The Happiness Connection  

Happiness Connection columnist on hiatus

Column will return in fall

Reen Rose's is on hiatus until the fall. Her weekly column, The Happiness Connection, which appears every Sunday, will return then.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


How kindness reduces wrinkles

Kindness good for the skin

I was reminded on recently when we were at Costco buying a storage shed, just how many kind people there are in our community.

The box with the unassembled shed in it was incredibly big and heavy, so we had to get help loading it onto the flatbed. Once at the car, a new problem presented itself. The carton was too big to fit in the back of our vehicle. The only chance we had of getting it home was to put it on the roof rack.

I’d been no help getting the box onto the trolley, so I was pretty sure there wasn’t a chance in Hades that I’d be able to lift it above my head to place it onto the roof.

As we stood looking at our predicament, a man came by and offered to help. He took my place lifting the box onto the roof rack. The next step was to find a way to secure it. I went back into the store to find some cords.

I returned with a package of rachet straps that were perfect for the task. The instructions on the back made the process look easy, but it wasn’t. As we struggled to figure out how they worked, a fellow parked beside us and offered to help. His family stood patiently while he showed us how to work the rachets.

The kindness of these people came quickly and willingly without us having to ask.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a great story, but you might be wondering what any of this has to do with reducing wrinkles.

Let’s start down that path by talking about oxidation, free radicals, and antioxidants.

Your body is approximately sixty percent H20, or water. The H represents hydrogen and the O oxygen. Oxygen looks like two circles joined together by a bridge. If you want a visual, think of Harry Potter’s glasses.

Sometimes the bridge breaks and the oxygen atoms get separated. This turns them into free radicals. Free radicals don’t want to be single. They want to be part of a pair and will do pretty much anything to reestablish a relationship.

If they can’t find an appropriate atom, they’ll link themselves to healthy cells in places like your skin, the lining of your arteries, your brain, or even your immune system causing the healthy cells to breakdown. This is known as oxidation.

To get a better idea of what oxidation means, think about a slice of apple that’s left out in the open. What happens to it? It turns brown. This is oxidation. When oxidation happens in your body, collagen breaks down and results in wrinkles, loose saggy skin, dark spots, and fine lines.

Oxidation is a natural process, but you may not want to encourage it to happen too early, or too quickly. To keep free radicals under control, the body uses something called antioxidants. As their name implies, they are against (anti) oxidization.

Antioxidants are willing and able to partner with free radicals and can do this without damage to the body. If you have enough antioxidants to mop up the free radicals, you can slow the aging process.

You naturally have antioxidants in your body, but you can increase their population by eating certain foods. Kale, spinach, raspberries, blue berries, cinnamon, dark chocolate, green tea, and olive oil are all high in antioxidants.

Another way to limit oxidation is to increase the amount of oxytocin released by your brain. This is a feel-good hormone that you can’t get from your diet. It has to be produced internally.

This is where kindness comes into the equation. Kind thoughts, actions, and feelings turn on an oxytocin tap in your brain, slowing down oxidative stress in your skin, muscles, arteries, and immune system.

You can also slow down oxidation by limiting the number of free radicals you have. Stress is a major contributor to breaking the bridge between oxygen atoms.

Decreasing the amount of stress you experience is probably the best strategy, but if that’s absolutely impossible, minimize its effect by breathing deeply, spending at least a few minutes surrounded by nature every day, exercising, hanging out with people you like, or being kind.

Being a kind person doesn’t mean you won’t age, but it will slow down the process. And remember, kindness shouldn’t be reserved only for other people. It’s important to be kind to yourself and to animals.

Acts of kindness don’t have to be major. Small gestures are just as effective when it comes to reducing oxidation and therefore wrinkles and aging.

In the words of novelist Henry James, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Nothing as tempting as temptation itself

Tackling temptation

I’m not sure how I attract, and am attracted to, men who have great metabolisms and can eat pretty much anything they want without gaining weight. I’m not so lucky.

When I lived on my own it was easier to deal with temptation. I could avoid unwanted calories by not having tantalizing food and drink in the house. I didn’t have to see delectable treats when I opened a cupboard or endure the aroma of bacon that I know I shouldn’t eat.

Tempt: to entice to do wrong by promise of pleasure or gain — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

It’s interesting that traditionally temptation has been linked to the idea of sin or doing something wrong. Is it really fair to consider having a second piece of pie a transgression?

