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Walking Outdoors

10,000 Steps A Day Is Key To Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle, Doctor Says

In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, doctors recommend taking at least 8,000 to 10,000 steps every day to keep your mind, body, and spirit active and engaged. Regardless of age, everyone can benefit from staying on their feet more throughout the day, especially in the middle of a pandemic that forces us to remain indoors. 

Duke Carlson is a family doctor who always recommends that his patients increase the number of steps they take each day as a means of supporting positive physical and mental health. 

“Following patients throughout their lives the way that I have in my career I’ve seen the amount of activity they are engaged in and daily steps make a big difference in their health.”

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Carlson traditionally “prescribes” all of his patients to get at least 10,000 steps a day, as it has proven to be one of the more popular ways to get his patients moving. “People generally like to have a concrete number for the number of steps they should take,” this way, there’s a set goal that the individual can work towards everyday. Older patients may be prescribed 6,000 – 8,000 steps a day depending on their physical condition; age is never a determining factor in terms of someone’s physical health. 

Typically that recommendation is given to older individuals who have a history with arthritis or any other joint/mobility related conditions, but again, “age doesn’t make it where you can’t do steps,” it’s the condition of the body that impacts how well one can exercise at any age. 

Carlson often uses his mother-in-law as an example, and as a motivation, for his older patients who seem less inclined to get up and move every day. His mother-in-law is 85 and makes sure to get in 10,000 steps every single day, most of which occurs in her own home. She often uses the treadmill but also walks in place while on the phone or watching TV. 

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“You can march in pace in front of the TV, you can go to Walmart and do two laps around the building before you go shopping, there’s always little ways to make daily exercise easy for everyone.”

The practice of shinrin-yoku, also known as “forest bathing”, is an alternative way to count steps that originated in Japan that Carlson has found himself adopting into his own life in recent years. This practice encourages individuals to go outside and immerse themselves in some type of nature; preferably under a canopy of trees. 

Carlson has been recommending this practice to most of his patients especially now that the world is enduring the Covid-19 pandemic. Getting out and finding nature paths that already allow for proper social distancing to take place is the perfect way to get in your 10,000 steps. The fresh air and colorful scenic surroundings are also an added bonus. 

For individuals working from home, he recommends finding simple ways to insert walking into your daily routine. For example, taking a walk on your lunch break instead of sitting in front of the TV, or walking in place while on business calls, just like his mother-in-law.

How To Better Your Physical And Mental Health During Your Lunch Break 

Now that a majority of us are working from home, it can be especially hard to separate our home lives from our work lives. When it comes to our lunch breaks especially, since we’re already in our own homes it can be easy to just lay on the couch for an hour until you need to get back up to start responding to emails again. Instead, try one of these activities that can help improve your overall mental and physical state, and keep your mind, body, and spirit happy.

Call A Friend Or Family Member: Being separated from our loved ones has truly been one of the most difficult aspects of this pandemic. Take a few minutes of your break to catch up with a friend or family member who you haven’t talked to in a few weeks. Technology makes it easy for us to connect to one another from our own quarantine bubbles, however, it can be easy to forget to keep communication up when the world seems so bleak. So call your loved ones and receive some much needed positivity. 

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Visit Your Favorite Tree: This idea comes from author Susan Saunders, who claims that “Seeing a tree combines so many of the habits that contribute to longevity: being outdoors in daylight, vital to keep our circadian clocks ticking accurately; exercise from walking; a chance to savour the moment. And even one lonely tree provides us with a little green space.” So if you don’t have a favorite tree yourself, take a walk around the neighborhood and mark the first one that really resonates with you, and make sure to give it a visit as often as possible. 

Move: Moving our bodies is so important especially now that we’re all stuck at home. Getting our blood circulating is not only good for our physical health but mental health as well. It may sound silly, but reminding yourself that you are grounded, moving, and existing in a given environment can make one more appreciative for the things they have. So even if it just means stepping outside and walking around your house a few times, make sure you’re getting up and moving with a purpose every day. 

Organize: Take a look at that long list of home projects you’ve been putting off for the entire pandemic and finally get to it! Since we’re discussing things to do during a lunch break, choose a smaller task like organizing a certain junk drawer, closet shelf, or medicine cabinet. Completing a smaller scale project like this will not only stimulate your brain, but give you the satisfied feeling of checking off one of the boxes on your to do list. 

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Learn A New Skill: Learning a new language or instrument obviously takes time, but doing a little bit of practice every day is how all the professionals get good. So take your hour break to log into Duolingo and practice some Italian, or go into your spare room and work on a few piano scales. Whatever you choose, doing it for a little bit everyday will improve your overall sense of purpose and will keep you motivated to do more. 

