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      The Science of Happiness

      The Science of Happiness

      Author: Carrie Myers

      We all want to be happy, but sometimes life seems to get in the way.

      Sick kids, unexpected bills, job loss, strained relationships, overwhelm, exhaustion…you name it. It can all contribute to unhappiness and can even play a role in conditions like depression and anxiety.

      What’s a mom to do?

      First, you have to decide what happiness means to you. While scientists generally describe happiness as positive feelings you have related to engaging in pleasurable activities, even scientists don’t agree on one perfect definition.

      Some researchers define happiness as positive emotions with the absence of negative ones. But do genuinely happy people really have no negative emotions?

      Seriously…it’s time to get real.

      Positive Psychology 101

      According to research on Positive Psychology, there are several things that can increase our happiness score and help us flourish in this unpredictable world.

      While it’s true that money might not buy happiness in particular, it might add to your life satisfaction and emotional well-being. Research shows that the magic money number is about $75,000 per year. Beyond that, research showed no significant change in people’s rating of life satisfaction or emotional well-being.

      And think about it. If you aren’t worried about how your bills are going to get paid each month, wouldn’t that make you a little more satisfied with your life? Or—I’ll say it—happier?

      Greater income means we can also give more to causes that we care about. But no matter how much you make, research shows that giving money or time - to organizations we’re passionate about makes us happier.

      Spending more time with family and friends can bring more happiness into your life, too.

      Now, I know what you’re thinking. There is no way that spending time with certain family members makes you anything but stressed.

      Side note: Did you know that stressed spelled backward is desserts? Just sayin’.

      People of faith who are spiritual and/or religious tend to be happier (think peace, purpose, connection…).

      Another side note: If you’re not the church-going kind, you really should consider it. Just make sure they have a children’s program. It’s like a mommy break. You can even close your eyes during the service and take a little nap and they’ll think you’re praying.

      Sorry. Just a little spiritual mommy humor there…

      Happiness and Health

      You might think that happiness simply has to do with your mental or emotional health. But happiness has perks for your physical health, too.

      For example, researchers have found that happiness is linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate.

      And people with heart disease who rated themselves as happiest also had healthier heart rate variability, a test of heart health.

      One study had people rate certain positive emotions, like joy, happiness, excitement, contentment, and enthusiasm. They then took these same people 10 years later and found that those who rated themselves higher in positive emotions had lower rates of heart disease. In fact, for every one-point increase in positive emotions, their risk for heart disease was 22% lower.

      Happiness has also been shown to strengthen the immune systemprotect against stressreduce the perception of pain, and may even help you live longer.  

      This is all great. But what if you’re not feeling the happiness warm-fuzzies? How can you get more of it—starting today?

      Hunting for Happiness

      Scientists estimate that 30-40% of our happiness quota is genetic. So, for example, if you have a child who just seems more sullen, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. They just might be naturally a little less happy.

      Okay, so if 30-40% of your happiness is in your genes, that means that a whopping 60-70% of it is within your control.

      Don’t allow this to overwhelm you. Having control over how happy you are is a good thing!

      And it doesn’t have to be difficult.

      Here are a few science-backed, evidence-based findings based on researchers in the field of positive psychology, including a pioneer in this field, Martin Seligman, Ph.D., to help you up your happiness levels.

      • Are you isolating yourself? You’re likely to be less happy. Build close relationships with people you can be yourself with. Find a mom’s group. Meet up with girlfriends.
      • Volunteer or spend time helping other people. This is a great opportunity to get your kids involved, too. Start with people in your family or neighborhood. Do they need their snow shoveled or leaves raked? Would they like a plate of homemade cookies? Bringing happiness to others makes us happier.
      • Being physically active can help us be happier. In fact, according to research, it’s a pretty powerful antidepressant. Exercise has also been shown to improve sleep and mood, and is associated with better quality of life in general.
      • Meditating, praying, practicing mindfulness, and showing gratitude have all been shown to increase happiness. Ditto for being a part of a church, and spiritual exploration - even for kids.
      • Being fully engaged in a hobby or activity that you really enjoy can make you happier.
      • Discovering your strengths and using them to showcase and enhance your purpose will also bring you more happiness.

      So, some of these might have to wait until kids are a little older (like being fully engaged in…anything!). But use that creative brain of yours and find little ways that you and your family can begin to incorporate some of these things into your lives.

