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a bowl of fruit salad

Summer is a magnificent season, when outdoor activities abound, and cookouts happen seemingly every weekend. Think of the general spread at a cookout. What comes to mind? Common cookout options include hotdogs, hamburgers, watermelon, chips, dip, and sweets. Unfortunately, many people do not take advantage of the summertime produce available, when it is at its freshest and typically best price. During the summer season, fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, blackberries, cherries, peaches, lemons, and limes are all in peak harvest, as are vegetables such as corn, zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, and arugula. Summer is the best time to experience all this delicious produce, which is either not widely available, or is more expensive during the other three seasons. One great way to enjoy summer produce is combining colorful fruit into a salad, such as this one from Food Hero. If you want to experiment with seasonal vegetables instead of fruit, Food Hero also offers a template you can use to make a colorful stir-fry.

There are many reasons to consume fruits and vegetables – both in the summer and year-round. Fruits and vegetables are not only flavorful and colorful; they are packed with nutrients vital to our health such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are naturally occurring chemicals in plants which contribute a variety of characteristics to that plant, such as taste, color, and smell. Registered dietitians often recommend eating a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables because different colored fruits and vegetables contain different phytonutrients. Phytonutrients such as anthocyanins, flavonoids, phenols, carotenoids, and lutein are believed to play a role in health promotion and disease prevention, and research is underway to further examine their potential benefits. Researchers believe one of the main benefits from most phytonutrients is antioxidant activity, which helps rid the body of oxidizing agents that could cause harm. Specifically, flavonoids and Quercetin, found in food such as apples, onions, coffee, and citrus, are thought to help reduce chronic inflammation, and the anthocyanins found in berries and red wine are believed to help reduce blood pressure.

Aside from the potential health benefits associated with phytonutrients, eating a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables has the added benefit of increasing the variety in ones’ diet, and it has been said that variety is the spice of life! This summer, I encourage you to take the seasonal opportunity to indulge in the large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that summer is known for because even without additional health benefits, your taste buds will thank you!

Written by Laurence Brandon III, Dietetics Student, Middle Tennessee State University

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, MPH, RDN, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Harvard Health (2019). Fill up on phytochemicals. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fill-up-on-phytochemicals

McManus, K. (2019). Phytonutrients: Paint your plate with the color of the rainbow. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/phytonutrients-paint-your-plate-with-the-colors-of-the-rainbow-2019042516501

Daughter and Mother Living with Dementia

Do you ever forget where you’ve placed your remote, or just can’t recall the name of acquaintance? When this occurs, do you wonder if you are starting to develop dementia? It’s common to become somewhat more forgetful as you age. The question is, how you can tell whether your memory lapses are part of normal aging or are a symptom of something more serious.

If you are in your 40’s, 50’s or 60’s, you may have noticed that you might need a bit longer to remember things, get distracted more easily or struggle to multi-task as well as you once did. You may worry that these are an early sign of dementia, it is important not to worry too much. While these changes are frustrating at times, they are a part of normal aging.  

By contrast, people with dementia have a loss of memory and other mental function severe enough that it affects their ability to live independently at home, interact is social activities and at work. While some memory loss, such as recall and recognition, is the result of the aging brain, dementia is some type of injury to the brain that goes beyond normal changes. For a variety of reasons, once-healthy neurons (nerve cells) in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die.

Dementia can cause a significant decline in a person’s mental abilities by affecting their capacity for things like memory, thinking and reasoning.

Although people in the earliest stages of dementia often sense the something is wrong, the illness eventually deprives them of the insight necessary to understand their problems. So it’s usually up to a family member or friend to recognize the symptoms. The Alzheimer’s Association,  Know the 10 Signs brochure highlights a list of 10 signs that should not be ignored.

  1. Memory loss that is severe enough to disrupt daily life-for example, asking for information over and over again.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems, such as trouble following a recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure-for example, trouble driving to a familiar location.
  4. Confusion over time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, including difficulty judging distances and determining color.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing, including difficulty following or joining a conversation.
  7. Putting things in unusual places and being unable to find them again.
  8. Decreased or poor judgement-for example, giving large amounts of money to telemarketers or paying less attention to personal hygiene.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality, including becoming suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious.

