<![CDATA[Your Totally Manageable, 10-Step Guide to Doing a Digital Detox ]]>
From watches that ping when youve got a new text to the Instagram feeds you cant stop scrolling through all the freakin time, theres no denying that were more plugged in than ever before. Sure, this level of connectedness has benefits—its simple to stay in touch with friends and family; you can express yourself on social media; multitasking is easier—but there are also some pretty serious drawbacks. Staring at our devices may be pleasurable in the moment, but "pleasurable behaviors are addictive," says David Greenfield, PhD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, and they come at a cost. And thanks to our ever-present electronics, research shows that the average Americans attention span has dropped over the past decade from 12 seconds to a mere eight—shorter than the attention span of a goldfish. One study from the American Psychological Association found that nearly one-fifth of people say technology is a source of stress. Then there are the potential physical effects of being "always on," from neck pain (and wrinkles) to elevated blood pressure.
But giving up all your screen time? Its just not practical. Thankfully, experts agree that you dont have to break up with your phone completely—you just have to relax your death grip on it. Here, those experts will guide you to a more sane relationship with your tech.
Turn off push notifications. Getting constant updates on whats happening in the world is informative—but it can also be distracting. "If youre allowing yourself to get interrupted five times in a half an hour, youre never actually focused in that time," says Jesse Fox, PhD, head of Ohio State Universitys Virtual Environment, Communication Technology, and Online Research (VECTOR) Lab. One easy fix is to turn off as many notifications as you can live without.
Convert to black and white. One reason our devices are so alluring is that theyre vibrant. Go retro, recommends Greenfield. Many smartphones now allow you to change the settings so the entire phone appears in gray scale.
Put away your phone during meals. Its a common sight at restaurants: a gleaming smartphone next to the bread basket. And yet, research shows that, even if were not checking our phone, simply having it on the table during a convo can reduce the quality of the interaction—our brains are just waiting for it to light up, and as a result, we are not fully present. "The more energy we direct toward our devices, the less energy were directing toward whoever is in the room with us," explains Elisabeth LaMotte, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center.
Designate tech-free hours. Many of us feel "naked" when were without our devices, but taking breaks from technology can do wonders for our well-being. "Start by designating a certain time each day thats tech-free—like while youre eating lunch," says Adam Alter, PhD, a professor at NYU and author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked ($27; amazon.com). "Then see how you feel after a week or so. Most people feel happy with the change, and they go on to expand it."
Make your bedroom a no-tech zone. "Most people use their phone for an alarm clock," says Dr. Greenfield. But when you reach for your phone to switch it off, its easy to start scrolling through Twitter. In fact, its best if you can leave your phone outside the bedroom at night and invest in an alarm clock. Also: If youre getting cozy with your cell in bed, its less likely youre getting cozy with your partner, says Jennifer Taitz, PsyD, author of How to be Single and Happy ($16; amazon.com). Make your bed a device-free zone and invite greater opportunities for intimacy—and sex. Oh, and youll also sleep better. Screens blue light tricks our brains into thinking its daytime, which makes it harder to drift off.
Rediscover paper. If youve ever noticed that reading a book feels more satisfying than reading a tablet, youre not imagining things. Not only do books offer fewer distractions, but research suggests that when we read on paper, our minds process abstract information more effectively. Additionally, consider getting your news from a newspaper, says Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author ofThe Happiness Projectand Better Than Before.
Limit yourself to one screen at a time. When were attempting to work (or, say, watch The Bachelor) and we start scrolling through Instagram, our brains go a little haywire. "Multitasking is really bad for us," says Fox. "If you are focusing on a task and you get distracted—like, oh, Ill just click over to this other window or Ill just look at this text message—it takes several minutes to recalibrate our brains back to the original task." Make a habit of only looking at one screen at a time to improve concentration—and, in some cases, enjoyment.
Spring clean your social media accounts. Facebook and Instagram help us to connect with people in unprecedented and truly gratifying ways. But research shows that the more time we spend on social media, the worse we feel. Thats not surprising, given the fact that we see only a heavily curated version of friends and celebrities lives, which can be toxic for self-esteem. How can we stay on social while also staying healthy?
Fox, who studies the impact of social media on society, says the key is to be proactive about who and what you follow. “Think about what—and who—makes you feel bad,” she says. “And what makes you feel good.” From there, clean house—dont be afraid to block, mute, unfollow, or delete, until youve created a list of connections who make you laugh and smile and fill you with happiness.
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Download the right apps. Plenty of us feel addicted to our phones—and for good reason. Checking our devices activates the reward circuitry in the brain, triggering the body to release a hit of the “pleasure hormone” dopamine, which is exactly what happens when we gamble, says Dr. Greenfield.
It seems counterintuitive, but these apps can actually help you cut back on, well, all things digital: The Moment app can track how often you use your iPhone and iPad each day and also lets you set daily limits; the Freedom app lets you block whatever sites distract you on your mobile device or computer, with the goal of helping you focus; and Off-Time (available on Android) allows you to selectively block calls, texts, and notifications (an iPhones “Do Not Disturb” setting offers a similar service).
Protect your body. The average American spends nearly half of every day staring at a screen, and sometimes our bodies pay a price. To combat digital eye strain, which can cause dryness, blurred vision, and headaches, follow the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes you look at a screen, look up and at an object 20 feet in the distance for 20 seconds. Also, dont forget to blink! To fix "text neck," skip the bent neck and hold your phone higher so you can look at it straight on. And avoid "smartphone thumb"—that perma-bent texting position can cause inflammation, irritation, and pain—by taking regular breaks from your phone and mix up the way you type, using different fingers.
<![CDATA[5 Things That Can Make You Faint ]]>
During a live broadcast Monday morning, CNN anchor Poppy Harlow suddenly passed out on the air. While attempting to report on a new poll, Harlow started to slur her words before going totally silent. The show immediately cut to a commercial break, leaving viewers very concerned about the news anchor. After a barrage of worried tweets about her condition, Harlow reappeared on the air to voice that she was fine:
“For all of you on Twitter who are asking if Im okay, thank you so much,” Harlow said. “I got a little hot, and I passed out for a moment. I am fine.”
The pregnant anchor also responded to the concerned messages on Twitter, ensuring everyone both she and the baby are safe.
RELATED: Should You Go to the ER?
While Harlow brushed off the incident coolly, theres no denying fainting can be pretty frightening (especially when it happens on live TV!). Getting a little too hot isn't the only reason you might faint. Here's what's really going on, plus 5 reasons you might pass out.
Your blood pressure drops
Syncope is the technical term for fainting. "Whats happening, is for whatever reason, the oxygen or sugar supply to the brain has dropped off to the point that it shuts down," explains Melisa Lai-Becker, MD, site chief of emergency medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance. "Similar to when you fall asleep, your basic functions are preserved, your heart keeps beating, you keep breathing, but you lose consciousness."
Vasovagal syncope is one of the most common reasons for fainting, making up approximately 25-40% of cases. It occurs when the part of your nervous system thats in charge of heart rate and blood pressure stops working due to some kind of trigger such as standing for long periods of time, overheating, seeing blood, having blood drawn, or even fear.
Any of these scenarios can cause a chain reaction that starts with a slowed heart rate. This leads the blood vessels in your legs to widen, allowing excess blood to collect in your legs, which lowers your blood pressure. As a result, theres a sudden drop in blood flow to your brain, and that's what causes you to pass out.
This kind of fainting is normally not a sign of something serious.
RELATED: 10 Best Food for Your Heart
You might have an irregular heartbeat
According to the Mayo Clinic, one fourth of all fainting episodes are related to abnormal heart rhythms, aka arrhythmias. This is especially true in cases of arrhythmia where the heart beats too fast (over 150 beats per minute), says Dr. Lai-Becker. When that happens, you may have plenty of blood in the body, but the heart does not allow enough of a relaxation period to send blood through the rest of the body and up to the brain.
Arrythmias aren't always serious, but they can signal an underlying problem that needs treatment. This is why it's important to see your doctor to get checked out if you have an episode of fainting.
At some point, youve probably experienced that awful light-headedness that comes when youve gone too long without eating, and this comes from a lack of fuel for your brain.
A drop in blood sugar can cause fainting because your brain has lost a major energy source, in this case, glucose. For diabetics and individuals with hypoglycemia (extremely low blood sugar), this can cause a reaction as extreme as a coma. "However, the average person who isnt diabetic can still get shaky and sweaty [and even faint] if they haven't eaten enough," says Dr. Lai-Becker.
Youre overcome by emotion
Weve all seen the stereotypical fainting scene in movies—you know, where a character is so shocked or emotional that he or she suddenly collapses. But can extreme emotion really cause fainting? Actually, yes.
"One common scenario is where someone may faint after hearing terrible or over-joyous news," explains Dr. Lai-Becker. "For example, some people faint at the point when we pronounce a loved one dead. It occurs when something comes over someone, emotionally and psychologically, and its too much to process." Fainting due to emotion, or psychogenic syncope, is even more common for individuals with anxiety, hysteria, panic, or major depressive disorders.
With that said, Dr. Lai-Becker points out: "Many physicians wouldnt agree these scenarios are simply a result of overwhelming emotion, but rather a combination of factors." These other reasons may include anything from low blood pressure to hyperventilation brought on by extreme stress or anxiety.
When you stand up, gravity causes blood to pool in your legs, which can decrease your blood pressure. "In this case, gravity is literally working against you, keeping the heart from pumpingblood fast enough up to your head,” says Dr. Lai-Becker. Normally, special cells in your body will sense the lower blood pressure and signal your brain to tell your heart to pump faster and your blood vessels to narrow; this process stabilizes your blood pressure so you don't feel woozy or faint.
But sometimes dehydration or even eating a big meal can disrupt this process (the technical term for this interruption: orthostatic hypotension), so that your body doesn't respond fast enough. This can cause you to faint if it's severe enough. During these situations, it's best to use gravity to your advantage rather than against you—put your head between your legs and allow the blood to flow back to your brain.
Feeling woozy or fainting after standing may also be a sign of a medical problem, so if it happens a lot or seems severe, see your doctor for a check-up, stat.
<![CDATA[Woman with Hormonal Imbalance Embraces Her Excess Chest Hair: 'Women Like Me Exist' ]]>
After years of hiding and shaving, one woman is joyfully embracing her excess body hair.
Leah Jorgensen, 33, has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that causes her body to overproduce testosterone, and hirsutism, the term for unwanted male-pattern hair growth on a woman. She was diagnosed at age 15, after noticing extra hair on her body.
“Shortly after I noticed it, a classmate noticed it, and she pointed it out and then there was this cluster of kids who really teased me relentlessly about it,” Jorgensen, from Madison, Wisconsin, told Inside Edition. I was so embarrassed then and scared that I didnt know how to talk about it.”
Jorgensen would shave multiple times a day to remove the hair that covered her face, chest, stomach, back, arms, legs and toes. But about two years ago, she got in a bad car accident and paramedics had to cut away her clothes for a leg injury, exposing her excess hair.
“They didnt make me feel like I was a freak or strange or unusual,” she said. “It really helped me get over this hurdle I had, where no one could ever really see the true me.”
Ever since, Jorgensen has stopped obsessively shaving and embraced the hair. Shes even posted photos of herself in a bikini on Instagram, and said that its improved her relationships.
“Ive actually had better dating experiences as soon as I accepted myself, versus when I was hiding myself,” she said. “There are people out there that are attracted to all kinds of people and bodies and personality and theres definitely someone out there for everyone.”
Now Jorgensen is sharing her story to bring awareness to her condition.
“I really want people to see that women like me exist,” she said. “I really just hope to show that women who have hirsutism arent alone, and to show that bodies are diverse.”
<![CDATA[Stand Up for Your Health ]]>
Are you sitting down? Perfect. Please take a moment to check in with your body. Is your rear kind of numb? Do the backs of your thighs feel smushed? Is your lower back all crunched? This is your body crying out for help! Really.
A wave of new research indicates that sitting all day is actively damaging your health. By forcing a body designed for movement to hold a crushingly immobile position, sitting strains muscles, slows your metabolism, increases your risk of heart disease, and even shortens your life span. "Sitting is a health hazard on the order of smoking," says Marc Hamilton, PhD, a microbiologist at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
I was once like you: I sat 10 to 11 hours a day. And then, in 2008, I was researching an article about newfangled chairs and learned that few of the designers actually sat on chairs because of the ill effects on their health. Tired of that glommed-up, dull feeling I got at my desk, I shoved my chair to the side and tried a standing desk. Over the next six months, I slowly rid my home of chairs. I couldn't believe how my body responded. My back pain disappeared, along with my poor posture. And 15 pounds nearly fell off my frame. Need more incentives? Here's why over-sitting mustand canbe stopped.
Sitting makes you fat
When you park your butt in a chair, your metabolism comes to a screeching halt. It's all because of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which resides in the blood vessels of your muscles. "Lipoprotein lipase captures fat in the blood and incinerates it," says Hamilton. When you're standing, the postural muscles that support your weight, mostly in your legs, release the enzyme, which goes to work burning fat. But when you're sitting still, and not shifting every 30 to 90 seconds as the body does naturally, "the fat stays in the arteries, and can be stored in adipose tissuealso known as body fat," Hamilton explains.
A typical day of sitting lowers lipoprotein lipase activity by 90 to 95% (in animals), which is why when Hamilton takes blood samples of his human subjects while they're sitting and eating, the plasmaideally clearis white and chunky, filled with fat, the sign of a sluggish metabolism.
Worse yet, experts say that 60 to 90 minutes of daily exercise may not counteract the effects of sitting all day. In fact, Hamilton says, the biochemical reactions slowed by sitting are completely different from the ones that are activated by your daily workout. The biggest difference between thin and fat people is not how much they eat or exercise, but how much they sit, according to James Levine, MD, an obesity researcher at the Mayo Clinic.
In a now famed 2005 study, Dr. Levine placed mildly obese and lean participants with similar, fairly healthy diets in sensored "magic" underwear that recorded their body position every half second. The thin people spent a whopping 120 fewer minutes every day sitting, and the overweight people would have burned an average of 350 more calories if they'd engaged in as many non-exercise-related activities (i.e., puttering around). The take-home message: Sitting can have just as great an effect on your weight than eating or exercise, all because our metabolism engine is fueled by constant little movements.
Next Page: Sitting messes with your back
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Sitting messes with your back
Your powerful abdominal, pelvic, and leg muscles evolved to do the work of supporting your 100-plus pounds of organs and bones. "But when you sit, you're placing most of your weight directly on the spine and pelvis instead," explains Andrew Hecht, MD, co-chief of spinal surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center. You're also forcing the natural S-curve of your spine into a C-shape, which isn't strong enough to take the pressure. "Imagine resting a heavy weight on top of the letter S or C," says Galen Cranz, PhD, author of The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body & Design. "Which is going to collapse more easily?"
Sitting shortens your life
How's this for a case against being on your bum? A long-term study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2010 followed nearly 70,000 healthy women and their daily habits for 14 years. After adjusting for risk factors including body mass index and smoking, researchers found that women who spent six hours a day sitting had a 37% increased risk of dying versus those who spent less than three hours a day seated. Also, death rates from cardiovascular disease were 2.7 times higher in women who sat six or more hours a day, regardless of how much they exercised or weighed. Yes, sitting literally kills.
]]> Sarah Kehoe