Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Hope IS a Strategy

My husband, who works in IT, has a shirt that says, “Hope is Not a Strategy.” While this may be true in his line of work and many others, I dare say hope IS at least a partial strategy in many areas of life. For mental and behavioral health professionals hope is most definitely a widely-used strategy! When someone is struggling with a mental health challenge or substance use issue, professionals remind them there IS HOPE of recovery, as it can be difficult for folks to remember people CAN and DO recover.

This time of year can be more difficult for some people, especially those who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or it’s milder form Winter Depression. Most people develop symptoms in late fall or early winter that persist until late Spring or Summer. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling listless, sad, or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you enjoyed
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Sleeping too much
  • Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live

Spring and Summer SAD (SAD can occur ANY time of year) symptoms include:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Increased irritability

Even those who don’t have these symptoms may struggle at times, and HOPE can be a strategy to help. You can help folks who may be struggling to remember there is HOPE! There are people (mental health professionals) who can and want to help. There are things people can do for themselves to help manage and/or alleviate symptoms. There are people who love and care about them and seeking help is in NO WAY a sign of weakness.

Some self-care tips to maintain good mental health include:

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated.
  • Make sleep a priority.
  • Try a relaxing activity.
  • Set goals and priorities.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Focus on positivity.
  • Stay connected to friends and family.

It took me a long time to realize that I experience SAD because my symptoms start in late summer/early fall. When everyone else is giddy with the changing season, I am filled with dread. I have written about it several times to let others know that SAD does not just occur now. My symptoms actually start to improve as many others start to experience them. One key point about SAD is the re-occurrence of symptoms and the easing of them around the same time each year. Once I FINALLY realized why I unlike the rest of the planet, do not particularly care for fall, I was able to own it and be more proactive in helping myself and others to understand and cope better.

If you or someone you know or love has thoughts of suicide, please call the suicide and crisis hotline at 988 to be connected immediately to a mental health professional. There is HOPE!

References:

Aarth. (2020, April 22). 31 ways to work on your wellness. AARTH. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://www.aarth.org/post/31-ways-to-work-on-your-wellness

Deal better with Hard Times. Mental Health America. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://mhanational.org/deal-better-hard-times

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, December 14). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Caring for your mental health. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health

Author: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewer: Ryan Kline, Family and Consumer Sciences and 4-H Youth Development Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County

As we get ready to surround our televisions to celebrate a famous groundhog who tells us when the next season will arrive, have

Man holding Groundhog

you ever wondered why? As the seasons change from winter to spring, Groundhog Day allows each of us to turn over a new leaf and transition with whatever news the groundhog brings. So, whether you listen to Buckeye Chuck or Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction this year, take some time to come out of hibernation and set goals for the next season no matter how soon or far away it may seem.

Groundhog Day to many is a silly and fun holiday; however, it has ancient origins. February second marks the mid-point between Halloween and Mayday, which historically, was a major festival marking the changing of seasons. In a German tradition, badgers made these types of seasonal predictions, letting people know when to expect the next season. Folklorist Stephen Wick from the American Folklife Center and Veterans History Project found that with immigration, the first account of a modern American Groundhog Day ritual happened on February 2, 1840. At this event, a Pennsylvanian storekeeper noted that the groundhog coming out of hibernation would determine 40 more days of winter or an early spring.

Thinking about how the holiday took shape helps to re-frame the reason for the season or seasons depending on what the groundhog says. As we take this time to transition, setting intentional goals as we all come out of hibernation can be crucial to personal and professional growth in the next season of our lives.

SMART Goals illustration highlighting each step Specific, Measurable Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound

When looking forward and thinking about the next season, setting goals is an important first step. S.M.A.R.T. goals are a popular approach to goal setting that takes into consideration, what you are doing, how long you plan to take, and helps ensure you will be successful.

In the next season, establish your goals S.M.A.R. T. by making them…

  • Specific : What needs to be accomplished?
    • What will the new season bring for you and your loved ones? Make sure the goal is for something you want or need to accomplish. The University of California suggests that it serves as a “mission statement for your goal.”  
  • Measurable: How will the goal be successfully completed?
    • As you plan a goal for the new season, the measurement should provide you with information. No matter what type of information you learn, setting measurable milestones along the way can ensure goal making success.
  • Attainable: Can I do this?
    • As you consider, can I do this, think about your abilities and whose help you may need.
  • Relevant: Is this something that needs to happen now?
    • In this next season, think about the goal and when it needs to happen.
  • Time-Bound: Can this goal be achieved in the specified time frame?
    • Setting a time for the goal to be achieved by is important. Making a time-bound goal helps hold you accountable in this new season.

