What to Do When Your Ears Get Clogged on a Plane

Between the jet lag, dry air, and muscle-cramping seating in coach, flying can really do a number on your health. But one of the most common body complaints fliers experience tends to go overlooked or be blown off as no big deal: clogged or plugged ears.

The proper term is “ear barotrauma,” which pretty accurately describes the pain and discomfort the condition typically causes. This complaint isn’t just a passing annoyance. Besides starting your vacation or business trip on a particularly sour note, it can also lead to some pretty serious complications, too. 

To understand what’s behind that clogged sensation, you’ll need a quick anatomy lesson. Your ear is divided into three sections: the outer ear, the middle ear (which houses the eardrum), and the inner ear. The middle ear is connected to the back of the nose and upper throat via a passageway called the eustachian tube, whose job it is to stabilize the air pressure levels between your nose and ear.

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“Our eustachian tubes open and close multiple times a day, but the passageway is so tiny that we don’t really notice it as long as it’s moving properly,” says Ana Kim, MD, an otolaryngologist at ColumbiaDoctors Midtown and associate professor of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

RELATED: 7 Vacation Health Hassles Solved

“When we’re flying, however, there’s a rapid change in the barometric [air] pressure, which causes a collapse of the eustachian tubes and interferes with the normal air flow from the nose to the ear,” explains Kim. Getting on a plane while you’re sick with a cold or other head infection that triggers nasal congestion makes those changes in air pressure even worse. 

“If you have an active ear or sinus infection, you’re taking away what little volume of air you have [in the Eustachian tube] by flying, which could cause a lot of pain,” says Kim. Gwen Stefani experienced this a few weeks ago when she hopped a flight while fighting a cold and ended up with a ruptured ear drum due to changes in cabin pressure, boyfriend Blake Shelton told Entertainment Tonight.

To re-stabilize the air pressure levels and prevent uncomfortable aching, you’ll need to open up those tubes. Here are three things to try if it happens to you.

Pinch your nose and blow—gently!

To get your ears to “pop,” you can try closing off your nose and mouth, then gently forcing the air into the middle ear. Do not—repeat, do not—blow too hard. Doing so can actually rupture the membranes of the cochlea (the organ that allows us to hear), says Kim. And when that happens, fluid can leak out, causing hearing loss, nerve damage, dizziness, or a type of ringing in the ear called tinnitus.

RELATED: 5 Mistakes You’re Making Cleaning Your Ears

Move your mouth muscles

Call it a good reason to keep a pack of gum in your carry-on: moving the muscles of your jaw by chewing, yawning, or swallowing water or another beverage can help reopen the eustachian tubes, says Kim. If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler and you suspect (or they tell you) their ears are plugged up, have them sip juice or water or use a pacifier to get those mouth muscles going.

Take a decongestant

Medications like Afrin shrink blood vessels and reduce inflammation in your nasal cavity. Since it works right away, you can take it 10 minutes before takeoff to prevent your ears from clogging in the first place. One word of caution: Although these meds are over-the-counter, people who have heart problems or are pregnant shouldn’t take them unless they’ve cleared it with their doctor.

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If the clogging doesn’t go away . . . 

Most of the time, the pressure should clear up a few hours after you’re back on land, she says. If it lingers longer—into the following day, for example—you might have a buildup of fluid behind your ear that isn’t ventilating properly. For that, you’ll probably want to see a doctor. Not only will you experience some temporary hearing loss (everyone will sound like you’re listening to them underwater) you could put yourself at risk of a serious infection.

Source: Mind-Body

Mom Explains Why It's So Important to Be Body Positive in Front of Kids — Even When Bikini Shopping

This article originally appeared on People.com. 

Trying on bathing suits tends to be a time when women self-criticize, but Brittney Johnson made sure her recent mother-daughter bikini shopping trip was a positive one because she knew her young daughter was listening to how she spoke about her appearance.

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In a Facebook post that now has been liked over 322,000 times and shared over 165,000 times, Johnson, 27, explained why it’s so important for moms to be body positive role models for their children.

