Rewarding Our Brains to Break Bad Habits

Two non-threatening animations from Dr. Jud

On Monday, we presented an infographic to help reduce anxiety. PLEASE take a look.

Now, we offer a brief discussion and two clever videos on changing bad habits by Jud Brewer, M.D., Ph.D.: “Dr. Jud [as he is called] is the Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center and associate professor in psychiatry at the School of Medicine at Brown University, as well as a research affiliate at MIT.”

As per Dr. Jud:

“How are habits formed? What is the biggest secret behind our mind’s choices? Why is it so hard to break some of our most unhelpful habits, including worry and panic during this challenging time? How can we upgrade our mind’s habit system?”

Video 1: The Habit Loop — Anxiety

The first animation deals with the three stages of the habit loop: trigger->behavior->reward.

Video 2: Breaking Bad Habits

The second animation notes some recent research that Dr. Jud’s lab has done to help people quit smoking and stop overeating. And it provides simple tips on how you can learn to leverage your own brain for habit change.

 

How Ethical Are WE Healthwise?

Would you inform your boss about a chronic illness before its effects are visible?

Interesting question, right? “How Ethical Are WE Healthwise?”

We often criticize others in the health professions for actions we consider inappropriate. Yet, we rarely question our own behavior.

With this in mind, here are excerpts from a recent Sunday NY Times’ ethicist column written by Kwame Anthony Appiah.

What Would YOU Do?

Excerpts of Question (name withheld): 

During my brief tenure, my boss has increased my responsibilities, promoted me, and proposed changing my position to be more in line with my previous employment. In essence, he is slowly transforming my work into the dream job I discussed during my interview. I suspect he has done so to ensure that I remain, not knowing that I am ill.”

“I have yet to tell my boss about my diagnosis. Legally, I suspect I am not obligated to, unless I need to take leave from my job. Yet morally, should I not at least advise my boss, particularly given his mentorship of me? I recognize that some of the potential requirements of my new job — frequent travel, increased responsibilities, extended time away from my instrumental supports — may be unsustainable 12 months from now, if not sooner. However, I am currently able to perform. What is my duty here?”

Excerpts of Response from the Ethicist (Kwame Anthony Appiah):

“As an employee, you are entitled to keep your diagnosis to yourself until it impairs your performance; and as long as you can fulfill the essential functions of your position, your employer must make reasonable accommodations for your emerging disabilities.”

“But as you’re well aware, you have another morally relevant relationship with your boss. This is someone you care about and who cares about you. That personal relationship brings burdens as well as benefits. On the one hand, your personal bond with him gives you the reasonable expectation that he won’t exploit what you tell him to your disadvantage, at least to an extent consistent with his duties as your boss. On the other hand, it also places a special demand on you to speak with him honestly. You may feel that you owe it to him to give him time to plan for your eventual decline and departure. More time, perhaps, than you would if you were dealing with a faceless institution.”

Click the image to read the full Q&A.

How Ethical Are WE Healthwise?
Illustration by Tomi Um.

 

Food and Arthritis

Food do’s and don’ts for those with arthritis.

Do you have arthritis? If yes, do you have questions about what you eat?

Consider the following information from a recent article by Amanda Barrell, writing for Medical News Today:

“Many people find that making changes to their diet can help with osteoarthritis symptoms, which include pain, stiffness, and swelling. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 30 million adults in the United States. It develops when the cartilage in the joints breaks down over time.

“This article will look at which foods people with osteoarthritis should include in their diet and which they should avoid. We also bust some common food myths regarding arthritis.”

“It is not possible for specific foods or nutritional supplements to cure osteoarthritis, but, according to the Arthritis Foundation, certain diets can improve people’s symptoms.”

Some foods have anti-inflammatory capabilities which can help reduce symptoms while other foods may amplify them. The right diet can help to improve osteoarthritis in the following ways.”

Click the image to learn about some do’s and don’ts.

Food and Arthritis
 

Handling Anxiety in Difficult Times

Information about anxiety and loneliness. With tips.

Recently, we published three articles on COVID-19 (the coronavirus). Today, we conclude our series with a look at handling anxiety in difficult times. Tomorrow, we return to our regular topics.

Please look at this post for links to important sites on COVID-19. About the Coronavirus.

Author’s comment: Just a few days ago, my 37-year-old daughter asked me if I had ever seen anything like this pandemic in my lifetime. My response was an emphatic NO!!  This is  the most widespread and anxiety-provoking health crisis that I have ever seen.  Most of us could never imagine a worldwide crisis that has put many of us in stay-at-home status. And threatens the world’s economies.

Observations About Handling Anxiety in Difficult Times

As a high-risk person, I know from my own situation how anxiety-provoking this pandemic can be. Especially now that millions of us are in isolation — either totally alone or staying with a limited number of family members. And  with little outside contact, given all of the business, school, entertainment venue, and other shutdowns.  Unfortunately, this looks like our living arrangements for a while.

For information on anxiety and loneliness during these stressful times, we turn to Business Insider and Futurity.

Insights from Business Insider (BI)

BI published an article titled How Increased Social Distancing for the Coronavirus Could spur a Loneliness Epidemic.” Here are a few highlights:

“While the implementation of social distancing — avoiding large gatherings and maintaining a distance from others — is crucial to preventing the coronavirus pandemic from intensifying, the practice could also cause a ‘social recession,’ or a collapse in social contact that especially affects populations who are most susceptible to loneliness and isolation, like the elderly, according to Vox.”

