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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Tips to Utilize Your Creativity

1. Break Out of the Nine-to-Five

Studies show that the mind is often more creative at so-called suboptimal times. If you’re unable to put your feet up at the office, consider working late-or better still, rising before dawn. It worked for Hemingway and Mozart.

2. Break Up Your Work Schedule

Creativity comes in fits and starts, and some of the best breakthroughs happen when the mind is distracted. (Google employees are known to play Ping-Pong and foosball at the office.) Even menial tasks, like cleaning your desk or getting your files in order, can give your mind the respite it needs to function at peak capacity.

3. Cultivate a Safe Space

Studies show that people do their best work when they’re not worrying about imminent deadlines or their boss’s frustrations. Get started early, give your mind time to wander and don’t beat yourself up about missteps along the way.

4. Know Your Stuff

A creative mind is a knowledgeable one. The more you master your subject matter, the better your chances of doing something new with it.

5. Take Time for Catnaps

REM sleep has been shown to help the brain overcome creative challenges. Even 20 minutes of shut-eye is a worthwhile investment in productivity.

The Ways the Body Deals with the Cold Weather

1. Your Blood Vessels Constrict

Your body is built to always maintain a stable core temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (that’s 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). When the temperature in your environment drops, thermoreceptors in your skin sound the alarm, alerting an area of the brain called the hypothalamus, which acts like a thermostat dedicated to maintaining that 37 degree equilibrium, according to Robert Kenefick, PhD, research physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. One of the first actions the hypothalamus takes: It tightens the blood vessels in your arms, hands, feet, and legs. “Blood delivers heat to the skin,” says Gordon Giesbrecht, PhD, professor of thermophysiology at the University of Manitoba in Canada. “If you decrease blood flow to the skin, you decrease heat loss from the skin.”

2. You Have to Urinate

All that vasoconstriction forces fluid to concentrate in your core. This causes volume receptors that talk to your hypothalamus to say, “Hey, maybe you should get rid of some of that fluid-maybe you should pee.” It’s common, say, on the ski slopes for people to use the bathroom right before they head outdoors and then to feel like they need to go again shortly after being outside.

3. You Shiver

Of course you shiver when it’s cold-duh. But the reason you do is utterly interesting. “When vasoconstriction isn’t doing enough to warm you, the hypothalamus tells your muscles to start contracting. One of the byproducts of muscle contraction is heat.” Garden-variety shivering produces about 100 watts of heat, says Giesbrecht. If you get cold enough to enter into mild hypothermia, you can produce 400 to 600 watts of heat through shivering.

4. You Freeze Much Faster if Wet

Why do little kids still shiver when they get out of a heated swimming pool in 80-degree weather? “Water carries heat away from the body 25 times faster than air, so you can lose a great amount of heat very quickly when you’re wet,” says Kenefick. “Shivering is one way your body is trying to raise your core temperature back up.”

5. You Make Things Worse if You Drink Alcohol

hink a flask filled with the strong stuff can keep you toasty? You might be dead wrong. The body’s first major reaction to cold is to constrict blood vessels, but  “alcohol does the opposite-it causes peripheral vasodilation,” explains Kenefick. “Those blood vessels widen and dump all this heat to the environment.” Your skin will feel warm, but that provides a false sense of security, because this really causes your core temperature to drop, which can lead in extreme cases to hypothermia.

6. You Can Become too Cold if You Dress too Warmly

How’s this scenario for ironic? You’re outside in very cold weather shoveling snow, which is a lot of physical work. You’re contracting muscles and generating a lot of heat, so your core temperature actually goes up. “In this situation, your blood vessels dilate instead of constrict, and you start sweating. If that sweat then gets trapped in your clothing, then it can start sucking heat away from your body. That’s a recipe for hypothermia right there,” says Kenefick. The lesson: Don’t overdress if you know you’re going to be exercising vigorously.

7. You Scrunch Down and Huddle With Others

When your body has constricted your blood vessels and made your muscles start shivering, you might also instinctually engage in social behaviors that help conserve heat. When you scrunch down and make yourself smaller, you lose less heat to the environment because you decrease your own surface area.

8. Over Time, Your Brain Stops Operating on All Cylinders

Once your body goes into a hypothermic state-a core temperature that’s too low-your brain and nervous system have a harder time functioning and maintaining normal thought. “There are stories of hunters or people out in the cold, maybe they fell in water or got lost,” Kenefick says. “The hypothalamus tries all the mechanisms that usually work-and then when those fail, it becomes unclear of what to do next. People have been found in freezing temperatures with all their clothes off, because the hypothalamus said, ‘OK, well, let’s try dumping heat out there-making people feel hot-and see if that will work.” If the hypothermia becomes severe enough, the hypothalamus can get really out of whack.

9. Your Skin Turns White and Hard

These are signs of frostbite, a condition when your exposed skin gets too cold and freezes. Cheeks, nose, and fingers tend to be especially vulnerable because they are getting less blood flow because of the vasoconstriction. Also, your fingers are cylinders, which gives them more surface area relative to their size and makes them more vulnerable to heat loss. Frostbite means the skin tissue has become damaged. If it’s severe enough, says Kenefick, it can turn black and actually fall off. At first you will feel pain; as your skin gets colder and colder, it will feel numb. “When this happens, the thermoreceptors in your skin have stopped working,” Giesbrecht says.

10. Your Skin Gets Rashy and Red

Some people have an allergic reaction to cold-but not necessarily freezing-weather, a condition known as cold urticaria or less formally, “winter bumps.” It’s not a reaction to very cold weather, like frostbite, but rather just dry, cool conditions, which can cause an allergic-type reaction in certain people with sensitive skin.

Ways to Relieve Anxiety

Did You Know?

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders can include difficulty concentrating, restlessness and irritability, feeling twitchy, being quick to startle, muscle tension, insomnia, nausea, dry mouth and dizziness.

Take control of your body with these six anxiety-busting remedies.

1. Cardiovascular Exercise

Nervous people have a lot of adrenaline to burn, so doctors recommend a daily, half-hour cardio workout.

Get your heartbeat racing with these fun cardio ideas.

2. Adopt a Healthier Lifestyle

Getting quality sleep and eating a healthy diet do wonders to promote inner calm.

Discover 12 secrets to a deeper sleep and healthy autumn superfoods.

3. Occupy Your Brain

When anxious thoughts creep up, call a friend, read a book or delve into a craft project to help focus your mind.

Fill your reading list up every month with RD’s best book selections.

4. Meditation

Meditation can create changes in the brain, lifting depression and calming stress.

Seek some inner peace with simple five-minute meditation exercises from Canadian Yoga expert Padma.

5. Therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy trains you to interrupt your cycle of panicky thoughts and halt nervous-system arousal.

Discover eight must-have health apps, including one for easy cognitive-behavioural therapy.

6. Medication

Certain antidepressants work well for anxiety disorders, but it’s important to do your research before agreeing to a prescription.

10 Ways Natural Concentration

1. Put limits on screen time

Keep a track of hours spent on the computer. A Swedish study found unrestrained time on the web-Pathological Internet Use (PIU)-is associated with increased symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), especially in men.

2. Never skip breakfast

Studies show that breakfast eaters score higher on visual searches, accuracy and reaction time. A diet that keeps your blood glucose levels steady throughout the day is best for cognitive performance.

3. Try ginkgo supplements

Placebo-controlled UK research found a 120 mg dose of standardized Ginkgo biloba extract quickened performance on tasks requiring attention.

4. Ginseng

A small placebo-controlled Korean study found 4500 mg of red ginseng a day for two weeks improved participants’ reaction times and brain power.

5. Boost your vitamin B6 intake

Make sure you’re getting enough B6. A Tufts University study linked low vitamin B6 concentrations in the blood to decreased attention and ability to plan.

6. Get a good night’s sleep

One night of sleep deprivation can reduce concentration on a visual tracking exercise by more than 40 per cent.

7. Drink coffee

Compounds in coffee (not just caffeine) stimulate the brain’s innate anti-oxidant system, improving cognitive function and reducing age-related cognitive decline.

8. Eat dark chocolate

Eating dark chocolate has been shown to improve cognitive function and increase driving accuracy and reduce collisions in clinical studies.

9. Meditate

A month of meditation training has been shown to decrease reaction time and increase the ability to concentrate without exerting any extra effort.

10. Sniff peppermint

Sharpen your wits with a sniff of peppermint. A randomized International Journal of Neuroscience study of 144 adults found the scent of peppermint enhanced memory, increased alertness and improved reaction times.