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Cover of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving...

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

While I study psychology in my masters program, one thing really has become clear–the importance of early childhood experiences on our future mental health.   I am not yet a graduate and am in no position to give psychological advice beyond my coaching credentials. However, I have found a wealth of info about early childhood and the role of experiencing nature in development in the Earth Easy blog. If you have children, or even if you don’t but are interested in nature and psychology, click on any of the links tot he articles below and enjoy!

Clearing a Path to Nature

by Richard Louv
The disengagement of children from nature has begun to alarm some of America’s more thoughtful naturalists, scientists, and environmentalists. For the full article, click here.
Richard Louv is the author of several books about children and community, including, The Web of Life: Weaving the Values that Sustain Us (Conari Press), Fly-Fishing for Sharks: An American Journey (Simon & Schuster), and the national bestseller Last Child in the Woods.

The Real Cost of ‘Virtual Nature’

by Brenda Scott Royce
Can robotic replicas and digital imagery inspire children to a love of nature? For the full article, click here.

How to get your child excited about nature

By Greg Seaman
Children are born with an innate curiosity about the natural world around them. How can we help them satisfy it? For the full article, click here.

Spending time in nature, a natural remedy for ADHD

By The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, reported in Scienceblog
Children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) should spend some quality time outdoors when they are not in school, according to a nationwide study.

Leave No Child Inside

By Richard Louv
… we must pass on to our children the joy and value of playing outside in nature. For the full article, click here.

Our Psychic Connections to Nature

by David Bollier
The despoliation of nature is tantamount to despoiling our mental habitat as well. To read the full article, click here.

David Bollier is the editor of OntheCommons.org, an activist and writer about the commons, and author of Silent Theft, Brand Name Bullies and Viral Spiral.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I enjoy reading Men’s Health magazine each month. The editors and writers do a fantastic job of researching a wide range of topics and presenting great workout ideas, simple tasty recipes and a fair number of inspirational stories about men that have overcome cancer, emotional issues and serious accidents.

Last month, the August issue carried an article titled, When the Warrior Returns Home here. In the article, the author describes the use of resilience training for combat troops. The armed forces are employing psychologists to give the troops resilience training is an attempt to help soldiers better communicate (without overreacting) to family and friends after returning home from combat. Resilience training also helps soldiers deal with the effects of being in combat: being able to handle the emotional stress of watching buddies get blown to bits in front of them and of the possibility of capture or death during deployment.  How well does resilience training work? Pretty well. Read the article to learn more.

If resilience training works for combat troops to avoid Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, can it help you and me? Sure it can. Whether you are fighting a tough reorganization environment at work, the stress of having a new baby at home (or two or three!), long-term unemployment or managing long commutes and frustrating traffic, resilience training may help you, too.

How do you get resilience training? Men’s Health gives tips on this page to show you how to better manage your own emotions and avoid the health costs of overreacting, high blood pressure and mental stress.

MayoClinic has a great article on Resilience training here.

Or you can visit a Licensed Psychologist or Counselor that specializes in resilience training.

Check out the Chicago Center for Family Health here. Their website says that their “collaborative, resilience-promoting approach identifies and builds on clients’ strengths, helping them to manage persistent stress and recover from life crises. Our goal is to enhance the functioning and well-being of the families, couples and individuals with whom we work.”

Or i the Chicago area, you may want to contact Michele Dubuisson, LCSW. In her web page she says that ““My areas of expertise include depression, anxiety, relationship issues, grief, and trauma. My approach to therapy is grounded in the belief that we are all resilient, each of us has unique strengths. I work with my clients to build on these strengths, increase their insight, and develop the trust needed to achieve their goals. I do this by providing a safe space in which you may process your experiences, express your feelings, challenge unhealthy relationship patterns, and develop self-awareness.I work with my clients to understand triggers that may contribute to stress and to develop healthier coping skills. My clients appreciate my down-to-earth, relational style, and collaborative approach to therapy.” Contact Michele via this link.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Here is a list of the top 10 Twitter feeds for health news that I follow. I really like Men’s Health and  Woman’s Health magazines as a starting point for current trends in fitness and sports medicine. The CDC is a great feed to follow for news about any outbreaks of illness or other health concerns. WebMD and the Mayo Clinic tend to have pretty comprehensive coverage of most medical complaints and illnesses. Greythinking is a great mental health resource and I round out the lists with Daily health tips, a Discovery health feed and a New York Times health tweeter.  Check them out!

