behavior · brain · disease · happiness · health · play

How to live to 100: advice for life and living longer

At first it seems like the typical “there’s no golden rule to getting old” article, right?

Some of the supercentenarian advice is sweet, some is a bit strange and a couple are everything we’ve always hoped for. Who knew bacon and whiskey were the fountain of youth?

more photos via How to live to 100: advice for life and living longer.

Some appear silly, and some fly in the face of recent studies (for example, married people tend to be healthier, and ergo live longer).

But if you try to generalize the advice, much of it boils down to one thing: have fun, be playful, don’t stress out too much about the details.

If you want to live to be 100, you have to give yourself space to play!

anthropology · behavior · community · creativity · culture · mental health · play

Offices move towards more playful space design, but what kind of play is best for workspace environments?

More and more office spaces are trying to become more playful, offering employees a way to destress and/or get more creative. Usually that takes the form of having ping pong tables or video game consoles set up for breaks, but more and more offices are adding slides, swing sets, picnic tables, or other more active and engaging apparatus. They are also bringing in more greenery for workers.

This office may be the most fun in Britain as it comes kitted out with a giant helter skelter slide, a tree house and even a pub.

The unique workplace also boasts a pool table, a putting green, a giant swing and a cinema.

Office designers Space & Solutions were tasked with turning a former pub in Southampton into the home for IT company, Peer 1 Hosting.

‘If you don’t feel comfortable sitting at a desk you can sit on a picnic bench. The reality is that you can do your work from anywhere.’

Read more: UK Daily Mail

The article points out that some people may find all this fun a little distracting to actually work around. Some kinds of play are probably great at cutting stress but may be more of a time suck than creativity inducer. I’m curious what readers think. Are you one of those people who does their best work sitting on a couch, or heck, a swing? Do you prefer quiet and focus without any noise? Do you have a toy or plant on your desk you fiddle with when you’re trying to think or just need to destress?

Another question; do you actually use the toys and playful apparatus in the office? The office I currently work in has a ping pong and air hockey table, but only two people ever use the ping pong table, and I have only seen the air hockey table turned on once for a promo video.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

behavior · health · learning · psychology

There’s more to health than food, and there’s more to life than health – The Healthy Skeptic

New Zealand postage stamp, 1933: Public health.
Image via Wikipedia

Great post by Chris Kresser, also known as The Healthy Skeptic, although these days he’s just blogging under his name. Usually focusing how to be healthy by what food you put in your body, particularly for pregnant women, Kresser takes a step back and looks at the value of measuring overall health. Not just what you put in your body, but also how much sleep you get, how much stress is in your life, and if you make time for enriching activities.

“…it’s a mistake to assume that food is the only consideration that matters when it comes to health, and that all health problems can be solved simply by making dietary changes. Unfortunately, this seems to be an increasingly common assumption in the Paleo/Primal nutrition world these days.

I see a lot of people in my practice that have their nutrition completely dialed in, but don’t take care of themselves in other ways. Maybe they don’t manage their stress, they don’t exercise, or they don’t sleep well.

Even if this person eats a perfect diet, are they really healthy?

And what about the person who doesn’t eat particularly well, but sleeps like a baby, gets a massage a couple times a month, has a lot of fun, spends lots of time outdoors, and doesn’t have any health problems?”

more via There’s more to health than food, and there’s more to life than health.

It’s nice to see a holistic view when so many specialists only focus on one element of overall health.

What are some “blind” areas in your life? Areas where you ignore or neglect taking care of yourself?


Benefits of Yoga Behind Bars in Jails, Prisons, and Correctional Institutions

Helen yoga
Yoga is being used in prisons to encourage calm and personal growth. Image via Wikipedia

My work has been pretty high-stress lately, and I’ve been trying different things to relax and try to make my off-work hours very enriching and recuperative. I recently read about this non-profit organization, Yoga Behind Bars, that offers free yoga classes to incarcerated youth and adults.