If after reading this list you are worried about yourself or someone close to you, arrange for a medical evaluation. Making a diagnosis of dementia requires a thorough examination by a physician. Many forms of dementia are not reversible, but early detection provides an opportunity to minimize other medical conditions that may bring on severe dementia symptoms earlier than they might otherwise show.

If you would like to learn more about your memory, please join us at 10a.m. on Wednesdays in May for the Virtual Master of Memory. These four sessions will be offered online. Sessions will include information on memory strategies, nutrition, medications, medical conditions, and exercise for the body and mind.

Sessions are free – but registration is required. You may register here: https://go.osu.edu/masterofmemory

Written by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension-Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviwed by: Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension-Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

Sources:

Alzheimer’s Association, https://www.alz.org/

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Dementia-Information-Page

What’s for Dinner?

Overwhelming words for many at the end of the day!  We are busier than ever, and outsourcing grocery shopping and meal preparation is quite appealing.  Home delivered meal services are popular and offer quick, tasty, and convenient meals.  Are these meals nutritious and worth the extra money?

These meal kits are a lifesaver for many busy families or those who have limited cooking experience.  The meals are delivered ready to cook, saving time at the recipe planning stage, the grocery store, chopping food items and prepping the meal.  Many meal kits are ready in 30 minutes or less and save time to spend on more fun things!

Consider meal prepping on your own.  The advantages are healthier options, cost and time saving strategies.  Getting organized is the first step in meal preparation.  Choose favorite recipes for the week.  There are three stages of meal preparing.

  1. Batch cooking.  Make large recipes on one selected day (weekend) and freeze to use later in the week.
  2. Individually portioned meals.  Prepare meals in individual portions ahead of time for a gran and go meal.
  3. Prepped ingredients.  Chop, peel. Slice or roast beforehand and use these prepare ingredients in recipes.

Meal prepping saves time and money with buying and preparing home cooked food ahead of time.  Most people shop and cook on the weekends.

Here are guidelines to start meal prepping at home:

  • Take inventory of your storage containers.  Use reusable airtight containers.
  • Select meals you want to prep for: breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Choose a shopping day.  Sunday and Wednesday are two popular days.
  • Determine how many meals  you want to prep.  Experiment with prepping for two to three days before attempting five or more.
  • Consider using a meal prep cookbook.  There are several available and check with your local library.
  • Meal preparation Apps are available to use on your smartphone.
  • Prep afternoon snacks of cut up vegetables with a yogurt dip.
  • Prep your recipes and put together in containers.  Refrigerate or freeze.  Prepared foods can remain refrigerated for 2-5 days or frozen 3-4 months depending on the ingredients.

Meal prepping does not need to be complex.  Basic steps help cut back on cooking time and increasing time for activities that matter most!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Margaret Jenkins, OSU Extension Educator, Clermont County, jenkins.188@osu.edu

Is it time for Spring cleaning at your house? Here is a simple task you can do to prevent serious consequences. Open your medicine cabinet or cupboard and look for expired, unwanted, or unused prescription medications.  Now is the perfect time to dispose of them safely and easily. No, I do not mean to throw them down the toilet or put them in the trash.

The best solution for unused medications is to utilize a drug disposal kit or to drop them off at a collection site. April 24, 2021 is the Spring Drug Take Back Day.  I encourage you to locate unused medications in your home, find the collection site and drop off your unused prescription drugs.Drug Take Back Day  

Did you know that most abused prescription drugs come from family and friends, including from home medicine cabinets? Expired prescription medications are a public safety issue, leading to potential accidental poisoning, misuse, and overdose. Proper disposal of unused drugs saves lives and protects the environment. How many times do you hear about another overdose? The statistics are startling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has seen an increase in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 83,544 Americans overdosing during the 12-month period ending July 1, 2020, the most ever recorded in a 12-month period.

I learned about a 22-year-old in my community who overdosed and died last week. His family buried him over the weekend. This story is all too familiar.

How can you help prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths?

