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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.

How To Motivate Yourself To Stay Ahead Of The Game

What determines success? More than anything else, success seems to rely heavily on self-motivation. Those who put every second into doing whatever it is they want to do seem to achieve greatness more often than not, which means success isn’t necessarily determined by talent. Knowing that you need to drive yourself to greatness is one thing, but actually applying what you know in life is another thing entirely.

So how do you do it?

Truth be told, you need to first decide what will really make you feel accomplished in life. For some, marriage is the goal. For a number of us, we just need kids in our lives. Many of us dream of that white picket fence. What about fame and fortune? Changing the world? Success means different things to different people, but many people set the bar too high and fail to achieve whatever it is they set out to do. That itself can be the biggest impediment to success.

  • Make Daily Goals. If you dream of greatness, maybe you can make it happen. Maybe you can’t. Either way you need to take it one step at a time. Don’t think “I’m gonna write the next great American novel” and then expect it will happen tomorrow. Write a page today, a page the next day, and a page the day after that. Small goals will let you achieve the larger goals faster than anything else.
  • Every Day. If you make daily goals, but don’t put in the effort to complete them every day, then you’ll never make it. Once you make a plan, stick to it. Sometimes that means accepting that you can’t do everything at once. Don’t give yourself a hundred small tasks to complete, because you’ll only accomplish half of what you set out to do. Be sure to keep your goals realistic.
  • Exercise. This is one of the most important steps to take. Get out of bed, go for a run, bike ride, or long hike, and then go home to jump in the shower. If you’re not feeling energized or refreshed, then you’ll never feel like checking off the items on your daily list. If you fail to exercise even a little each and every day, then you absolutely will not motivate yourself. You need to feel human.

    Try telling yourself you’re only going to go for a five minute walk down the street. It’s a lot easier for your mind to process going outside for five minutes than for two hours, but you’ll always exercise for longer than five minutes. That’s why each task needs to be bite-sized. You can (and usually will) always do more.
  • Cook. If one item on your daily checklist is exercise, then make sure the next is nutrition. Not only should you attempt to cut back on sugar and alcohol, but you should make sure to eat only lean meats, fish, and add plenty of fruits and veggies to your diet. A fit body means a fit mind. Doing it yourself will help more than you think.
  • Reevaluate. Once a month, revise your daily checklists. Are you getting things done? Figure out why or why not. You might be trying to do too little. You might be trying to do too much. There’s always room for improvement.

How To Keep Your Relationship Happy

It goes without saying that the key to a happy relationship is communication. Without healthy communication, you can’t build trust or gratitude. And without trust and gratitude, you can’t build commitment. But long-term relations can sometimes be draining, resentment can harbor and what used to be cute, can start to become annoying. How do you keep the honeymoon phase lasting forever? Here are some tips from couples who are in long term relationships and are happier than ever!

Tip 1: Weekly Round-Up

Every Friday sit with your significant other and tell them something they did this week that made you appreciate them. Even if it’s something small. Your spouse will feel good about themselves and will also understand your needs better. Also, each week try to plan a special activity that you wouldn’t normally do. This keeps you from falling into a mundane routine.

Tip 2: Don’t Be A Blanket Hog

It’s very important to get a good night’s sleep for a myriad of reasons. Having separate blankets so neither of you have to share can prevent fights, resentment, and ensure that you are comfortable so you get a good nights sleep. Waking up cranky every morning due to lack of sleep will lead to arguments over trivial things the next day.

Tip 3: Have Some Alone Time

Just because you are in a relationship does not mean you need to do everything together. It’s also very important to do things that you want to do and grow as a person. A good partner will support you in achieving your goals and not prevent you from flourishing. Spending alone time doing things that you love that your partner might not enjoy is a good way to still feel independent. Bringing them along and listening to them complain will only damper the thing you love and damper your relationship.

It’s important to know that you do not need to be in a relationship to be happy but being in a happy relationship certainly does help!

What Is Cute Aggression?

Have you ever seen something so incredibly cute that you just want to squeeze and smoosh it to death? Before you start calling a defense lawyer Miami worrying that I will end up hurting your newborn baby, this sensation is a real condition known to psychologists as “cute aggression” and affects about half of all adults!

A recent study was published this past December in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience by Katherine Stavropoulos, a psychologist from the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside. The study reveals that while many adults experience this sensation, the likelihood of harming anything cute is low. It also reveals that this is an involuntary response because the brain is overwhelmed with positive emotion.

This isn’t the first time that “cute aggression” has been studied. It has also been researched at Yale University. What makes this study different is that it focuses on the brain itself. A group of 54 young adults had the electrical activity of their brain recorded as they looked at images of animals and people. The images were of adults, babies, baby animals, and full grown animals. The images were also manipulated to look less cute and then exaggerated to look cuter (such as big eyes and big cheeks).

As the participants viewed the cuter images, they had higher activity in areas of the brain that deal with emotion. When a participant experienced cute aggression, the study showed that the brain started to stimulate activity in areas that deal with the reward system. Having both sides of the brain can be overwhelming for the brain. Psychologists believe that the negative emotion of aggression is a response to the overwhelming amount of positive emotion from cuteness.

The brain often produced negative emotions to counteract positive ones or vice versa. For example, laughing during silence, crying at weddings from happiness. The next time you see a cute puppy and feel the need to hold onto it and crush it, just know that it’s normal and you probably won’t crush the puppy!