I think it makes more sense to understand that temptation occurs when you have an incompatibility between something you want and goals that you’ve set for yourself. A bag of Cheezies may taste good but it won’t help you achieve your desire to be slimmer or healthier.

If you’re trying to save enough money for a downpayment, spending cash on something that isn’t absolutely necessary feels off because you know it isn’t moving you towards a chosen goal.

Avoidance is a strategy, but not one that embraces enjoying life to its fullest. It can encourage you to miss out on valuable experiences as you say no to offers of dinners out or catching up over a beverage.

Some people are more prone to cravings than others, but everybody has specific areas of weakness. Temptation is often associated with food, but it can just as easily be time on your phone or other electronic devices or skipping exercise in favour of inactivity.

Humans have a limited amount of self-control, although some people have more than others. You probably know where you sit in that scale. Regardless of how much impulse control you have naturally, one of the best things you can do to battle temptation is to be aware of its existence.

Temptation is intricately intertwined with the brain’s reward system. A rodent study discovered that rats that were more prone to temptation experienced a dopamine spike when presented with the cue for food.

In other words, they received feel-good hormones from the brain when they thought food was on its way. These studies also revealed that rodents that experienced more stress when they were young were more likely to have difficulty with temptation when they were fully grown.

So, if temptation is part of life, what’s the best way to combat it?

• Practice self-awareness and mindfulness. Meditation is one way to do this as it’s been shown to increase mindfulness and help regulate emotions.

• Establish healthy habits. These are instrumental in resisting temptation. Eat regular meals, have an exercise regime, and plan when you’ll spend time on devices.

• Replace “no” with “not now.” Choosing not to indulge at this moment doesn’t mean you’ll never have another opportunity. If you’re desperate for chocolate, have it earlier in the day rather than in the evening.

• Find an accountability partner. Having a buddy to share your struggles, victories, and exercise classes with increases your chances of success.

Managing temptation doesn’t mean relying solely on abstinence or avoidance. Look for moderation rather than an all or nothing approach. Few people have life paths that look like a Roman road. There will be twists and turns and that’s okay.

Giving in to temptation isn’t wrong or sinful. It’s a choice. But you’ll feel better if the majority of your decisions are in alignment with your goals and values.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Don't measure yourself by the achievements of others

"The thief of joy"

When I first started teaching in England, I loved the idea of school uniforms.

I’d seen how cruel students could be about the clothes their classmates wore and thought this was a much better system. Of course, I was being naïve.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that people will always find something to compare. In the case of these prep school students, it was footwear, the cars their parents drove and holiday destinations.

Theodore Roosevelt called comparison “the thief of joy.” I wouldn’t argue with the sentiment of his words, but comparison is harder to avoid than you might think. It’s a fundamental human impulse. As with many innate behaviours, it served an important purpose for our ancient ancestors.

It was vital for primitive people to work together if they were going to survive. If one hunter was particularly good at tracking, then it made sense for him to lead the rest of the hunting party. He could then pass the baton to those who were better with their spears.

There are times in modern society when it still serves us to know who’s got the best skills for a specific job. It’s also helpful when the time comes to choose a career path. Being creative and good with words is important if you want to be an author. You need a benchmark to come to those conclusions.

Comparison can be a problem when it’s not understood and managed. Used in the right way it can motivate you, but it can just as easily lead to feelings of deep dissatisfaction, guilt, remorse, and destructive behaviours like lying or eating disorders.

When you know comparison is challenging your happiness, you may decide to pretend you don’t care what car the neighbours drive or how many times your sister goes to Mexico, but that isn’t helpful either. Emotions always surface at some point in some way, often when you least expect or desire them.

So, if comparison is virtually impossible to avoid, how do you keep it from stealing your joy?

Opting out of social media is one way that can be helpful, but like the students I used to teach, there’s always someone and something you can compare yourself to.

People you identify closely with, like family, friends, colleagues and neighbours, are the ones you’re most likely to use as a measuring stick. The areas you’re likely to notice are the things you value like wealth, physical appearance and relationships.

From there it’s a simple step to believing the grass is greener somewhere other than where you’re standing.

Rather than attempting to purge yourself of this programming, I recommend you change your source of comparison. Take a look in the mirror. That’s the person you should be thinking about. How do you measure up to the you of last week, last year or even a decade or two ago?

If you can look in the mirror and know that you’re doing better than all the versions of yourself that came before, congratulations. If you can’t reach that conclusion, maybe it’s time to make some changes.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories