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    by Health By Principle

    All is Calm, All is Bright this Holiday Season

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    By Rachel Welch 

    You may be familiar with the song “Silent Night” and its line “All is calm, all is bright.”  This is a beautiful token of what we all aspired to gain from the holiday season: some peace, calm, and light to conclude one year and begin the next with hope. We recently talked about some common types of stress that come up during the holiday season and how to shake it off!  

    Now, we will discuss some calming and rejuvenating solutions to help you get the new year off to an incredible start. Even tiny adjustments like taking new supplements or slight lifestyle shifts—including a focus on self-care—can lead to vast improvements.   

     

    This new year is full of potential and we have the ability to embrace every single day, work on building new habits, and make strides on existing goals.  

     

    Now you can breathe a sigh of relief that the often stressful holiday season is over, re-center on what life is all about, and decide to make 2023 the year you become your best self. You have just shy of a year to get the ball rolling in the right direction! Here are some tips to help get you there:   

     

     

    Meditation to Make You Merry! 

     

    Meditation is a tool that we talk about fairly often, and for good reason! Within the past decade, meditation and mindfulness practice has gained a respectable credibility in scientific communities. Now, there is scientific evidence to support the numerous benefits that were previously limited to “word of mouth” reviews from those who have experienced them.  

     

    Meditation has been proven to help with several different things, including: 

     

    • Anxiety/Depression: A meta-analysis of around 3,500 participants found moderate improvements in anxiety, depression, and pain, almost equal to the benefit found through medical-based treatments (1). 
    • Immune Function: Impressively, another study looked at meditators over the course of an 8-week program. The participants all received the flu vaccine prior to completing the program, and some engaged in consistent meditation throughout this timeframe, while others did not meditate. After 8 weeks, they found that the meditating group yielded “significantly more flu antibodies” than those that did not engage in meditation. Additionally, within the meditating group, they found an increase in positive feelings, and in antibody responses to immune threats (2).  
    • Aging Protection: We have talked before about how aging can benefit from certain factors, like positivity! When it comes to aging gracefully, a main physical factor is how well the brain maintains its gray matter throughout the years. Some key factors to help with this include vigorous physical exercise and practices to ensure mental performance, like puzzles and continued learning. Meditation takes a leading position. A 2017 study confirmed meditation’s ability to increase attention, clarity, and focus. This showed significant differences in the meditating groups versus the non-meditators. Of these participants (Aged 55-75), one group engaged in mindful breath awareness training, while the other group did not. They found that even 10-15 minutes of mindfulness practice, 5 times per week, led to vast improvements in behavioral task performance and cognitive response time. This suggests that meditation helps speed up and sharpen cognitive performance (3). These results have also been replicated in areas related to reducing the negative results of stress. 
    • Heart Health: This one came as a surprise to me! Meditation may even be able to help your heart. This evidence comes from a study that looked at participants with already-diagnosed hypertension. A group was selected to add in consistent meditation practice with existing medication plans. Of those who meditated, there was reported reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Additionally, the meditators also performed better on the walking/cardiovascular fitness test, than the group that did not meditate (4). 
    • Slowed cellular aging: A 12-week trial from 2019 showed the amazing results of loving-kindness meditation (compassion-focused meditation) and cellular aging. Cellular aging refers to the rate at which every person’s body ages on a cellular level. In general, we all experience a certain rate of cellular aging, which can be altered by lifestyle choices, stress, etc. This study found, in layman’s terms, that consistent meditation over a 12-week period led to a decrease in the speed of cells’ aging process, than for the non-meditating group (5).  
    • Increased Self-Confidence: These results may be more placebo, than scientific, but are intriguing, regardless! Several participants reported an increase in their self-confidence and leadership abilities as a result of engaging in meditative practice. The results were not statistical, but were consistent across the polled participants. So, it is possible that meditation will give you a confidence boost!  
    • Better Mood: There are multiple reasons that meditation may be tied to a better mood. At its core, meditation improves connections within the brain, which are related to emotional regulation, control, and response. With this, we have seen a clinical decrease in stress for frequent meditators, and a stronger ability to calm their bodies’ stress response during challenging situations. All of this combines to lead to a multi-faceted mood boost, as a result of meditation! 
    • Improved Sleep: We all sleep better when we are less stressed. With the aforementioned power of meditation to reduce physical and mental stress, is it any surprise that sleep may improve as well? Meditation helps to slow down heart rate through focused breathing techniques, and can help to calm mental stress through guided thought redirection. All of this can lead to improved sleep quality (4). 

     

    Now that you can make yourself merry with meditation, it’s time to explore some of the supplements that can help keep your energy high, your stress levels low, and your cheer abundant!  

     

    Supplements for a Stress-Free Year 

     

    There are certain supplements which are essential to overall health year-round, but also with a focus on winter. These include: 

     

    Vitamin D 

    Vitamin D is the beloved, happy, sunshine pill, and is especially important to supplement in the winter when the sun is not always around. With cloudy, rainy, or snowy December and January days, vitamin D is one nutrient that may need a boost! If you’re unsure of your vitamin D levels, you can always have these checked with a doctor via bloodwork.  

    Alternatively, you may notice certain signs of vitamin D deficiency in your day-to-day life: 

    • Depressed mood  
    • Weakened immune system  
    • Fatigue and low energy  
    • Bone and joint pain  
    • Muscle weakness  
    • Increased falls in older people  
    • Hair loss 

    “For some people, it can contribute to more serious problems like osteoporosis and heart disease. If you notice that you are getting sick more often or your mood feels not so great, it could be that you aren’t getting enough vitamin D (6).” 

