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How To Stay In Control During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Depression is a powerful experience. Most people who have it will never forget that experience. Coronavirus is leading millions of people down that dangerous road to depression — and even those who haven’t felt it still feel like they might be losing control over their own lives. That’s what happens when one loses one’s job and is forced to stay home for a long period of time.

The good news is this: as businesses continue to reopen, there will be more opportunities to find a new job or get outside.

The bad news is this: you’re the one who needs to decide if getting outside to find a new job is worth the risk to yourself and your loved ones. It would be wonderful if our government only operated to protect its people, but that appears not to be the case. And so the decision comes down to you.

We recommend staying indoors when possible.

Staying indoors, however, means you need to find new ways of remaining in control of your own life. Get outside for exercise whenever possible: it will leave you with happy hormones that make it easier to obtain that feeling of control. Keep in mind that you might want a face mask when you do leave home. Scientists have discovered that runners and bikers can leave droplets in the air farther than six feet behind them. Be wary of who you follow!

When indoors, try to get up and move around at least once an hour. If you’re a homeowner, try working outside in the garden (this is the perfect time to grow your own food!) or play with the kids or your pets.

Part of being in control means taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself in your own home. Are you sure you’re doing all the right things to avoid contact with those who might be infected with coronavirus?

Check with the CDC for best practices:

What You Can Do During Self-Isolation To Stay Content

The novel coronavirus responsible for causing the disease COVID-19 has already forced millions of Americans out of work. The number of unemployment benefit requests has already skyrocketed over the last week, and things will only get worse. People who are unaccustomed to being alone inside their homes for weeks on end are experiencing a new level of stir-craziness. Introverts unite! This is what we know best. Let us help everyone else.

How can you stay happy, healthy, and sane during self-isolation?

First things first: STAY in isolation. Although not everyone is taking the dangerous viral outbreak seriously, you should. This disease is far deadlier than the seasonal flu, and the underlying virus is far more infectious. It’s likely even more contagious than the Spanish flu, which was the deadliest pandemic of the modern age. Don’t go out unnecessarily. Don’t visit with friends or family. You can spread the virus even while asymptomatic.

When we say don’t go out unnecessarily, it’s important you understand the meaning behind those words. To put them into perspective, you should still go outside whenever possible! Mental health is extremely important and can affect physical wellbeing too. You’re allowed to go outside for a walk or to enjoy the sunlight, which can provide a valuable dose of Vitamin D. Don’t congregate with others. If anyone else crosses your path, stay at least six feet away and avoid coughing if sick.

Dietary needs are important as well. Everyone obsesses over Vitamin C, but more than 100% of your daily value is wasted. Don’t down glass after glass of orange juice. All you’ll do is increase the amount of sugar in your diet with no real added benefit. 

That said, you should continue to eat plenty of fruits and veggies daily. Avoid foods with added sugars or high fructose corn syrup. Stock up on dry goods like beans, rice, oats, and fiber-rich cereals. These will last the longest in storage. Frozen fruits and veggies store well and retain nutrients — so don’t feel the need to buy fresh produce more often. You don’t need it. Tortillas, tofu, yogurt, and kefir are all foods that keep for weeks without spoiling. Cheese and eggs are good options too.

Try to avoid too much screen time. Two or three hours of TV, video games, or phone use is plenty per 24-hour period. More will strain your eyes, decrease your energy, increase depression, and make it more difficult for you to sleep. 

Make a routine and stick to it. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Eat three square meals. Cook at least once a day. Exercise at a set time or when you’re feeling stir-crazy. Try to find time for something educational. Read. Listen to music. There are plenty of activities everyone loves! Find as many as you can, and stagger them throughout your schedule. You can do this!

Which Pets Make Us Happiest: Dogs or Cats?

Perhaps you’ve heard that old talking point about pet owners living longer than those silly non-pet owners. Okay, so it’s not just a talking point. The science adds up. Health benefits include lower stress, reduced chance of depression, a lower risk of heart disease, and even those that can’t be quantified, such as providing people with a shared sense of community or comfort. Sure, a lot of that is because we tend to get more exercise when we have pets — especially dog owners.

That might be why dog owners seem to be happier than cat owners.

A General Social Survey found that nearly 60 percent of American households owned a pet in 2018. No surprise there. But what you might find surprising is that 36 percent of respondents who owned a dog declared themselves “very happy.” As opposed to 32 percent of respondents that define themselves as very happy — with no pets at all.

Turns out that while having a dog might make you feel happier, it doesn’t appear to make that much of a difference. That’s surprise number one. But the bigger surprise is that people were actually less happy with a dog and cat combo — 28 percent — or only a cat; 18 percent. Owning a cat is worse than having no pets at all! And owning both a cat and dog could also make you noticeably less happy than those who don’t have a pet!

Admittedly, more research needs to be done before a solid foundation of fact can exist. That’s just the way science works. Hypothesis doesn’t become fact until the results have been replicated with different experimenters. But still, there’s reason to consider opting for only a dog over a cat and dog or just a cat.

But there are probably other reasons that provide a direct link, rather than just what kind of pet you might own. For example, the same survey discovered a link to being married and owning a dog — i.e. you’re way more likely to own a mutt once you’ve tied the knot and had a couple of kids. Cat owners, on the other hand, are more likely to be single and live alone (probably not what cat owners wanted to hear, but it’s the truth).

What does this say about pets and overall happiness?

First, social relationships remain important — they’re the foundation of living long, healthy lives. Once you’ve found the right man or woman for you, then it could be beneficial to hunker down, have kids, or adopt a dog. On top of that, start getting outside for more exercise! All of these are the keys to staying happy and healthy.

What To Do When You’re Having Trouble Maintaining Quality Rest

Sleep is important. Scientists recommend the average adult maintain at least seven to eight hours of quality rest every night. Contrary to popular belief, one does not “catch up on” those missed hours. That means even one night of bad sleep can have long-lasting effects. For those insomniacs in the audience, one bad night can lead to two, three, four, or dozens. How do we help ourselves fall asleep more easily?

Download an app for that. There are plenty of ways to measure the sleep we get. Did you know that several apps or wearable devices can help you figure out when you’re in REM sleep and how much you’re getting? They can even help lift us out of light sleep close to wake up time so we feel less groggy throughout the day.

Exercise in the morning. Getting outdoors right away can accomplish a number of things. Not only will exercise fill your brain with those feel-good chemicals, but it’s keep you healthier for longer, give you a boost of energy throughout the day, and help you fall asleep when it’s actually time to fall asleep.

Eat right. Nutrition is a big part of whether or not we’ll sleep okay that night. Avoid too much sugar or caffeine in the latter half of the day. While alcohol might make you feel like it’s easier to go to fall asleep, it’s an illusion. You’ll have even more trouble falling asleep the next day, plus alcohol-induced sleep won’t give you proper rest. You might be unconscious, but your body isn’t regenerating itself the right way.

Avoid blue light. This is hardest for people. We’re more likely to get home from work, eat dinner, and then sit in front of the TV for the rest of the night. And that’s in between staring at our phones. But the blue light from these devices can activate our brains and make it harder to wind down at the end of a long day. Even turning all the lights on in the house can hinder our chances of a good night’s sleep. It’s best to dim those lights and turn the computers and TVs off a couple hours before bed.

Read. This is a great way to shut your brain down. It doesn’t even have to be a boring book! Reading can be soothing and relaxing and is best done an hour or so before bed.

Listen to white noise. While you’re reading, try asking Alexa to turn on soothing white noise like ocean waves, wind, or rain. These outdoors sounds will help your brain tune out other nuisance sounds. The calmer you are, the easier a time you’ll have getting to bed.

Could Conversations With Your Pet Increase Happiness?

Empirical scientific data on pet-human conversations is certainly lacking. This is somewhat of a surprise considering how many of us speak not just to our pets but as our pets. Most of us are brilliant enough to do this when people aren’t watching, but some of us can’t help ourselves — we have to be eccentric for our friends and family. It turns out that conversations with (or as) our pets happen for a reason — and that reason could increase your overall health.

People tend to have these conversations to provide pets with personality. Nevin-Giannini, for example, is a 31-year-old vocational trainer whose best friend is Maverick, his faithful dog. Maverick, he says, is extremely critical of he and his girlfriend. 

He said, “I find that my dog’s personality, or the voice I give my dog, is somewhat sarcastic or critical, particularly of me or my girlfriend. His most common phrase is ‘You son of a bitch.’”

Georgetown University linguist Deborah Tannen became interested in this phenomenon back in 2004 when she decided to conduct a study to help explain why exactly someone might speak to or as a pet. 

What did the study conclude?

Tannen said that the small study — conducted using family members and their pets as subjects — showed a variety of ways that people interact with pets. They do this for reasons including “effecting a frame shift to a humorous key, buffering criticism, delivering praise, teaching values, resolving conflict, and creating a family identity that includes the dogs as family members.”

“People make use of whatever’s in the environment to communicate with each other,” she said. “The fascinating thing to me is how people find it easier to say things to each other if they don’t say it directly, but they say it in the voice of the dog. It introduces humor, and it becomes indirect. The dog’s criticizing you—not me.

There you have it: If you’re having trouble finding a way to communicate with a family member or friend, then all you have to do is simulate the voice of your pet! People also give voices to their infant children and stuffed animals, to similar effect. 

Tannen said, “The kinds of motives and feelings you might impose on the baby would be closer to what the baby might have, because it’s a person.”

But the point is that people can sometimes communicate more effectively when they can pretend that their feelings belong to someone else. And doesn’t that mean that talking to our pets can make us happier, healthier people? Especially when they give us an opportunity to criticize our loved ones!

Not Worried About Gaining Weight? The Best Chocolate Desserts To Engorge Yourself On!

Obviously certain foods should be consumed in moderation. Chocolate most definitely falls in that category. But let’s face it: chocolate does a lot of good for our brains. We need it. Bad. And the darker the better. It has nutrients and antioxidants that are usually ignored because of the sweet food’s unfortunately long list of equally persuasive cons. Chocolate can also lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent sun-related damage to the skin, improve memory, and even boost mood. In moderation. Stupid moderation.

But we’re going to assume you just need a short-term comfort food or a badass dessert for your pumpkin pie hating family members during the annual Thanksgiving gathering. Here are a few of our highest recommended chocolate desserts!

Make a Google search for Hot Fudge Slow Cooker Brownies your first stop. There are about a million of these recipes available online. They’re all amazing. Basically, you’ll dump a box of brownie mix into the crockpot (after stirring in eggs, oil, and water), and then top it off with hot fudge. Alternatively, there are chocolate cake or pudding concoctions as well. Take our word for it, though: the vanilla ice cream that goes on top of this heated up dessert is 100 percent mandatory. The final product is unworthy without it.

Everyone loves fudge. But peanut butter lovers will especially appreciate the kind that combines both worlds into one. Sometimes called “Buckeye Fudge,” it’s better than just chocolate. Pretend it’s a family recipe you came up with yourself, because they will definitely ask for it. Then make them pay for what you found on the internet. Taking advantage of family members is important on Thanksgiving. Okay, okay — we jest. Don’t do that.

Have you ever made your own Chocolate Mousse? If you haven’t had to leave it in the freezer, then you’ve only been treated to a fake. If you have extra time, build this Frozen Chocolate Mousse Cake. Bury it in the freezer to hide from the hubby and kids, and then nibble at your leisure when you have a minute or two for yourself.

We also recommend Red Wine Chocolate Cake. Primarily because if there’s anything we like more than chocolate, it’s wine. Any kind of wine. Red wine, white wine, cheap wine, classy wine, boxed wine, whatever. It’s all just juice as far as we’re concerned. This particular style of cake is extremely rich. You won’t need very much to fill up on, which is great — because everyone will want some to take home.

Underrated Amusement Parks In The United States

A lot of people love amusement parks well into adulthood. The excitement, adrenaline rush, and childhood wonder certainly thrive well past adolescence for some of us. Those of us who remain obsessed with amusement parks will shout our love for Disney or Six Flags from the highest mountaintops if we can — but is that all there is? Those of you who are amusement park connaisseurs, well, you know who you are. 

You know there are places that don’t have the names Disney or Six Flags attached. Here are a few of the most underrated amusement parks in the United States!

  • Cedar Point in Ohio. Roller coaster lovers will recognize this name immediately, because it’s the roller coaster capital of the world. $50 admissions will grant you access to 18 awesome coasters perfect for all shapes and sizes. For those who visit during the summer heat, head over to the Cedar Point Shores Waterpark to cool off fast. And keep in mind the entire park is just off the coast of Lake Erie, where you could easily spend a week vacationing. 
  • King’s Island in Ohio. While Cedar Point is the roller coaster capital, King’s Island claims a different title: it’s the biggest park in the entire Midwestern United States. It’s located close to Cincinnati. There are over a hundred rides and attractions to keep you busy at all hours of the day. There’s also a water park. 
  • Knott’s Berry Farm in California. For another $50, you can visit the first amusement park ever established in the United States. It’s a popular alternative for those who wish to avoid the ever-increasing crowds and skyrocketing prices at Disney and Six Flags, and it’s just as easy to find. 
  • Knoebels Amusement Resort in Pennsylvania. For those who don’t want to spend the entire day at a single park, this is your best bet. It’s built on a sort of “pay as you go” plan, like state fairs or traveling carnivals. Getting in is free, but you’ll pay for whatever you decide to do while you’re there. 
  • Hersheypark in Pennsylvania. This amusement park is one of the biggest in the country, and it has everything you could love about the other parks but on a smaller scale — including the price, which is just about $39.
  • Dollywood in Tennessee. If you’re visiting the Pigeon Forge area, don’t forget to head to Dollywood in the Smoky Mountains. It’s not the biggest or the best, but it’s one of the most beautiful. And it’ll still provide plenty of entertainment to fill an entire day.

Will Owning A Pet Make Me A Happier, Healthier Person?

You’ve almost certainly heard how pets help their owners live longer — but is it true? A recent study even went so far as to say that adults with both children and pets actually preferred their furry friends to their own biological creations! That’s saying a lot, which is why so many people seek companionship through pets instead of people. Pets are less likely to hurt your feelings. Pets are there when you need them. 

But will they ultimately make you happier and healthier?

The answer is a fairly resounding yes — and thankfully this fact has been studied and proven by science over and over. While these studies show that taking care of a pet can boost mood and happiness in addition to relieving stress and lowering blood pressure, there are less obvious reasons for these biological changes we experience.

First and foremost, having a pet means more exercise, and exercise is great for changing your outlook on life. Without consistent and routine exercise, our brains don’t release chemicals that make us happy. Studies show that those of us who own dogs are much more likely to be physically active — and achieve recommended amounts of exercise — than those who don’t own them.

The results of the study seem minuscule: owning a dog means you get about a half-hour more exercise than someone who doesn’t own a dog. While that might not seem like a big deal, every little bit counts, and even small amounts of walking can make a big difference in overall health (which is not to say you should be content with daily walks as your only source of exercise, because you most definitely require more).

Nearly half of the participants in the aforementioned study admitted that their pet was their best friend. While it’s okay to have a pet — and be completely in love — there’s no replacement for real, human to human bonds and relationships. Studies have also showed that socializing can have a real effect on wellbeing. That’s part of the reason why therapy can get people through difficult or traumatic experiences.

What we really need is someone who will listen. Pet owners are much less likely to feel lonely. Even though pets aren’t people, pet owners are still more likely to feel a strong sense of social support than non-pet owners. It’s okay if the listener is a pet, but remember: we need people too.

Oh, and one last thing: with all these benefits kept in mind, it can be a good thing for kids to grow up with this extra sense of support!

Stay Happy By Learning How To Run A Marathon Once A Year!

Exercise releases chemicals in your brain that help you stay happy. That’s why it’s so important to exercise shortly after waking up each day — it puts you in the right frame of mind to stay motivated and productive. It also helps adjust your internal clock to let you fall asleep when you’re supposed to fall asleep. But what kind of exercise should you be doing? Running is a good start!

One of the best ways to build a routine — and keep to it — is making a list of goals for yourself. What kind of goals, you ask? The kind that leave you with room to improve. Try running a little farther every other day, or a little faster, or for longer. Build your endurance, but don’t overdo it — you should be alternating workout regimens every other day at least. That means running one day and swimming or weight lifting the next. Your muscles need time to rest so they can build back up.

One of the greatest goals you can give yourself is working your way to signing up for a big race! First you’ll probably want to do a half-marathon. That means about thirteen miles of running. That’s the number of miles nearly anyone in ordinary health can do before their body starts reminding them that it’s time for a break. Those who aren’t fully prepared can experience pain, dehydration, stress or repetitive action injuries like tendinitis — even hallucinations if they push themselves too hard!

That’s why it’s important to start small and work your way toward the goal.

Once you’ve completed a half-marathon, you might be ready for the true test of fitness: a full marathon that measures about 26 miles. They aren’t easy, but those who complete the full race feel accomplished. Those who have already completed a marathon might decide to enter a race every year to keep themselves motivated to stay in shape. Or they might decide to run in even longer “ultra” marathons for an even bigger challenges.

There are other options as well. A trail marathon is one of them, and the competitions are exactly what they sound like. While normal marathons take place on pavement, trail marathons take place on local trails. You’ll be surrounded by the natural world as you race up and down mountains. Those who prefer the serene outdoor environments away from the hustle and bustle of big towns or cities might choose this option over any other. 

No matter which option you choose, the point is this: stay in shape and you’ll have a better chance to stay happy too!

The Difference Between TV And Books On Your Brain

There are a lot of negative stereotypes attached to individuals who spend most of the day in front of the TV to marathon a favorite show or invest time in a video game world. Most of us don’t even bother to question how different the stereotypes are for those who prefer to spend their time reading books. After all, you’re exercising your brain by reading — how can that be unhealthy? But then again, what’s the difference? Surely there is value in shows or games as well.

Well, let’s take a look at what the science tells us.

First of all, you won’t like it. Many studies show that our stereotypes are sensible. For example, studies have indicated that people are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s when they grow old if they watch a lot of TV, while they are less likely to suffer from the same disease if they read. In fact, reading is presented as a way to prevent such a decline in faculties. 

The story is even more profound for children. Tohoku University in Japan conducted research in 2013 that showed a proportional incline in arousal and aggression for those who watched certain amounts of television. On top of that, test results in certain categories — like social interaction — were lowered for those who spent too much time watching the tube.

Another study found a link between the amount of TV watched and child-parent relationships when communication is taken into account. Parents are more likely to communicate or teach when reading with their children than they are when watching TV together — even when the television program is educational.

This suggests that the information inherent in either medium isn’t causing the disparities, but instead that the medium itself is responsible. Mostly we can only conjecture about why this is the case, but some researchers believe it might have something to do with how the information is presented. TV programming is fast-paced, while the books are a slow-burn form of entertainment. 

On the other hand, it could simply be a matter of how we as a society are taught to interact during these forms of entertainment when growing up. For example, TV programming has never been about a social experience.College students have been shown to benefit significantly if they routinely read. Emory University’s Gregory Burns showed a connection between reading and parts of the brain related to language and empathy. Other research has suggested that reading can reduce stress more than any other activity.