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April-May 2016 Updates

The World Health Organization says that your "health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being (emphasis mine) and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

As a health psychologist, I provide monthly updates of resources for individuals and families
that support well-being.
Cheers, Marilyn Wilts Click on Read More below.

Note: I am not responsible for the content, claims or representations of the listed sites and post these links for informational purposes only

Our most necessary preoccupations, obviously, ought to be taking care of one another, of every other person, and of the sweet world and discovering the joy of giving part of one's life away. How to proceed is the question.
--William Kittredge, from The Nature of Generosity, quoted by Mark Rozema in his book, Road Trip .

Harvard researchers identify secrets to a happy life
On March 23, 2016 , the *New York Times* published "The Secrets to a Happy Life, From a Harvard Study" by Anahad O'Connor. What Harvard researchers found, in studying factors across the years, is that you are best protected against chronic disease, mental illness and memory decline if you have strong relationships, even if your relationships have many ups and downs. Director Dr. Robert Waldinger, a clinical professor of psychiatry, recently gave a TED Talk in Boston about some of what researches have learned from this first generation Study of Adult Development. "Over and over in these 75 years," Dr. Waldinger said, "our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships with family, with friends and with community." (emphasis mine)

Here are some more excerpts:
[begin excerpts]
Surveys show that most young adults believe that obtaining wealth and fame are keys to a happy life. But a long-running study out of Harvard suggests that one of the most important predictors of whether you age well and live a long and happy life is not the amount of money you amass or notoriety you receive. A much more important barometer of long term health and well-being is the strength of your relationships with family, friends and spouses.

These are some of the findings from the Harvard Study of Adult Development....
The study has revealed some surprising - and some not so surprising - factors that determine whether people are likely to age happily and healthily, or descend into loneliness, sickness and mental decline.
"We publish our findings in academic journals that most people don't read," Dr. Waldinger, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said in a recent interview. "And so we really wanted people to know that this study exists and that it has for 75 years. We've been funded by the government for so many years, and it's important that more people know about this besides academics."
In one case, a team of researchers decided to track Harvard college students through adulthood to see what factors played important roles in their growth and success. "They thought there was too much emphasis placed on pathology at the time and that it would be really useful to study people who were doing well in their young adult development," Dr. Waldinger said. The study recruited 268 Harvard sophomores and followed them closely, with frequent interviews and health examinations. In recent years the study has also incorporated brain scans, blood draws and interviews with the subjects' spouses and adult children.

At around the same time the study began, a Harvard Law School professor named Sheldon Glueck started to study young men from some of Boston's poorest neighborhoods, including 456 who managed to avoid delinquency despite coming from troubled homes. Eventually the two groups were merged into one study.
Through the years, the study has produced many notable findings. It showed, for example, that to age well physically, the single most important thing you could do was to avoid smoking. It discovered that aging liberals had longer and more active sex lives than conservatives. It found that alcohol was the primary cause of divorce among men in the study, and that alcohol abuse often preceded depression (rather than the other way around).
As the researchers looked at the factors throughout the years that strongly influenced health and well-being, they found that relationships with friends, and especially spouses, were a major one. The people in the strongest relationships were protected against chronic disease, mental illness and memory decline - even if those relationships had many ups and downs.

"Those good relationships don't have to be smooth all the time," Dr. Waldinger said. "Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker day in and day out. But as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn't take a toll on their memories."

Dr. Waldinger found a similar pattern among relationships outside the home. The people who sought to replace old colleagues with new friends after retiring were happier and healthier than those who left work and placed less emphasis on maintaining strong social networks.
So what concrete actions does he recommend?

"The possibilities are endless," he said. "Something as simple as replacing screen time with people time, or livening up a stale relationship by doing something new together, long walks or date nights. Reach out to that family member you haven't spoken to in years -- because those all-too-common family feuds take a terrible toll on the people who hold the grudges."
[end excerpts]
Courtesy of Ken Pope, a psychologist who posts links to articles of interest, the full article is online at

For Sleep: Set the temperature lower
The *Wall Street Journal* includes an article: "The Best Temperature for a Good Night's Sleep; Light and time aren't as important as temperature, new research shows" by Sumathi Reddy.

Here are some excerpts:
[begin excerpts]
To get a good night's sleep, many people should set their thermostat a few degrees lower, experts say.

The role of temperature has gotten increased attention after a study published last year found sleep may be more tightly regulated by temperature than by light.

