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Archive for the ‘Healthy People’ Category

Each year I select a word for the upcoming year. It isn’t something I do lightly. I spend time considering what I want to focus my intentions on for the upcoming year. Instead of making numerous New Year resolutions, use this word to set goals or intentions in each area of your life. They can all circle back to your word.

Here are some real-life examples of my journeys this year. One journey this year includes physical wellness. With hip replacement surgery this summer, I truly appreciate the complexities of the body and how important this journey of physical activity and wellness. Physical activity helps all of us. It is a stress reliever and can help you strengthen both your body and mind. If you are new to movement, start slowly and add activity to your day. Not sure you are ready to move more? Check out this website for reasons to get started.  

Another journey for me has been my emotional and mental health. I’m working on emotional wellness by reducing stress, counseling, and practicing mindfulness. Writing in my gratitude journal helps me appreciate life so much more. This simple practice can improve your health and happiness.

The final journey I’ll share is my transition from work life to retirement. I’ve worked since I was 5 years old. My first work memory was my dad asking me to fill the pop cooler at our little grocery store, Treber Grocery. I worked there until we sold the store after my dad’s death when I was 17 years old. This early work experience taught me the value of hard work, customer service and taking care of people. That philosophy has sustained me throughout my work career. I have tried to emulate some of my words of the year: strength, kindness, and balance. As I shift towards retirement or “rewirement” I know that this will be another journey – more free time, fewer work demands and reduced work stress. More time for personal reflection, travel and creative expression to name a few!

The National Institutes of Health has several Wellness Toolkits to help you get started on your Wellness Journey. What are you waiting for?

Your Journey awaits! Feel free to share in our comments about your wellness journey.

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

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

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October is emotional wellness month!  What exactly is emotional wellness?  Emotional wellness encompasses the feeling of happiness and success. It is learning how to deal with the ups and down of life, coping with challenges and having control of your life and a sense of purpose.  When you are emotionally well you function more effectively in your workplace, community, and in relationships. 

Mental Health America (MHA) reports that over 40 million Americans suffer from at least one mental health problem.  Prolonged untreated mental health problems may lead to more severe psychological and physical health conditions such as: insomnia, hypertension, headaches, shortness of breath, impulsivity, and muscle aches.  Mindfulness, along with a healthy lifestyle, and stress management can help you deal with mental health problems.  Treatment can include medication along with healthy habits, yoga, meditation, and counseling.

Make your life better by establishing healthy habits. To encourage holistic health, focus on healthy habits which make you feel good!

  • Mindfulness:  Be mindful, focus on the specific moment you are in.
  • Journaling:  Write down your joys.
  • Meditate/Yoga
  • Laugh!  Laughing releases, the happy juice — endorphins. With endorphins surging through our bloodstream, we’re more apt to feel happy and relaxed. With each laugh, therefore, we’re relieving stress, reducing anxiety, and increasing our stores of personal energy.
  • Say “NO” without guilt.  Learning to set boundaries and spending time for yourself is imperative for self-care.
  • Read Books
  • Seek therapy
  • Communicate with others your feelings and needs.
  • Focus on the good.

American Psychological Association, (2018) Stress Effects on the Body. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body

Miller, K. (2020). 14 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude According to Science.  Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-gratitude/

Powers-Barker, P., (2016).  Introduction to Mindfulness.  Ohioline: Ohio State University Extension. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Written by:  Kellie Lemly M.Ed., Family Consumer Science Educator, OSU Extension, Champaign County, lemly.2@osu.edu

Reviewer: Roseanne Scammahorn, Ph.D. Family Consumer Science Educator, OSU Extension, Darke County, scammahron.5@osu.edu

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a lawn mower

On Monday, Facebook and Instagram were down for about six hours. Did you panic? My guess is that unless you run a business or depend on Facebook for ad revenue, you survived the six hours. It is interesting how connected we are to our phones and digital lives, yet when forced to be without them for a period, life goes on. Monday evening I mowed my grass for two hours and I had one singular focus: to mow. Imagine what my yard would look like if I were watching a video, scrolling on Facebook, or texting while mowing. It seems crazy, yet that is what we are often doing on our digital devices – multitasking.

