Trust your body's instincts Not long ago, my husband and three of our kids went charging up Mount Katahdin—think of it as New England's mini Mount Everest. I'd spent months hiking with friends to make sure I was in shape and, at the start, hustled to keep pace with our teenagers as we hauled ourselves up the steep boulders. But within a couple of hours I was straggling; they leapt past me like giddy mountain goats while I carefully picked my way up the rocks. Was I disappointed? Actually, no. I felt smart. My 40-something body was telling me how to protect it from injury—and my hips and feet thanked me later. It turns out that our bodies routinely transmit this evolving wisdom, gently steering us away from activities or indulgences we can no longer tolerate to ones that will ensure continued good health. Here are six other things your body's trying to tell you. 1. When you're dehydrated Over the course of a lifetime, our kidneys, which transport water to our tissues, gradually lose a bit of their efficiency. Also, nerves that signal thirst gradually decline. The combination means that you may be unaware of the fact that you're not getting adequate hydration. Listen to your body: Sip throughout the day. While there's no reason to torture yourself with eight 8-ounce glasses if you don't like it, make a habit of consuming enough fluids every day. Not an H2O fan? Try adding herbal tea at each meal. 2. When to go easy on dessert From early adulthood to late middle age, our metabolic rates fall by an average of 10%. “That's because people tend to become more sedentary as they age,” says BarbaraBushman, PhD, a professor of exercise physiology at Missouri State University, “and that inactivity reduces muscle mass, in turn lowering metabolism. The metabolic drop is also due to a decline in cellular activity, so even women who maintain a consistent level of fitness find that they need fewer calories to maintain the same weight.” Listen to your body: Think of the metabolic slowdown as your body's way of getting you to be more mindful of what's on your fork or spoon. Instead of an ice cream sundae, think: healthier fruit parfait. 3. When to hit the hay “My body can no longer handle being awake until 2 am and then getting up at 6,” says Riconda Solis Lamb, 44, a mom of two teens who has long relied on the midnight hours to catch up on everything from reading to cleaning to exercise. “Now if I'm up late, it's like I have narcolepsy at the office the next day.” The National Sleep Foundation says that's because the architecture of sleep changes as we age; we spend more time in light stages of sleep and less in those that are deeper and more restful. Combine this with the fact that most of us don't get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, and a late night really hurts. Listen to your body: Get more sleep than you think you need—always at least 7 hours. Switch off phones, computers, and the television an hour earlier, then turn in. 4. When you need to stretch Even as our body wisdom increases, our flexibility declines. Lamb, who lives in Rogers City, MI, says she's made peace with feeling like Oz's Tin Man after a rainstorm. “I used to jump out of the car after a 2-hour drive and feel fine,” she says. Now it takes a little effort to unfold her legs. By our mid-40s, most of us have lost between 3 and 4 inches in the sit-and-reach test. “The elasticity of tendons, ligaments, and joints decreases,” increasing the potential for injuries, says Bushman. New evidence also links poorer flexibility to heart disease: Japanese researchers found that middle-aged and older people who do poorly on the sit-and-reach test have stiffer arteries than more flexible people. Listen to your body: Do more activities like yoga and tai chi, which boost both flexibility and balance. And after any workout, take time to stretch, holding each pose for 15 to 20 seconds while breathing deeply. 5. When to drop a grudge Psychologists have known for some time that people tend to become more forgiving the older they get. Researchers at the City University of Hong Kong have a new explanation for this phenomenon: Our sense of the future becomes more constrained and regulating our emotions becomes more important, so we are motivated to kiss and make up. Listen to your body: Cultivate a kinder heart. A recent study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that cardiac patients who undergo forgiveness counseling—they learn to work though and overcome hostile feelings, and thus grudges, they hold toward others—have significantly fewer heart symptoms, such as angina, than those who don't get the counseling. 6. When to skip that extra glass of wine A moderate amount of booze eases stress and anxiety and may protect against heartdisease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and stroke. Alas, aging seems to reduce women's ability to tolerate alcohol. Why? The body retains less water, so alcohol becomes more concentrated, and therefore more potent. Drinking even a little more than usual increases the risk of tipsy mishaps, including falls. Listen to your body: A little vino now and then is a good idea, but stick to no more than one glass at a time, and don't exceed seven servings per week. By Sarah Mahoney via Prevention
The reality is you have more control over your lifespan than you may think. Genetics only play a small role in how long you live. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy is 78.8 years. If you want to live to the average, or surpass it, you should start making changes in your life now. The secrets to living longer go far beyond the obvious acts of eating healthy and reducing stress. Simple things such as improving your oral hygiene, making new friends and getting enough sleep all play a role in how long you will live. Did you know that having a positive attitude can actually add years to your life? It’s true, individuals with that have positive emotions encounter more happiness in their lives and happiness is strongly related to how long you will live. Start today and take action; use these tricks to make positive changes to your life and further your longevity.