What's more, core body temperature, which tends to fluctuate by a few degrees over the course of the day, needs to drop to help initiate sleep.

Setting the thermostat to around 65 degrees Fahrenheit is good for sleep, studies have found. Research has also found that room temperatures as low as 60.8 degrees are best when people pile on the blankets (emphasis mine).

Sleep is one of the most frustrating activities in many people's lives. Not getting enough affects mood and has long-term health consequences.
Temperature is a big point of debate for couples. Women tend to raise the thermostat while men want to lower it. While researchers haven't focused on such differences, many companies have with products from mattress that promise zoned temperatures to apps that let you control heating.

"People tend to set their ambient house or bedroom temperature a little higher than is actually optimal for sleep," says Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

The body's core temperature needs to drop by about 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit to initiate sleep, Dr. Walker says. "If our core temperature is too high the brain cannot easily make the switch from being awake to being asleep, or create the best quality sleep."

Core body temperature is the temperature of our heat-producing core, which is the brain and abdominal cavity. As the ambient temperature drops, so too does our core temperature. It usually reaches the lowest level in the early morning hours, before awakening.

When treating insomnia patients, sleep experts will often ask about room temperature and advise patients who set their thermostat to 70 or 72 degrees to drop it, Dr. Walker says. For people who live in hot climates and don't have air conditioning he recommends minimal bed clothes, a light bed cover and open windows.

During sleep, people's bodies naturally try to lose heat from the hands and feet, says Michael Gradisar, an associate professor and clinical psychologist at Flinders University in Australia. Put on socks if your feet are too cold, he suggests. And if you're too hot, try sticking your hands and feet out from under the covers.

A study published in October in the journal Current Biology that examined sleep patterns of preindustrial societies found temperature played a critical role. The 94-person study suggested "the daily cycle of temperature change, largely eliminated from modern sleep environments, may be a potent natural regulator of sleep," says Jerry Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at University of California, Los Angeles, and senior researcher on the study. The study looked at three groups living in tropical, natural environments.

Dr. Siegel says the researchers were surprised to find that none of the study participants went to sleep near sunset or woke up at sunrise. On average they fell asleep three hours and two minutes after sunset and woke up before sunrise. They slept about one more hour in the winter than in summer.

After gathering temperature information, Dr. Siegel realized the sleep period in the Hadza people of Tanzania occurred during the coldest part of the night. In follow-up studies involving groups in Namibia and Bolivia, he found the participants consistently woke up when the early-morning temperature stopped falling.

"Temperature may have a much greater role in helping promote normal sleep than we previously thought," says John Peever, a professor in the department of cell and systems biology at the University of Toronto. He says specific brain cells located in a region called the hypothalamus sense temperature changes to control sleep.

Other experiments that varied the ambient temperature--decreasing it early in the night and increasing it in the morning--have shown similar benefits for improving and maintaining sleep.

Taking a hot bath before bed has a similar effect. The hot water brings the circulating blood to the surface of the body, which is one of the quickest ways to drop core body temperature.

"When you get out of the bath you cool down more quickly, which is what the body wants to do at bed time," says James Horne, a neuroscience professor at Loughborough University in England. His research has found that young, healthy people have about 10% more slow-wave sleep when they take a warm bath before bedtime. He says soaking in water that is about 102 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes in the early evening will improve sleep. A shower won't have the same effect, he says.

The nonprofit National Sleep Foundation typically recommends room temperatures for sleep of between 60 and 67 degrees, says Natalie Dautovich, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University who consults for the foundation. "We know that a cool bedroom is conducive to better sleep," she says.

The group's 2014 poll of families found 18% of children and 35% of parents reported difficulty sleeping at least once over the past week due to a temperature issue. It is best to wear light, breathable clothing to bed , such as cotton, Dr. Dautovich says and layers of bedding that can be easily removed are ideal (emphasis mine).

"Sometimes there are individual differences so if you sleep with someone else it can be helpful to have two different sets of bedding," she says.
[end excerpts]
Courtesy of Ken Pope, a psychologist who provides links to articles of interest, the full article is online at

Health Matters for Women: Happy National Women's Health Week


National Women's Health Week , which starts every year on Mother's Day, encourages women to make health their priority. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a newsletter on May 9 that provides tips for women on screenings and preventive care, exercise, healthy eating, mental health, and healthy behaviors.

Click on the link below for details: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Matters for Women[TM] E-Newsletter Update
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