Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Yawning

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that NOT all yawns are created equal, that although they are endowed by Mother Nature with certain unalienable causes, that among these are Sleepiness, Excitement, and the Pursuit of Empathy…we still do not know exactly why we do it.” Reading this improvised Declaration of Yawning probably did little to unlock the mysteries surrounding this phenomenon, but ten bucks says you yawned while reading it! Let’s look at some fun facts about yawning!

What are some possible explanations for why we do this?   The next time you yawn during a meeting or while the teacher is giving a lesson in the classroom, realize that your body is probably trying to stretch out its lungs or become more alert. Our breathing tends to be shallow when we are tired, sleepy, bored, or just waking up. The deep breath that accompanies a yawn can fill up your lungs and prevent tiny airways from collapsing. Additionally, moving your ligaments and muscles may also make you feel more awake.

On the other end of the spectrum, yawning also occurs in response to stressful situations. The next time you see athletes or live entertainers before a game or performance, pay close attention. Similar to deep breathing techniques, yawning can increase blood flow to the brain and help prepare for increased activity or focus.

Seeing someone laugh, often makes you laugh. Seeing someone cry can bring tears to your own eyes. Similarly, yawning is contagious. It is believed to reflect empathy and social bonding. In fact, contagious yawning is more likely when you are close to someone—family or friends—as compared to strangers. Although simple and reflexive, yawning is suggestive that you are seeing things from another person’s point of view and are responding to that person’s emotions. Additionally, yawning is also believed to diffuse stress after a period of being on high alert and spread a feeling of calm through a group.

When do we do it the most? In general, we tend to yawn approximately 10 times per hour. This number may increase in the morning and at night. With the temperatures dropping, brace yourself for an increase in the number of yawns you dish out. This may be because yawning also serves to cool the brain. Like a radiator, the warm blood is removed from the brain when cooler blood from the lungs is introduced.

At what age do we start yawning? Yawning begins even before you are born! As early as 11 weeks after conception, fetuses begin yawning. However, contagious yawning typically does not begin until 4 years of age.

Are humans the only ones in the animal kingdom that yawn? Nope! As those of you with pets probably know, yawning is not unique to humans. In fact, spontaneous yawning occurs in all vertebrates, including fish, snakes, and lizards. Contagious yawning, which is believed to reflect empathy and social bonding, however, is limited to dogs and chimpanzees. So the next time you yawn in front of your pet dog or chimpanzee, see if they reciprocate.

Are there any conditions to worry about? Contagious yawning is reflective of empathy and social bonding. Therefore, it is not surprising that people with schizophrenia and autism, conditions with impaired emotional development, yawn less. In fact, the more severe autism is, the less frequently the person yawns. On the other hand, excessive yawning may be seen in people with multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and following radiation therapy. The reasons for this are not clear. That said, don’t go running to the doctor if you’ve been yawning a lot—you might just be tired!

How many times do you think you yawned while reading this? I know, I yawned a lot while writing it! Just thinking about it is enough to trigger your brain to dish one out. The next time you yawn around others see for yourself how contagious it is. Just make sure to cover your mouth to avoid inhaling flies!

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:

Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrNinaRadcliff
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site, http://www.ninaradcliffmd.com

imageNotice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.

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Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Meditation

There is a Zen statement: “If you don’t have half an hour to spare every day to meditate, then meditate for an hour.” While many of us can agree that we need to create breaks in our schedule to relax, the idea of dedicating thirty to sixty minutes of our already overly busy day may scare us away from even trying. The good news is that we do not have to be a master yogi or spend hours meditating. Anyone can do it and benefits can be seen after just a few minutes.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About The Health Benefits of Meditation

What is meditation?  It is a mind-body practice that increases mental and physical relaxation. In doing so, it can enhance our overall well-being; creative thinking; perspective; and ability to cope with stressful situations.

Specifically, the goal is to refocus our attention away from everything else. There is a saying that: “Meditation is like a gym in which you develop the powerful mental muscles of calm and insight.”

Are there different types of meditation? Yes. In fact, meditation has been described as “an umbrella term” for the many ways to achieve a relaxed state of being, inner peace and balance. While there are many types, most share these elements: a quiet location with minimal distractions; a comfortable position (e.g. sitting with legs crossed, lying down, or within  our home or garden or favorite chair); concentrating in order to cut out all distractions (e.g. focusing on a word, a key teaching or saying, an object, our breathing).

Can meditation help me decrease the stress I deal with?  Yes! We all know that when stress becomes chronic and is not properly managed, it can wreak havoc on our minds, body and spirit. We also know that relaxation is the opposite of stress. As a result, meditation decreases the release of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol) and changes the frequency and amplitude of our brain waves. Meditation helps to provide perspective, calm – and aids against those storms of life on the outside from coming inside.  In doing so, it can have a number of health benefits.  