      Of course, you also get to decide what will contribute to your happiness (a warm, sandy beach with a beautiful view and my very own cabana boy come to mind…).

      Maybe at this very moment, being able to take an uninterrupted hot shower would make you happy.

      Or having five minutes to do abso-freaking-lutely nothing would make you happy.

      Keep the big picture in mind. Some things will make us momentarily happy…and other things add to our happiness and satisfaction long term.

      It’s nice to have a little bit of both.

      March 2023 marks the 50th annual celebration of National Nutrition Month®!

      March 2023 marks the 50th annual celebration of National Nutrition Month®!

      Author: Ashley Wentworth

      National Nutrition Month ® was created by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics as a way to learn more about nutrition and incorporate healthful habits into our lifestyles. Each March the Academy chooses a theme for National Nutrition Month ® and provides information and helpful tips related to the theme.

      Fuel for the Future - National Nutrition Month

      Fuel for the Future

      This March, the focus is “Fuel for the Future.” According to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, this theme “highlights the importance of fuelling our bodies at every age and eating with the environment in mind.”

      As a Registered Dietitian, I am enjoying this pick. It reminds us to focus on getting enough food to nourish ourselves, something I find most people struggle with. A lot of messaging around nutrition is confusing, rigid, or proclaims, “The less, the better!” This can leave us hungry, irritable, hyper focused on food, and can erode our relationship with food and trust in our bodies. Adequate nutrition is a great step towards a healthful lifestyle.



      The sustainability aspect of this theme is a great sentiment as well, encouraging us to leave our environment better than we found it. Prioritizing sustainability can be great for some, but can create a hyperfocus on food choices and can also be expensive and inaccessible for many of us. Making intentional, sustainable food choices often requires financial resources, time, and energy. Many of us do not have the capacity to participate in these options as resources are limited, we do not have many options for food shopping, and we need to choose low cost foods to maximize the volume of food we can buy—especially with the current increase in costs of living. We can also get too wrapped up in these practices as well. If you are only allowing yourself to eat sustainable options you may risk inadequate nutrition and obsessive food thoughts and behaviors.

      The Academy also provides some tips to try out during the month to help us apply the theme to our everyday lives:

      Top tips

      Each of these tips can make a big difference in your budget, time, food choices, and relationship with food. I personally use every one of these suggestions in my nutrition choices and planning, as well as in nutrition counseling with my clients.

      If you’d like to start implementing any of these tips:

      • Start slow! Choose 1-2 at a time to practice.
      • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to “stick to it”. It’s new and will take time to adjust.
      • If it doesn’t make things easier for you, it might not work for you. That’s okay!
      • Be patient. Improving health and nutrition takes time and often does not look or feel the way we see in media.
      • Focus on how these changes are making you feel, and celebrate these wins!
        • Physically - do you have more energy?
        • Mentally - are you fueling enough and having less irritability? Are you less stressed about food choices?
        • Emotionally - are you having more fun in the kitchen? Are you enjoying food and meals more?

      National Nutrition Month® also aims to bring awareness to the role of Registered Dietitians.

      Registered Dietitians (RD), also called Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN), are food and nutrition experts. Registered Dietitians have completed a specific, accredited curriculum for an undergraduate degree, completed a supervised practice/internship, and passed a national registration examination. We also must maintain continuing education requirements throughout our career.

      This extensive training allows us to work in many different fields to:

      • Make personalized, evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle recommendations based on your past medical history, budget, schedule, preferences, allergies, etc. 
      • Plan, implement, and help people access community food and nutrition programs.
      • Develop recipes and food products. 
      • Provide nutrition care and interventions in clinical settings like hospitals and long-term care facilities.
      • Develop and implement nutritionally adequate menus for schools, hospitals, and other facilities.
      • Perform health, food, and nutrition research.
      • Manage food service operations.
      • Provide reliable health and nutrition information in public health campaigns.

      What’s the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

      Registered Dietitians are credentialed practitioners that have met certain qualifications, and participate in required continuing education to maintain their credentials. Per the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, “A credential is a professional qualification — like MD for doctors or physicians — that lets the public know that the practitioner is a trained expert. In nutrition and dietetics, the credentials for trained experts is RDN and NDTR.”