Let’s explore this common scenario: you are a parent, grandparent or family member who had surgery a few months ago and in your medicine cabinet there are leftover pain killers. The surgery was months ago, and you haven’t thought about those medicines in your cabinet. You don’t need them, and they are just sitting there. BUT….. did you know that many teens get pain medication from a family member or friend? In fact, over 40% say they got the pain reliever they used most recently from a friend or relative for free.

Teen looking at meds in a medicine cabinetNow that you know the facts, work to be part of the solution!

  • Go to your cabinets and pull out the medications that you no longer need.
  • Find a safe drug take back site or utilize a drug disposal kit.
  • Properly dispose of unused medications.

Today is the day for you to take a step in the right direction and to help prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths. Who will join me in this fight? Share what you did in the comments.  

Writer: Michelle Treber, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Lorrissa Dunfee, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Belmont County, dunfee.54@osu.edu

A great way to celebrate Earth Day is spending time outside and connecting with nature. Time in nature offers an easy and inexpensive way to increase your happiness, improve your mood, and feel part of something larger than yourself. Studies have shown that getting outside can:

  • Improve your memory and attention: After just an hour interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans improved by 20%. In workplaces designed with nature in mind, employees are more productive and take less sick time.
  • Heal: Patients in hospital rooms with a view of trees had shorter stays and less need for pain medications compared to patients with views of brick.
  • Improve psychological well-being: Joggers who exercised in a natural green setting felt less anxious, angry, or depressed than people who jogged in an urban setting.
Child running outside under flowering trees

We also know from research that children who spend time outdoors are more likely to develop positive environmental attitudes and behaviors as adults. One of the best ways you can take care of our planet is to encourage children and youth to get outside.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, has created an expansive list of activities to encourage children to spend more time outdoors. Here are just a few ideas you can try with your children or grandchildren:

  1. Maintain a birdbath, grow native plants, or build a bat house. For more ideas, read National Audubon Society’s Invitation to a Healthy Yard.
  2. Collect lightning bugs at dusk and release them at dawn.
  3. Keep a terrarium or aquarium and learn about the plants and animals you observe.
  4. Be a cloud spotter; build a backyard weather station. A young person just needs a view of the sky. Check out The Kid’s Book of Weather Forecasting for more ideas.
  5. Encourage a “green hour” every day. Give kids a daily green hour that includes time outside, unstructured play, and interaction with the natural world.
  6. Collect stones. Even the youngest children love gathering rocks, shells, and fossils. Read Rock and Fossil Hunter by Ben Morgan together.
  7. Learn about and raise butterflies. Consider purchasing a monarch rearing kit and growing milkweed so you can hatch and release your own butterflies.
  8. Hang up a bird feeder and watch birds. Have them close their eyes and just listen. For more tips, check out National Audubon Society’s Easy Ways to Get Kids Birding and Bird Sleuth Investigator from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

No matter what you do while you are outdoors, remember that simply going outside is the most important step. Despite all the positive benefits of being outdoors, according to the EPA, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. On this Earth Day, make a pledge to get out more and bring some young people with you. Nurturing the next generation of our planet’s caretakers is a perfect way to celebrate!

References:

Bratman, G. N., Daily, G. C., Levy, B. J., & Gross, J. J. (2015). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, 41-50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005

Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Taylor, A. & Kuo, M. (2006). Is contact with nature important for healthy child development? state of the evidence. Children and their Environments: Learning, Using and Designing Spaces. 124-140.
https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511521232.009

Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224 (4647), 420–421. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.6143402

Wells, N. M. & Lekies, K. S., (2006). Nature and the life course: Pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult environmentalism. Children, Youth and Environments, 16 (1), 41663.

Written by: Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu.

