cigarette smokers, compared with only 21 percent of adults who have no mental illness. This was an interesting finding, and of course, the first question I have is what defines mental illness. The report states mental illness was defined as having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, excluding developmental and substance use disorders, in the past 12 months. Regardless, it is an interesting finding, and I encourage you to go to the RWJF web site to read the complete post. Maybe it can help someone you know.”

From the article…..

Adults with mental illness have a smoking rate 70 percent higher than adults with no mental illness, according to the February 2013 Vital Signs report released yesterday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report was done in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and found that 36 percent of adults with a mental illness are cigarette smokers, compared with only 21 percent of adults who do not have a mental illness. Among adults with mental illness, smoking prevalence is especially high among younger adults, American Indians, Alaska Natives, those living below the poverty line, and those with lower levels of education. Differences also exist across states. Smoking prevalence for people with mental illness ranges from 18.2 percent in Utah to 48.7 percent in West Virginia. The data used to determine the smoking rates in the Vital Signs report comes from 2009–2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Mental illness was defined as having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, excluding developmental and substance use disorders, in the past 12 months.

To read the complete article…..Click here

14 Signs Of Possible Mental Illness In Teens And How To Help

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By Diane Lang

friendAs we settle into 2013, the aftermath of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary is still very unsettling for many of us who are asking how we can help prevent something like this from ever happening again; hence the recent gun law debates and changes in gun laws. But how can we help individually? One way is to educate ourselves on the signs of mental illness in teens or young adults and how to help the person who may be ill. Author, Psychotherapist, and Positive Living Expert, Diane Lang, provides 14 signs to look for in teens and what to do to help.

Here are 14 signs that teens or young adults might possibly have a mental illness or problem:

  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Anxious and feelings of intense worry or sadness
  • Extreme fear and/or unexplained fear
  • Changes in school — grades/behavior
  • Loss of interest in normal activities/hobbies/leisure activities — social isolation
  • Lack of interest in family, friends, etc.
  • Changes in sleep patterns or eating habits (too much or too little)
  • Increased mood swings, anger, irritability and/or impulsiveness
  • Loss of focus and concentration
  • Talking about suicide
  • Obsessive dieting or extreme exercising
  • Destroys property and breaks the law
  • Uses alcohol or drugs
  • Hears voices

If you suspect a mental illness/problem in a teen or young adult:

– Have someone close to that person (friend or family member) approach them and let them know they are concerned about them. Be non-judgmental, calm, caring and empathic.

– Let them know there is help available.

– Give them resources of local agencies/therapists that can help (or as a parent of a teen look up resources yourself to get help)

– Let them know mental illness is treatable.

Diane Lang – Positive Living Expert and psychotherapist – is a nationally recognized author, educator, speaker, therapist and media expert. Lang is extremely mediagenic and offers expertise on a variety of health and wellness topics about creating balance and finding happiness through positive living. Lang offers expertise in multiple mental health, lifestyle and parenting needs. In addition to holding multiple counseling positions, Diane is also an adjunct professor at Montclair State University and Dover Business College.