Mayo Clinic

  • @MayoClinic
  • Location: Minnesota, Florida, Arizona
  • Bio: Excellent integrated group health care practice. Acct maintained by @leeaase. Following not = endorsement. To request follow, tweet @mayoclinic.

Women’s Health Mag

  • @WomensHealthMag
  • Location:
  • Bio: Women’s Health is your ultimate guide to looking and feeling great. We’ll bring you the latest in health, fitness, sex, beauty and more!

Men’s Health Mag

  • @MensHealthMag
  • Location: Emmaus, PA
  • Bio: Men’s Guide to Fitness, Health, Weight Loss, Nutrition, Sex, Style, and Guy Wisdom

WebMD

  • @WebMD
  • Location: USA
  • Bio: WebMD provides valuable health information, tools for managing your health, and support to those who seek information.

womenshealth.gov

  • @womenshealth
  • Location: US
  • Bio: Womenshealth.gov is part of the U.S. HHS Office on Women’s Health, the federal government’s resource for women’s health information.

CDC Emergency Verified

  • @CDCemergency
  • Location: Atlanta, GA
  • Bio: CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response: increasing the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies.

greythinking

  • @greythinking
  • Location:
  • Bio: Commentary on mental health, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychopharmacology, etc.

Daily Health Tips

  • @DailyHealthTips
  • Location:
  • Bio: Daily Health Tips to keep you healthy and happy.

Tara Parker-Pope Verified

  • @nytimeswell
  • Location: New York, NY
  • Bio: Follow Tara Parker-Pope as she sifts through medical research and expert opinions to help readers take control of their health and live well every day.
  • Discovery Health Verified

    • @Disc_Health
    • Location: Silver Spring, MD
    • Bio: Your source for health & wellness info, tips, tools, support & great TV!!
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walk_in_park
Image by rosemaryann11 via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I wonder sometimes if my readers get sick of me writing about exercising in nature! Some of my friends say they hate bugs and humidity. Some people may not have much experience in nature (especially if they grow up in an urban environment) and may be hesitant to try hiking or outdoor fitness routines. I was fortunate to have a father that was a nature lover. We spent every summer vacation camping, usually in Wisconsin. And many weekends were spent in nearby forest preserves or parks. In each home we lived in we had an outdoor garden.  My Dad introduced us to canoeing, pontoon boating, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, hiking, bicycling, paddle boating, berry picking,  swimming in the Great Lakes and smaller lakes,  and watching ducks fly south from Horicon Marsh. He was also a former gymnist and bodybuilder and taught us how to lift weights and run on treadmills in the winter. We weren’t “rich” monetarily, but we were rich in family time, the ability to spend time in nature and in fresh air, and good cardiovascular workouts!

As an adult I’ve enjoyed time spent in the gym, but I tend to gravitate towards nature. Now years later, more and more more research is showing that my natural inclination and my father’s tendency to get us outdoors is actually better for your health. Read the excerpt below from the University of Essex about a study  that shows even a 5 minute walk or time spent gardening can have immediate positive effects on your health. That’s right bug haters–it only takes 5 minutes to have a benefit! So grab the Off or Citronella and get outside!

A Walk A Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Just a small ‘dose’ of nature every day will benefit people’s mood, self-esteem and mental health, a new study by the University of Essex has shown. Surprisingly the research found that just five minutes of green exercise produced the largest positive effect.

Previous studies by the researchers had confirmed the links between nature, exercise in green environments, and health benefits. But this study is the first to quantify the health benefits in terms of the best ‘dose’ of nature.

The research by Dr Jo Barton and Professor Jules Pretty is published online (and in print on 15 May) in the American journal, Environmental Science and Technology.

Their analysis of 1,252 people (of different ages, gender and mental health status) drawn from ten existing studies in the UK, showed that activity in the presence of nature (green exercise) led to mental and physical health improvements. The activities analysed were walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming.

‘For the first time in the scientific literature, we have been able to show dose-response relationships for the positive effects of nature on human mental health’, said Professor Pretty. The researchers concluded that green exercise should be developed for therapy purposes (green care), that planners and architects should improve access to green space (green design), and that children’s learning should include working in outdoor settings (green education).