“Finish your vegetables before you can leave the table” was a daily mantra my mother had for me at our dinner table. It always seemed like it was her objective in life to force those vegetables that simply could not compare to the extremely over-sweetened treats that had spoiled my taste buds. I never understood why I had to eat her under-seasoned steamed carrots or corn, and now my mother is still unable to give a solid explanation why she wanted me to eat my vegetables. She had been told from her mother to eat her vegetables and this has been shared from mother to child over time.  The more I have learned about nutrition, the more I understand just how important vegetables are in our diet.

basket of fresh vegetables

Eating the same steamed vegetables can be boring but using seasonal vegetables and making dishes with many colorful vegetables are much more enjoyable. One dish I enjoyed trying with vegetables as the star was a vegetable galette. Of course, when making a dish with many vegetables it is more economical, convenient and tasty to use vegetables that are in season. A salad with out-of-season tomatoes will simply not compare to fresh tomatoes grown in the summer. Before trying a new vegetable, be sure to check if they are in season. Eating vegetables in season means that your diet will change throughout the year and you will have new and different recipes to try out!

Vegetables not only provide many different flavors and color to a dish; they are also a vital part of a healthy diet. Vegetables provide important nutrients like: fiber, vitamins, and minerals that can have a positive impact on our health. High fiber foods like vegetables have been shown to decrease cholesterol, help regulate blood sugar, and increase fullness. Trying out different seasonal vegetables and using them in different recipes is a fun way to eat healthier.

About the author: Landon Griffin is a senior Nutrition and Food Science-Dietetics dietetics student at Middle Tennessee University with a bachelor’s degree in Health and Human Performance from the University of Tennessee at Martin. He works as a dietetic aide at NHC Healthcare and on the MT Nutrition Team. In fall 2020, he will attend Eastern Illinois University for a Master of Science Nutrition and Dietetics. In the future, he wants to work with athletes to help them reach their full potential through nutrition.

Author: Landon Griffin, senior dietetics student at Middle Tennessee State University, future dietetic intern at Eastern Illinois University

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

Sources:

Maynard, D.N. and G. Hochmuth. 1997. Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers 4th Edition. John Wiley & Sons, New York. Retrieved from: https://extension.psu.edu/seasonal-classification-of-vegetables

Retrieved from: https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/vegetables

Holly Larson. March 1, 2021. EatRight. Retrieved from: https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/easy-ways-to-boost-fiber-in-your-daily-diet

People eating breakfast

I have a routine that I begin each day with that includes brushing my teeth, working out, showering, getting dressed, fixing breakfast then heading out the door to go to work or teleworking from home. We all have actions that get our day started no matter what time it begins. Routines can lead to habits which can be positive or negative depending on the choices we make. Because routines are habitual, we don’t often evaluate whether they are positive or negative.

Do you usually grab a granola or protein bar in the morning? Or do you find yourself buying a pastry or sandwich when you stop for coffee or gas? Maybe you have a habit of sitting down to eat breakfast. Or maybe you don’t typically eat breakfast at all!

Take a moment today to think about the breakfast choices that start your day. Consider taking a break from your breakfast routine and try something different for a week or two.

Need ideas?

  • Make breakfast sandwiches or breakfast burritos at home. You can prep them ahead of time by scrambling eggs, adding in your favorite veggies, and refrigerating them overnight or until ready to eat. In the morning, just heat the eggs in the microwave and place into a tortilla for a breakfast wrap along with other toppings like cheese or salsa. 
  • Add fruit to your favorite morning drink or breakfast bar. Grab a fresh orange, apple or banana; a cup of applesauce or canned, diced fruit; or serve yourself a bowl of sliced berries or melon.
  • Try a new recipe such as Banana and Peanut Butter Overnight Oats, Granola and Yogurt Parfaits, or No Bake Breakfast Cookies

For more ideas, view these OSU Extension videos on Food Prep for Breakfast and Breakfast Made Easy.

What you eat can set the tone for the day. Eating breakfast will help you perform better throughout the day by helping with concentration, problem solving and even eye-hand coordination. In addition, eating breakfast can raise your energy level, mood and overall health! Those who eat a morning meal tend to make healthier food choices throughout the day compared to those who skip breakfast.

Writer: Tammy Jones, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Pike County

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Ellis, E. (2020). 5 Reasons your teen needs breakfast. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/5-reasons-your-teen-needs-breakfast

OSU Wexner Medical Center (2017). Improve your mood everyday: Just Eat Breakfast. https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/improve-your-mood-just-eat-breakfast

Recently I was reading an article and the researchers explained that self-compassion is not, “merely a ‘Pollyanish’ form of thinking.” They were using “Pollyanish” as an informal way to say that self-compassion is not foolish.

Merriam-Webster defines Pollyanna as: a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything. They explain that the term was used in the early 1920s referring to Pollyanna, the young heroine of the 1913 novel Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter. As the slang became more popular, the author later defended her work by stating, “I have never believed that we ought to deny discomfort and pain and evil; I have merely thought that it is far better to ‘greet the unknown with a cheer.'”

While the label Pollyanna or Pollyanish isn’t necessarily used as a compliment, we recognize the benefits of positive thinking. Research shows that positive people have better physical well-being and an increased lifespan. They have lower rates of depression and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Positive people have better coping skills during times of stress.

So why the criticism of Pollyanna? A main problem is when people insist on only allowing positivity. Stephanie Preston, University of Michigan Ann Arbor psychologist explains that toxic positivity is, “when people are forced to seem or be positive in situations where it’s not natural” or people don’t acknowledge or “deal with the fact that there is distress or need”. It’s not an all or nothing.

Being called a “Pollyanna” really isn’t an insult especially if you temper the positive with other realities. A recent paper advocated using, “positive psychology practices to be part of a multi-disciplinary approach.” They went on to explain that not only can we build on positive emotions but we can also build up our self-compassion and the capacity to cope with challenges. If we insist or rely only on positivity, we won’t allow ourselves – or others – time to experience other emotions or chances to learn and grow through struggles.

Written by: Patrice Powers-Barker, CFLE, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Lucas County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County

Sources:

Barlage, L. (2019). The power of positivity. Live Healthy Live Well, Ohio State University. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/12/30/the-power-of-positivity/

Carter, S. (2021). Overcoming Pandemic Paralysis. Live Healthy Live Well, Ohio State University. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/01/28/overcoming-pandemic-paralysis/

Graham, R. (2013, Feb 26). How we all became Pollyannas (and why we should be glad about it). The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/02/how-we-all-became-pollyannas-and-why-we-should-be-glad-about-it/273323/

Neff, K, Kirkpatrick, K., and Rude, S. (2006). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality 41 (2007) 139–154. Retrieved from https://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/publications/JRP.pdf

Marsh, J. (2012). The power of self-compassion. Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_power_of_self_compassion

Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress. (nd). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950

Stillman, J. (2020). ‘Toxic Positivity’ is a thing. A lot of us are experiencing it now. Psychology, University of Michigan. Retrieved from: https://lsa.umich.edu/psych/news-events/all-news/faculty-news/-toxic-positivity–is-a-thing–a-lot-of-us-are-experiencing-it-n.html  

Picture of a family holding hands and the 1943 USDA bulletin with the words National Wartime Nutrition Guide. U. S. Needs US Strong, Eat the Basic 7 Every Day.

In January, I wrote about the newly introduced Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, did you know that the United States Department of Agriculture has been providing dietary recommendations for well over 100 years? The first dietary advice by USDA was a Farmers Bulletin created in 1894, by W. O. Atwater. Atwater was the first person to publish tables of food composition and dietary standards. He recommended diets for American males based on protein, carbohydrate and fat content and their minerals. Interestingly, many minerals and vitamins were not even known back in 1894. The concept of eating a variety of foods, eating a well balanced diet, watching portion sizes and moderation for health and well being is the basis for today’s Dietary Guidelines, and its roots go way back to 1894.

If we look at dietary guidance over the years, some have certainly changed, however, many things still resonate today. In the 1920’s the government was concerned about food safety and foodborne Illness was prevalent in the USA. Our refrigeration technology was certainly not what it is today. For example, not all Americans had a refrigerator with a freezer. Therefore, perishable products such as milk and meat would go bad quickly. As we moved to the 1930’s there were more advancements in science and nutrition. We learned more about vitamins and minerals and their role in the body. In 1943, USDA released the Basic Seven Food Guide, a publication called the National Wartime Nutrition Guide. The Basic Seven advised choosing specific foods such as green/yellow vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, milk and milk products.