Hooray! You got a solid 8 hours of sleep last night. But then why did you wake up this morning feeling like roadkill? Facing the day refreshed isn't as simple as logging those elusive 7 to 8 hours in dreamland. We've got six surprising reasons you're not feeling your best—and simple fixes. You read your Kindle before bed. People who read before bed using an iPad or similar device find it harder to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than those who curl up with a printed book, according to a recent Harvard study. The reason? The blue light emitted from the Kindle suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, which controls your sleep and wake cycles, says Robert Rosenberg, DO, FCCP, an Arizona sleep medicine specialist and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day. Translation: When your melatonin levels are out of whack, you probably aren't sleeping as soundly as you think you are. He recommends shutting down all electronic devices (computers, cell phones, tablets, eReaders) 90 minutes before bed. Also, move your cell phone out of the room; even if it's on airplane mode, a phone emits enough light to interfere with sleep, says Sylvia Morris, MD, MPH, an internist in Atlanta. You sleep in a bad position. Waking up with a sore back? It may be from sleeping on your side all night, which can create significant flexion at the hip, says Benjamin Domb, MD, founder of the American Hip Institute. If you're one of the 57% of Americans who slumber in this position, it's a good idea to sleep with a pillow between your legs to maintain proper hip alignment. "Hip injuries are some of the most common, yet trickiest, sleep injuries because the pain from the injury often shows itself in a different part of the body—like in the lower back," says Domb. (Here's how 3 common sleep positions affect your health.) Your pillow sucks. That huge fluffy pillow may seem like luxury, but it can cause massive pain. "Sleeping with your head propped up pulls your spine out of alignment—it's like walking around for 8 hours during the day with your neck tilted down," explains Shawn Stevenson, BS, FDN, founder of the Advance Integrative Health Alliance and author of the 2016 book Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success. Use a pillow that's soft but has a supportive foam core, like the Intelli-Gel pillow ($150, amazon.com). You grind your teeth at night. If you wake up with a headache, it's most likely because you've been clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth overnight, says Kathy Gruver, PhD, a massage therapist in Santa Monica, CA. Research shows that massage can help with symptoms, so apply some gentle pressure and/or a warm, damp cloth to the jaw area right before you go to sleep and as soon as you wake up in the AM to help break the cycle. Also consider seeing your dentist for a mouth guard, which keeps your teeth from grinding down. You have a nightcap. It's true that booze can send you off to dreamland quickly, since alcohol does have a sedative effect. But it also disrupts your normal sleep cycle, says Aaron Clark, MD, a family medicine physician at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. In a 2015 Australian study, people who downed orange juice mixed with vodka as a bedtime drink showed more alpha brain activity while they snoozed, which meant they weren't getting deep, restorative sleep. Women are particularly susceptible to sleep disruptions from alcohol because we metabolize it faster, according to the National Sleep Foundation, so we're bound to wake up sooner. An occasional glass of spirits won't hurt, but to make sure you're getting quality z's, limit yourself to one drink a night and have it a couple of hours before bedtime. You have undiagnosed sleep apnea. Half of all adult women have some type of sleep apnea, according to a 2012 study. (Women between the ages of 20 and 44 have a 25% chance of having sleep apnea, which also affects 56% of women ages 45 to 54 and 75% of women ages 55 to 70.) With this condition, "patients briefly stop breathing multiple times through the night, which leads to poor sleep quality," explains Clark. Sleep apnea is especially common in women as they go through perimenopause, when they mistakenly assume that their frequent night awakenings are a result of hot flashes. As a result, you'll often wake up exhausted, even if you've theoretically gotten plenty of sleep. Ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep specialist. The best way to diagnose sleep apnea is via a sleep study—at-home devices can pick up only severe cases. Mild cases can often be treated with weight loss and alcohol avoidance before bedtime, but if you've got a moderate to severe case, you'll need to use a device like a CPAP, an oxygen tube under the nose that emits mild air pressure to keep the airways open.
Hunger is your body telling you it needs sustenance so it can operate efficiently. Yet sometimes, it can feel like all our hunger is a little… excessive. We’re talking about those days when just 20 minutes after lunch (after you ate a meal big enough for two) you’re already starving again. Maybe it happens every day—you find yourself jonesing for another snack before you can even lick all the white cheddar popcorn off your fingers. Either way, you’re always. so. damn. hungry. But why? “It is normal to experience an increase in appetite after going hard in the gym or during your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or breastfeeding,” Amanda Foti, M.S., R.D., a senior dietitian at Selvera Wellness, tells SELF. “But if you feel like a bottomless pit, something might be up.” Luckily, tweaking some of your daily habits can help keep your appetite in check so you’ll keep all that eating to when you’re truly, really, actually hungry. 1. You’re not eating often enough. It might sound counter-intuitive if you’re trying to curb your eating, but spacing out your meals too far can make you constantly hungry. “When your stomach is empty for too long, your body will release more ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone, leaving you feeling famished,” Foti says. Which over time, leads to overeating. Try eating a meal or snack every three to four hours. Foti also recommends keeping an emergency snack on you, like a piece of fruit, for when you’re tight on time. 2. You’re not getting the right balance of nutrients. “Satisfying snacks have three components: fiber, protein, and a little healthy fat,” explains Caroline Kaufman, R.D. All three can help slow digestion, which keeps blood sugar stable and keeps you full for longer. Some of her suggestions: a serving of plain popcorn (fiber) with roasted almonds (protein and healthy fat); vegetable sticks (fiber) with hummus (protein and healthy fat); or cherry tomatoes (fiber), avocado (healthy fat) and part-skim cottage cheese (protein). 3. You’re eating too many simple carbs and sugars. On the other hand, eating lots of simple carbohydrates (think: white bread, pasta, bagels, pastries) and sugar will make it impossible to feel satisfied. “Your glucose will rise at first giving you a burst of energy, and then crash rapidly causing your body to crave more fuel,” Foti explains. This can become a vicious cycle, where you never feel satisfied no matter how much you keep eating. 4. You’re dehydrated and confusing thirst for hunger. Our thirst and hunger cues both come from the same part of the brain, the hypothalamus, making it difficult for our bodies to know the difference, Foti explains. Keep a water bottle at your desk so you remember to sip throughout the day. “You’ll know you’re drinking enough water when your pee is light yellow or clear,” Kaufman adds. 5. You’re stressed. Simply put, stress increases the body’s production of the hormone cortisol, which boosts appetite, since your body thinks it needs to prepare to fight. “According to the Harvard School of Public Health, many studies have found that stress can increase cravings for sugary, fatty foods,” Kaufman explains. “These foods may actually comfort you on a physiological level—they seem to inhibit parts of your brain that produce stress emotions.” This may make you feel better temporarily, but it ends up increasing snack cravings. (Trying to manage your stress? Here are six easy ways to feel less stressed in under five minutes.) 6. You’re not paying attention to what you’re eating. Eating mindfully—that means actually paying attention to what you’re eating instead of shoveling it in your mouth as you’re running off to do something else—is important for your body to register when it’s hungry or not. When you don’t fully experience a meal, you may still feel hungry even when your body is full, because you essentially forget you already ate. “In addition to sensing when you’re hungry and full, mindful eating can help you decide if food is even satisfying,” Kaufman explains, or if your hunger is something else entirely, like dehydration or stress. “Maybe you think you’re hungry, but when you start eating your yogurt, you realize you’re not hungry at all. The yogurt isn’t satisfying that feeling.” If you weren’t paying attention to the eating process, you’d just down the yogurt and still feel hungry. 7. You’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep is very closely linked with two hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Leptin reduces appetite, and ghrelin stimulates it. “When you’re sleep-deprived, leptin levels drop and ghrelin soars—no wonder you’re hungry!” Kaufman says. Plus, when you’re exhausted, your body craves a quick fuel source, glucose, which gets you reaching for those sugar-laden foods. “These ‘comfort carbs’ set you off on a hunger rollercoaster, since they give you a quick (but fleeting) energy boost, followed by a sugar crash that makes you crave more.” 8. You have an underlying medical condition that’s messing with your appetite. If you’ve checked all the other potential causes, and you’re still eating nonstop, it may be worth seeing a doctor to rule out any real health concerns. Diabetes, hyperthyroidism, depression, and anxiety (along with some medications) can all amp up your appetite. By Amy Marturana via msn.com
Mornings are not for everyone. Even scientists have given us consolation by discovering that there are genetic differences between larks and owls (granted, the study was done on fruit flies, but we’ll take it). Knowing that our own bodies may be wired to prefer a certain time of day is certainly a relief—less pressure to be that chirpy, already-ran-7-miles-by-dawn superstar—but the fact of the matter is, many of us still have to wake up and function during those first daylight hours. So what can we do? To find out, we tapped a variety of experts—from sleep experts to nutritionists to life organizational pros—to share their tricks on how to hack the day from dawn until dusk to make mornings less stressful and more pleasant, so that even the most after-hours of night owls will look forward to sunrise. (Lose up to 13 pounds in under 2 weeks with this Liver Detox plan!) Nix night wakings Poor sleep quality can explain why we sometimes wake up from 8 hours of snoozing and feel like we only clocked in at 4. “It’s normal to awaken five to seven times a night as we move through sleep cycles; we generally just fall right back to sleep after each cycle and don’t remember those brief awakenings,” explains Shelby Harris, PsyD, director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at Montefiore Medical Center. “And as we get older, it’s normal to have one or two awakenings that we remember, but more than that leaves us feeling groggy in the morning because of the fragmented sleep.” What’s more, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that sleep interruptions were worse for mood than sleeping less overall, so hitting 6 full hours of sleep can leave you more energized and peppy than 8 hours of interrupted slumber. (Drinking tart cherry juice can help you sleep more each night.) The most common causes of poor sleep quality are sleep apnea, sleep talking, insomnia, drinking too much alcohol, and even hormonal changes. If you find yourself alert more than once or twice a night, talk with your doctor to figure out if you should enroll in an overnight sleep study to pin down the culprit, Harris says. Related: 7 Reasons You’re Tired All The Time Understand the science of snoozing While slamming the snooze button can feel like winning the sleep lottery every morning, it actually does more harm than good. “When you are waking up, your body is in the process of sleep inertia, a mental and physical sluggishness that will go away after about 15 minutes,” explains James Wyatt, PhD, director of sleep disorders and sleep research at Rush University in Chicago. Nodding off again sends you into a light and fragmented sleep—it’s not even good sleep!—and then back into sleep inertia once the alarm rings again. Multiple snoozes can leave you feeling groggier than just sucking it up and getting out of bed the first time. What’s more: Hitting snooze steals away your willpower, and we only have a limited supply of it each day, says Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. “Successful people don’t use it up on something as small stakes as whether to get out of bed.” Instead, be honest about the time you intend to get up—even if it’s a little later than you’d prefer—and then enjoy every last minute of shut-eye until then so you can wake up alert and ready to go. Do something enjoyable right after waking The trap that many people fall into is choosing a morning activity that they feel like they “should” do, like running, instead of one that truly speaks to them. Not only is this the fast track to ditching goals, it also makes mornings—which are already difficult—more miserable. “Humans don’t do well with suffering long-term,” says Vanderkam, “so if you’re going to exercise, find a kind of exercise you like enough that you’re willing to set the alarm a little earlier. If you intend to work, make it the part of work you’re excited about. It’s easier to stick with habits we enjoy for their own sake, not because we know we should do them.” (Try working in this 10 minute total-body routine and feel great all day.) Make breakfast really count What do green juice, a bagel and cream cheese, and a latte en route to the office have in common? They are not breakfast. While these items have found their way into our AM routines, two of them are beverages, the other is a calorie-bomb, and none will give you lasting energy. “Ideally, breakfast includes a source of lean protein; high-fiber carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, or vegetables; and some healthy fat,” explains Caroline Kaufman, a New York City–based nutritionist. Achieving this trifecta is easier than it sounds, and you can check off all the nutrients in just a few steps. Kaufman likes oatmeal with frozen berries and a dollop of nut butter or premade mini egg frittatas (bake them in muffin cups for a grab-and-go breakfast) made with chopped veggies, skim milk, and shredded cheese. Still feel like leaving the house with something to sip on? Ditch the vegetable juice and make a hearty, healthy smoothie with energy-sustaining protein like almond butter or chia seeds. Don’t ease into your workday It can be tempting to plow through the easy things early on—checking e-mail, scanning the headlines—but it’s wise to tackle the bigger stuff first. “Getting to work on the most important tasks not only ups the chances that they actually get done, but it also leaves you with a burst of accomplishment to take with you the rest of the day,” explains Jason Selk, coauthor of Organize Tomorrow Today: 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life. Though it may not seem like it, most of us have more brainpower earlier in the day, so even if an assignment is more difficult, it can usually be checked off with more ease and you can stress less knowing you got the biggies done. Selk suggests choosing three important goals that you want to take up each morning and creating a deadline to complete them by. Save social media for later First you’re innocently scrolling through Instagram. Next thing you know, it’s been 45 minutes and you’re looking at vacation photos from your coworker’s sister’s best friend’s trip to Mexico. We’re all guilty of falling down the social media rabbit hole, but when you’re pressed for time in the morning or just want to be productive early on, it can be a serious time suck. Hanging out on social media does come with benefits—it can motivate you to exercise and allows us to catch up with long-distance friends and family—so the key is moderation and timing. Schedule a social media block later in the afternoon to check in when you’re likely to need a break anyway, and save the morning for the important stuff. By lunch, make a to-do list for the next day The day is not even halfway over and you want us to think about tomorrow? Truth is, the closer you get to the end of the day, the less likely and motivated you are to think about what really needs to get done tomorrow. Making a plan earlier—Selk thinks around lunch is the sweet spot—helps you start the next day with clarity and eliminates those feelings of disorganization and scrambling that often pop up in the morning. “You’ll be amazed at how much clearer your decision-making becomes and how much more efficiently you’ll use your time,” he says. And when your mornings don’t look harried anymore, there’s nothing to dread. What snooze button? By Maggie Puniewksa This article ‘7 Tricks Guaranteed To Make You A Morning Person’ originally ran on Prevention.com.