‘A walk a day should help to keep the doctor away – and help to save the country money,’ said Dr Barton. ‘There is a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to ‘self-medicate’ more with green exercise.’
Some of the substantial mental health challenges facing society and physical challenges arising from modern diets and sedentary lifestyles (such as the alarming growth in obesity) could be addressed by increased forms of activity in natural places, the authors argue.

All natural environments were beneficial (including urban green); although the presence of water generated greater effects. A blue and green environment seems even better for health, the authors stated.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Recently I did a presentation on Stress Management for psychology students at Chicago City Colleges’ “Psych in the City” program. (I’m taking psychology classes at Harold Washington College and this was an all school event with over 400 students attending!) Most of what I spoke about was a review of the autonomic nervous system and the effects of chronic Sympathetic Nervous system activation. (Sounds pretty technical, I know but if you know your nervous system or have heard anything about stress management, you know that calming the nervous system helps us better handle with the effects of stress.) It was a lot of fun, we did breathing exercises and I showed students how to find their resting heart rate…and how to speed up their heart rate with a little aerobic activity.  Overall, though, the goal of most stress management techniques to is calm down your nervous system, slow your heart rate and basically put your autonomic nervous system into parasympathetic (resting and digesting) mode versus sympathetic  (flight or flight) mode.

However, there are many different ways to calm down your nervous system. Read an excerpt from “30 Great Stress Relievers”  on some stress relieving techniques that are not commonly thought of, like cooking and art from  EKG Technician Training blog. To read the entire list from the blog, click here.

With the everyday stresses from work, parenting and budgeting finances, it’s no surprise that stress has been directly linked to causing heart disease, high blood pressure and decreased immunity. In a survey conducted by the American Institute of Stress, about 75-90 percent of all visits to general physicians are for stress-related problems. While it is difficult to avoid stress altogether, there are several ways to relieve stress and manage it through simple and often free practices that can be done at home and work.

Deep Breathing Exercises
While you can’t always control stressors, you can learn how to control and regulate your breathing. Thankfully, there are various ways to exercise your breathing to achieve deep relaxation, reduce stress and release endorphins. Learning how to stimulate, relax and count your breathe, like the breathing exercises taught by Dr. Weil, will help increase energy levels, alertness and help manage stress-related health problems.

Music
Whether it’s classical, jazz or soft rock tunes, listening to and playing music is a popular way to relieve stress. Music has the power to slow one’s heart rate and pulse, lower blood pressure, as well provide a distraction that allows listeners to escape, or become focused on something other than what’s stressing them out. Not only is music so portable, but a little can go a long way. Make a feel-good CD for your car ride to work, listen to it when working out and meditating, or listen at work to block out sounds and added stressors.

Art
From painting, drawing to sculpting, art is another therapeutic activity for tackling stress. Like music, art provides a means for escape, concentration and personal expression. Creating artwork allows people to explore their creativity, utilize their senses and provides a calming balance to a hectic day. You can also transfer negative energy, by using your frustrations and emotions as inspiration for your artwork. Viewing art also relieves stress because it calms the mind and muscles, provides a distraction and allows you to focus on something aesthetically pleasing for a bit.

Cooking
While cooking may be a stressful endeavor for some, it is also a major stress reliever for others. Cooking is like a project that involves planning, experimentation and results. Whether you’re baking, preparing dinner or assisting in the kitchen, cooking allows people to improvise and focus on a different kind of task. In addition to the actual act of cooking, people will gain satisfaction from providing nourishment for their bodies and creating a meal on their own.

Sex
There are many health benefits of sex, including stress relief. From the physical act of lovemaking to the emotional connection between partners, sex allows people to experience pleasure and free their mind of worries. High levels of stress can decrease libido in men and women, so it is important to practice other stress relievers in order to get the most from your sex life.Talking
While some enjoy writing or reading during stressful times, others like to talk about their stress to friends, family, coworkers and counselors. Venting out loud about stressors and personal issues can help alleviate built-up emotions associated with stress, as well as help guide you toward a realistic stress management plan. Not to mention, talking to others about their lives and interests can be a healthy distraction for yours.