    If you need a reliable and healthy vitamin D supplement, Health by Principle offers a perfect option. Check out our current packages here. 

     

    Magnesium 

    Magnesium comes in many forms, and offers even more benefits, including support with anxiety, stress, and depression. (Imagine what magnesium and meditation could do together!). Magnesium may also help to decrease inflammation and improve sleep quality. Common types of magnesium include: 

    • Aspartate  
    • Chloride  
    • Citrate  
    • Glycinate 
    • Lactate  
    • L-Threonate  
    • Malate  
    • Orotate 
    • Oxide  
    • Sulfate  
    • Taurate  

    Learn more about these here, where we break down their uses and functions! 

     

    Vitamin B 

    Vitamin B is another nutrient that comes in different forms and has a variety of benefits. Some of these include reduced risk of stroke, healthy brain development for children, improved cognitive performance with aging, stress management, and healthier skin. The types of B vitamins are: 

     

    In addition to these supplements, it is important to consume a variety of healthy nutrients through colorful, natural foods. Ideally, try to avoid highly processed foods and foods high in sugar, chemicals, and additives. Of course, it may be unrealistic to cut these out completely, so focus on what is attainable and sustainable! Any bit of improvement in your dietary routine will yield helpful changes in the long run.  

    Sleep Peacefully  

    Another commonly neglected factor during the holidays is one of the most important factors for overall health - sleep. With the knowledge that meditation and certain supplements can improve sleep, it is important to actually prioritize getting hours of sleep into your busy schedule. The CDC has the following recommendations for how much sleep a person needs based on their age. Take into consideration that these amounts may fluctuate slightly based on overall activity level, and if a person is going through unusually high stress, etc.  

    • Newborn (0-3 months)—14 to 17 hours 
    • Infant (4-12 months)—12-16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) 
    • Toddler (1-2 years)—11-14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) 
    • Preschool (3-5 years)—10-13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) 
    • School age (6-12 years)—9-12 hours per 24 hours 
    • Teen (13-18 years)—8-10 hours per 24 hours 
    • Adult(18-60 years)—7 or more hours per night 
    • Adult (61-64 years)—7-9 hours per night 
    • Adult (65 years and older)—7-8 hours per night 

    While the act of sleeping is crucial, the quality of sleep also impacts your health. Additionally you may want to implement an exercise routine, to ensure optimal mood and energy throughout 2023.  

    Exercise Goals: Why Wait? 

     

    A new year is the perfect time to adopt an exercise routine! There are a number of options out there to get you happily moving and motivated. It could be as simple as a gym membership and a personal trainer, a new yoga routine or daily walks. 

     

    If you are still working out the details of a new exercise routine to help with stress, here are a few exercises that seem to be #trending for 2023! 

     

    Virtual Reality (VR): That’s right - exercise in the virtual world of your choosing. Virtual reality is a unique and fun way to exercise. What’s fascinating about it, is that our brains process virtual reality in the same way that they process real-life events. That is to say, your brain does not distinguish between virtual reality and actual reality. It processes them both in the same way (8)! (Keep this in mind the next time you play a horror-themed VR game; yikes!) 

     

    Posture and Mobility: It seems that 2023 has several groups of people focused on their posture and mobility. This could target anything from getting a better stretch in yoga, to reducing the effects from sitting at a desk all day.  

     

    Standing Ab Movements: Abdominal workouts are always a point of growth and improvement. Whether you want a six-pack or just a stronger core, apparently standing core workouts are coming to a gym near you!  

     

    Whether your 2023 plans include meditation, supplements, or exercise, we hope that you will find some inspiring starry nights, as well as days filled with the gift of movement, kindness, and the self-care that will help you greet 2024 calm, bright, and filled with light!

     

    Sources

    1. Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E. M. S., Gould, N. F., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., … Haythornthwaite, J. A. (2014). Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(3), 357. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018 
    2. Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., … Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4), 564–570. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.psy.0000077505.67574.e3
    3. Malinowski, P., Moore, A. W., Mead, B. R., & Gruber, T. (2015). Mindful Aging: The Effects of Regular Brief Mindfulness Practice on Electrophysiological Markers of Cognitive and Affective Processing in Older Adults. Mindfulness, 8(1), 78–94. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-015-0482-8
    4. Staff, M. (2010, September 7). The Science of Mindfulness - Mindful. Retrieved from Mindful website: https://www.mindful.org/the-science-of-mindfulness/
    5. Le Nguyen, K. D., Lin, J., Algoe, S. B., Brantley, M. M., Kim, S. L., Brantley, J., … Fredrickson, B. L. (2019). Loving-kindness meditation slows biological aging in novices: Evidence from a 12-week randomized controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 108, 20–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.05.020
    6. Why It is Important to Take Vitamin D in the Winter. (n.d.). Retrieved from Health By Principle website: https://www.healthbyprinciple.com/blogs/news/taking-vitamin-d-in-the-winter
    7. Harvard School of Public Health. (2019, June 4). B Vitamins. Retrieved from The Nutrition Source website: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins/vitamin-b/
    8. Kisker, J., Gruber, T., & Schöne, B. (2020). Virtual reality experiences promote autobiographical retrieval mechanisms: Electrophysiological correlates of laboratory and virtual experiences. Psychological Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-020-01417-x

       

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