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Dark snowy night with trees covered in snow
Photo by u0422u0430u0442u044cu044fu043du0430 u0427u0435u0440u043du044bu0448u043eu0432u0430ud83cudf52 on Pexels.com

One of my favorite things about the winter are the snowy days and nights. I’ll put on my cross-country skis and go out for a few hours, not see a car in sight, and appreciate the silence. I feel sometimes like I’m in the wilderness during a snowstorm, and there is something very relaxing about it. The ephemeral darkness and silence of a snowstorm should be taken advantage of, as these qualities have health benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked. Too much noise and light can be detrimental to our health and well-being.

Noise pollution is common if you live in the cities or suburbs, or next to a busy road if you live in a rural area. Noise comes from traffic, sirens, industry, construction work, and can come from our own homes including our TVs, phones, radios, appliances, etc. What are some of the health consequences of being exposed to too much noise? Research suggests that too much noise can promote hearing loss, tinnitus, and hypersensitivity to sound. It can also cause or exacerbate cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep disturbances, stress, mental health and cognition problems, including memory impairment and attention deficits, childhood learning delays, and low birth weight.

Conversely, there are many health benefits to silence; it lowers your blood pressure, decreases your heart rate, steadies your breathing, reduces muscle tension and increases focus and cognition. Silence can also help us have more profound thoughts, stronger relationships, increased creativity, and improved communication skills.

What can you do? Try to sit in silence and practice mindfulness one minute per day and build up to twice a day once you are comfortable. Some people are really challenged by this, especially if they are used to noise, or being on their phones. Extroverts might have a harder time with this than introverts. Eventually, build up to 15 minutes per day, and you will feel calmer and more relaxed. You could also try going for a walk alone without music, staring out the window and watching birds, or drinking your morning coffee or tea without your phone, TV or other devices.

Author: Dan Remley PhD, MSPH Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension, remley.4@osu.edu

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

Sources:

Stephanie Dutchen. Harvard Health. The Effects of Noise on Health. Accessed on 12/12/22 at https://hms.harvard.edu/magazine/viral-world/effects-noise-health

Cleveland Clinic. Health Essentials. An Ode to Silence: Why you Need Silence in Your Life. Accessed on 12/12/22 at https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-you-need-more-silence-in-your-life/

Patrice Powers-Barker. An introduction to Mindfulness. Access on 12/12/22 at ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

The sun shining behind a tree in winter.

The Winter Solstice occurs the moment the sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, which is the maximum tilt away from the sun. The significance of this event is that, in terms of sunlight, everyone living in the Northern Hemisphere experiences the shortest day and longest night of the year. This typically occurs around the 21st or 22nd of December every year.

In meteorological terms, the Winter Solstice marks the official start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. This year, the Winter Solstice will take place on Wednesday, December 21st (at 4:48 PM to be exact).

Here are four ways you and your family can observe and celebrate the Winter Solstice, indoors and outdoors:

Winter shadows in the snow.

1. Look At Your Shadow
If it is a sunny day, go outside around noon and check your shadow on the Winter Solstice. Even better, measure your shadow and remember how long it is. You can measure your shadow on other days of the year, but it will never be as long as it is on the Winter Solstice. This is because the sun is at its lowest point in the sky and therefore, casts the longest shadows of the year. Visit this NASA link to see a beautiful image that shows how the sun moves across the sky throughout the year and creates a fascinating pattern called an analemma.

2. Attend a Winter Solstice Celebration
Many parks, nature centers, and other outdoor venues hold Winter Solstice events. For example, in southwest Ohio, Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve holds an annual sunrise celebration. On the morning of the Winter Solstice, the sun strategically rises through a gap in the Fort Ancient earthworks. In central Ohio, OSU Chadwick Arboretum hosts an annual candle-lit labyrinth walk in the evening. For events close to you, try a quick internet search to find a Winter Solstice celebration near you.

