Talking About Health, Wealth & Happiness

Journaling for Mental Well-Being

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The 2007 film “Freedom Writers” is the true story of an inner city English teacher named Erin Gruwell who made numerous breakthroughs with her students by employing teaching methods that were ambitious and even a little risky. One such risky move involved assigning each student to start keeping a journal. The movie showcases some of the entries made in these journals and it is obvious that the effect it had on the students who wrote them was life-changing. What happened in the lives of some of those students was typical of the effects journaling has on anyone who takes on the task. Not every student’s story ended happily, but every person involved in that project went through some degree of change.

Here are just a few reasons why everyone should journal and how doing so promotes mental wellness.

Puts Things into Proper Perspective

journalsGetting your thoughts out on paper can really help make sense of things that seem to be rooted in chaos and provide you with the step back necessary to seriously inventory what is going on in your life and how you perceive what is happening to you. Sometimes, writing your thoughts out on paper allows the opportunity to collect them in a far more organized way than your mind alone will let you. We think in abstract terms; words are concrete. When our thoughts are reduced to words, we really see all their base qualities and can deal with them on a more foundational level. The result is that, upon re-reading a journal entry, we understand more clearly what was really going on in those thoughts. This process of self-reflection can have profound results in your life.

Helps You Make Good Decisions

Your journal is a place where you can weigh the pros and cons of any situation without the background noise of other people stepping in and offering their advice. Sometimes we need to seek out that advice, but sometimes the answers to life’s more pressing questions can be found by simply understanding our thoughts at a given moment. Many problems don’t seem so huge when you have the chance to step away from them and examine them again later.

Safe Haven for Private Thoughts

When it comes to areas of confession and brutal, no-holds-barred honesty, no other outlet compares to journaling. You can say things to people in your journal you could never say to their faces and you can scrutinize things more openly as well. This is where all of your angels and demons have the chance to battle it out and they can do it with no one else there to judge, criticize, or interfere.

It’s Cathartic

There is a real purging and cleansing quality to getting all of your negative thoughts and emotions out on paper. Mentally, it’s like taking them out of your head to make room for other – better – thoughts to take up residence. It can also help minimize the effects of anger, fear, resentment and all the other negatives that get poured into those less-than-happy entries.

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FDA Warning About Acetaminophen

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When you have a headache or body aches, do you go straight to the medicine cabinet for some Tylenol? If so, the Food and Drug Administration is saying, “Not so fast.” According to a new report from the FDA, if you are taking a dose over 325 milligrams, you may be taking too much and doing more harm than good to your body. While the FDA has been warning consumers about the dangers of too much Acetaminophen for decades, they have now put a new number where the unhealthy levels of Acetaminophen begin. Read on for a look at what the FDA has to say about this warning and why you may want to limit the amount of Acetaminophen that you ingest.

The Warning

AcetaminophenThe Food and Drug Administration has issued yet another warning about taking high doses of acetaminophen. Now the FDA considers any does over 325 milligrams to be too much of the drug for your body, and to take more than that has serious repercussions on your body. What many people do not realize is that many over the counter drugs such as cold and cough medicine and sinus relief medication contain acetaminophen, which can cause you to have too much of the drug in your system. It is important to be conscious of the dosage level, because there are some products on the market, such as Tylenol Extra Strength that have up to 500 milligrams per tablet. Use acetaminophen with care.

The Dangers

Too much acetaminophen in your body can wreak havoc on your liver. In fact, the FDA warns that too much of this drug in your system can cause liver failure and even death. Other individuals may have skin reactions from ingesting too much of the drug through various products. Skin reactions include rashes, reddening of the skin, blisters, and in severe cases, having the epidermis peel away from other layers of your skin. Consuming alcoholic beverages while taking acetaminophen puts you at even greater health risk, potentially causing severe liver damage and heart disease.

The Bottom Line

Whenever you put anything into your body there is always the risk that it could affect your health. It is so important in today’s day and age where everyone seems to be suffering from some sort of physical illness that we monitor the medications and the food products that we consume. By doing so we can help prevent health issues in the future and help maintain our health for years to come.

