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How to boost your mood during winter

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Don’t let the cooler weather deter you from reaching your health and fitness goals. Here are a few ways to change your mood.

 

Slow it down with yoga

Moderate to high-intensity exercise cranks endorphins, but if you’re looking to manipulate your mood, you might try yoga. Yoga’s effect on mood and anxiety may be superior to other forms of exercise like walking according to Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) research linking yoga postures to increased levels of anti-anxiety neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric (GABA). Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders. In a 12-week study, a group practising yoga three times a week for one hour exhibited higher GABA levels and self-reported mood, with yoga participants largely noting more significant decreases in anxiety and greater improvements in mood than walkers.

Rise early

The most important external signal for the body clock is light, so exposure to bright morning light is a good antidote to low mood, says Prof Lack. Artificial lighting doesn’t activate the same physiological responses as natural light, so open the curtains as soon as you get up.

On weekends, resist sleeping in. “If you sleep in late, our evidence suggests it leads to a delay of the timing of your body clock,” says Prof Lack. “Because you don’t get light as early, it allows that tendency for delay to take place. Over a weekend you can delay your body clock up to an hour.”

Delaying your body clock over the weekend can result in Monday morning blues, Prof Lack says.

Lighten up

Not only are they likely to show up mismatched foundation and a carefully ironed shirt, fluorescent lights are a poor substitute for sunlight.

“The sort of environmental light outside is much more intense than the light produced by artificial lighting,” says Professor David Hillman, chair of the Sleep Health Foundation. “Artificial light needs to be quite contrived to be the equivalent of sunlight. There’s no doubt that mood gets disturbed by an inability to get out into the open air, so as far as a healthy lifestyle goes, it’s about robust wakefulness and good sleep patterns. These low-light environments are less arousing, so the quality of the wakefulness is less.”

Increasing brightness of lighting may provide an instant boost.

“Enhancement of office and industrial lighting can have an energising effect that strengthens circadian rhythms, allowing more concentrated activity during the day and more refreshing sleep at night,” says Prof Terman.

It doesn’t replace the lunchtime walk, but it might help.

Read the full article by Bronte Chaperon, David Goding and Rebecca Long in the June 2016 issue of Women’s Health and Fitness for more natural winter mood boosters.

If you, or someone you know, need to talk to someone about depression, contact Beyond Blue, 1300 22 4636, or beyondblue.org.au,

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Your ‘Sixth Sense’ May Keep You Safe While Driving—Except When You’re Texting

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Whether it's kids squabbling in the back seat, work stress, or your phone constantly pinging, countless things can distract you when you're driving. But are certain distractions riskier than others? 

That's what researchers from the University of Houston and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute wanted to find out. In a new study (funded in part by the Toyota Class Action Settlement Safety Research and Education program), they observed how drivers coped when distracted by absentminded thoughts, emotions, and text messages. 

The authors noted that while many studies have explored the dangers of texting and driving, there's less research on how other kinds of stressors can affect your behavior at the wheel. But their results indicate that the worst kind of distraction may indeed be checking your phone. 

The researchers found that people who drove while absentminded or emotional benefitted from a "sixth sense" instinct that helped them navigate safely. Meanwhile those who were texting while driving did not experience the same protection.

RELATED: This Smartphone App Blocks Teens from Texting While Driving

For the study, 59 drivers navigated a simulated stretch of highway four times: once under "normal conditions," once while they were asked cognitively challenging questions (think math problems), once while they were asked emotionally charged questions, and once while they were distracted by texts. Each time the researchers measured the sweat under the drivers' noses (an indicator of their stress level), how jittery their steering became, and whether or not they drifted out of their lane.

The three types of distractions all increased the drivers' perinasal perspiration levels, and caused them to be more jittery. But when the drivers were asked cognitively challenging and emotionally stirring questions, they were able to maintain a straight course; while texting led them to veer out of their lane.

Lead researchers Ioannis Pavlidis, PhD, and Robert Wunderlich speculate that the driver's trajectories remained straight under cognitive and emotional stress thanks to the intervention of a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which provides a "fight or flight" reflex. "For sure, there is corrective action precipitated from some brain center, likely the ACC, when we are distracted while performing a routine dexterous task, driving in this case," Pavlidis says. "When this distraction is purely mental, this corrective mechanism works well."

RELATED: Constantly Reaching For Your Smartphone? You May Be Anxious or Depressed

But to do its job, your ACC requires eye-hand coordination: "It appears that an eye-hand feedback loop is needed for the brain to be able to accomplish these corrections," Wunderlich explains. And that feedback loop is disrupted when you look at your phone. 

"When there is a physical distraction, either all by itself or in addition to mental distraction, then this corrective mechanism breaks down," Pavlidis explains. "The reason is that the corrective function depends on all the physical resources, eyes and hands in this case, to keep executing its 'auto-pilot' function." 

All of this goes to show that reading and responding to messages on the road is every bit as dangerous as you thought—and maybe more. 

 

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Chicken Banh Mi Pizza

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Chicken Banh Mi Pizza Recipe
Chicken Banh Mi Pizza
This healthy pizza recipe is inspired by the Vietnamese sandwich called banh mi. Spread on the pizza dough, the curry sauce adds just the right amount of Thai seasoning and spice.

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