After World War II, USDA developed Food and Fitness- A Daily Food Guide. This publication focused on four groups; milk, vegetables and fruit, bread and cereal. It focused on eating with family, healthy meals and budgeting. This was the first time serving sizes were introduced. In 1977, the Dietary Goals of Americans was released. The focus was to address the issue of Americans consuming too much sugar, fat and salt. In 1980, the first Dietary Guidelines as we know it today was published “Nutrition and Your Health- Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” Since then, USDA has published recommendations on Dietary Guidelines every five years, to the most recent Dietary Guidelines 2020 to 2025.

The format of these documents have evolved from  paper copy bulletins, websites, blogs, pictorial images such as My Pyramid and MyPlate. Yet, USDA has been providing dietary guidance for over a century. The research has certainly expanded over the years to keep up with todays lifestyles and food consumption. However, in spite of all these rapid changes, the more things change, the more they resemble the past.

Written by: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County, Zies.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Smith, MFN, RD, LD, CDCES, Program Coordinator, OSU Extension, Wood County, Smith.11604@osu.edu

Sources:

  • History of the Dietary Guidelines | Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Dietaryguidelines.gov. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/about-dietary-guidelines/history-dietary-guidelines. Published 2021. Accessed March 1, 2021.
  • Jahns L, Davis-Shaw W, Lichtenstein A, Murphy S, Conrad Z, Nielsen F. The History and Future of Dietary Guidance in America. Advances in Nutrition. 2018;9(2):136-147. doi:10.1093/advances/nmx025
  • https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/42215/5831_aib750b_1_.pdf
  • Schneeman B. Evolution of dietary guidelines. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103(12):5-9. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2003.09.030
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.

As I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a meme that said, “Laughter is like a windshield wiper, it doesn’t stop the rain but allows us to keep going.” I had not thought of laughter like that, but I recently found this saying to be accurate.

Life is well, unpredictable. Sometimes you laugh your way through the day because there were many joyous or humorous events. Other times if you did not laugh at the obstacles thrown at you, you would cry. Why does laughter have a healing property? And if laughter is the best medicine, why don’t we laugh more?

Laughter therapy is not new, in fact it has been unofficially in practice for centuries. However, in the past 70 years more research has been focused on the use of laughter to help relieve pain, stress, and anxiety and improve a person’s sense of overall well-being. Researchers have found laughter may significantly increase a person’s level of hope. The hope the person felt helped reduce the severity of the stressors in their life.

Biologically, the act of laughter increases your oxygen levels, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases endorphins, or happy juice, released by your brain. This results in a good, tranquil feeling that sooths tension and aids in muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce the physical symptoms of stress.

Spontaneous laughter, also known as genuine laughter, in addition to psychological benefits, has been linked to increase tolerance of pain in both adults and children.  Self-induced, or simulated laughter, like that practiced in Laughter Yoga, has shown decreases in blood pressure, cortisol levels, depressive symptoms, and an increase the perception of life satisfaction.

So how can you increase your daily dose of laughter?

They Mayo Clinic suggests you can try:

  • Put humor on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos, greeting cards or comic strips, that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies, books, magazines or comedy videos on hand for when you need an added humor boost. Look online at joke websites. Go to a comedy club.
  • Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
  • Consider trying laughter yoga. In laughter yoga, people practice laughter as a group. Laughter is forced at first, but it can soon turn into spontaneous laughter.
  • Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
  • Knock, knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library’s selection of joke books and add a few jokes to your list that you can share with friends.

Your challenge is to pick a way to incorporate laughter into your daily life. You just might find, like a wiper blade, it does not stop the rain, but it can make the journey much more enjoyable.

Written by: Dr. Roseanne E. Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Darke County

Reviewed by: Patrice Powers-Barker, CFLE, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Lucas County

Sources

Dexter, L., Brook, K. & Frates, E. (2016). The Laughter Prescription. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicate. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125057/

Texas A&M University. “Humor Can Increase Hope, Research Shows.” ScienceDaily. Feb. 11, 2005. (June 1, 2009) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050211095658.htm

The Mayo Clinic. (2019, April 5). Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

University of California – Los Angeles.(2009, June 1). Watching Funny Shows Helps Children Tolerate Pain Longer, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024100905.htm