As we come out of hibernation and transition to a new season, set a S.M.A.R.T goal for the next period in your life. While celebrating Groundhog Day this year, include time to set new goals for the new season; however, quickly or slowly it arrives! We would love to hear what your S.M.A.R.T. goal is or will be!

Sources:

Bailey, Ryan. Goal Setting and Action Planning for Health Behavior Change. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2017 Sep 13;13(6):615-618. From https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1559827617729634

Bringing people together from all over the World: Groundhog Day. Image. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. https://www.groundhog.org/legend-and-lore

SMART Goals: A How to Guide. University of California. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2023, from https://www.ucop.edu/local-human-resources/_files/performance-appraisal/How%20to%20write%20SMART%20Goals%20v2.pdf

Set SMART Goals. The University of Minnesota. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2023m from https://effectiveu.umn.edu/tips/smartgoals

Winick, Stephen. Groundhog Day: Ancient Origins of a Modern Celebration. (February 1,2022). Retrieved January 30, 2023, from https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2022/02/groundhog-day-ancient-origins-of-a-modern-celebration/

Author: Ryan Kline, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, 4-H Youth Development/Family and Consumer Sciences, Ross County, kline.375@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu.

As of January 1, 2023, sesame joins the major food allergens list as declared by federal law. There are nine major food allergens:

sesame seeds
  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Fish, such as bass, flounder, cod
  4. Shellfish, such as crab, lobster, shrimp
  5. Tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans
  6. Peanuts
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans
  9. Sesame

While many different types of foods can cause allergies, federal law focuses on the ones that cause most allergic reactions. Federal law requires that the common name of the nine major food allergens be identified on the food label.  Due to this change in regulations, any new packaging must have sesame clearly identified for sale. It’s important to still look at labels carefully as older items will still be on the shelf during this label transition period.

Preventing a reaction starts with avoiding the allergen. Sesame can be found in:

Bowl of hummus
  • Hummus
  • Baked goods
  • Sushi
  • Dressings
  • Cereals
  • Cosmetics
  • Perfumes
  • Medications

Additional food and non-food items that may contain sesame can be found on Food Allergy website. Sesame can appear in foods and products so don’t’ be afraid to ask questions if you aren’t sure of the ingredients and read the label carefully.

Possible symptoms of a sesame allergy include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Hives
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Itchiness in throat or mouth
  • Coughing
  • Hoarse voice

Severity of the symptoms varies from person to person. Reactions can me mild, such as nausea, to severe, such as anaphylaxis. People who may experience anaphylaxis should always carry an EpiPen with them. A person having minor symptoms may treat with over-the-counter antihistamines but if someone is showing signs of anaphylaxis, please call 911 or seek immediate medical attention. If you are unsure of your allergic reaction, please consult your doctor who can help with a diagnosis.

Sources:

FARE. (2023, January 2). Sesame Allergy. Retrieved from https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/sesame#:~:text=Symptoms%20of%20a%20sesame%20allergy,first%2Dline%20treatment%20for%20anaphylaxis.&text=To%20prevent%20a%20reaction%2C%20it%20is%20very%20imp

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2023, January 10). Allergic to Sesame? Food Labels Now Must List Sesame as an Allergen. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/allergic-sesame-food-labels-now-must-list-sesame-allergen

Author: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Reviewer: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

Not Today Scammer

As more of life and daily task moves online it feels like scams and phishing are increasing. . . because they are! According to the U.S. Chief Information Officers Council scams and phishing attacks have been on the rise for decades by cyber criminals. As consumers, our first line of self-defense is awareness.

 As we are looking to increase our awareness online it may be helpful to start with an understanding of what a scam and phishing are.

A scam is an attempt to trick someone, usually to steal money or private information.

Thieves may use this information to cyber bully someone, create false documents such as a driver’s license, buy things with others’ money, or get a loan or a job.

Scammers online don’t have to get money from people directly. Instead, these scammers use a variety of strategies to trick people into giving out their private information. This information can be used to access their bank and credit card accounts or other personal accounts. Scammers can even recreate someone’s identity, producing false documents, such as social security cards or driver’s licenses.

An important step in preventing a scam is to avoid giving out personal information.

What kind of personal information might thieves look for?