      The “Nutritionist” title is not credentialed, meaning that there are no qualifications to meet to acquire this title, so in essence, anyone can call themselves a Nutritionist.

      Note: All Registered Dietitians are Nutritionists, but not all Nutritionists are Registered Dietitians. Be sure to get health and nutrition information from a credentialed source. Much of the current nutrition information in the media is anecdotal and not based on scientific evidence.

      I hope these nutrition tips were helpful! Enjoy National Nutrition Month®!


      International Day of Women and Girls in Science

      International Day of Women and Girls in Science

      Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This special day is observed on February 11th each year to raise awareness for gender equality in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM. Despite the needle moving forward in regard to gender equality in the STEM fields, the presence of women is still severely lacking.

      Read more

      Squelch the Flames of Inflammation

      Squelch the Flames of Inflammation

      Author: Ashley Wentworth

      You've probably seen the headlines or heard the news stories about inflammation inside our bodies. This can be a tough concept to grasp, because you can't necessarily see the inflammation. It's not like a cut that becomes inflamed with infection or a sprained ankle that's swollen and inflamed. But there are signs of chronic, internal inflammation if you know what to look for. 

      Chronic Inflammation

      Acute inflammation is a very normal reaction that takes place in your body when there's been an injury or illness (like that sprained ankle or when you have a virus). It's simply your immune system's way of removing something in your body that is harmful or just shouldn't be there. 

      Chronic inflammation, however, is another story. 

      Sometimes, the body is unable to overcome or repair the damage. This can lead to the body slowly building up an internal inflammatory response that can last months or years. Scientists now believe that inflammation is behind many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, allergies, COPD, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer's, irritable bowl disease, and arthritis.

      So while you might not be able to see signs on the outside of the body, there can be signs and symptoms that you experience as a result of chronic inflammation, including:

      • Body pain
      • Chronic fatigue and insomnia
      • Depression, anxiety and mood disorders
      • Gastrointestinal complications like constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux
      • Weight gain or weight loss
      • Frequent infections (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/) 

      Stop Fanning the Flames of Inflammation

      The good news is that you can calm the inflammation inside your body. 

      • Reduce your processed sugar intake. This doesn't mean avoid sugar at all costs, and it definitely doesn't mean avoid natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables! But if your normal go-to's tend to be highly processed foods with added sugar, maybe consider swapping them for something more sustaining and less inflammatory, like whole grains, fruits, and veggies with a protein or healthier fats (like avocados and tuna). Side note: Beware assuming that "healthy" food is healthy for you. Even healthy foods can react in unhealthy ways inside your body. Get into the habit of paying attention to how you're feeling after you eat and as the day wears on. Do you feel bloated and "puffy"? Inflammation could be a culprit. 
      • Move Your Body. Studies show that consistently moving your body can help decrease inflammation. The type of exercise matters, though. When you engage in high intensity exercise without giving your body ample time to recover, it can increase inflammation and deal your immune system an unhealthy blow (we do have a solution for those of you who like your high intensity exercise, so keep reading...).
      • Get your ZZZZs. You may be laughing right now, especially if you have little ones, but sleep deprivation is no laughing matter. Getting the sleep you need (ideally 7-9 hours/night for adults), will help in the long run. It's during sleep that human growth hormone is produced (hence, why it's also important for your little ones to be getting the shut eye they need, too), and your body heals and regenerates new cells (among a host of other things!). Create a bedtime routine for both you and your kiddos. You'll all be happier...and less inflamed. 
      • Master your stress. Have you read the VitaMom Club blog post on stress? If not, go read it now. Chronic stress is one of the leading contributors of chronic inflammation and can lead to depression, heart disease, and decreased immunity. 

      Lastly, chew on this. Turmeric (curcumin) has been shown to have major anti-inflammatory properties. But here's the thing. It's difficult to get enough of the curcumin that's found in turmeric to really make a difference in inflammation. That's why we've packaged it in a yummy gummy (sorry, couldn't resist that rhyme haha). We include black pepper in our formulation, because our bodies absorb curcumin better when it's combined with black pepper. 

      While it's impossible to fully avoid inflammation, it's important to start taking control of it where you can. Include daily self-care--no matter how small--as practicing consistently is what produces progress. Here's to you mom! xo