What are some of the health benefits of meditation? While we need to understand that it may not replace many proven treatment modalities, meditation can be used as part of a multi-faceted approach for a number of ailments with compelling benefits.

  • Decreased blood pressure. The American Heart Association has released a statement that meditation may be considered by clinicians as a form of treatment for high blood pressure.
  • Better sleep. When our minds are racing, it makes it difficult to drift off to sleep and stay asleep. By quieting our thoughts we are more likely to wake up feeling refreshed.
  • Decreased depression and anxiety. Meditation has been shown to change not only our brain waves, but also the way our brain cells make connections, its actual structures (thickening some areas while making others less dense), and even molecules that send signals.
  • Dealing with chronic pain. While it is not clear how meditation decreases the suffering of people who experience chronic pain, studies have shown some surprising results: relief can be achieved by beginners and much quicker than expected.
  • Improved immune function. When our bodies relax, our immune system has the opportunity to prepare for battle against germs, foreign invaders, and cancer.

When is a good time to meditate? One of the beauties of mediation is that we can make it as formal or informal as we like, and thereby adapt it to our needs. There are centers, groups, and classes that are led by trained instructors to teach us advanced techniques. And because meditation does not require equipment or formal training, it can be done on our own, at any time. So, whether we are at work, sitting on an airplane or train, ready to go to sleep, or just feeling anxious or stressed, all we need is a few minutes to achieve our inner peace.

How can I meditate in just a few minutes? If we are seated, sit up straight, plant our feet on the ground, close our eyes, and repeat a mantra. A mantra can be a word or phrase that is religious or secular, such as “Om,” “I am at peace,” or “I love myself.” It helps to tune into our breathing as well. Take a deep and slow breath in from our nostrils and exhale gently either through our nostrils or mouth.

If we are on the go, slow down the pace and focus on each movement of our legs or feet, forget about our destination, and repeat a mantra.

If we have a faith we follow, consider engaging in prayer, praise or a spiritual precept, the most widely practiced example of meditation. It can be saying or reading our own words or verses, or listening to sacred music.

Meditation is a rich moment or collection of moments that we escape the noise and demands of our world to focus fully in the wonder of stillness and a knowing.  There are healthy benefits in “being still” and meditating that will have positive affect on our body, our thoughts and feelings, and our behavior.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:

Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrNinaRadcliff
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site, http://www.ninaradcliffmd.com

imageNotice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Depression in Men

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We have all heard the saying “men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” I giggle when I hear that the genders come from different planets because there is more than a grain of truth to it. Men and women seem to possess their own unique customs, language, and visions of relationships (as well as many other things). But did you know that when it comes to the way diseases present, gender differences may also exist? The reason for this must lie somewhere on the mystical X and Y chromosome.

Doctors and researchers are starting to pay attention to these “gender specific” presentations to avoid giving one species a bum rap. This is particularly the case for clinical depression. Depression is typically associated with sadness and crying. However, in males, it manifests as anger, irritability, and aggression. Consequently, women are more likely to be diagnosed, and as a result, successfully treated for it. But in reality it affects men almost equally.

Dr. Nina’s – What you Need to Know: Let’s take a look at some of these “gender specific” symptoms of depression in men:

    • Anger. Although this appears to be on the opposite end of the spectrum from sadness, anger and sadness may just be two sides of the same coin. Experts believe that a man who realizes something is wrong may need to compensate by demonstrating that he is in control or capable. Depression in men is more likely to present as hostility or even controlling behavior. In some situations, verbal and physical abuse towards their mates, children, or loved ones can be seen.
    • Reckless behavior. Sudden embarking in dangerous sports, reckless driving, gambling, and substance abuse may be a sign of depression. Alcohol and illicit drugs can become a maladaptive coping mechanism. An interesting point is that alcoholics are more likely to suffer from depression compared to those who do not drink.
    • Irritability. Negative thoughts may manifest as frustration, crankiness, or excessive agitation when provoked. Irritability can also be accompanied by an increased heart rate, breathing, or sweating.
    • Physical pain. Headaches, backaches, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, and digestive problems that are resistant to normal therapy may be a sign of depression in men. When a physical illness or other condition is caused or aggravated by a mental factor, it is referred to as psychosomatic.
    • Stress. It may be more socially acceptable to report symptoms of depression as stress. This may be the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” dilemma. It is also well known that prolonged exposure to stress can result in depression.
    • Anxiety. Depression and anxiety often come hand-in-hand. Interestingly, women are more likely to experience anxiety, but men are more likely to talk about it. Experts suggest that it may be easier to put words to worries and fears.