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Preventative Health Care for Men & Women

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All of us desire to have guaranteed good health forever, but that’s not reality.  Unfortunately as we get older our bodies begin to have problems and certain activities that we participate in can increase those problems.  To maintain good health and continue enjoying life and the activities that we love we need to make the most of preventative care.

health screeningStatistically men are at higher risk for health problems because they are more likely to smoke and drink, more likely to participate in risky behavior and less likely to seek medical attention.  Smoking and drinking alone can cause a host of health issues, such as lung cancer, high blood pressure, and cirrhosis of the liver.  Limited, or even better no, use of these products can greatly reduce your chances of developing these issues.

Regular check-ups are an important part of staying healthy.  At your yearly check-up the doctor can check your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight; all of which, when elevated, can indicate a problem that is better caught early.  Also twice annual trips to the dentist can prevent problems like tooth decay and gum disease that can lead to bigger, more painful problems.

If you have a family history or risk factors for certain conditions—like heart disease or cancer—there are preventive tests that can be done to ensure that if you develop these conditions they will be found as early as possible.  Colonoscopies, mammograms, stress tests, and a whole host of cancer screening tests can help make sure that when problems arise you receive treatment as soon as possible.

No one is going to care as much about your health as you do, so take charge and be informed.  Take the steps now to be healthy by eating right and exercising and you will reduce your risk of developing conditions like high cholesterol and diabetes and more down the road.

photo shared by creative commons license

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Flu Season Facts & Tips

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In the winter months we often experience symptoms of sickness. It may be a simple cold or it could be the flu.  You know you have the flu if you have muscle aches, severe cough (that may be accompanied with chest pain), fatigue and a possible fever.  Unfortunately the flu is a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics.  There are things that you can do to feel better and even to prevent yourself from contracting the flu to begin with.

If you feel you have the flu, the best thing to do is to stay home and rest.  Take a Tylenol for your aches and fever, drink lots of fluid and stay in bed.  It isn’t necessary to go to the doctor if you experience typical flu symptoms.  However, there are some situations in which medical attention is necessary.  If you are at high risk, which includes: children, the elderly, pregnant women, those with heart disease, asthma and COPD.  Also, if your typical flu symptoms may get much worse, it may become vital to seek a doctor’s help.  You should go to the doctor if: you have a persistent fever (more than four days), have difficulty breathing and wheezing, persistent vomiting, or a sever sore throat.

It is possible to prevent contraction of the flu virus.  Some things you can do are: washing or sanitizing hands often, don’t touch your nose and mouth, stay indoors instead of hanging out in public places and make sure you receive the flu vaccination.

flu shotThe flu vaccine is not a live culture and contrary to popular belief, it cannot make you sick.  The vaccine causes antibodies in your body to work that prevent against the contraction of the flu.  It takes about two weeks for the antibodies to develop.  If one does have flu-like symptoms after receiving the flu vaccine, they may have contracted the flu in the two week period before the antibodies develop.  The flu vaccine does not protect from all strains of the flu.

The CDC evaluates and predicts what strains of the flu are likely to be present in the population and they develop the vaccine to protect against those predicted strains of the flu.  It is possible to catch a strain of the flu not covered in the vaccine, even after being vaccinated.  One example of this was in 2009, there was an outbreak of H1N1, which was a strain of the flu that was not included in the 2009 vaccination.   Even though the vaccination is not fool proof, it is still better to receive it in order to protect yourself from the flu as much as possible because as you may well know, it is no fun to be stuck in bed feeling sick.

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ACT Prep and Test Anxiety

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For teenagers with test anxiety, one of the bigger challenges in school may be the American College Test, or ACT. This is a standardized test that determines how much information high school students have understood up to grade twelve. This test is regarded as an extremely effective means to figure out not only the education level the student has obtained, but also how effective the high school has been in providing that education.

Usually, the test is administered first during the student’s junior year and then again in the senior year. Registering for the ACT by mail or on-line, a student may take the test as many times as he or she chooses. The basic test covers multiple choice questions for Math, Science, Reading and English. If chosen, there is an ACT Plus Writing test which includes an essay section. Many colleges require this latter test, so it’s best to check the requirements of the student’s chosen schools. If the student is nervous about the upcoming test, then a good way to address his or her nerves is to experience the test through an online ACT prep test.

There are several good sites available online that will allow a student to become comfortable with the style of questions through study games and sample essays, and so on.

Some nerves before a test is a common experience for people, and, in most cases, may even be healthy, allowing students to focus and improve their performance. Some times, though, the anxiety can be distracting for students, and for those, it’s best to keep in mind a few key points regarding common reasons for this problem.

If you’re anxious because either you’re worried you’ve finished studying and others are still working, or that others are finished, and you’re still not, know that the pace of study varies for everyone. You can’t judge how ready you are by how ready someone else is.

If you’re anxious because the exam seems vital to your future life, you’ll want to keep in mind that no one’s entire future rests simply on one exam. Not everyone will succeed every time at all exams; that’s a fact of life. Instead of dwelling on this point, consider different methods to achieve your goal rather than simply moving on a direct line from A to B.

If you’ve frozen on exams in the past and you’ve noticed a pattern developing, then know, too, that being anxious can cause more anxiety. If you allow it, freezing up can become a chronic problem. There are relaxation techniques that use deep breathing exercises; a minute or two spent focused on your breathing, in fact, can help calm you, and may help with being anxious during a test.

Remember, the student is not alone in this anxiety. There are sites designed to help and overcome it at many universities, such as the University of Central Florida.

guest post by Naomi Kennedy, a blogger who writes about education and financial topics. She has written about taxes, higher education, and explained the basics of accounting on sites like

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Exercise During a Long Drive

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exerciseSummertime finds many people hitting the highways for road trip vacations.  They may be driving to an annual family reunion or simply taking the kids to an amusement park holiday or visiting the mountains or beach.  In addition to boredom and the inevitable “are we there yet” refrain from children, many drivers (and passengers) find themselves stepping out of the car with stiffness and soreness when they reach their destination.

There are several exercises you can perform to combat stiffness, muscle strain and soreness.  They generally fall into two categories: exercises performed in the car and exercises performed before/after driving.

In Car Exercises

While these are best performed by those in the passenger seat, drivers can also attempt these exercises as long as they stay aware of traffic and road conditions at all times. It’s also a good idea for drivers to limit the frequency and number of repetitions that they do.

  • Ankle Rolls & Raises — drivers should engage the car’s cruise control before attempting these simple exercises or wait until they are at a stop sign or red light.
  • Arm Curls — imagining that they have a small weight in their hands will generate some resistance to make these exercises more effective
  • Shoulder Rolls — drivers need to watch how their moving their shoulders impacts their steering
  • Neck Twists/Rolls — while passengers can do complete neck rolls, drivers would do better to slowly twist their neck from side to side, to ensure they keep their eyes on the road. If they encounter stop signs or traffic lights, they can attempt a few full rolls.

Out of Car Exercises

These should be done before getting in the car and whenever there is a rest stop, driver change, or other break in driving. It’s best to do them outside the vehicle from a standing position.

  • Leg Stretches & Calf Stretches
  • Ankle and Wrist Rolls
  • Waist Twists
  • Arm Stretches
  • Back Arches
  • Neck & Shoulder Rolls

It is also important to exercise the eyes between legs of driving. This helps combat eyestrain. The recommended procedure is to move the eye up, right, down, and left and hold each position for at least four blinks. It is also important to close the eyes for 10 blinks and to shift focus between near, medium, and far objects.

Those parents traveling with kids can make these stretches into games, both in and out of the car.   Adults might also consider bringing along a stress ball or similar toy to help relieve stiffness in the hands and fingers between/after shifts at the wheel.


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photo by: mikebaird

Mercury: Gods, Planets, Cars and Repairs

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oldieHumans have always been fascinated with the heavens; whether through astronomy or astrology, men and women have looked to the skies and felt the influence of these paradoxical objects — stars and planets that appear incredibly small, but turn out to be fantastically large; it’s no wonder that even as the world changed from the horse and carriage era to the era of automobiles, that these manufacturers would want to incorporate the heavens into their Earth-bound vehicles.

In the 1930s, when interest in the solar system was growing, Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford, introduced a brand to be placed between the Ford Deluxes and the Lincoln Zephyrs. The new brand was known as Mercury , after the Roman mythological god, but also after the sun’s closest-orbiting planet . Later models in the Mercury line bear out this astronomical relationship, with the introduction of cars such as the Mercury Comet and the Mercury Meteor. Still later, the Mercury line began to reflect a more down-to-earth relationship with such vehicles as the Cougar and the Mustang. The first of these vehicles, though, the 1939 Mercury Eight, was a hit, selling 155,000 vehicles in the early 1940s.

In the 21st Century, Ford announced it would stop producing Mercury vehicles, pulling to a close in 2010 the 71 year history of this particular car-making venture. However, any owners of Mercury vehicles, especially those who need to consult their  Mercury repair manual , should not worry. Ford also said existing owners will continue to have access to parts and services through the Ford and Lincoln dealerships, and that current warranties will be honored.  More info on car repair can be found here..

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photo by: ChazWags

Using Biofeedback to Guide Thoughts

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thoughtsThe ability to control one’s own thoughts may very well be the single-most rewarding challenge a life can hold. It holds the key to every kind of liberation there is, and is what the lessons of all the great spiritual teachers were getting at. It may very well be that ultimately, it’s impossible, that those who can actually achieve it no longer live in the world. But it does seem as though there are some people who have found a way to live in a state of near-perpetual enlightenment . While desires and hopes are constantly lurking in the busy mind, learning to overcome their gravitational pull is a big step toward self-awareness.

Through exercises like guided mediation and the use of biofeedback , one can start to learn the patterns of one’s own thoughts. On any journey, there are those “aha!” moments, when something is revealed, some deep inner truth. These are almost always painful, because the ego is not only involved, but threatened by the revelation of this information. This is always a lesson in letting go, and when the real self is able to recognize the needs and anxieties of the ego, and take them for what they are, they tend to disappear, and this is the beginning of clarity.

This information provided by Brian West a writer covering a multitude of topics including sports, healthy living and good food. In addition to covering biofeedback and exercise trends, he enjoys following top racers like Scott Tucker and sharing racing videos.

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Always Use Your CPAP Machine

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breathBad habits seem so much easier to form than good habit. That’s because bad habits are built on immediate gratification. People satisfy an urge and it feels good, proving instant positive reinforcement that trains their mind to repeat the activity. Good habits tend to result in delayed gratification, or in no gratification at all. They may provide financial, emotional, or physical benefits that are removed from the actual activity, which makes it more difficult to train the body to adopt the habit.

Take for example the use of a CPAP machine. Learning to wear a mask and breath through a tube connected to a weird device is far from gratifying. It is awkward and uncomfortable and so far removed from natural that most people feel foolish the first time they use it. There is no immediate feeling of pleasure or relief and the entire point of the equipment, to provide continuous breathing, happens when the person is asleep, so they aren’t even aware of any difference. As a result, many people decide that using the machine isn’t a necessity, but something they can do when they remember or only when they feel really horrible.

CPAP works best when it becomes a nightly habit. When patients can no longer fall asleep without the machine, when they feel wrong if they don’t have the mask on, then they will get the maximum benefit from the treatment. Night after night of continuous, deep sleep will improve mood, memory, the ability to think, and even the body’s immune system. None of these results are immediate, but all are of great benefit to the overall quality of life — and that makes them worth the work of developing the CPAP habit.

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photo by: ValetheKid

Respiration and the Breath of Life

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yogaWorking with the breath is an old activity, one that goes back much further than one might imagine. While there are many reasons for entering into the health field these days, the core of it is still one that makes it a noble profession. It is one of the largest and fastest-growing fields, but it’s also one that has elements of compassion at its very core. So while those who are considering attending respiratory therapy school out of need for a better standard of living, there is something simultaneously altruistic that is the essence of medicine.

In terms of respiratory therapies, the work involves, as one would imagine, things to do with the breath. Helping people with breathing disorders and handling emergencies are certainly a big part of the day to day work. These all utilize the latest innovations, and use some of the newest medical technologies. But the idea of working with the breath predates these technologies by many generations. The breath is, after all, at the heart of yoga, where prana is considered to be the essence, or manifestation, of life itself. The notion that breath is connected to being is a very old one, then, but it’s also one that is at the heart of contemporary experience, and this includes medical practice.

Kim Shepard covers health, exercise, and sports subject like for top lifestyle and sports blogs.

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photo by: stephcarter