Technology has allowed for multiple means of connecting with family and friends. Using technology as a tool to be more efficient can be a benefit, but if not managed, these multiple forms of electronic communication can be stressful to the person. This technostress, which is the stress of being overwhelmed by technology, does not allow us to easily disengage from social media or our devices. Our phones allow us to multitask by being at one location or event while communicating or doing tasks not related to the occasion. Constantly being on the phone was initially a young professional phenomenon, but now owning a smartphone is commonplace in all generations as most people have a smartphone. Even the presence of a smartphone nearby causes a person to wonder what they might be missing by not checking notifications.

Productivity and solving complex problems have been reported to improve given blocks of uninterrupted time free from technology to focus on specific tasks. Author and Professor Cal Newport coined a term for these blocks of time called “deep work,” which he defines as “professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit.” Just as the social media outage gave us the ability to have a block of time without technology, I want to invite you to schedule your own “outages”. These deep work blocks of time could give you a focused time of productivity, as multitasking is just task switching. In addition, screen free times can allow our minds a break from technology. Even if you don’t have a yard to mow, schedule time on the mower and give yourself a break!

Written by Dr. Mark D. Light, Leader, Ohio 4-H STEM & Digital Engagement Innovations

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

Sources:

Light, M. D. (2021). Exploring the Adaptability of Ohio State University Extension County 4-H Professionals to an All-Digital Setting During the COVID-19 Remote Work Period Based on Selected Variables and Their Relationship to Change Style Preferences (Doctoral dissertation, The Ohio State University).

Newport, C. (2016). Deep work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world. Hachette UK.

Sellberg, C., & Susi, T. (2014). Technostress in the office: a distributed cognition perspective on human-technology interaction. Cognition, Technology & Work, 16(2), 187-201.

Sykes, E. R. (2011). Interruptions in the workplace: A case study to reduce their effects. International Journal of Information Management, 31(4), 385-394.

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Can of Kidney Beans

When I was in my early 40s my ankles started to swell up. I was healthy in every other way with the exception of living with Type 1 diabetes. Through a urine and blood test, doctors were concerned that I had some indicators of a kidney disease. After a biopsy, I was was diagnosed with idiopathic nephropathy. My kidneys were inflamed and damaged from an autoimmune reaction. Fortunately, doctors were able to treat it successfully through medicines and monitoring.

When we are healthy, we might not think about our kidneys. When we have a chronic disease like diabetes, we still might not think about our kidneys, as I didn’t. We should though, as kidney disease is becoming more and more common today and is a potential complication of chronic diseases like diabetes. Kidneys play an important role in our bodies. They remove wastes, extra fluid, and acids to maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals. In addition, kidneys produce hormones that help control blood pressure, make red blood cells, and keep our bones healthy.

Conditions such as hypertension or elevated blood sugar can be harmful to the kidneys over time as they become damaged and leaky. Kidney disease is often called the silent killer because individuals can be asymptomatic at first. As kidney disease progresses , harmful electrolytes and waste start to build up in the body. In the final stages of kidney disease, dialysis is needed. Kidney disease can be detected by routine blood and urinalysis tests. It’s imperative that people get checked if they are at high risk:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart (cardiovascular) disease
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Being Black, Native American or Asian American
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Abnormal kidney structure
  • Older age
  • Frequent use of medications that can damage the kidneys

Fortunately, kidneys disease can be controlled or managed if it is detected early enough. Medications and behavioral changes can delay or prevent complications. Following a low sodium diet, being physically active, smoking cessation, managing blood sugar, and maintaining or reducing weight are all kidney healthy behaviors.

Author: Dan Remley, PhD, MSPH, Associate Professor, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, O.S.U. Extension

Reviewer:

Susan Zies, M.Ed, Assistant Professor, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension

Mayo Clinic. Chronic Kidney Disease. Accessed on 10/1/2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-kidney-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354521

National Kidney Foundation. Membranous Nephropathy. Accessed on 10/1/2021 https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/membranous-nephropathy-mn

National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes, Digestion, and Kidney Diseases. How do Kidneys Work? Accessed on 10/1/2021 at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidneys-how-they-work

Zies, S. Salt: A Salty Subject. Accessed on 10/1/2021 at https://wordpress.com/post/livehealthyosu.com/3840

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sweet potato fries

Almost three years ago I wrote an article about air frying. As I mentioned in the article, I was first introduced to air-fried sweet potato fries by a former neighbor. Since then, I purchased air fryers for both home and work, and I had much fun experimenting with them while at home during the pandemic. While I have tried a variety of recipes, sweet potato fries remain one of my favorite!