Vacationing
Nothing says relaxation like vacation. If the opportunity arises to take a trip, you should go for both pleasure and stress management reasons. Vacations let you mind and body escape from the daily routines and stressors that affect your mood and state of health. No matter how or where you spend your vacation, you are sure to experience heightened levels of relaxation and enjoyment. While vacations don’t last forever, they do provide a mental and physical break from stress and allow you to return back to work (and reality) refreshed and satisfied.

Journaling
Kids aren’t the only ones who journal their thoughts and feelings — adults do it too. Writing is a cathartic activity for people to vent their thoughts, feelings and goals. Whether you prefer a diary, blogs or loose papers, all variations of journaling allow people to relieve stress by writing, evaluating and reflecting on their day. Journaling also serves as a record for detecting stress patterns, and a means to implement stress management techniques.

Reading
Along with writing, reading is another form of stress relief. Avid and sporadic readers alike can benefit from reading to relax their mind, use their imagination and adopt new ideas, skills and vocabulary. Reading is also one of the best ways to escape from the doldrums of day-to-day life, and serves as a positive distraction to a stressful state of mind. For those who suffer from high levels of stress, may benefit greatly from reading self-help books and positive reading materials that will boost their spirits and help manage their stressors.

Pets
From cats, dogs, birds and hamsters, animals are not only great companions, but also major stress relievers. Playing, petting and exercising with animals will make them happy, as well as reduce your level of stress and lower your blood pressure. Although not everyone is suited to care for a pet, you can always pet sit, go to a dog park or play with friends’ animals to get your dose of animal time and stress-free fun.

Plan/Organize
An easy way to avoid stress is to plan and stay organized. If you generate a plan, make a to-do list or make prior arrangements, you will be more likely stick to the plan, which will help alleviate stress. In addition to planning, having an organized house, workplace and daily schedule will help you achieve specific goals and avoid unnecessary stress from misplacing or losing items in a mess. Planning and staying organized does take a considerable amount of effort, but having the tools to do so and make your life easier will help in the long run.

To read the entire blog post with all 30 stress relievers, click here.

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Happy Valentines Day
Image by blmurch via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapists, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
Valentine’s Day is a day when couples give each other cards, flowers and candies to show their love. It’s also a day that many of my singles bemoan their lack of a romantic partner.

Instead of making Valentine’s Day a day to sulk about and envy romantic couples, friends of mine and I decided to make it a day for giving to others. We bought a bunch of pink carnations and a friend and drove around the city, looking for lonely people to give flowers to. We gave some to an old woman on a park bench, to single moms with strollers, to a workman repairing the street, to a homeless man. Giving away the flowers made us feel good and hopefully brightened the day of some people that may not have had anyone else showering them with affection.

Valentine’s Day is a day that reminds us to share our affection for all the loves in our lives, including parents, children, friends and pets!  Why? Because there are health benefits to forming social bonds and sharing affection. According to Sherry Rauh of WebMD Health News in her article “10 Surprising Health Benefits of Love, some of the benefits include lower blood pressure, fewer colds, and better stress management. Read on for an excerpt of Sherry’s article:

Humans are wired for connection, and when we cultivate good relationships, the rewards are immense. But we’re not necessarily talking about spine-tingling romance.

“There’s no evidence that the intense, passionate stage of a new romance is beneficial to health,” says Harry Reis, PhD, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships. “People who fall in love say it feels wonderful and agonizing at the same time.” All those ups and downs can be a source of stress.

It takes a calmer, more stable form of love to yield clear health benefits. “There is very nice evidence that people who participate in satisfying, long-term relationships fare better on a whole variety of health measures,” Reis tells WebMD.

Most of the research in this area centers on marriage, but Reis believes many of the perks extend to other close relationships — for example, with a partner, parent, or friend. The key is to “feel connected to other people, feel respected and valued by other people, and feel a sense of belonging,” he says. Here are 10 research-backed ways that love and health are linked:

1. Fewer Doctor’s Visits

The Health and Human Services Department reviewed a bounty of studies on marriage and health. One of the report’s most striking findings is that married people have fewer doctor’s visits and shorter average hospital stays.

“Nobody quite knows why loving relationships are good for health,” Reis says. “The best logic for this is that human beings have been crafted by evolution to live in closely knit social groups. When that is not happening, the biological systems … get overwhelmed.”