In the post, Johnson details her shopping trip, noting that her young daughter was polite to servers and generous to other children she encountered at the mall. When they got to Target, her daughter helped her pick out a few different swimsuits to try on. Johnson started snapping pictures of herself in the swimsuits to get her friends’ opinions, and noticed that her daughter was trying on the bikinis too.

RELATED: These Swimsuit Selfies Are Perfect Proof That Every Body Is a Bikini Body

“I stopped for a second to see what she would say, and when she turned to the mirror, she said, ‘Wow I just love cheetah print! I think I look beautiful! Do you think I look beautiful too?!’ ” Johnson wrote. “It hit me that she only says what she hears. What she sees. I tell her that she is beautiful every single day.”

“She is kind walking through the mall, because I tell her she is kind everywhere else,” she continued. “She is polite at the order counter because she hears me when I’m polite to strangers everywhere. She gives compliments to people she doesn’t know because she loves how it feels when she hears them. And when we are in a dressing room, with swimsuits of all God-forsaken things, there is a split moment when I have the power to say ‘Wow I have really gotten fat this year’ or ‘Wow I love this coral color on me!’ And those are the words burned into my daughter’s brain.”

Johnson notes that parents know to be a model for good manners and kindness, but often forget to be good role models when it comes to body image.

RELATED: Here’s How Little You Need to Exercise to Boost Your Mood

“When it comes to body image, be an example,” she wrote. “I am not a size zero. I never will be. I have big thighs and a huge rump and for some reason the middle of my body gets more tan than the rest. But this body made a whole other body. I am strong. I am able. And I am happy. I don’t have to be beautiful like you, because I am beautiful like me.”

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She knows that instilling a positive body image in her daughter now will benefit her as she grows up.

“As my daughter gets older, and she faces judgement and criticism, I will always remind her that the girls who look the prettiest in a two-piece or a body suit or a freaking Snuggie are the ones who are happy. Because that’s all that matters,” wrote Johnson. “And I want her to look at herself every single day and say, ‘Oh wow! I think I look beautiful!’ because every girl deserves to feel that.”

Source: Mind-Body

These Swimsuit Selfies Are Perfect Proof That Every Body Is a Bikini Body

It’s officially swimsuit season, and with that comes plenty of fun in the sun (with proper SPF!)—but not before the dreaded act of wriggling into a bikini for the first time in months. As your first beach day or pool party approaches, you may be feeling pressure to work out like mad, or do a torturous cleanse. But the reality is, you shouldn’t have to change your body to feel comfortable in a bathing suit. That’s the message these social media stars are trying to spread. With their swimsuit selfies and empowering captions, they prove that every body is a bikini body.

Bodyposipanda

@bosdyposipanda

The body-positive guru’s side-by-side bikini pics prove that poolside, all you need is a confident smile and stylish suit to feel like a queen.

Danielle Brooks

@daniebb3

The Orange is the New Black star’s post is simple but powerful (not to mention gorgeous). Her caption: “Love every pound.”

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Iskra Lawrence

@iskra

Model Iskra Lawrence never misses a chance to champion self-love, and her bikini selfies are no exception. In a recent snap by a jacuzzi, she wrote: “Just a lil reminder Hip dips and not perfectly rounded hips and narrow, flat, fat hips they are all beautiful. What makes you YOU is that you are imperfectly perfect and no on can ever be you!”

Cassey Ho

@blogilates

Even more stunning than this photo of the fitness pro is her caption caption, reminding us that wearing a swimsuit doesn’t give others an invitation to judge us. Nor is it an invitation to judge ourselves: “Your body is simply a physical vessel for you to carry out the things you want to accomplish with your life. Take care of your body, respect it, and it will do amazing things for you.”

    Source: Mind-Body

    This Former Bikini Competitor Shared a Before-and-After Pic to Make a Powerful Point

    Julie Ledbetter, once a bikini competitor, is now a fitness and body-positive blogger. She knows how tough it is to train for a competition, and in her case, it led to a scary-low body-fat percentage and a very unhealthy attitude concerning her size and shape. That’s why she decided to share a different kind of before-and-after photo with her Facebook followers.