“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” than to speak to a loved one that they may be suffering from depression. However, by doing so, you may be the key to, and motivating factor, that can help him get better and maybe even save his life. Remember, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Avoid being critical or judgmental. Stating that “you appear to be having more frequent headaches” or “you seem to be under a tremendous amount of stress” is less of an affront than “you are depressed and need help.” Your chances at success may be increased with the foot in the door technique. Recommending a visit with his primary care physician may encounter less resistance than getting him to initially see a mental health professional. Additionally, his doctor can help rule out other medical causes of depression and then make suggestions for further treatment.

Although men and women may be from different planets, depression affects them both. Proper treatment can allow the person to deal with the condition and regain the joys of life.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:

Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrNinaRadcliff
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site, http://www.ninaradcliffmd.com

Read more of her articles on Tonight at Dawn

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Photograph by K. Cecchini

Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know to “unwrap” your stress:

    Kick Holiday Stress to the Curb

On your marks, get set, GO! That’s how so many of us feel now that Thanksgiving crept up on us and it’s a mad dash to the New Year. Between holiday shopping; special family and work events; as well as out-of-town visitors or traveling, it sometimes feels like a marathon with the finish line nowhere in sight.

Life is already stressful enough with long hours at work, financial constraints, and caring for our home, children and aging parents. Topping that off with the added responsibilities and commitments that are innate to the holiday season can, frankly, all too often add more stress.  And the effects of stress can be harmful to our physical and mental health, particularly in those who have chronic illness or disease. Studies have shown that stress can aggravate headaches, back pain, cancer, post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD), and immune system deficiencies, to name a few.

 Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know to “unwrap” your stress: 

1.      Create a “to-do” list. Time is our most important commodity, so let’s use it wisely. Writing down what needs to be done can keep things in perspective when we are faced with the myriad of obligations that arise. Seeing it in black and white helps us rank our priorities–“has to,” “nice to,” “does not need to” be done. Don’t stress if we do not get past what “has to” be done.

2.      Bury the hatchet. If we are warring with a family member who we will be seeing during the holidays, consider extending an olive branch beforehand to avoid an awkward episode.

3.      Stick to a budget. Creating a winter wonderland without depleting our bank account or maxing out our credit card is challenging. Create a budget and commit to it. When it comes to shopping for presents, think outside the “gift” box. The best presents are not the most expensive, but the most thoughtful.

4.      Get some rays. The cold weather can make spirits blue. Spending time outdoors or near a window on sunny days can help keep them away. Sunlight can boost our serotonin levels and improve our mood.

5.      Wake up and smell the citrus. Studies have shown that orange and lemon scents, even from essential oils, can decrease anxiety and promote a feeling of well-being. Consider lighting an aroma candle or dabbing the scent on the inside of our wrist or on a handkerchief so we can access the power of the smell throughout the day.

6.      Exercise. Don’t wait for the New Years to make this part of our “to-do” list. Start now. Not only is breaking out a sweat good for our heart and can keep those inches off of our waistline, studies have shown that it can also boost our mood for up to 12 hours.

7.      Press our Hoku point (not to be mistaken for Haiku which are short poems that use sensory language to capture a feeling or image). Hoku is located on the back of the hand, in the webbing where the thumb and index finger meet. To find the exact point, bring your thumb and index finger together. Pressing that spot for 30-60 seconds has been shown to decrease stress and tension.

8.      Take deep breaths and laugh, a lot. It is no joke that having a sense of humor can release tension. In addition to having a good time, laughing functions to enhance blood circulation and muscle relaxation.

9.      Do a tech cleanse. The constant texting, emailing, and hearing the numerous alerts on our smart phones are not only exhausting, but stressful. One study showed that 80% of people demonstrated a temporary suspension or change in their breathing when they emailed. So breathe easy and consider shutting off our gadgets at holiday get-togethers.

10.  Give a helping hand. The benefits of volunteering are several-fold. In addition to putting perspective on our circumstances, appreciating our blessings, socializing, and even learning new skills, volunteering can help protect our mental and physical health. It’s a win-win situation. And after all, that’s what the holiday season is for.

While we “Let it Snow” and “Hang Around the Mistletoe,” make sure to curb your stress and “Take a Breath of Heaven” so you can enjoy a “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Afterall, “Tis the Season to Be Jolly” while “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “The Little Drummer Boy” are around to remind us of “Silent Night” and keep us “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree.” Feliz Navidad.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:
Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrNinaRadcliff
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site, http://www.ninaradcliffmd.com

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Photograph by K. Cecchini

 

 

 

Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.