Meal Preparation: Many individuals have been teaching themselves to cook with all the spare time they now have. Use these newfound cooking skills to create meals that will create leftovers for the rest of the week, this way, you won’t have to be worried about preparing dinner every single night after a long day of working in the living room.

Take A Nap: While the point of this article is to tell you things that will improve your mental and physical health during your lunch break, sometimes the best thing one can do for themselves is take a much needed break and just, nap. If you feel yourself getting constantly overwhelmed with your own personal struggles and the overall state of the world, it’s important to unplug and disengage from everything and everyone for a moment. Take some deep breaths, and ground yourself in where you are. The world may be a scary place, but you’re still here, and you’re still surviving, so keep going!

Crying, Learning, and Laughing - Why Students Visit the Teen Center by Tamika Murray

How To Help Teenagers Navigate These Uncertain Times

As schools begin to reopen, parents are worried about what the future will hold for their kids, Crying, Learning, and Laughing by Tamika Murray is one place they can find some answers.

Girl with her Dog

How Owning A Pet Can Lead To A Healthier Lifestyle

Having a pet is one of the most beneficial things humans can do for both their mental and physical health. A lot of people just think pets make us happy because we’re their owners and provide for them, which is accurate, however there’s a much deeper relationship that develops when we grow a bond with a pet over time. Especially during a pandemic that forces us to remain indoors indefinitely, many of us are turning to our furry friends as a means of comfort and joy, in a world that’s so scary and uncertain. 

Many individuals are also using the pandemic as a means of finally pulling the trigger on becoming a pet-owner, as there really is no better time to train/take care of a new animal and do all the proper research than during a quarantine. Beyond just having the time for a pet, many are looking to find additional means of emotional support, as spending months on months at home takes a toll on anyone after a while. 

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The fact that animals are able to provide emotional support isn’t just some commonly understood phenomenon, there’s scientific evidence that backs it up as well. It’s why some animals are specifically trained to be emotional support animals the same way some are trained to help assist individuals with disabilities. Dogs in particular have such a unique cognitive ability to be trained in specific fields as long as that training starts young. 

From a scientific perspective, the hormone cortisol is what’s released when we feel stressed. Research studies have shown that pets in general – whether it be a dog, cat, hamster, fish, rabbit, etc. – naturally help human beings reduce their cortisol levels through things like training or bonding. Even owning a fish can help relieve stress, simply by looking in your little friends tank every day and watching them live their simple, stress-free life, it ends up becoming contagious. 

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Think about how when we watch a certain television show, and for the time being we forget about all of our life’s stresses because for 30 minutes we’re engulfed in another fictional universe where our problems don’t exist, and the characters’ problems become our problems for that duration of time. It’s an empathetic reaction, and that’s what happens with owning a pet as well. Looking down at your dog or cat, thinking about how they are completely unaware of the world’s issues and just focused on the present moment can be completely contagious, and will remind you to try to remain in the moment. 

The same way that pets lower your cortisol levels, they also have been proven to reduce blood pressure/heart rates in certain individuals. The concept is essentially the same, owning a pet and building a loving bond with it is relaxing. In those moments where it’s just you and your pet, it’s hard to focus on everything else so your whole body is likely to be a lot calmer, and thus, your blood pressure and heart rate stabilize. 

Certain pets, like dogs, promote an active lifestyle as well. Dogs have to be walked, played with, and constantly attended too especially when they’re puppies. Owning an animal that leads an active lifestyle will force you to get up and do the same, because someones gotta clean up after your furry babies. Studies have even shown that owning a dog reduces older individuals risk of having a heart attack due to all the activity.

Finally, the bond you build with your pet is so unique and special that it’s been proven to reduce feelings of depression, anxiousnesses, and other mental stresses that many of us are enduring right now. Your pet may not be your whole entire life and world, but to them, you are their entire life, and that love is easily felt everyday.

Mental Health Yoga on Beach

Travel Agencies Putting Mental Health Awareness At The Forefront Of Tourist Culture

Travelling is often seen as a way of escaping our everyday regular lives while experiencing someplace completely new, different, and relaxing. One of the newest points that major travel companies and operators are trying to implement into their businesses is a focus on mental health. We often associate vacations with relaxation, however, we never specifically discuss why we need to relax, or real ways that can help our minds relax with the rest of our bodies. Here are some companies who are putting the focus on bettering ourselves inside and out while travelling:

Alchemy Adventures is run by Kim Mlinarik, a psychotherapist, and her establishment offers nine-day tours starting at $3,700. The trips take parents of teens on tours of the Trails of Tuscany to help them gain perspective and communicate with one another over the struggles of parenting teenagers. The trips, which forces parents to leave their kids at home, promotes self-reflection and creative means of communication through hiking and wine tour adventures. 