    Ledbetter posted a photo of herself taken just before a competition in 2014 and then paired it with a video showing her “after” body as it looks today. In the video and the post caption, Ledbetter explained how her pre-competition body was unhealthy and unsustainable.

    “I was almost in the single digits for body fat % (not healthy), constantly cold (in the middle of JULY), always thinking about my next meal because I was in a deep caloric deficit and couldn’t miss a gym session because ‘I was ___ weeks out from my show,’” Ledbetter wrote in the caption.

     

    She also mentioned that even though she had a super toned physique and visible six-pack, she still thought she needed to lose stomach fat.

    “Talk about a WARPED brain I had,” she commented.

    These days, Ledbetter is healthier, and she’s embraced a positive outlook concerning her body. Her weight has gone up, and she has more body fat. In the video, she said it might be confusing for some people to understand how her progress involved adding pounds. Yet having a maintainable body and lifestyle makes her feel better, physically and emotionally.

    RELATED: The Best Body-Positive Moments of 2016

    Ledbetter explained that she still works out five days a week, but she’s able to take weekends off and incorporate rest days. She’s also no longer sacrificing time with friends and family in the name of “perfect” eating.

    “I am at a healthy body fat %, I am not constantly thinking about my next meal or stressed when things take priority over my workouts. I am strong, content and most importantly confident of the body I have built since 2014,” she stated. “This body is something that I can confidently say I can maintain for life.”

    To get our best wellness advice delivered to you inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter.

    Ledbetter ends the post by encouraging women not to compare their bodies to someone else’s, reminding them that most bikini competition photos are only showing an extreme highlight reel and aren’t realistic.

    The original post has been viewed 6.6 million times and has racked up over 30,000 shares. Clearly, Ledbetter’s message to embrace balance is hitting a chord.

    She wrapped up the video with a powerful statement: “Yes, this is my after body and I’m proud of it.”

    Source: Mind-Body

    The Best Health Advice We've Received from Our Moms

    Here at Health, we’re dedicated to sharing the best and latest wellness advice. Our drive comes from our own goals to live healthfully—and these were inspired in part by the healthy-living lessons our mothers instilled in us throughout our lives. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we’re excited to share the mom-backed wisdom that didn’t always make sense at the time . . . but we’re now super grateful for. Thanks a ton, Mom!

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    Cooking 101

    “The healthiest thing I learned from my mom is how to run a functional kitchen at home: how to shop for groceries and produce, how to store and keep food fresh, and how to plan for a week’s worth of meals for a whole family. She also taught me the basics of cooking, whether salads, soups, or main courses. My mom’s cooking mantra was always ‘delicious and nutritious’ and to this day I find myself muttering those words as I putter around my own kitchen!”

    —Michael Gollust, research editor

    RELATED: 16 Delicious Recipes for Mother’s Day Brunch

    Taking Charge of My Own Health

    “My mom taught me that it’s important to ask a lot of questions and to advocate for myself when it comes to doctors, not to just do what anyone says blindly. Her point was that ultimately any decisions about my health are up to me.”

    —Beth Lipton, food director

    Avoiding Unhealthy Fats

    “Remember when everyone became very concerned with trans fats in 2006 or so? My mom was obsessed with trans fats five years before they were a mainstream thing to worry about. She refused to let us buy anything that contained partially hydrogenated oils (which was about 90% of my preferred diet at the time) and would go on about how terrible they were for you. While it was embarrassing to be the only kid not allowed to eat packaged foods, I think it helped me become a healthier adult—I still read every nutrition label and double-check that there’s nothing partially hydrogenated in there.”

    —Kathleen Mulpeter, senior editor

    Preventing UTIs

    “It’s never not awkward to receive sex advice from your mom (especially as a teenager). But my mom saying to hit the bathroom and pee after doing the deed will always stick with me. It’s the simplest way to prevent UTIs and although my 16-year-old self cringes at that conversation, her advice is tried and true.”

    —Julia Naftulin, assistant editor

    RELATED: 17 Healthy Mother’s Day Gifts

    Eating Clean

    “Growing up, our pantry was scarce of processed and sugar-laden products and treats like ice cream and sweet cereals. Even Lunchables were reserved for special occasions. Instead, my mom fed me clean, nutritious food—including kale, way before it was trendy. At the time, I wasn’t always a fan of this healthy lifestyle, but now I couldn’t be more grateful for her nutritional guidance. She taught me there’s nothing wrong with enjoying less-than-healthy foods every so often—the key is simply balance and being kind to my body.”

    —Kristine Thomason, assistant editor

    Embracing Body Empowerment

    “My mom grew up in the 1950s, when information about sex and women’s health was suppressed. She wanted better for me, so she gave the quintessential 1970s feminist book Our Bodies, Ourselves when I was in high school. Our Bodies, Ourselves introduced me to the body- and sex-positive attitudes that empowered me.”

    —Olivia Barr, digital photo editor

    Making Time for Sleep

    “My mom gets up with the sun and is in bed around 9 p.m. and she’s had this schedule her entire life. I don’t have her early-bird body clock, but I try to turn in as early as possible and get a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Considering how good she looks and how active she is, it’s clear that sleep is a key to health. She’s the only person I’ve ever known who doesn’t complain about being tired all the time.”

    —Esther Crain, deputy editor

    Moderation Is Key

    “My mom’s healthiest advice? Everything in moderation. She picked it up from her mother (although my grandma would relay the wisdom in Greek) and she has subscribed to this balanced mentality ever since. Permission to indulge in a slice of chocolate cake now and then, granted.”

    – Anthea Levi, assistant editor

    Source: Mind-Body

    First Woman With Down Syndrome to Compete in Miss Minnesota USA: 'I'm Going to Blaze the Trail!'

    This article originally appeared on People.com. 

    Mikalya Holmgren is already a pageant pro, but she’s about to make history as the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in Miss Minnesota USA.

    The 22-year-old college student decided to apply for the pageant in April.

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    “I said, ‘I want to do this,’ ” Holmgren tells PEOPLE. “I want to show my personality. I want to show what my life looks like, being happy, and joyful. I want to show what Down Syndrome looks like.”

    The Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota native, who is also an accomplished dancer, previously won the Minnesota Miss Amazing pageant, which features women with special needs. Holmgren says that she wasn’t nervous at all about applying for Miss Minnesota — just “super proud!”

    And she was thrilled to get in.

    “I was just so happy and I had a smile on my face,” Holmgren says, of hearing the news.

    Denise Wallace, executive co-director of Miss Minnesota USA, says Holmgren was a perfect fit for the pageant.

    “Mikayla is such an incredible and accomplished young woman. We feel she definitely has what it takes to compete at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant this fall in that she is the epitome of what the Miss Universe Organization strives to look for in contestants — someone who is confidently beautiful,” she tells PEOPLE.

    RELATED: These Easy Tweaks Will Make Your Coffee Healthier

    The Miss Minnesota USA pageant also made headlines last year when it featured Halima Aden, the first contestant to wear a hijab.

    Holmgren now has until November 26 to prepare, and she’s excited to make a difference as the first person with Down Syndrome to compete for the crown.

    “That means my life is changing because of the pageant. I’m very proud of myself. It’s a new thing in my life,” she says. “I’m going to blaze the trail!”

    Source: Mind-Body

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    10 Pushup Variations For A More Fun Workout

    The standard push-up is a classic exercise that truly challenges your entire body. When you master the move, you don’t have to abandon push-ups for more complex exercises, however.

    Supercharge the push-up with different hand positions, unstable surfaces or varying angles. You’ll still get the total body benefits of push-ups, but challenge your muscles differently, so you continue to see gains.

    A myriad push-up variations exist. Here are 10 to start with:

    1. Decline Push-Ups

    A decline push-up puts emphasis on the fronts of the shoulders and upper portion of the chest muscle. Place your feet on an elevated surface, such as a step riser or workout bench, and your hands on the floor just slightly wider than your shoulders to press up and down.

    2. Incline Push-Ups

    An incline push-up focuses on the muscles of the lower and middle chest. Place your hands shoulder-distance apart on an elevated surface and your feet on the floor for the push-up. The higher the surface, the less intense the incline push-up.