“And loneliness has proven to exacerbate health complications among the elderly: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a report suggesting seniors who experience social isolation or loneliness may face a higher risk of conditions including heart disease, depression, and mortality.”

Handling Anxiety in Difficult Times
Tips For Handling Loneliness from Futurity

Elissa Kozlov, a licensed clinical psychologist and instructor at Rutgers University, discusses strategies for taking care of your mental health while staying at home (at Futurity.org):

“Use technology! For example, schedule regular video chat and phone dates with friends and family. Get creative. Watch movies, play online games,  or participate in virtual book clubs.”

“Reach out to friends and relatives who are especially at risk during this time. Call older adults and people with chronic health conditions to give them meaningful social contact during these trying times.”

“A good strategy is distraction. If you find yourself thinking continuously about risk of illness, try to distract yourself by getting involved in an engaging activity. Or by picking up the phone to talk with a friend. Take advantage of nice weather and go for a walk in an open space. Get outside as much as possible if it’s safe to do so.”

“You can also try mindfulness meditation. There are several excellent mobile apps that can teach you how to practice meditation, such as the free app Mindfulness Coach, which was developed by a team of psychologists at the Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD research. It walks users through the basics of mindfulness meditation.”

“If you have trouble sleeping, check out the Veterans Affairs’ app CBT-I Coach (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia), which takes you through different strategies to help quiet your mind at night. If you find that anxiety or insomnia interferes with your ability to function during the day, seek professional help to reduce the impact of anxiety.”

Click the image to read more.

Handling Anxiety in Difficult Times
(Credit: Getty Images)

At-Home Activities to Stimulate Us

Engage your body and mind. Think positive.

On Tuesday, we looked  at what we should do now – cleanliness. Today, we look at in-home activities to stimulate us.

Food for Thought: At-Home Activities to Stimulate Us

As we seek to find our own routine, we turn to the Automobile Association of America (AAA) for suggestions. According to the AAA:.

“News of the COVID-19 is everywhere. And many people try their best to stay healthy and help slow the virus’s spread. Due to high transferability, acts like social distancing, working remotely ,and self-quarantining are used as precautionary measures. Stuck inside the house for a while? Make make the most of it. Here’s how to stay busy, entertained, productive and healthy at home.”

        • Home maintenance — Start with home projects you’ve been meaning to get to, like small repairs or organizing a junk drawer, closet, and so on.. Go through your fridge, pantry, and cabinets, getting rid of anything expired.
        • Self-maintenance —  Take care of your physical and mental health, and know how to keep your mind busy,
        • Use technology — Watch movies. Play video games. Listen to music. 
        • Connect with others — Text. Face Time. Call..
        • Get creative — Do something artistic, like drawing, painting, scrapbooking, crafts, or writing. 
        • Engage your brain — If you enjoy learning, take online classes, quizzes or try watching some how-to videos/tutorials. Do crossword puzzles and/or Sudoku. Read a good book.
        • Connect with others — Text. Face Time. Call..

To conclude, click the image to read more.

What We Should Do Now - Activities to Stay Occupied

What We Should Do Now – Cleanliness

Be smart. Follow these tips.

This week, we add to our two posts from last week. About the Coronavirus and Coronavirus Thoughts from a High-Risk Perspective. Today, we look at what we should do now – cleanliness. Thursday, we look at activities we can do to productively occupy ourselves.

Update from the author: For the most part, I stayed at home last week. Went out to the supermarket a couple of times and ate out once. However, as of today during my routine checkup, my endocrinologist (Dr. T) told me to stay at home. Period! And when Dr. T speaks, we listen. After all, he saved my life with his early discovery of my pancreatic cancer.

Food for Thought: What We Should Do Now – Cleanliness

The number one COVID-19 tip is overwhelming related to cleanliness. Washing our hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. Reducing how often we touch our faces. Washing down surfaces we and others touch. Even cleaning our cell phones. And more!

Just yesterday, Futurity ran an article on the importance of cleanliness from Neal Buccino of Rutgers University. Some highlights from that article:

    • “The CDC recommends daily disinfection for frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. The CDC also recommends the use of detergent or soap and water on dirty surfaces prior to disinfection.”
    • “Whatever cleaning solution you use, let it remain in contact with the surface long enough to kill viruses and other pathogens. The time depends on the chemical. Don’t use different cleaning agents at the same time. Some, if mixed, can create dangerous and poisonous gases.”
    • “Bleach can be diluted with cold water to make an effective disinfectant against bacteria, fungi, and many viruses — including coronaviruses. Be sure to follow the directions on the label of your bleach.”
    • “You can dilute alcohol with water (or aloe vera to make hand sanitizer) but be sure to keep an alcohol concentration of around 70% to kill coronaviruses. Many hand sanitizers have a concentration of about 60% alcohol. And Lysol contains about 80%. These are all effective against coronaviruses.”
    • “Vinegar, tea tree oil, and other natural products are not recommended for fighting coronaviruses.”

To read more at Futurity, click the image.

What We Should Do Now - Cleanliness
“Whatever cleaning solution you use, let it remain in contact with the surface long enough to kill viruses and other pathogens. The time needed will depend on the chemical.” (Credit: Getty Images)