Sweet potatoes are a healthy vegetable full of fiber, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Air-fried sweet potato fries are healthier than traditional fries for a variety of reasons:

1) If you wash them well and prepare them with skin on, you preserve the nutrients contained in the skin.

2) By air frying, you don’t need to add much fat or oil to your food as the fryer uses convection to crisp the fries.

3) You can control or limit how much salt you add to your fries, AND sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium. While about 90% of Americans consume too much sodium, only about 3% get enough potassium. This essential nutrient is an electrolyte that helps with blood pressure control and can help offset the effects of sodium.

The below video demonstrates how to use an air fryer to make sweet potatoes into a crunchy, healthy snack or side that both kids and adults can enjoy. If you don’t have an air fryer and want to enjoy sweet potato fries, oven-roasted sweet potato wedges are a healthier alternative to traditional fries that can be prepared in the oven. In either preparation method, sweet potatoes are cut into fry-size strips, seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic power and onion powder, and cooked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until done.

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

Reviewed by: Jami Dellifield, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Hardin County

Sources:

Brinkman, P. (2017). Potassium. OhioLine. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5588

Lobb, J. (2018). Fried Food without the Fat? Live Healthy, Live Well. https://livehealthyosu.com/2018/11/01/fried-food-without-the-fat/  

McDermott, T. (2021). Healthy Sweet Potato Fries. Growing Franklin. https://u.osu.edu/growingfranklin/2021/02/24/healthy-sweet-potato-fries/

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Every time I go to the store lately I see things declaring, “Happy Fall Y’all!” or some variation. While many people love all things fall, I am not a fan. Yes, you read that correctly, I am not a fan of fall. First, the changing colors on the trees means the leaves are dying in preparation for the long, cold, dark months ahead. The marked shortening of the days means that soon it will be dark when I leave for work and dark again shortly after I get home. “Sweatshirt weather” means it’s too cold to swim or stand up paddle board, two things I enjoy. While we still have time to take our boat out, we will have to bundle up while doing so. Then there’s the dreary, rainy, blah days that are characteristic of fall in Ohio. So, while many of you are basking in the season, some of us are struggling.

Woman with hat pulled down over her face. Face has a grimace.

For many years I did not realize why I lack the excitement and anticipation of fall like so many people I know. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I have the winter blues, a milder form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that begins and ends about the same time each year. As the name implies and as many people understand it, winter blues and SAD often occur in winter, not late summer/early fall like my symptoms. After teaching about mental health, I finally realized that my disdain for fall actually has a cause. While winter blues and SAD typically DO occur later, they can actually occur ANY time of the year, and in fact, some people experience symptoms of SAD during the summer, sometimes referred to summer blues or summer depression. Since I do not have a background in mental health, I was surprised to learn this. Besides, how could ANYONE not LOVE summer and ALL that it offers? All joking aside, regardless of when someone experiences symptoms, there are things you can do to help.

As I looked back over my blog articles from the past, it appears I am inspired to write about this topic each year around this time. I think revisiting information about winter blues and SAD helps me to be more proactive in doing things to reduce my symptoms. The American Psychological Association provides these tips:

Person walking on a path through the woods with an umbrella.
  1. Experience as much daylight as possible.
  2. Eat healthily.
  3. Spend time with your friends and family.
  4. Stay active.
  5. Seek professional help.

I find exercising regularly, ideally outside, in addition to eating healthy, getting the appropriate amount of sleep, and spending time with my family to be helpful in warding off symptoms. It usually takes me a bit to get into a groove, especially as the days get shorter and shorter. Once I am able to get into a routine, I find I can actually enjoy some of the characteristic fall activities, though summer will forever be my favorite season.

Some of the risk factors for SAD include:

  1. Being female. Women are four times as likely to develop SAD than men.
  2. Living far from the equator. One percent of Florida residents compared to nine percent of Alaska residents suffer from SAD.
  3. Family history. A family history of any type of depression increases the risk of developing SAD.
  4. Having depression or bipolar disorder. Depression symptoms may worsen with the seasons if you have another condition.
  5. Younger Age. Younger adults have a higher risk than older adults. SAD can occur in children and teens as well.

So, as I remember all the fun summer activities that are no more, I will focus on things I can do to help me make the most of the changing seasons. Just don’t expect to see any fall decorations at my house until mid-October!

As always, if you or someone you love is struggling, don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional or a primary care physician.

Written by Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Seasonal affective disorder. American Psychological Association. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder.

Harmon, M. D. (2019, October 21). Fall: A sad time of year. Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/21/fall-a-sad-time-of-year/.

Harmon, M. D. (2020, December 11). What’s so great about fall ya’ll? Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/10/08/whats-so-great-about-fall-yall/.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2017, October 25). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) | Michigan Medicine. (2020, September 23). Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw169553.

Site-Name. (n.d.). Chestnut Health Systems. Get Help Now. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.chestnut.org/how-we-can-help/mental-health/learn-the-facts-mental-health/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/.

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a person standing in the sun

It’s fall now, which means the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are getting cooler. In the long winter months, warm weather and sunshine can seem like a distant memory. We start to look forward to the days when the sun will stay longer and bring back all that we love about being outside – picnics, barb-b-ques, and more. The sun, in fact, gives us more than we realize. One of the most important vitamins we need – Vitamin D – actually depends on the sun, so much so that it is known as the “sunshine vitamin”.

If vitamins had a popularity contest, vitamin D would surely be a top contestant. Why does it get so much press?  The answer lies in just how much it does for our bodies. Vitamin D supports neuromuscular and immune function, reduces inflammation, and improves bone health.

You might be wondering how the sun plays a role in the vitamin D levels in our bodies. We naturally produce an inactive form of vitamin D in our bodies called calciferol. Our hero, the sun, converts calciferol to the active form of vitamin D – cholecalciferol. However, this process depends on a number of factors including the length of exposure to the sun, skin type, where you live (how much sun exposure your geographical area gets), the season, and the time of day.

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the world, and in the United States. It is estimated that around 40% of Americans may be deficient in Vitamin D. Infants, disabled individuals, the elderly, obese individuals, people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, people with darker skin, and people who have medical problems which interfere with normal absorption of nutrients are at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency. If you feel you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor about getting bloodwork done. It is important to consult with a doctor before taking a vitamin D supplement. Your doctor will help you determine whether supplementation is needed, and if so, what an appropriate dose would be. Taking a supplement without consulting with a doctor could put you at risk for toxicity, and you may suffer side effects associated with too much vitamin D. If your doctor does recommend a supplement, be sure to ask for recommendations, or use this resource to find products that have been tested for quality. As described in a previous blog article, not all supplements are created equal!

Proactively, besides getting outside and taking in the sun, you can also aim to include foods high in Vitamin D in your diet. Fatty fish such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel; eggs yolks, cheese, mushrooms, and cod liver oil are all naturally high in vitamin D. Fortunately, in the United States a number of foods are now fortified with vitamin D: milk, infant formula, breakfast cereals, some brands of orange juice, and select yogurt products.

Whether it comes from the sun, food, or supplements, getting enough vitamin D is important!

Sources:

Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D. Accessed February 18, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

Nair, R. & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother;3(2):118-126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506

Forrest, K.Y.Z. & Stuhldreher, W.L. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutr Res.;31(1):48-54. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2010.12.001

Written by Avani Patel, Pharm-D, Dietetic Intern, The Ohio State University

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

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Autumn is quickly approaching, but for older adults and their caregivers the word fall is more than just a season. For many older adults, the word fall can bring up fearful thoughts of injury, loss of independence, and even death. Unfortunately, the statistics support this fear. Falls are the leading cause of injuries for older Americans. Did you know that 1 in 4 older adults fall each year? It is a staggering statistic that leads to an older adult being treated in the emergency room every 11 seconds for a fall related injury. Falls among older adults are very costly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year, about $50 billion is spent on medical costs related to non-fatal fall injuries and $754 million is spent related to fatal falls.

However, there is an additional cost to consider. That is the impact that falls have on caregivers. Caregiving can be a tough job that can take a toll on the caregiver’s health, especially as their loved one’s health declines. A single fall can impact the care recipient’s health adversely. Caregivers have reported a significant increase in caregiver burden after a loved one’s first fall, and increased anxiety over concerns for their loved one’s safety and well-being.