    3. Medicine Ball Push-Ups

    Get into a push-up position with both hands placed on the ball and legs extended behind you. Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the ball for a push-up. As you rise, lift your left hand and place it on the floor, leaving your right hand on the ball, to perform a push-up.

    Return to center and repeat with the right hand to the floor. Your triceps are particularly challenged by the push-up in which both hands are on the ball and your core activates to keep you balanced as you alternate hands.

    A stability ball push-up increases core activation.

    4. Stability Ball Push-Ups

    Do a push-up but with your hands on a stability ball to increase how much your core must activate to keep you from falling. Your hands rest on the ball, under your shoulders with the elbows in the direction of the ankles. Squeeze the ball with your hands and arms. Extend your feet directly behind you.

    BOSUs can be used facing either direction.

    5. BOSU Push-Ups

    Use the BOSU, which looks like half of a stability ball with a flat platform, for push-ups. Place your hands on the softer domed side with your legs extended behind you to perform a push-up, or flip the dome over so the soft side faces the floor and your hands rest on the solid platform. Both versions introduce instability and require increased involvement of your stabilizers in the abs and back.

    6. Windmill Push-Ups

    Put your hands and feet in a standard push-up position. Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the floor and as you lift, raise your right arm and rotate your torso to the right; repeat on the left.

    Clap push-ups are a plyometric exercise.

    7. Clap Push-Ups

    Do a standard push-up, but as you press up from the floor, do so explosively so the hands leave the ground and clap together before you return to a bent-elbow lowered position.

    9. Diamond Push-Ups

    Assume a standard push-up position, but bring your hands close together under your chest so that the fingers form a diamond pattern. As you lower down, allow the elbows to brush your ribs so that your triceps at the back of the upper arms experience greater activation.

    9. Staggered Push-Ups

    Start in a standard push-up position with your hands just wider than your shoulders. Walk your right hand an inch or two forward and the left hand an inch or two back. Complete the desired set of push-ups, and then do a set with the left hand forward and the right hand back.

    10. Spiderman Push-Ups

    Get into a standard push-up position. As you bend the elbows out to lower your chest toward the floor, lift the right leg and bring the knee to your right tricep. Rise and return the foot to the floor; repeat with the left leg.

    Keep Good Form for All Variations

    Regardless of the push-up variation you perform, keep your form on point. Always brace your abdominals toward your spine as if you were trying to bring your bellybutton to your spine. The hips and back should stay in a straight line, rather than hike up or sag down.

    Taking Ibuprofen Daily Raises Your Heart Attack Risk

    This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

    Ibuprofen, naproxen and celecoxib are among the most commonly used drugs in the U.S. They don’t require a prescription, and they’re a quick answer to all kinds of pain. But lately there’s been growing evidence that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may not be as benign as people think they are. (For more recent reporting on the potential side effects of NSAIDs, read this.)

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    In general, NSAIDs are considered safe when used as directed—which is to say occasionally, for spot relief of pain. More and more people, however, are relying on them for long term use, and at higher doses. Experts—and a growing body of science—say that’s where problems can start.

    RELATED: The Ibuprofen Risks You Need to Know

    In the latest study, published in the journal BMJ, researchers found that some risks can appear after even a few days of using NSAIDs. Compared with people who didn’t take the painkillers, those who did had a 20% to 50% greater chance of having a heart attack. The risk was higher for people who took 1,200 mg a day of ibuprofen—the equivalent of six standard tablets of Advil—and 750 mg a day for naproxen, the equivalent of roughly three and a half standard Aleves.

    The researchers pooled data from several large studies on the drugs and their health effects. In all, more than 446,000 people who used the non-prescription painkillers were included. Among them, more than 61,000 had a heart attack. People who took NSAIDs for even a week had a significantly higher risk of having a heart attack; the highest risk occurred for those taking them for about a month. (After a month, the risk didn’t appear to increase further — the researchers think that’s because everyone who was vulnerable to the drugs’ effects on the heart would have experienced heart problems by then.)