2. Less Depression & Substance Abuse

According to the Health and Human Services report, getting married and staying married reduces depression in both men and women. This finding is not surprising, Reis says, because social isolation is clearly linked to higher rates of depression. What’s interesting is that marriage also contributes to a decline in heavy drinking and drug abuse, especially among young adults.

3. Lower Blood Pressure

A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure. That’s the conclusion of a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Researchers found happily married people had the best blood pressure, followed by singles. Unhappily married participants fared the worst.

“It’s marital quality and not the fact of marriage that makes a difference,” Reis tells WebMD. This supports the idea that other positive relationships can have similar benefits. In fact, singles with a strong social network also did well in the blood pressure study, though not as well as happily married people.

4. Less Anxiety

When it comes to anxiety, a loving, stable relationship is superior to new romance. Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook used functional MRI (fMRI) scans to look at the brains of people in love. They compared passionate new couples with strongly connected long-term couples. Both groups showed activation in a part of the brain associated with intense love.

5. Natural Pain Control

The fMRI study reveals another big perk for long-term couples — more activation in the part of the brain that keeps pain under control. A CDC report complements this finding. In a study of more than 127,000 adults, married people were less likely to complain of headaches and back pain.

6. Better Stress Management

If love helps people cope with pain, what about other types of stress? Aron says there is evidence of a link between social support and stress management. “If you’re facing a stressor and you’ve got the support of someone who loves you, you can cope better,” he tells WebMD.

7. Fewer Colds

We’ve seen that loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression — a fact that may give the immune system a boost. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses. The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, compared people who were happy and calm with those who appeared anxious, hostile, or depressed.

8. Faster Healing

The power of a positive relationship may make flesh wounds heal faster. Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center gave married couples blister wounds. The wounds healed nearly twice as fast in spouses who interacted warmly compared with those who demonstrated a lot of hostility toward each other. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

9. Longer Life

A growing body of research indicates that married people live longer. One of the largest studies examines the effect of marriage on mortality during an eight-year period in the 1990s. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, researchers found that people who had never been married were 58% more likely to die than married people.

Marriage protects against death by warding off feelings of isolation. “Loneliness is associated with all-cause mortality — dying for any reason,” Reis says. In other words, married people live longer because they feel loved and connected.

10. Happier Life

It may seem obvious that one of love’s greatest benefits is joy. But research is just beginning to reveal how strong this link can be. A study in the Journal of Family Psychology shows happiness depends more on the quality of family relationships than on the level of income. And so we have scientific evidence that, at least in some ways, the power of love trumps the power of money.

Nurture Your Relationships

To foster a loving relationship that yields concrete benefits, Aron offers four tips:

  • If you are depressed or anxious, get treatment.
  • Brush up on communication skills and learn to handle conflict.
  • Do things that are challenging and exciting with your loved one on a regular basis.
  • Celebrate each other’s successes.

To read the entire article at WebMD, click here.

For a bit of history of Valentine’s Day check out this site, History Made Everyday, here.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

We all struggle with procrastination at times.   I struggle with focus when I am distracted or overwhelmed. Knowing this about myself helps me better prioritize my day and stay on task.  Interestingly, I came across a post linking ADHD to procrastination from the Associated Press. The author, Bruce Ziebarth, offers his tips for dealing with procrastination as an ADHD sufferer. I am sharing a snippet of the article here. If it interests you, click to link below to read the entire article at assocatedcontent.com.

Link Between Adult ADHD and Procrastination

Bruce Ziebarth

by Bruce Ziebarth

Many people procrastinate. People procrastinate for a variety of reasons; sometimes we just do not feel like doing something, sometimes there is something we want to do more, and sometimes we are just being lazy. No matter who you are, you have probably fought with procrastination. For people with Adult ADHD, procrastination is more than an annoying fact.

Adult ADHD is not a simple condition like cancer or diabetes. Adult ADHD is made up of symptoms from many different categories. A person receives an Adult ADHD diagnosis by showing several of the symptoms including trouble with organization, paying attention, finishing a task, etc. These symptoms must also rise to the level of interfering with daily living. Adult ADHD’s broad range of symptoms makes it difficult to address everyone’s needs. However, whether you have Adult ADHD or not, the strategies outlined here will help you identify why you procrastinate and help avoid future procrastination.

Read Bruce Ziebarth entire article on ADHD and Procrastination here.

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