  • Full Name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Current and previous addresses
  • Driver’s License Number
  • Passport Number
  • Account Numbers
  • Institutions where accounts are held.  
  • Passwords
  • Banking Personal Identification Number
  • Social Security Number

Thieves try and get this information from you by phishing. Phishing is when people send you phony emails, pop-up messages, social media messages, texts, calls, or links to fake websites to hook you into giving out your personal and financial information.  

The best way to avoid a phishing scam is to question any online request for personal information. It’s also good to be skeptical about posts or messages from friends online that seem out of character. That can be a warning sign that their accounts have been hacked. There are clues in these phishing messages to look for. For example, they may include:

  • Require you to verify account information.
  • Contain a Sense of Urgency, saying an account will be closed or something drastic happens if you don’t act quickly.
  • Spelling errors
  • A link in the email or attachment encourages you to use that link or attachment to verify the account.
  • Promises or messages that sound Too Good to be true.
  • A Generic Greeting, such as a friend, account holder, or customer.

You can protect yourself from scams and phishing by:

  1. Avoid opening the message in the first place.
  2. Don’t click on any links or download any attachments; they might contain viruses or spyware.
  3. Set your social media accounts to private.
  4. Don’t reply to a message or email. Instead, delete and block.
  5. Mark it as “junk” or “spam” or report it on your social network site.
  6. Take the time to know what a credible website looks like.

If you are concerned about an account you have with a company, contact their customer service directly by phone.

Written by: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Miami County.

Reviewed by:  Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Washington County.

Sources:

4 ways to differentiate a good source from a bad source. UTEP. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.utep.edu/extendeduniversity/utepconnect/blog/march-2017/4-ways-to-differentiate-a-good-source-from-a-bad-source.html#:~:text=Check%20the%20domain%20name,in%20an%20attempt%20to%20mislead.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month : Phishing attacks. National Cybersecurity Awareness Month : Phishing Attacks | CIO.GOV. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.cio.gov/2021-10-12-National-Cybersecurity-Awareness-Month-Phishing-Attacks/

What are some common types of scams? Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-are-some-common-types-of-scams-en-2092/

Get the Beat on Pulses

From a nutritional standpoint, the term “pulse” refers to the edible seed of plants in the legume family. Examples of pulses recognized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization include dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lentils, Bambara beans, vetches and lupins.

Pulses are low in fat and a great source of protein and fiber. They also contain important vitamins and minerals. In fact, studies have shown that people who eat at least ½ cup of pulses every day have higher intakes of fiber, protein, calcium, potassium, folate, zinc, iron, and magnesium while having lower intakes of saturated fat.

If you have never cooked with pulses before, canned pulses are a great way to start! They are precooked and very convenient. For those who are watching their sodium intake, canned pulses can be drained and rinsed to reduce sodium that was added during the canning process. Low and no-sodium versions of canned pulses are often available, too. Canned pulses are great for tossing on salads and mixing with other proteins or grains for a complete meal.

There are usually more options available in the dried pulse section of the grocery store, but since they are not precooked they require some advanced planning. If you’re buying dried pulses, look for batches that are uniform in color, size and shape, and that have smooth and unblemished seed coats. Generally dried pulses need to be soaked for 8-10 hours prior to cooking. Package instructions often include “quick” soak methods as well. When you are cooking with dried pulses, add salt and acids, such as tomatoes and vinegar, after the pulses have already softened. Acid and salt both cause the seed coat to harden and slow down the cooking process.

While pulses offer an inexpensive protein source, it is important to note that they are considered an incomplete protein, meaning they lack at least one essential amino acid. All proteins are created from variations of twenty different amino acid building blocks. Some of these amino acids cannot be produced by the human body and must be supplied to us from our food; these are called essential amino acids. It is recommended to eat pulses in combination with grains and other protein sources to make sure the body receives all of the essential amino acids necessary for good health.

World Pulse Day is coming up on February 10, 2023. Get a head start with your celebration by trying out these great recipes!

Writer: Christine Kendle, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Tuscarawas County, kendle.4@osu.edu

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

References:

American Pulse Association. About Pulses. https://www.usapulses.org/. Accessed January 12, 2023.

Global Pulse Confederation. What are Pulses? https://pulses.org/what-are-pulses. Accessed January 12, 2023.

United Nations. World Pulse Day. https://www.un.org/en/observances/world-pulses-day. Accessed January 12, 2023.