Falls prevention is a group effort. The National Council of Aging has a Falls Prevention Conversation Guide For Caregivers that provides caregivers with tools to help them take preventative steps to reduce the risk of their loved one falling. Below are three steps designed to help prevent a loved one’s serious injury, help them stay healthy, and maintain an independent lifestyle. The information gathered in these steps can help start a conversation with the person you are caring for to determine if they are at risk for a fall, and develop an action plan.

  1. Complete the Falls Free Check Up Assessment to determine if the person you are caring for is at risk for a fall.
  2. Talk about falls prevention with others. Use the observations from Step 1 to start a conversation with family, friends, physicians, and the person that you are providing care. The guide includes conversation notes on how to begin.
  3. Develop a falls prevention action plan. Now is the time to put the information gathered from the first 2 steps into action by immediately creating a falls prevention action plan. The guide shares 7 action steps to help create the action plan.

Many people think that falls are just an inevitable part of aging. However, most falls are preventable. September 20th-24th, 2021 is Falls Prevention Awareness Week. This campaign brings awareness to the prevalence and prevention of falls. To find more information about the topic and Falls Prevention Awareness Week, visit the National Council on Aging or the Ohio Department of Aging.

Written by: Kathy Tutt, OSU Extension Educator, Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Kellie Lemly MEd., OSU Extension, Family Consumer Science Educator, Champaign County, lemly.2@osu.edu

References:

Cost of Older Adult Falls, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Retrieved September 13, 2021 from: https://www.cdc.gov/falls/data/fall-cost.html

Dow, B., Meyer, C., Moore, K.J., & Hill, K.D. (2013). The impact of care recipient falls on caregivers. Australian Health Review, 37(2), 152-157

Falls Prevention Conversation Guide For Caregivers, The National Council on Aging, Retrieved September 13, 2021 from: https://assets-us-01.kc-usercontent.com/ffacfe7d-10b6-0083-2632-604077fd4eca/fd1890e1-4a6b-4ede-9acb-4775de02f27f/2021-Falls-Prevention-Awareness-Week_Conversation-Guide-for-Caregivers_English_6-29.pdf

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Recently, at girls’ night, a discussion was held about the challenges many faced this past year during the pandemic.  Isolation, fear, contact restrictions, financial, illness, loss and food insecurities were discussed.  The conversation quickly changed to activities that began during the pandemic  we have enjoyed and wish to continue.   Quality time spent with family and friends was a common theme.  Many shared their own rituals which include:

  • Curbside pickup.  Ordering from the drugstore to the grocery store allows more time to spend at home and shop less.  This eliminates impulse shopping!
  • Started a group text with our three adult children and their spouses to keep in touch and check in with each other.
  • Monthly family “Zoom chats”.  This started when we could not get together for the holidays and has continued monthly.  We all look forward to these monthly family sessions and catch up on the comings and goings.
  • Shared photos of recipes we prepared and included the recipes. This has expanded our cooking techniques and improved our meals!
  • Started to play the piano again. Each night before bedtime we sing our favorite songs together.  We find it very calming and have continued the practice.
  • My teenage daughter comes into my home office daily and we have a quick chat.
  • Zooming with my sisters located in Las Vegas, London, and New York City.  We spend every Saturday together for the first time in our adult lives.
  • During the month of October, we watched one scary movie each night.   On Halloween we held an awards show called The Scaries.  Movies are a family favorite and a great way to connect and celebrate during the quarantine.
  • We started taking weekend walks in the woods.  With playgrounds and indoor activities closed, we tried to visit all the nearby forest preserves and state parks.  We have enjoyed our walks immensely.
  • My two daughters came home for a few months last fall.  They both enjoy cooking and the show Chopped.  We created our own version of the show.  I collected ingredients to use and made-up baskets for each daughter to create an entrée and dessert.  My husband and I judged the results and we all had tons of fun!
  • Two weeks before Christmas, my musical family shared an outside concert with our neighborhood.  With a trumpet, flute, keyboard, and violin we played several songs to a social-distanced crowd.  It was magical!
  • We started taking daily long walks-rain or shine.  We look forward to these daily walks and enjoy the quality time together and the beauty of nature.
  • We love playing pickleball and purchased a portable sturdy pickleball net online.  Using sidewalk chalk, we measured a regulation court on our cul-de-sac and started playing family tournaments.  This summer we have expanded and invited friends and neighbors to join us.
  • On Christmas Eve, we scheduled a Zoom sing along of our favorite Christmas songs and everyone in our family across the country sang together and enjoyed our time together.