Yoga Behind Bars is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in Seattle that brings yoga and meditation classes to incarcerated youth and adults in Washington State as well as those at risk of entering the criminal justice system. We are a volunteer-driven organization that teaches 11 classes a week at 7 different facilities. Our mission is to share tools of self-awareness, healing and transformation with our students. (at Yoga Behind Bars).

I think this is a great idea! First, there are multiple benefits of yoga, even for the non-incarcerated:

“There is a growing body of research that supports our belief in the efficacy of yoga and meditation classes to support true individual healing and change. Participation in yoga classes has been shown to reduce depression, anger, and anxiety, often a root cause of antisocial behavior and drug use. Yoga has also been established as an effective adjunctive therapy during treatment for drug addiction, which is a co-factor in many of our students’ incarceration.” (more citations provided in the original article)

more via Benefits of Yoga Behind Bars in Jails, Prisons, and Correctional Institutions.

I can’t believe how stressful and un-enriching it must be to be incarcerated. There are constant political battles that often result in violence, lack of exercise, friends, or contact with the outside world. I am always supportive of programs that try to bring beneficial programs into prisons, like Puppies Behind Bars, theater classes, or raising frogs through the Sustainable Prisons Project.

This is also a great therapy and skill to teach prisoners, because they can take this training and use it outside of the yoga class without an instructor or without a structured setting, either alone in their cell or just practicing breathing when it gets tough.

I’m curious to hear of other programs that are offering enrichment to people living in incarceration, or other environments where they don’t have the same opportunities to go out and enrich their own lives. Please share any you know of in the comments.

brain · health · mental health · neuroscience · psychology

Strain on the Brain can lead to long term health problems: Scientific American

PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer's disease
Image of a brain of a patient with Alzheimer's. Image via Wikipedia

As I sit here stressing out about working on my master’s thesis, a knot in my stomach about the training manual due by the end of day tomorrow, worried about my dog’s injured knee, and wondering why my mom hasn’t called me back yet, I was reminded of an article I read recently in Scientific American about the really, really damaging effects of stress, particularly over the long term.

A recent wave of research has unveiled an important environmental player in the genesis of neurodegenerative disease: stress.Pairs of identical twins developed Alzheimer’s disease in concert only 40 percent of the time, showing that factors other than genetics must contribute to the disorder.Stress seems to impede the ability of certain brain cells to recover from insults, triggering or aggravating the symptoms of disorders such as Parkinson’s.

more via Strain on the Brain: Scientific American.

We’ve been aware for awhile that long-term, ongoing stress is bad for us, even before Robert Zapolsky’s Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers came out, but it’s still a nice reminder how important it is for all of us to take a break every once in awhile.

behavior · environment · happiness · health · mental health · Nature

The healing effects of forests, gardens, greenery

Hopetoun Falls, Beech Forest, near Otway Natio...
Visiting natural environments even for a short time can be beneficial for one's health. Image via Wikipedia

After spending some time this weekend in my garden, lounging in the dappled sunlight, it reminded me just how powerful nature is to rejuvenate and heal both physically and emotionally.

Many studies show that after stressful or concentration-demanding situations, people recover faster and better in natural environments than in urban settings. Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of “stress hormones” all decrease faster in natural settings. Depression, anger and aggressiveness are reduced in green environments and ADHD symptoms in children reduce when they play in green settings.

via The healing effects of forests.

So remember the next time you’re stressed, just staring at a house plant can help destress you.

behavior · brain · happiness · health · neuroscience · play · psychology

Want To Live To 100? Try To Bounce Back From Stress : NPR

Hint from featured profile Helen Reichert, who's 109? A sense of humor helps.

More and more research is finding that the ability to cope with stress and bounce back better correlates with long life. Just a reminder to take it easy…

Gerontologist and commentator Mark Lachs says one of the keys to a long, healthy old age is the ability to keep moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks.

listen via Want To Live To 100? Try To Bounce Back From Stress : NPR.

One study found that 50 year olds with a negative outlook on life lived seven years shorter than those with a positive outlook.

What’s interesting is that more than avoiding stress it seems more important to have the ability to bounce back from it. So healthy coping mechanisms for handling stress, as well as a good attitude about life, seems to be more important than nutrition and exercise.