Winter Wellness

sunrise shining through trees with snow on the ground

Whether you love the wintertime for the beauty and possibilities that a fresh snowfall brings, or dread it for the cold temperatures and less daylight, it is important to give some thought to your wellness plan this winter. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Take time to be still. Learn to keep calm and be mindful in the present moment.
  • Do one thing at a time. Instead of trying to manage multiple tasks simultaneously all day long, give yourself the ‘brain break’ of doing just one task at a time. It’s harder than it sounds! During the writing of this article, I had to close my email, silence my phone and I still had 6 ‘distractions’ from my own thoughts that could have caused me to start working on multiple things. Instead, I made a note about each item to complete later.
  • Take a technology break. The constant notifications we get from all our electronic devices make it difficult to focus and be still.
  • Create something new! This could be a piece of art, a musical number, a new recipe. The act of creating can light up other parts of your brain that may be yearning for use.
  • Practice self-care. There is no substitute for eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep. Give your body what it needs.
  • Find ways to relax. Try meditation, yoga, massage, or take a walk in the woods.
  • Get outside. There is no substitute for natural light. If you work during the day, try to go for a walk during a break or lunch. Find a winter outdoor activity you enjoy like walking, hiking, tubing, ice skating or snowshoeing.
  • Invite the birds into your yard. Did you know that bird watching can help you feel more relaxed and happy? Providing bird seed and a heated water bath is sure to attract feather friends.
two birds at a bird feeder in the snow
  • Get moving. Physical activity works your muscles and expends energy. Exercise not only makes us stronger, it improves mood. Try a new type of indoor exercise like tai chi, pilates or line dancing.
  • Connect with others. It’s natural for some people to want to ‘hibernate’ during the winter. It’s important to connect with others. Make a date with a friend or family member.

For more ideas, check out these articles on finding joy in winter and beating the winter blues. Set a goal yourself this winter to be well. What is one small change you can make?

Writer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Reviewer: Christine Kendle, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Tuscarawas County, kendle.4@osu.edu

References:

Lobb, J. Opt Outside to Beat the Winter Blues. Live Healthy Live Well, The Ohio State University. 7 Jan 2021.

Powers-Barker, P. I Can’t Control the Winter Weather. Live Healthy Live Well, The Ohio State University. 24 Jan 2022.

Stanton, L. Wonder and Wander in Nature this Winter. Live Healthy Live Well, The Ohio State University. 30 Nov 2021.

Soups from Around the World

a bowl of soup

Last summer I taught my first “Globally Inspired Heart Healthy Cooking” class series using the American Heart Associations’ Healthy for Life program. Each class in this 4-part series focused on how a different staple food (corn, rice, beans, potatoes) is used in various cuisines around the world. One thing I noticed when teaching these classes is how common soup recipes seem to be. Soups and stews are a source of comfort and nourishment all around the world!

Before the modern kitchen came to be, soups were created by boiling wild plants, grains, beans, and roots in water, sometimes along with meat and bones from animals that had been hunted. Today, many soups and stews still use combinations of those ingredients including grains, vegetables, beans, and animal bones. Herbs and spices are often added to these ingredients in water or broth to make healthy, flavorful, and comforting dishes. Below are three soup recipes from different regions of the world that combine ingredients such as whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables, herbs, and spices to create unique flavors:

African Peanut and Greens Stew – features red potatoes, pureed pumpkin, collard greens and peanut butter cooked in broth and seasoned with onion, garlic, jalapeno, and ginger

Mexican Posole – features pork, hominy, corn, brown rice, and tomatoes stewed in tomato sauce and seasoned with onion, garlic, chili powder and cilantro

Moroccan Lentil Stew – features lentils, butternut squash and tomatoes, cooked in broth and seasoned with onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon

While each of these soups has a unique flavor, they do share some commonalities:

  • Whole grains like corn or brown rice and/or starchy vegetables like beans and squash provide fiber and complex carbohydrates for sustained energy. MyPlate recommends we make at least half our grains whole grains due to the important nutrients they provide.
  • A color variety of vegetables including fresh, frozen, canned, or dried options from the vegetable subgroups: dark green, red and orange, beans, peas and lentils, starchy and other.
  • Lean proteins such as poultry, pork loin, beans, peas and lentils, nuts and seeds. Protein foods provide the body with many important vitamins and minerals in addition to protein, which is a nutrient that provides calories. 

Do you have a favorite soup or stew recipe that combines ingredients from these food groups to create a balanced, comforting meal? If so, please share in the comments below!

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by Holly Bandy, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Stark County

Sources:

American Heart Association. Healthy for Life. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/company-collaboration/healthy-for-life

USDA MyPlate. https://www.myplate.gov/

a carton of eggs

Eggs, we love them, and they are… cheap?