3. Read About the Winter Solstice
Make a trip to your local library to find children’s books about the Winter Solstice. Snuggle up, light a fire or a candle, drink hot cocoa, and read a book together. Some book suggestions are:

  • The Longest Night by Marion Dane Bauer
  • The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer
  • The Solstice Badger by Robin McFadden

4. Rest and Reflect
Paying attention to nature and the four seasons is a healthy way to be mindful. It gives you an opportunity to be fully present in the moment and recognize that life is about change. We change and the seasons change. Pausing to recognize the shift that occurs at the Winter Solstice can connect us to the people, traditions, and memories that have come before us. The cold days and the long nights are perfect for rest, reflection, and setting your intentions for the new year and the next season of life.

Wishing you a wonderful and cheerful Winter Solstice! May the coming days bring warmth, light, and peace.

Winter Solstice Greetings image

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

Reviewed by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Lucas County, powers-barker.1@osu.edu.

Sources:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (2007, June 17). Astronomy Picture of the Day. https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap070617.html

Stanton, L. (n.d.) Mindfulness. Ohio State University Extension, Warren County. go.osu.edu/mindful-warren-co

Stanton. L. (n.d.). Nature matters. Ohio State University Extension, Warren County. go.osu.edu/nature-matters

Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E. & Richardson, M. Mindfulness and nature. Mindfulness (9), 1655–1658 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0883-6

Photo Credits:

© Björn Buxbaum-Conradi. Sun shining behind a tree in winter. Adobe Stock.

@ Lizzy Komen. Winter shadows in the snow. Adobe Stock.

@ Teddy and Mia. Winter Solstice greeting. Adobe Stock.

Little boy with brown hair wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt running though a sprinkler. 
Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

Actor, Leslie Jordan shared in his book, How Y’all Doing?, “Happiness is a choice. Happiness is a habit. And happiness is something you have to work hard at. It does not just happen.”

Is this true? Can you coach yourself to be happy(ier)? According to Drs. Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term Positive Psychology in 1998, yes you can. By focusing on “strengths and behaviors that build a life of meaning and purpose…emphasizing meaning and deep satisfaction, not just on fleeting happiness,” you can work to enhance your happiness through gratitude (Psychology Today, 2022).

Gratitude is strongly associated with one’s level of happiness. “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis (Harvard Health, 2021).

Black sign with white letters that says "Good Vibes Only" 
Photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash
  • Keep a gratitude journal. There is no right way or wrong way to journal. List the people, places, and things for which you are grateful, or write about them in a story-telling fashion.
  • Write letters and thank you notes. When you express your gratitude by writing a letter, you are being an active participant in your happiness, investing in seeking out the goodness and joy that surrounds us.
  • Thank someone mentally. If you are on a time crunch and don’t have time to write a personal letter, just thinking about the person or action you are grateful for helps to maintain the pattern of reflecting on the positive impacts on your life.
  • Practice mindfulness. According to Psychology Today, “Monitoring your ongoing experience may make you feel happier by helping you slow down to appreciate things or to notice more of the happy things that are going on around you.”
  • Count your blessings. Spend just a few minutes each day listing all the blessings you have encountered. Cultivating this state of appreciation creates the habit of focusing on what you have rather than what you do not.

You do have the ability to impact your overall level of happiness! Practice the simple steps of gratitude on a daily basis and see if you find more contentment, joy, hope, and happiness in your life!

Sources:

Azar, B. (2011). Positive Psychology Advances, with Growing Pains. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/04/positive-psychology#:~:text=Positive%20psychology%20%E2%80%94%20a%20term%20coined,the%20cover%20of%20Time%20

Carter, C. (2005). Count your blessings. . Greater Good in Action: Science-based Practices for a Meaningful Life. Retrieved on December 12, 2022, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/count_your_blessings

Greenberg, M. (2020). The Surprising Reason mindfulness makes you happier. Psychology Today. Retrieved on December 12, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/202001/the-surprising-reason-mindfulness-makes-you-happier

Harvard Health. (2021). Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Retrieved on December 12, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier#:~:text=In%20positive%20psychology%20research%2C%20gratitude,adversity%2C%20and%20build%20strong%20relationships.