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Black Tomato is a company that offers a series of trips designed to address specific life challenges for its patrons. For example, if you’re an individual who has a hard time balancing your work and personal life, Black Tomato recommends a trip to Copenhagen where you can engulf yourself in their healthy working culture that prioritizes everyone going home early to be with their families. The website takes you through a slew of different trip options based on what specific challenges you may be facing. 

Tierra del Volcán is an Ecuadorian-based travel company that offers an adventure to its customers called “Twenty-Five Seconds.” If all of Earth’s history was compacted into 24-hours, humans would have only been on this planet for 25 seconds. The trip itself goes through the Amazon, the Andes, and the Galapagos. At night, travelers will sleep in cozy tents on the slopes of a dormant volcano near the Cotopaxi National Park. 

David Prior is a travel adviser that also specializes in relationship issues. Prior describes what he does as helping clientele “tackle relationship issues by crafting travel prescriptions for them.” These “prescriptions” call on couples to go to specific locations and endure specific cultural traditions, nature walks, ceremonies, or anything else that Prior feels will promote open-communication and the strengthening of you and your significant others relationship. 

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On the more luxurious side, Brown & Hudson is a UK based travel agency that incorporates travelling to inner space in their customers’ vacations. The goal is to help their clientele with whatever issues they may be having, whether it be overcoming personal trauma, or simply struggling to decide what to do in their relationship or business. A month before clients go on their trips, they are required to go to trust-building sessions with a psychologist working for the company. According to founder Philippe Brown, the clients are then dropped into the wilderness of Mongolia with a satellite phone and basic provisions to last a week. 

“At critical moments, the therapist is brought in to provide counsel. It’s intensive — and expensive — because the goal is to gain ‘accelerated clarity’ that would normally take months of conventional therapy.”

While it may be awhile before you’re able to travel freely again, when you do get that opportunity, consider going on a trip that’s meant to be engaging, educational, and beneficial for your physical and mental well-being. After enduring a global health crisis, we all will be ready for a trip specifically designed around decompression, and complete relaxation.

Jump Rope Workout at Home

Easy Exercises You Can Do At Home

Staying indoors has become the new normal for all of us as we endure the coronavirus pandemic. While remaining isolated is the best way to curve the spread of the virus, it’s still important to be doing things that will improve your physical and mental health, especially during times of global uncertainty. 

Exercise has long been one of the greatest things an individual can do to improve upon their physical and mental wellbeing. However, many are struggling to adjust their lifestyles to remain active and healthy while stuck inside during a public health crisis. Additionally, research shows that living an inactive life for an extended period of time can lead to an increase in depression, anxiety, and a decrease in physical health/motivation as well. 

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The main goal is simple, do something to keep your mind and body engaged for at least 30 minutes everyday. This means doing some sort of physical activity besides pacing around your house. Exercise is also an amazing way to keep your bodies systems running smoothly and efficiently, which is of the utmost importance especially during a pandemic. 

If you own an exercise ball, stairmaster or treadmill, maintaining a solid cardiovascular workout routine is easy. If not, you want to look for activities that are specifically meant to increase your heart rate; jumping jacks, sprints, climbing up and down the stairs, etc. Covid-19 aside, heart disease is normally the number one killer in the world, so these types of exercises are imperative for everyone, regardless of age or health status, to do.

Jumping rope and setting up a hopscotch course to run back and forth through are just a couple of other easy solutions for ways to get your blood pumping and heart rate going at home. YouTube is also an amazing free resource to use.

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There’s a multitude of actual fitness instructors who have accounts and upload full workout routines for their subscribers. For individuals with televisions that are WiFi compatible, you can easily pull up any of these videos on the screen so you’re not bending over the phone or computer to really see the instructor. 

If you’re more interested in developing mobility/flexibility and strengthening your muscles, you’re going to want to look for more resistance-based exercises. Typically in a gym setting these exercises would use weights and resistance bands to help your body work even harder, both of which can be found online. If you’re not looking to spend any money, push-ups against the wall, squats, lunges, and wall-sits are just a few easy at home exercises that will lead to successful results. 

Online cardio dance classes like Zumba are also available online for low prices, and you can find other hip hop choreography/exercise classes on YouTube as well. These types of classes are especially great for engaging your mind and motivating yourself to continue to exercise because it’s fun. Dancing along to popular music in sync with another person while also getting a full-body workout is just as enjoyable as it is effective. Plus, if you’re the type of person who gets shy about dancing in front of other people, this type of online exercise is perfect to do alone from the comfort of your own home. 

