New Year, New Beginnings

Tips for Better Health in 2014:


  1. “Do U Have TXT Neck?” (I do!) All of us can be guilty of over-using technology like computers and smartphones. Early last year, I read something in Shop Smart magazine about the latest painful health problem that’s hitting people who spend a lot of time texting and sitting at the computer:  “text neck.” It is caused when you stoop over to tap messages on your phone (or slump down at your desk while using your computer), according to the American Chiropractic Association. And last year, the number of reported neck-strain issues was way up. Orly Avitzur, M.D. says, “Looking down puts excessive pressure on your neck, causing muscle strain, which can lead to neck and shoulder pain. Adopting some good habits can help prevent serious injury from our tech tools:  take frequent breaks from texting and typing on your computer; type longer e-mail messages on your computer instead of a handheld device; hold your gadget in front of your eyes so you don’t have to look down. You should also try to rest your forearms on a pillow or other surface for support while you’re typing. And even better, make room for quality time with your family, away from technology every once in a while!
  2. Get moving! It’s easy to want to stay inside in the winter … and even easier year round to skip the gym, especially if you’re a busy parent running juggling work and family time. A pedometer can be a great way to track how much physical activity you’re sneaking in every day. (You’re likely doing getting in more than you know already!) I read in Good Housekeeping last year that just 30 minutes of brisk walking per day – about 10,000 steps – can make you feel stronger and healthier.
  3. Don’t skip the SPF. If you have visible sun damage, you’ve probably been guilty of forgetting sunscreen. All doctors and beauty experts will say, applying sunscreen religiously is critical to healthy skin, even in the winter. I read about this additional all-natural trick from a Los Angeles-based facialist Kate Somerville:  Three times a week, rub a washed strawberry on discolored areas. Keep the juice on your skin for two minutes before rinsing. The fruit acids may help lighten splotches and make skin look refreshed. (Disclaimer:  Be wary if you have very sensitive skin.)


Out with the Negative and in with the Positive for Your Kids


Does your good kid have equally good friends? I read a piece by called “When Bad Friends Happen to Good Kids” in Good Housekeeping last January that talked about how parents can handle a situation where their kids find themselves buddying up with a “problem child.” As much as it’s against our protective nature as parents to not step in when we worry our kids might get hurt, the article points out that in some cases, intervening with our kids’ “bad friends” isn’t the answer. (Of course, in all cases, all of us want to find a way to steer our kids away from toxic friendships and towards a future of positive friendships!)


Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Temple University and a specialist in adolescent behavior says that parents should definitely look out for the troublemakers in their kids’ lives:  “Kids do take bigger risks when they’re together.” He warns that parents do need to look out for the “troublemakers” in their children’s circle as well as those that are “social climbers,” who can be some of the most aggressively negative influences. Robert Faris, Ph.D. adds that in studies, it has been found that these types of kids view “aggression and [bullying, either physical or verbal] as a way to maintain social status.”


So, how do you phase these kids out of your kids lives and help guide them towards new and healthier friendships in the future? According to psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, M.D., who is also a parent and the author of several parenting books, “Most kids under 12 can be brought into line … If a friend comes over and behaves badly, you have to intervene; them have a talk with your child about him. Parents often make the mistake of accommodating a friend’s bad conduct for fear of hurting their child socially. But that can be a tacit endorsement.” Hallowell also adds that kids, especially under 12, count on their parents to teach them how to have high standards for their friendships, so parents have to talk to their kids honestly about both the things they appreciate and the things they don’t appreciate about their friends. They also need to invite their kids to share their feelings about their own friends. Hallowell says to keep it simple:  “Say, ‘That kid is rude. He kicks the coffee table even after I tell him to stop. I don’t like that about him. Help me understand:  What do you like about him?” Once your child can see his friend through your eyes and also feels like his feelings have been heard, Hallowell says he will hopefully be less likely to spend as much time with the “unruly” friend and hopefully gravitate towards more positive kids in his circle. Steinberg also says it is important not to label the child as “bad” when talking to your kids (as much as you might sometimes be tempted to!); instead, label the behavior as inappropriate.


Hallowell also says that obviously, a simple talk will not always lead your kid to immediately get rid of a negative friend:  “Sometimes subterfuge can be a parent’s best friend … Plan weekend visits to your relatives to avoid sleepovers. Schedule doctor’s appointments during their usual playdate afternoons. Hover whenever the kid comes over.”


Steinberg also points out another point about early friendships:  “Most connections don’t last long … There’s a lot of instability in friendship during childhood. If you don’t like your kid’s friend, one wise strategy is to back off and let the friendship run its course.”


Hopefully over time, staying positive, communicating with and supporting your kids will help them learn how to seek out friends that will treat them well and will stand by them for the long haul!         


Tips for More Happiness in 2014:


  1. Cut out the Trans-fats for good. A couple years ago, I read in Good Housekeeping that an 11-year Spanish study of more than 12,000 people found that those who ate the most trans fats were 48% more likely to develop depression. While the participants’ intake was low – only about 1.6 grams of day – it’s easy to reach that amount even if you choose “trans fat free” products. Because of a “labeling loophole,” even those items might still have small amount of the dangerous fats. Look for the term “partially hydrogenated,” which is an indicator that trans fats lurk within.
  2. Get a ticket to health and happiness. Making time for the theater can actually improve your health, according to a Norwegian study. Statisticians and scientists in Norway looked at data from more than 50,000 people on activities like museum visits, singing, volunteering, painting and attending concerts or sporting events and discovered that engaging in arts and culture – watching as well as participating – was linked to higher self-scores of physical and emotional health. And it wasn’t just that people who had cash for evenings out could also afford better health care or that folks who enjoyed good health were more likely to go out. The connection held even when researchers controlled for wealth and a range of health factors. Lead author Koenraad Frans Cuypers also said not to worry – your taste is not an issue:  “The activities don’t have to be highbrow, just emotionally engaging or creative.”
  3. Get your beauty rest. If you try your best to get 8 hours of sleep a night (I know … it’s not easy for any of us with all we do!), you get a lot of great benefits. Getting enough sleep makes you feel better, decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease and boosts your memory.


Hopefully these resources above will help you and your family approach your New Year as a new beginning! Please enjoy our song “Encourage Each Other,” below, to help us all encourage each other to do things that make us happier and healthier in 2014!