Jordan, L. (2001). How Y’all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived. Harper Collins Publishers; New York. ISBN 978-0-06-307619-8

Psychology Today, (N.D.). Positive Psychology. Retrieved on December 12, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/positive-psychology

Sutton, C. (2019). Letters of Gratitude: How to write a message of appreciation. Positive Psychology.  Retrieved on December 12, 2022, from https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-messages-letters-lists/

University of California, Berkeley, (2022). Gratitude Journal. Greater Good in Action: Science-based Practices for a Meaningful Life. Retrieved on December 12, 2022, from https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/gratitude_journal

Written by: Dr. Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Darke County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County 

People of various ages baking

The holiday season is referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year” in a popular holiday song. While it can be a time of joy, gathering, cheer, and giving, it is also a time when many of us eat more, especially sweets. These treats may partially explain why we enjoy this time of year so much. We not only enjoy eating them, but making tasty treats with friends or family likely brings happiness and fond memories. While having sweet treats every now and then can be part of an overall balanced diet, eating too many sweets or eating them too often can derail a healthy eating plan and lifestyle.

A couple months ago I had my yearly health screening for our insurance. For the past few years my hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) has been climbing. This year it was 5.9 which puts me in the prediabetes category. Now, you might wonder, how can someone whose job it is to help others lead a healthy lifestyle have numbers that are high? Well, many factors can lead to elevated glucose (blood sugar) levels which cause HbA1C to be elevated. Some of these include:

  • Family history
  • Lifestyle factors including obesity/overweight and lack of physical activity
  • Insulin resistance
  • Gene mutations
  • Hormonal diseases
  • Damage to or removal of the pancreas
  • Certain medicines

My father has and most of my uncles had type II diabetes, as well as a few other family members. Additionally, I have not been nearly as active the past couple years as I have been previously, especially when it comes to resistance exercises. Nor am I getting any younger. In addition, while it’s not necessarily a risk factor, stress can impact the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, and I have definitely had more stress the past year or so. With my youngest child graduating and heading off to college and now my husband and I building a new house, my stress level has been higher than usual. My daughter has adjusted well and is doing fantastic, despite a hard course load, so that has helped me to adjust better to the empty house. I have also been trying to exercise more, though I still need to get back to doing resistance exercises.

Dog licking his snout with dog bisquits on table in front of him

In addition to striving to be more active again, I have been watching the amount of carbohydrates, especially added sugar, in my diet. As I have reduced the amount of carbs, especially processed ones, I notice I don’t crave them as often and smaller servings satisfy. I do not have any symptoms of diabetes or prediabetes, and I am encouraged and motivated to be more proactive to keep it that way.

As we celebrate the holiday season, focusing on gratitude now and all throughout the year may help reduce how much we eat. I do intend to have some of the tasty treats that help make this time of year special, and I will plan my eating based on how I can indulge in treats while still keeping my ultimate goal of a healthy lifestyle a priority.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, September 30). All about your A1C. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/managing-blood-sugar/a1c.html

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Diabetes Diet, eating, & physical activity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Insulin Resistance & Prediabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Symptoms & causes of diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/symptoms-causes

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Your game plan to prevent type 2 diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-type-2-diabetes/game-plan

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

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

Coronasomnia

a person in bed

The coronavirus pandemic challenged our mental and physical health in a multitude of ways. Over the past two years, authors on our blog have addressed impacts of the pandemic such as grief and loss, anxiety and depression, pandemic paralysis, languishing, isolation and even weight gain (#quarantine15). One health effect we have yet to explore is the “tandemic” of Coronasomnia. Coronasomnia is insomnia that has been exacerbated or caused by the grief, stress and anxiety associated with living in a global pandemic. Dr. Abinav Singh, a sleep medicine physician, calls Coronasomnia a “tandemic”, which he defines as “an epidemic caused by, made worse by, and running in tandem with the pandemic.”