We all learned the importance of being creative with limited resources and space at home.  We appreciate these small acts of kindness and are grateful to family and friends that help boost our emotional wellbeing.  What family activity did you create during the pandemic you hope to continue?

Please share below on comments your favorite family activity.

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

Reviewed by:  Michelle Treber, OSU Extension Educator, Pickaway County, Treber.1@osu.edu

References:

Rituals in the Time of COVID-19: Imagination, Responsiveness, and the Human Spirit – PubMed (nih.gov)

A Crowd-Sourced Database of Coronamusic: Documenting Online Making and Sharing of Music During the COVID-19 Pandemic – PubMed (nih.gov)

Hope During COVID-19 Lockdown – PubMed (nih.gov)

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How are you feeling today? In a world full of 24-hours news that tends to focus on negative events, an ongoing global pandemic, and growing divisiveness, “happy” might not be the first emotion that comes to mind. According to NORC at the University of Chicago, only 14% of American adults said they were very happy in 2020, which is the lowest percentage since the poll has been conducted over the past 50 years.

Closeup of diverse senior adults sitting by the pool enjoying summer together

If you find yourself in the 86% of adults who are not feeling very happy, is there anything you can do about it? The wonderful (and happy) news is that the answer to this question is an enthusiastic “YES!” Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. Scientists in the field have found proven ways to increase a person’s level of happiness.

Action for Happiness is a non-profit organization in the United Kingdom and their mission is to create more happiness in the world. In a joint endeavor with Vanessa King, they developed the Ten Keys to Happier Living, a framework based on the latest research relating to physical, psychological, and mental wellbeing. The first 5 keys focus on daily life and how we relate and interact with the external world, while the last 5 keys focus on qualities that are internal and shaped by our attitudes. The Ten Keys are:

  1. Giving: Do things for others
  2. Relating: Connect with people
  3. Exercising: Take care of your body
  4. Awareness: Live life mindfully
  5. Trying Out: Keep learning new things
  6. Direction: Have goals to look forward to
  7. Resilience: Find ways to bounce back
  8. Emotions: Focus on what’s good
  9. Acceptance: Be comfortable with who you are
  10. Meaning: Be part of something bigger

You can remember the ten keys because together, they spell out GREAT DREAM. You can download a free, in-depth guidebook that provides an introduction, an image, a question, a quote, and practical action ideas for each key.

Knowing ten ways to increase your happiness is a great start. Now comes the fun part: trying out these keys for yourself. Commit to trying one of the keys today and make plans to try the others over time. Not only will you have fun and learn new things, but you have the potential of joining that small and fortunate group of people who report being very happy. As the Dalai Lama has said, Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

A final note: Positive psychology recognizes that not everyone feels happy all the time nor does it dismiss real problems that people experience. If you have a difficult time feeling happy, even when you keep trying, reach out to a friend, a professional, and/or a support service, like Ohio CareLine. Also keep in mind that many medications can have mental health side effects. Don’t struggle alone and remember that asking for help is a sign of great strength.

Resources:
To learn more about happiness and find additional educational resources, visit https://go.osu.edu/mental-health-and-well-being-warren-co

References:
Action for Happiness. (n.d.). Great Dream: Ten Keys to Happier Living. https://www.actionforhappiness.org/media/530511/ten_keys_guidebook.pdf

King, V. (2016). 10 Keys to Happier Living. London, United Kingdom: Headline Publishing Group.

NORC (2020). Issue Brief: Historic Shift in Americans’ Happiness Amid Pandemic. NORC at the University of Chicago.
https://www.norc.org/PDFs/COVID%20Response%20Tracking%20Study/Historic%20Shift%20in%20Americans%20Happiness%20Amid%20Pandemic.pdf

Peterson, C. (2008, May 16). What is positive psychology, and what is it not? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-good-life/200805/what-is-positive-psychology-and-what-is-it-not

Stanton, L. (2020, December 10). Serious mental health side effects related to Singulair. Live Healthy Live Well, Ohio State University Extension.
https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/12/10/serious-mental-health-side-effects-related-to-singulair

Stanton, L. (2021, July 13). How happiness protects heart health. Live Healthy Live Well, Ohio State University Extension.
https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/07/13/how-happiness-protects-heart-health

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

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

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