Summertime. Happy solstice weekend, and the longest days of the year!
Summer is perfect for three very easy, fun ways to better health.
Dare I mention sunshine in times of much rain? I will. After all, long days bring better chances of actually getting some sunshine. While care is needed to protect skin from too much sun, we also need sun for good health.
The science of bioassay measures the concentration or potency of a substance by its effect on living cells or tissues.
Naha Ghosh, is a bioassay specialist who studies how sunlight, particularly sunlight before 10 a.m., actually strengthens us. She points out that when sunlight touches your skin, it gets absorbed, stored and processed into “... new compounds that are used for important bodily functions like production of vitamin D, strengthening bones, reducing chronic inflammation, increasing immunity, etc.”
Google “health benefits of sunlight” and you’ll learn a lot more.
A second way to better health is to take a vacation. Google “health benefits of vacations” and you’ll be amazed.
The biggest and longest running study of cardiovascular disease is the Framingham Heart Study. Started in 1948, it’s on its third generation of participants stemming from the original 5,209 men and women from Framingham, Mass.
The study “... revealed that women who took a vacation only once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.”
Other studies have shown that men who didn’t take a vacation for five consecutive years were 30 percent more likely to have heart attacks compared to men who took time off.
So – find time for some R&R. It doesn’t have to be big and fancy, home vacations count. If however you like to go exploring, take a look at www.Michigan.org.
An easy-to-use website, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation just looking through it. You can browse ideas for things to do, places to stay, trips, hidden gems and featured destinations. We live in such a wonderful state.
If feeling good about sun and thinking about vacations gives good thoughts about spending time with family and friends across the generations, it’s a perfect time to consider a third way to better health. While spending time with those you care about, and among strangers, be kind.
Research shows that compassion and kindness reduce stress, boost immune systems and help reduce negative emotions like anger, anxiety and depression. The double bonus is that bonds between those who are kind are strengthened.
Happiness researcher Sean Achor demonstrated through his extensive research that if you perform random acts of kindness for two minutes a day for 21 days, you can actually retrain your brain to be more positive.
The more positive your mindset is, the more productive, happy and creative you become. Your perception of “quality of life” changes.
Kindness also has positive chemical side effects in our bodies.
Dr. Waguih William IsHak, a professor of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, points out that most research on the science behind why kindness makes us feel better has centered around oxytocin.
Sometimes called “the love hormone,” oxytocin plays a role in forming social bonds and trusting other people. “It’s the hormone mothers produce when they breastfeed, cementing their bond with their babies.”
As IsHak explains it, acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces oxytocin in the brain and throughout the body.
Oxytocin causes release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels to help reduce blood pressure. Kindness is good for the heart.
Check out www.randomactsofkindness.org for a host of fun ideas.
Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.” And we’ll physically benefit at the same time.
Lynn Kellogg is CEO of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Sunday in The Herald-Palladium.