Prior to the pandemic, about one-third of Americans experienced regular sleep deprivation. That number jumped to about 40% during the pandemic. Regardless of whether you have a history of insomnia or whether you experienced sleep troubles for the first time during the pandemic, the good news is that there are steps you can take to improve your sleep.

If you have trouble falling asleep, start by working to improve your sleep hygiene with the following healthy habits that promote sleep:

Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Keep the same bedtimes and waketimes that allow for 7-9 hours of sleep each night and follow them every day, even on weekends.

Avoid long naps. If you take a nap to refresh and re-energize, limit it to no more than 20 or 30 minutes. Anything longer than that could make it harder to fall asleep at night.  

Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, cool and comfortable. A thick blanket, fan or noise machine may help provide comfort, depending on your preferences.

Clear your bedroom of clutter and anything that reminds you of work or that induces stress (a computer, work papers, bills, etc.). Experts recommend we reserve our bedrooms for sleep and sex.

Limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption. Alcohol is a sedative, but it can disrupt sleep and may cause you to wake up early or sleep less restfully. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults of legal drinking age chose not to drink or limit their alcohol intake to one drink a day for women or two per day for men. Similarly, caffeine can disrupt sleep, so make sure to limit caffeine consumption in the afternoon and evening.

Follow a bedtime routine to unwind from the day. Performing the same set of activities at night signals to your brain that it’s time to sleep.

Limit your use of electronics before bed. The blue light from cellphones, tablets and computers can disrupt melatonin, a hormone that is part of our natural sleep cycle. Instead of watching TV or using an electronic device before bed, enjoy an activity like reading, practicing mindfulness, listening to music or a guided meditation.

In addition to the habits above, establishing daily routines and getting outside at least once each day, ideally in the morning, can help reinforce your natural sleep-wake cycle. Finding ways to cope with stress is also important, as stress makes sleep difficult. Exercise, mindfulness practice and taking breaks from the news are all ways to reduce and manage stress. If you have particular trouble clearing your mind before bed, sleep medicine physician Dr. Ilene Rosen recommends trying a ritual where you take 10 minutes an hour or two before bed to write down all the worries on your mind. If desired, you could tear up the paper and throw it away as a symbolic act of dumping the thoughts.

Sources:

American Academy of Sleep Education (2020). Healthy Sleep Habits. https://sleepeducation.org/healthy-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits/

American Medical Association (2020). 6 things doctors wish patients knew about Coronasomnia. https://sleepeducation.org/healthy-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits/

Sleep Foundation (2021). Coronasomnia: Definitions, Symptoms, and Solutions. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/covid-19-and-sleep/coronasomnia

UC Davis Health (2020). COVID-19 is wrecking our sleep with Coronasomnia – tips to fight back. https://health.ucdavis.edu/health-news/newsroom/covid-19-is-wrecking-our-sleep-with-coronasomnia–tips-to-fight-back-/2020/09

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

Reviewed by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County 

The Gift of Planning

Planning for your future and sharing your decisions with your family is one of the most important gifts that you can give. So many times, adult children and family members are confronted with an unexpected crisis that disrupts their loved one’s lives. By waiting until a crisis occurs to talk about your values and preferences, your wishes for health care, living arrangements, or details of your finances may not be known. If you wait until a fall, accident, or serious diagnosis to initiate these conversations; big decisions may be driven by assumptions.