As the world continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important that we remember to take care of our physical and mental health. Make a routine, write out a weekly schedule, choose exercises that can be fun and impactful, and of course, keep health and safety as your number one priority.

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Artificial Intelligence

Australian Government To Invest $19 Million In Artificial Intelligence Healthcare Research

The Australian government announced this week that it will be investing $19 million into artificial intelligence-based health care research projects that are designed to prevent, diagnose, and treat a range of health conditions. This investment comes as an obvious reaction to the current Covid-19 pandemic that has killed over 500,000 individuals worldwide, however, the technology would also be widely beneficial for a slew of diseases/illnesses.

The money will be distributed over the course of three years and will be given to five different projects that are listed in the official investment plan for the government.

One of the projects involves the Center for Eye Research in Australia, which will be receiving $5 million of the investment. The center has recently developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that could detect certain eye and cardiovascular diseases and the money will help bring that technology into a more feasible reality for the common individual getting an eye exam.

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The University of New South Wales will also be receiving $5 million of that investment for a new project that is focused on using AI technology to help diagnose and treat mental health conditions many University students face such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. This is a major development for University mental health resources in general in Australia.

Another $7 million from the investment will be put towards two projects that are being developed by the University of Sydney. One of the projects involves translating AI networks online to support clinical work and research in neuro-diseases, such as brain cancer. To simplify it, AI translation allows the technology to scan entire research sources in a matter of seconds to pull specific pieces of information in regard to a specific neuro-disease – in this case – or patient’s case to hopefully find something that’s useful, and otherwise wouldn’t have been thought of in terms of patient treatment.

“AI will be used to understand which interventions, or components of therapies provide the vital, active ingredients, and why they are more effective for some patients and not others,” said Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

The second project coming from the University of Sydney also benefits student mental health. This project is focused on using machine learning to improve young adult’s mental health. The aim is to shorten certain trial periods of mental health treatments for young people so they spend less time figuring out ways to treat and manage their specific issues, and instead can just be given the proper treatment right away.

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The remaining $2 million from the investment will be shared between St Vincent’s Institute of Medical research and Victoria, Australia. St Vincent’s is currently developing AI technology that will potentially change the way individuals screen for breast cancer. The Victorian government invested an additional $1.5 million into the budget as a means of establishing Victoria as one of the “leading destinations for AI technology within the Asia Pacific region,” according to the Minister of Medical Research and Digital Economy Jaala Pulford.

“It is essential to ensure our hospitals are using modern and effective technology to complete important tests and procedures and review in a timely manner because it improves patient outcomes,” health minister Roger Cook said.

The Victorian government is also specifically working with other companies to create a private fund of $8 million to be distributed among 32 AI upgrades within the current AI technology being used by the government.

This investment will hopefully allow Australian government officials, healthcare professionals, and mental health workers to make quicker decisions in terms of critical procedures and patient treatments, without losing any effectiveness of course.

Woman Cooking Salad

How To Manage And Relieve Your Stress During A Pandemic

Amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, it’s no surprise that we’re all feeling a lot more stressed than usual. On top of working from home, taking care of our families/loved ones, and having to worry about an infectious virus that spreads easily, there seems to be no time to just take a minute and breathe. However, now that we’re all home for an indefinite amount of time, there’s never been a better time to practice effective ways of managing and relieving your stress levels. 

When we’re more aware of how stressed we become throughout the day, it’s much easier to figure out ways to combat those feelings and recognize them before it builds up into an overwhelming cloud of anxiety. Make a note of what things are triggering a stressful response in you everyday, and then try to work on those specific areas. While this can be as specific as receiving an email from one particular coworker who never gets anything done, there are a multitude of general ways to help separate ourselves from the situation and calm down. 

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Getting exercise or at least some sort of movement in everyday life is a requirement for being quarantined. Even if it just means going outside and walking a few laps in your backyard, it’s essential that you’re at least stepping outside, breathing in some fresh air, and stretching out your muscles and bones everyday. 

It can be so easy to get wrapped into binge marathons on Netflix, especially now, but we can’t get too comfortable with making that a habit. The more you’re sitting around and just watching mindless TV shows or movies, the more likely it is you’re going to put off the things you have to do which will only lead to even more stress being added onto your already full plate. 

Learn how to create boundaries between your work and personal life. This is imperative for those who are currently working remotely. It can be challenging to turn your work brain off and casual at-home brain on when you’re just home all the time. This is why it’s recommended that you set up your remote working station in an area of your home that’s as separated from the rooms that are known for inducing relaxation (such as the living or bedroom). 

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Another easy way of separating your work and personal life at home is to make sure you’re filling your personal time with activities that you want to and enjoy doing. This could include cooking, gardening, knitting, reading, and anything else that you consider relaxing. By filling your free time with things you want to do, and your work time with the things you have to do,  it’s easier for your brain to make that distinction, even if you are just moving from room to room everyday. 

Make sure you’re staying hydrated as well. Getting enough water everyday is obviously imperative for your physical health, but it also is for your mental health. According to Amanda Carlson, the director of performance at Athlete’s Performance, “studies have shown that being just half a liter dehydrated can increase your cortisol [stress hormone] levels. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that you drink one milliliter of water per each calorie of food consumed.”

Make lists of all your daily, weekly, and monthly goals. It’s easier to break down what you have to do for work, your family, and yourself when you have the general guideline in front of you. Daily duties can include things like returning emails, making phone calls, baking a cake for your brother’s birthday, etc. Weekly duties can include more generalized things such as going to the grocery store, ordering more dog food online, and basically anything else that isn’t an immediate need but should get done within a matter of days. Finally, monthly goals can more so pertain to you personally and how you’d like to see yourself grow in the near future, which includes managing your stress. This list can include things such as starting to exercise at least twice a week, or learning how to cook a new dish every week, etc. Have fun and be creative! This is your own personal list of goals, so make it personal. 

Finally, and arguable most importantly, you have to make sure you’re getting enough sleep every night. Not getting enough sleep is one of the number one causes of stress, as we all know, when we’re tired, we’re a lot more irritable, which makes it so much easier for us to get stressed out. The Sleep Foundation recommends getting between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Try going to bed at the same time every night and turning off all your screens at least one hour before bed. This will start getting your body into a proper sleep schedule and can help ensure that once you’re asleep, you’ll stay asleep until the morning.

Girl with Clear Skin

Taking Care Of Your Skin During Quarantine

The Covid-19 pandemic has definitely caused a lot of stress for everyone. Between working from home, taking care of the family, staying healthy, active, and relaxed, there’s no way not to get overwhelmed. One of the parts of self-care that many individuals are forgetting about is taking care of our skin. In times of uncertainty and panic especially, our skin is more susceptible to inflammation, wrinkles, acne, and general damage. 

Studies have also shown that increased exposure to blue light emitted from laptops or cell phones can also dramatically alter our skin’s condition, especially if we’re not getting any sun exposure as well. So what can you do to ensure that your skin is staying just as healthy as you are during this pandemic?

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First, make sure you’re still sticking to a daily routine everyday and maintaining healthy eating/drinking habits. You should be drinking at least 64 ounces of water everyday, and eating a serving of fruits and vegetables as well. Remember, orange foods like carrots or oranges are great for the skin. 

Sticking to a routine is much less stressful than waking up everyday blind to what you’re going to need to get done by the end of the day. Stress is one of the leading causes of acne, inflammation, and any other kind of negative skin condition. It’s important to implement things into your everyday schedule that keep you relaxed and separated from all things work, family, and coronavirus. 

As previously mentioned, drinking water and hydration in general is extremely important in terms of skin care. However, when you drink water, it actually hydrates your skin last, and takes care of the rest of your body’s organs first, so you have to make sure your skin is getting all of the hydration it needs. One of the best ways to do this is with a simple sheet mask. 

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Many face masks are great for relaxing and improving skin conditions like pimples or scarring, however, in terms of hydration, sheet masks really are the best bet. Doing a sheet mask every three to four days will keep your skin glowing and hydrated, while also giving you an excuse to disengage from the world for 30 minutes. 

Even though we’re spending an excessive amount of time indoors, it’s imperative that you continue your daily skin care routines and are putting on an SPF every morning. So many individuals think that just because a SPF’s main purpose is to protect our skin from sun damage that we don’t have to put it on now that we’re all stuck inside. This couldn’t be more false. 

SPF in general helps improve skin conditions like hyper-pigmentation, inflammation, acne, acne scarring, etc. Beyond that, SPF’s have amazing anti-aging properties, and if you’re younger, using an SPF daily will help prevent premature aging. 

Along those same lines, your skin does actually need sun exposure. The sun provides extremely beneficial vitamins for our skin, assuming that you’re wearing sunscreen/SPF. So make sure you’re getting outside at least once a day for 30 minutes if the weather permits it. Your skin will not only thank you, but your mental health as well.