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    The results confirm those from earlier studies that also found a heightened risk of heart problems in NSAID users, but the large number of people in this analysis—and the more detailed look at how long people were taking the drugs—makes the connection even stronger. The researchers also accounted for other possible factors that could connect NSAID users and heart problems, such as diabetes, high cholesterol levels and previous history of heart disease. Even after those adjustments, the linked remained significant.

    The study also confirmed that newer NSAIDs like celecoxib, known as COX-2 inhibitors, which were originally thought to cause more heart problems than traditional NSAIDs, were not more risky when it comes to heart attacks.

    As TIME reported previously, some studies found a 19% higher risk of having heart trouble among NSAID users compared to people who didn’t use the drugs. Other studies have found higher risk of hearing loss and miscarriage as well. Those led the Food and Drug Administration to add a warning on NSAID labels about the risks of taking the drugs, especially for long periods of time at high doses.

    Source: Mind-Body

    6 Simple Tricks to Keep Your Brain Young

    Society tells us that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks—that it’s harder for adults to learn new skills than it is for kids. And in many ways, that’s true: Babies have nothing to do but eat, sleep, and learn, while grown-ups are faced with all sorts of time, money, and real-life constraints. (Not to mention, we get annoyed when we’re not good at things right away.)

    But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Rachel Wu, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside. In a new paper published in Human Development, Wu argues that using a childlike approach to learning can help people of any age take on and conqueror new challenges.

    Not only will this help adults develop new talents and hobbies, Wu says, but research suggests that it can keep their brains young, delaying or slowing age-related cognitive decline.

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    Wu says that as we age, we transition from “broad learning” to “specialized learning,” focusing on our careers and specific areas of expertise. It’s that increasingly narrow specialization that leads to cognitive slowdown, she theorizes—initially in unfamiliar situations, but eventually all the time.

    Instead of falling into this trap, Wu says, adults should embrace broad learning through the following six strategies. In children, these behaviors have been shown to increase basic cognitive abilities like working memory, inhibition, and attention. Wu predicts the same would be true for adults, too, if we’d actually give them a chance.

    RELATED: New Ways to Boost Your Brain Power

    Venture outside your comfort zone
    As adults, we tend to use similar skills day in and day out: We take jobs in fields we’re already proficient in, drive the same routes to the same places, and fall into routines we’re comfortable with. But all this familiarity limits the parts of the brain we’re using on a regular basis, says Wu.

    “If you’re trying to learn a new skill and it’s turning out to be really easy for you, that may be a sign it’s too similar to what you’re already familiar with,” she says. “Switching to something more challenging, that’s truly different than what you’re used to, may have more cognitive benefits.”

    Get a teacher
    It’s difficult for adults to teach themselves new skills, says Wu, especially if they really are trying something totally unfamiliar. Hiring an instructor or taking a class, on the other hand, can inspire discipline and hold people accountable for their progress.

    Can’t afford professional lessons? “I’ve seen barter systems in groups of adults where someone is a skilled artist, for example, and someone is a musician,” says Wu. “At some point, everyone’s a teacher and everyone’s a learner.”

    Believe in yourself
    “This may be one of the toughest ones, because it’s so embedded in our culture and our stereotypes that you really can’t develop as an adult,” says Wu. Many people also believe that adults need natural talent to succeed in new areas, and that hard work simply isn’t enough. (Wu wrote about her own experience with these beliefs in a recent Scientific American blog post.)

    “It comes down to ignoring those people who don’t believe in the process,” says Wu, “and pushing yourself to really believe it yourself—to know that you can and you will improve with practice.”

    Surround yourself with encouraging people
    A fear of making mistakes is another reason adults are so slow to learn new things; if we try and fail, we can face criticism, lose money, or get fired. And if we’re not good at something right away, we’re told to not give up our day jobs.

    That’s why it’s important to build up a support network of people—at work and at home—who allow you to make mistakes and learn from them, says Wu. “Surround yourself with positivity,” she says. “It’s kind of a general life lesson, but it’s especially applicable here.”

    RELATED: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

    Make a serious commitment—and don’t give up
    What keeps people motivated is very individualistic, says Wu, and people need to find the inspiration that works for them. “One of the reasons I have a piano teacher is that I will quit and use my time for something else if I’m not being pushed every week,” she says.

    Some research shows that telling friends and family about a new goal can also help keep you motivated, she says. If you can afford it, spending money on a new pursuit—pre-paying for tennis lessons and a fancy new racket, for example, or booking a trip to Rome to practice your Italian—might also make it harder to throw in the towel.

    Learn more than one thing at once
    “Because our time is so valuable, we tend to zero in on one hobby or one skill we want to get better at,” says Wu. But dividing that time and energy into three or four areas will “stretch your brain in all different directions,” she says.

    That doesn’t mean you should start four new challenges all at once, though. “Maybe you started learning a new language in 2016, and this year you add singing lessons, and next year you try something else,” she says. “You can add things gradually based on what you can handle.”

    Strive for a variety of activities, as well. “If you try new things in different domains—one related to physical activity, one related to music, and another one artistic, for example—you might be stretching your brain more effectively than if you were learning how to paint, sculpt, and draw.”

    To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

    Wu says the idea that these six strategies can counteract cognitive decline still needs to be tested with scientific studies. But she says her theory is based on five decades of research, and she’s optimistic about what study results will reveal.

    She also acknowledges that spending time and money on learning is a luxury that not everyone has, especially when we’re rewarded—by our jobs, other people, and our own egos—for doing what we’re already good at.

    “I think the first step is being aware that this kind of living may be advantageous to you in the short term, but detrimental in the long run,” she says. “The second step is finding ways to work some variety, some new skill, into your daily life. Even just 10 minutes is better than nothing.”

    Source: Mind-Body

    Swearing Can Be Good for You, According to Science

    This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com. 

    The next time you could use a little burst of power—whether you’re biking up a steep hill or simply trying to open a jar of pickles—it might help to utter a few not-safe-for-work words while giving it your all. According to a new study, swearing seems to increase strength for short periods of time.

    Previous research has shown that using profanity can increase pain tolerance. Scientists think this might be because it stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system—the system that revs the heart rate and activates the body’s “fight or flight” response when it senses some kind of threat.

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    Researchers from Keele University and Long Island University Brooklyn hypothesized that this might also give people a quick strength boost, as well. To test their theory, they asked a total of 81 participants to complete short tests of anaerobic and isometric power. Some rode an exercise bike at maximum intensity for 30 seconds; others squeezed a hand-grip device as hard as they could.

    They measured participants’ performance on these tests under two circumstances: once while repeating a curse word of their choosing every three seconds, and once while repeating a neutral word—something to describe a table in the room, like “flat” or “round.”

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    As predicted, the volunteers produced more pedaling power and had stronger hand grips while they were cursing. Surprisingly, though, the researchers found no significant differences in heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance (a measure that increases physiological arousal) between the swearing and non-swearing scenarios.

    This suggests that the sympathetic nervous system may not be the driving factor after all, says co-author David Spierer, former associate professor of athletic training, health, and exercise science at Long Island University Brooklyn. Instead, the researchers think cursing may allow people to “shut down their inhibitions,” says Spierer, “and somewhat veil the effort and the pain of this really difficult task.”

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    In this way, Spierer says, using swear words might be helpful in any circumstance where muscle strength and a sudden burst of force or speed is required. “If you’re trying to open a jar of pickles and it’s really tough, I’m not going to say that cursing will definitely enable you to open it,” he says. “But I do feel that cursing could decrease your awareness of what it is you’re doing, and that could actually make it more forceful.” The same could go for athletic events, too. “If you’re not really aware of the pain and difficultly, you can put more into your performance.”

    For reasons that aren’t quite understood, a neutral word didn’t have the same effect on participants in the study. Spierer says it’s likely that everyone has different responses to profanity, as well. “In the study, some people chose more explicit words than others,” he says. He adds they were all short—mostly four letters—and repeated at a normal volume. “It’s not like they were going on a tirade and screaming at people.”

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    If you want to try it yourself, Spierer suggests repeating your chosen word at a structured pace, like a mantra. “We think that if you get into a rhythm and your body can predict when it’s coming, it can have more of an effect.”

    The study, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, was presented this week at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Brighton, England.

    Source: Mind-Body