Planning ahead reduces the burden that can fall on your family or loved ones. The death or serious illness of a parent can affect both the psychological and physical well-being of adult children. If you procrastinate, your loved one’s emotions and state of mind could suffer. The decisions they make without knowing your wishes can make them feel guilty or incompetent if something goes wrong. They may feel helpless when trying to navigate the cost of healthcare. Research has shown that children who are not prepared for their parent’s death or serious illness have a harder time accepting this reality and are more likely to struggle with mental issues such as depression and anxiety. They are already upset about their loss, so adding the fact that they must make financial and personal arrangements afterward make it an especially stressful event. In other words, when a parent or loved one does not plan ahead, it leaves the difficult decisions up to their loved ones. In this situation, the older adult becomes the innocent bystander, while their family navigates the difficult decisions. This reactive mindset disregards the potential disagreements between family members as well as any emotionally driven decisions that may be made.

Having these critical conversations early will help prevent disagreement with family members. As with many families, there are a multitude of personalities with differing opinions, values, and goals. Having clear guidelines with open communication takes away the opportunity for competing ideas that can tear the family apart. Decisions made on behalf of their parents can lead to a lifetime of resentment among children even after the parent has died. Pre-planning promotes harmony within the family during your last years of life by avoiding rivalries, financial problems, and personal disagreements.

Preparing for your future will reduce the weight on your loved ones considerably, leading to less stress and anxiety. By embracing a precautionary and cooperative state of mind, you can empower your family for anything that lies ahead, which is one of the greatest gifts that you can give.

The Healthy Aging Network telecast on end-of-life planning addresses some of the important things to consider when planning for your future. If you would like to learn more, please contact Kathy Tutt at tutt.19@osu.edu.

Written by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Scienced Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County

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

References:

     Hebert, R.S., Schulz, R., Copeland, V.C., & Arnold, R.M. (2009). Preparing family caregivers for death and bereavement. Insights from Caregivers of terminally ill patients. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 37, 3-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2007.12.010

     Umberson, D., & Chen, M.D. (1994). Effects of a parent’s death on adult children: relationship salience and reaction to loss. American Sociological Review, 59, 152-168. doi: 10.2307/2096138

The holiday season is a magical time of year, yet for many, the holidays bring stress, anxiety, conflict and even heartache.   Often stress starts at Thanksgiving and runs through the New Year.    Holiday triggers, can create internal and external forces influencing our mind and body, creating stress and anxiety during the holiday season.    Give yourself the gift of a stress-free holiday by being aware of common holiday triggers and learning ways to cope with holiday stress.

 Be aware of these common holiday triggers:

  • Increased expectations:  Choosing which family member’s gatherings to attend after years of unresolved conflict and finding ways to dodge the uncomfortable conversations at the holiday table is stressful.  We often feel pressured to meet the expectations of others.
  • Financial strain:  Wanting to create the perfect holiday experience comes with a price tag that affects our finances often into the New Year.
  • Time management concerns:  Balancing work, family, friends, and additional commitments is more challenging than ever this time of year!
  • Eating concerns:  For those with any kind of negative relationship with food the holiday focus on food is triggering. The food pushers who do not take no for an answer when offering food is overwhelming.  Eat mindfully, have a game plan and if necessary, remind your family that your eating habits are not up for discussion.

Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress:

  • Connect with those you trust and are comfortable with.  A support system is always important, especially this time of year.
  • Practice empathy and compassion for yourself and others. Give yourself grace when you need it, remember everyone has their own struggles.
  • Try not to set unrealistic expectations of yourself.  Establish boundaries and do not be afraid to say no.  Create a holiday spending plan.
  • Set a schedule for shopping, cooking and holiday activities.  Make a to-do list helps visualize and manage your time.
  • Continue healthy habits.  It is alright to indulge in some of the holiday treats,  remember to keep your physical health a priority.
  • Adopt one or two mindful exercise that work for you (deep breathing, visualization, stretching).

Be kind to yourself this holiday.  Practice self-compassion.  Spend time with your favorite people, books, hobbies, movies and say “no” to anything that does not make you happier.    Have a wonderful stress-free holiday!