Over the last several months we have watched as prices have steadily increased in the grocery stores. I’ve looked at my husband almost every week after going to the grocery store and rambled off the latest price increase. We’ve done our best to eliminate items here and there or swap out certain products for cheaper options, all while trying to keep our diets healthy. A “go to” protein option for many people is eggs. Unfortunately, due to an avian flu outbreak, eggs have now taken a hefty price increase.

Protein is an essential part of everyone’s diet. In fact, it is a macronutrient, meaning it is a primary source of energy from food and helps to make up our muscles, bone, skin, hair, and basically every part of our body. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get just over 7 grams of protein for every 20lbs of body weight. For example, a 140 pound person would require about 50 grams of protein each day. Even when food prices increase, our protein shouldn’t decrease. So, what do we do when one of our cheapest protein sources now comes at a increased price? Here are some protein options that may not “break the bank” and still offer health benefits:

Beans: Just half a cup of any bean variety has up to 6-9 grams of protein. A 4-serving can of black beans is usually less than a dollar!

Lentils: Half a cup of any color lentil contains about 12grams of protein. Lentils can be used in salads, tacos, soups, and more, and a 1lb bag is usually less than two dollars.

Edamame: One cup of edamame (not in a shell) has 18 grams of protein. Buy frozen for about two dollars.

Green Peas: Peas are a great source of protein. One cup of cooked peas has 8 grams of protein. Peas can be purchased dried, canned or frozen for about $1-2 per pound.

Greek Yogurt: A serving of Greek yogurt can contain up to 17grams of protein. Look for plain, non-fat varieties. Buy in bulk ( for example, a 32-ounce container) to save money.

Cottage Cheese: A cup of cottage cheese may contain over 20 grams of protein.

There are many alternative options to protein outside of animal products. Many vegetables and grains contain protein. For example, a one cup serving of spinach or broccoli contains about 4 grams of protein. Now is a great time to get creative and try new recipes. If you are looking for low-cost, tasty recipes that feature fruits and vegetables, visit celebrateyourplate.org. Here is one to try:

Black Bean Soup

Cost per serving $1.68

Ingredients

3 cups black beans, cooked OR two 14 oz cans of no salt added black beans, rinsed and drained

2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped (about 1/2 medium onion)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

1 14.5 ounce can no salt added diced tomatoes with green chilies

1 cup water

1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice (optional)

Optional toppings:

Non-fat yogurt, low-fat sour cream, cilantro   

Instructions

  1. Before you begin wash your hands, surfaces, utensils and vegetables.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently until onion begins to soften (about 2 to 3 minutes). Add chili powder. Add cumin, if using. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
  3. Add beans, tomatoes and water to saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in lemon or lime juice, if using.
  5. Garnish with yogurt or sour cream and cilantro before serving, if using.

Sources:

Protein. The Nutrition Source. (2021, November 12). Retrieved January 9, 2023, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/

Pogored. (2021, January 29). 13 of the best vegetarian and vegan protein sources. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved January 9, 2023, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/13-of-the-best-vegetarian-and-vegan-protein-sources/

Written by Holly Bandy, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Stark County

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

 

Toy Holiday Village

For those of us who celebrated the holidays, we may have spent time with family and friends focusing on what are the important things in our lives. Thinking of the things you are grateful for has benefits not only to your mental health, but your physical health as well. It is possible to continue those warm, fuzzy feelings into the new year by practicing mindful gratitude.

Gratitude should be on your mind. Feelings of gratitude release both dopamine and serotonin in our brain. This promotes more positive emotions and can improve our mood. What is important about the release of dopamine is that it makes us feel good. In turn, our brain will crave more of it, making thoughts of gratefulness easier to put into practice.

Gratitude is an emotion, and a healthy one when used correctly. Keeping sarcasm out of the equation, the feeling of gratitude can help to replace negative emotions such as resentment or regret. Gratitude lowers your risk of depression and feelings of hopelessness, making it a great tool to combat the winter blues.

Gratitude helps your body. Stress has been identified as a factor in many health issues, and gratitude has been shown to help! A study by UC Davis Health in 2015 found that individuals who practiced gratitude had:

  • 16% lower diastolic bp and 10% systolic bp.
  • 23% lower levels of stress hormones
  • 25% lower levels of dietary fat
  • 20% less fatigue in heart failure patients
  • 9-13% lower levels of Hemoglobin A1c
  • 10% improvement in sleep quality

Gratitude can be simple. You may not have won the lottery today, but you may have been fortunate enough to have watched a hummingbird outside your window. Or maybe you were able to leave for work on time and beat all the traffic? The more you practice paying attention to the positive things in your life, the easier it will become.

How can you get into the habit of being grateful? Try to incorporate one or more of these techniques into your day for at least 15 minuets.

Person writing in a journal.
  • Write in a gratitude journal either what you are excited for in the morning, or grateful for happening in the evening. This helps us to focus on what’s important.
  • Give sincere complements to others around you. This not only helps you, but can brighten someone else’s day
  • Be grateful during an activity. Focus on the enjoyment you get from participating. If you are doing something outside, this is a great way to enjoy nature.
  • Create a Grateful Board. Similar to a vision board, this activity has you thinking about the great things that already exist in your life and what you are excited for in your future.
  • Prayer and meditation are another way to quite your mind and reflect.
  • Pay it forward by volunteering for causes that matter to you.
  •  Write thank-you cards or thinking-of-you cards. What is great about this practice is that you don’t have to send them if you don’t want to, but focusing on that person in your life will help you feel better about that relationship.

Using gratitude, you can choose to be happy.  Find what technique would work best for you, and plan how you can incorporate it into your schedule.

Author: Casey Bishop, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, MACP, OSU Extension Paulding County

Reviewer : Susan Zies, Assistant Professor, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Wood County

Resources:

Ryan, R., Patel, S. (May, 2018). Gratitude strategies to feel better fast. Emotional Fitness: Timps and Skills for Mental Health. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2018/05/31/gratitude-exercises-to-feel-better-fast/

Singh, Maanvi. (December, 2018). If You Feel Thankful, Write It Down. It’s Good For Your Health. NPR, Shots. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/12/24/678232331/if-you-feel-thankful-write-it-down-its-good-for-your-health

UC Davis Medical Center. (November, 2015). Gratitude is good medicine. UC Davis Medical Center; Medical Center. https://health.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2015-2016/11/20151125_gratitude.html

New Year New You in 2023

2023 words with the ocean and sunset behind the words 2023.

As we start the new year, this is a perfect time to look at our perspectives on our health and well-being. 2023 brings new possibilities especially when it comes to our health and wellness routines. After the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, many people start out highly motivated and determined that this year things will improve. However, within about six weeks, motivation dwindles.

Many times, it is challenging to know where to begin. So, if you are feeling unsure how to start, I suggest you consider small strategies that will help you achieve your goal throughout the entire year.

Here are strategies to consider for the new year.

Aim to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. Approximately one in 10 adults are meeting this recommendation. Start by choosing one new fruit or vegetable each week to add more color to your diet

the year 2023 numbers created with fritys and vegetables

Buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables. These are convenient and an effortless way to encourage you to choose fruits and vegetables when you are hungry. Check your local ads for sale items and utilize coupons while grocery shopping.

Volunteer at a local community site. Community engagement by volunteering your time can positively impact your mental health. Your health begins with mental health.

7 women smiling and wearing gray shirts with white writing with the word VOLUNTEER on their shirts.

Aim for 30 minutes of activity every day. Our bodies are meant to move. Activity promotes good circulation, which allows cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. Movement increases metabolism. Non-movement leads to impaired blood circulation and decreased metabolism. Remember some movement is better than no movement.

Sit less, stand moretry having a walking meeting or stand more during the day. Choosing to sit less and move more provides benefits our health, mind, and body.

Move for 2-5 minutes every hour. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. Moving more will support bone health, enhance brain power, burn calories, and increase circulation.

Start your day in a positive way. Try to listen to a positive podcase in the morning or read 5 to 10 minutes in a positive book. Try positive affirmations the morning.

Make one slight small change for your wellness this year. Whether it is from a movement perspective, a nutrition standpoint, or a mental health space. Put your goal in writing. WRITE IT DOWN! Share your change with a friend or family member to hold you more accountable. One small change can help you be a healthier person in 2023.

Author: Susan Zies, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, M. Ed., OSU Extension Wood County

Reviewer : Casey Bishop, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, MACP, OSU Extension Paulding County

Resources:

https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/

Human Performance Institute, Inc (2018), Johnson and Johnson.

 Webinar “A Healthier You in 2023” by Dr Megan Amaya, Associate Clinical Professor, Director of Health Promotion & Wellness, Co- Director, Bachelor of Science and Health & Wellness, The Ohio State University, College of Nursing, December 14, 2022.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2022/How-Volunteering-Improves-Mental-Health

https://www.juststand.org/the-facts/