Written by: Beth Stefura, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shari Gallup, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University Extension, Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu

References:

Holiday Depression Triggers What Causes Holiday Blues? (webmd.com)

10 Common Holiday Stresses and How to Cope With Them | Psychology Today

Winter Self-Care

A bird on a snowy tree branch.

Winter is right around the corner. It is important to focus on yourself and your wellbeing. During the colder months it gets darker sooner resulting in people spending more time indoors with limited social and physical activity. Establishing a self-care routine is one way to reduce these issues and stressors.  

Self-care is the act of taking care of one’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. You may be asking, “Why is self-care important?”. Self-care is a great way to relieve stress. Poor self-care can lead to poor health. The establishment of self-care lies in realizing your body’s needs.

It is important to create a self-care environment. Follow these tips to spruce up your environment.

  1. Buy candles, rooms sprays, or essential oils with scents that relax you.
  2. Select a mug or a cup that is comforting to you. Enjoy the moment with tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.
  3. Keep a stash of beauty and health products such as sugar scrubs, bath bombs, masks, and lotions.
  4. Keep comfort foods or baking items on hand to cook for those moments of culinary self-care.
  5. Keep coloring books, journals, and art supplies available so creative self-expression happens easily.
  6. Don’t forget to use the simple art of moving, stretching, and walking to awaken and soothe your body.

Self-care routines should be adapted and changed for different seasons. Self-care helps to keep us happy and healthy daily. Here are some tips for self-care during the winter months.  

  • Transition from summer routines to meet the needs of the winter months.
  • Bundle up with warm clothing.
  • Make the most of the sunlight to prevent Seasonal Affective Disease. Try opening your curtains, windows, or blinds to let in natural light.
  • Maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Try including yoga, shoveling snow, and gyms to remain active during the winter months.
  • Try to keep a daily routine. A consistent sleep schedule is important.

Resources

Combs, S. (2022, February 3). Self-care tips in the winter months. Outreach Health. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from https://www.outreachhealth.com/2022/02/self-care-tips-in-the-winter-months/

Landgraf, B. (2022, February 2). The ultimate winter self-care guide. Carex. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from https://carex.com/blogs/resources/the-ultimate-winter-self-care-guide#step2

Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Self-care tips during winter. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/two-takes-depression/201912/self-care-tips-during-winter

Written by: Megan Taylor, FCS/4-H Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Union County, taylor.4411@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Mackenzie Mahon, 4-H and Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Clermont County

Woman cooking with a skillet, surrounded by thought bubbles including the phrases "Small bites", "Slow down:", "Remove distractions" and "Use your senses".

What exactly is mindfulness? The definition would include a description of being conscious and aware or fully aware of yourself in the present moment. Therefore, mindfulness can also be incorporated into mealtimes. As the holiday season has commenced and festivities surrounding food are plentiful, practicing mindful eating can help you get through the feasts, focusing more on how you feel rather than what you are eating.

Unlike typical diets, mindful eating focuses on the sensual awareness and experience of food rather than restricting or removing it. Practicing mindful eating is about becoming more aware of your eating habits and listening to signals the body provides, such as feelings of hunger, fullness, and satiety. When practicing, you consciously choose to be fully present with your meal—paying attention to the process of eating and how you feel in response, without judgment. Eating should be a pleasant experience, and meals should be enjoyed, especially during the holidays. Mindful eating encourages you to be fully engaged during mealtime, allowing the moment and food consumed to be savored and reducing the negative feelings associated with restricting or overeating.

While the chaotic holiday season can frequently lead to binge eating, overeating, and stress eating. However, if you allow yourself to be fully present at mealtimes, you will be more likely to appreciate the food on your plate, take more time to eat, and be more in tune with the body signaling its satiety. If you are interested in the practice, consider the following techniques gathered from research on mindful eating:

  • Eat slower – take more time to chew and take breaks between bites to evaluate your feelings and thoughts on the meal.
  • Eat away from distractions such as the television or other electronics – distractions can cause mindless eating. Removing them can aid in determining triggers and allow for reflection.
  • Become aware of your body’s hunger cues and let those guide your choices on when to begin and stop eating – our brains may not signal fullness for up to 20 minutes, so take time to determine your level of satisfaction before going back for seconds or dessert.
  • Use all your senses when eating – focus on the appearance, smell, and flavors of all foods you eat to appreciate the nourishment you are providing your body.

Besides promoting better enjoyment and appreciation for food, mindful eating has been proven to aid in weight management and provide various health benefits. Studies have also suggested positive outcomes for those with chronic disease and eating disorders, but practicing mindfulness is advantageous for everyone!

Trying anything new for the first time can be difficult. Mindful eating is a practice that requires patience and continuous training to develop, but there are resources available to help you progress. While beginning your practice of mindful eating to prepare for seasonal gatherings is an ideal starting point, you will likely develop long-lasting skills and habits that will benefit you long after the hectic holiday season ends.

Sources:

Cleveland Clinic. (2022). What is Mindful Eating? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/mindful-eating/

Mathieu, J. (2009). What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating? Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(09)01699-X/fulltext

Nelson J. B. (2017). Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes spectrum: a publication of the American Diabetes Association. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5556586/#:~:text=Mindful%20eating%20(i.e.%2C%20paying%20attention,carbohydrates%2C%20fat%2C%20or%20protein.

Written by Kylee Tiziani, Bluffton University dietetic intern, with edits by Jennifer Little, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Hancock County

Reviewed by Susan Zies, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Wood County

An Attitude of Gratitude

Paper turkey with words written on paper feathers

November is National Gratitude month and with Thanksgiving quickly approaching we often take time to reflect on aspects of our lives for which we are grateful. Every year in November my cousin’s family creates a paper turkey of gratitude. They do this every evening before dinner with the family and any guest, writing what they are thankful for that day on a paper feather and add it to Mr. Turkey. The end result is a fantastic visual representation of the family’s gratitude. The practice of gratitude leads to a variety of positive outcomes. I challenge you this year to express your gratitude not just on one day, or for one month, but throughout the year.

Author and researcher David Horsager, says the single greatest commonality in happy people is gratitude. Furthermore, those that are thankful are more content and fulfilled.

Other benefits of expressing gratitude:

  1. Builds stronger relationships
  2. Increases positivity
  3. Decreases anxiety
  4. Improves physical and psychological health
  5. Enhances empathy
  6. Reduces aggression
  7. Improved self-esteem

Gratitude can be an example of a mindfulness practice. “Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn. Here are a few tips to practice gratitude as mindfulness:

Open journal with pencil
  • Observe – when do you say thank you is it reactionary, as an afterthought, an expression with emotion and sincerity.
  • Write a thank you note.
  • Journal – note 3-4 items you are thankful for monthly, weekly, daily.
  • Create a collage – pictures or items to express your gratitude.
  • Gratitude flower or tree – write out something you are grateful for on a paper leaf or petal and create a design. Like my cousin’s paper turkey.
  • Reflection or guided gratitude meditation.

Written by: Laura Halladay, NDTR, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Greene County

Reviewed by: Megan Taylor, 4-H and Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Union County

Sources:

Allen, S. (2018, March 5). Is gratitude good for your health? Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_gratitude_good_for_your_health

Giving thanks can make you happier. (2021, August 14). Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

Horsager, D. (2020, November 25). The greatest secret of the magnetic person. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://trustedge.com/the-greatest-secret-of-the-magnetic-person/

Oppland, M. (2022, August 06). 13 most popular gratitude exercises & activities. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-exercises/

Thrive tip: Well-being through the practice of gratitude. (2022, February 06). Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://hr.wustl.edu/well-being-through-the-practice-of-gratitude/

Picture Credit:
Paper Gratitude Turkey provided by Jill Dow
Journal Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash