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Daily Cup of Wellness

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Google dominates the internet between its massive search engine and ownership of YouTube. It is the go-to source of information for most Americans and is so commonly used that “googling” has become a recognized verb. Recently, Americans have added a new trend to their googling. They still use google to hunt for information on a wide variety of topics, find job postings and pull up funny images of cats, but Americans are increasingly turning toward Google for information about health issues.

In 2017, Americans used Google to learn about how long flu shots were effective against the viral strains used in the vaccine, the causes of hiccups, ways to stop storing and for basic information on lupus. Google searches in 2016 were dominated by inquiries related to the outbreak of the Zika virus, questions about traumatic brain injuries and cupping. As for 2018, searches for information on health were dominated by questions about the keto diet, how long marijuana is detectable by urine drug tests and, as always, the flu.

Search queries about the ketogenic or keto diet were all over Google in 2018. The diet has exploded in popularity as it claims to put the body into ketosis, the stage where the human body runs on stored fat rather than carbohydrates and ingested nutrients. Theoretically, the keto diet should allow a person to rapidly burn their stored fat and slim down in a short amount of time. The reality, however, is that the diet is extremely difficult to follow, not sustainable and can be downright dangerous. The keto diet has been used in the past to alter the brain chemistry of epileptics who were not responding to traditional medicine. This is on top of the fact that ketosis is hard on the human body. It is not a weight-loss shortcut as much as an extreme response to what the body perceives as complete starvation.

While extreme methods of weight loss and dodging drug tests while using marijuana were unnervingly popular searches in 2018, Americans also used Dr. Google to educate themselves about a pair of lesser known diseases. Questions about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and endometriosis were common on Google in 2018. ALS is a neurodegenerative disorder that made headlines following the death of its most famous sufferer, Stephen Hawking. Endometriosis, on the other hand, is a disease that only affects women. The condition causes tissue that normally lines the uterus to grow outside the uterus leading to pain, complications and infertility.

Some of the other most common health queries in 2018 were questions about identifying heartburn, the causes of high blood pressure, and unsurprisingly for chronically sleep-deprived America, “why am I always tired?” One can only wonder what will be 2019’s most popular searches.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

The good news is that teens are doing less binge drinking. The bad news is that teen vaping has shot through the roof. A recent survey from Monitoring the Future found that the number of teens who reported vaping has nearly doubled in the last year. That is the largest single increase that Monitoring the Future has ever seen. At the time of the survey, more than one third of high school seniors reported vaping and nearly 21 percent of students stated that they had vaped in the last 30 days.

“Anything that can be vaped, it doesn’t matter, it goes up,” said Richard Meich, the principal investigator of the survey. “Nicotine vaping went up, marijuana vaping went up, we asked kids if they vapored flavors and that went up, too. Something about this delivery device really appeals to kids.”

Indeed, there have been campaigns put out to educate parents on how easy it is for teens to hide a habit of vaping. Juuls, for instance, look a great deal like flash drives. This makes them small and easy to conceal. When they are found, they are easy to explain away.

Manufacturers of e-cigarettes have made it a point to market themselves as being a healthy alternative to smoking and have been creating flavors that appeal to younger audiences. The actual products, however, are overwhelmingly addictive. A single JuulPod cartridge contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of ordinary cigarettes. In fact, Juul’s own spokesperson, Victoria Davis, went on the record stating that Juuls were not meant for “non-nicotine users” due to the fact that Juul deliberately manufactured its product to deliver a hard nicotine hit that was easier to inhale.

Despite the dangers, teens seem to have bought into the idea that vaping is safe. So, they continue to take up the addictive habit in greater and greater numbers. Vaping has become the new gateway drug. Where that gateway leads is unknown, but addiction in young people never leads to anything good. This is unlikely to be any different in that regard.

Pixabay.com

Pixabay.com

Exercise is essential if you want to remain healthy. This is not news to anyone, though some people would give anything for it to be false. It is also not news that few Americans get the amount of exercise they need. Recent studies, however, have found that not only do American adults not get enough exercise, they also do not get the right kind of exercise.

When most people decide to exercise, they usually do some form of cardiovascular exercise. They get on the treadmill and go for a run. They go for a walk or decide to play a sport. This is a very important form of exercise and should not be eliminated from a person’s exercise routine. As the name implies, cardiovascular exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy heart and lungs. Those, however, are not the only parts of your body that you need to work in order to keep your body in good condition. You also need to do muscle-strengthening exercises.

Muscles-strengthening exercises come in a variety of forms. The most famous, of course, is weight lifting. If you find moving a piece of iron boring, there are other ways to get the muscle strengthening exercise you need. You could work with elastic bands, add resistance to cardio machines such as exercise cycles or add a vertical component to your run. Running up stairs or up hills are both technically considered to be different forms of muscle-strengthening exercise. You could also do body weight exercises such as push-ups, crunches or squats.

Muscle strengthening exercises are essential, but only 35 percent of men and 26 percent of women include moderate or greater intensity muscle-strengthening exercises in two or more workouts a week. That is the bare minimum recommended in the latest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, though most exercise professionals will recommend getting at least three sessions of muscle strengthening activity per week.

Strength exercises are not meant only for those who are training for a race or trying to bulk up. Strength training can improve your blood sugar control, bone density, balance and mobility as well as lower your stress and help you control your weight. In addition, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found a link between muscle strengthening exercises and a lower risk of diabetes, obesity and cancer. So, next time you exercise make sure you have some resistance so you get exactly what you need.

Pixabay.com

Pixabay.com

A recent study published in the journal “Pediatrics” estimated that roughly 2.5 percent of children in the United States are on the autism spectrum. The percentage is based on data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health which collected information from parents of more than 50,000 children. All children who have ever been given a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder as well as those who currently have the condition were included in the estimate.

This number is significantly higher than the official report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, roughly 1.7 percent of children have autism spectrum disorder. The difference between the two numbers is believed to be due to more liberal parameters being used in the “Pediatrics” study.

“Prevalence is not growing that rapidly, although the CDC’s data suggests it is still growing,” said Thomas Frazier, chief science officer of the advocacy organization Autism Speaks. “What is happening is that these studies use methods that are a bit more liberal and inclusive than the CDC’s methods,” Frazier said. He stated that he preferred using the CDC numbers, but felt they were “likely a bit conservative.”

The National Survey of Children’s Health numbers, however, are likely too liberal. The study relied on parental reporting which is not validated by health and education records. The CDC numbers, meanwhile, may be slightly too low, but they remain “generally consistent with previous parent surveys and other direct prevalence studies where researchers directly screen for and attempt to identify autism.”

Increased interest in autism has led to an increase in “identifying children who are perhaps at the milder end of the spectrum,” said Daisy Christensen, the surveillance team lead in the developmental disabilities branch of the CDD’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and co-author of the CDC autism prevalence report. That said, it has been noted that autism spectrum disorder is “particularly challenging to track” due to the fact that “there is no biological marker.” As such, Frazier said, “Having prevalence estimates, even if there is some variation, helps us to advocate for improved screening, diagnosis, interventions and supports.” Hopefully, such reports continue to become more accurate and enable medical professionals to better help autistic children.

people-woman-sad-thinking[1]I knew a woman who so longed to be loved and not feel lonely that she gave her lover, a man who she had only recently met and knew to be a criminal, all of her life savings—some $43,000, to be exact. He promised that he would give the money back with interest (along with his abiding love), in two short months.

She had a small child to feed and had just lost her job—and, incidentally, two other boyfriends just like this one—but she trusted him primarily because “he believed in Karma.”

Over the next several months, she heard from him only once. When she began to inquire about his whereabouts, she learned that he had died in an automobile accident and had left behind a young widow and three small children. When she told a friend what she had discovered, her friend asked what she had learned. “He died in the car he bought with my money.”

This is an extreme example of what can happen when you are lonely but haven’t developed the inner resources to give yourself the good feelings that you are seeking from someone else.

I get it. I’ve been there, too. I had string of relationship disasters that I believed were the result of some dark fate, bad luck or perhaps my difficult childhood. I married a man who I hoped would complete me (spoiler: it didn’t work).

My role models and friends were no better off. My failed marriage and relationships fell like a line of dominoes over the years, all to the Western tune of: “That rotten, no good, cheating son of a…, and he even took the dog!”

Healing from Heartbreak

Then I took a hard look at myself, sorted out what was really going on, and healed my heart. I found my way through loneliness. I got really clear about the kind of soulful relationship I wanted. My future husband was introduced to me in a dream by name. I tried matchmakers, online dating, blind dates—the works. I met some good men who weren’t right for me. I stopped believing the person for me was out there.

Then I met David. I’d never met anyone like him. He’s a man with the heart of a lion, the mind of a philosopher, and soul of a poet. He was beyond everything I wanted, and honestly it scared me at first. In David, I found a companion with whom I could share the depths of my soul. We’ve been happily married for over 15 years. He’s my beloved, my partner and friend.

What you can do right now…

While you’re busy trying to sort out who really did what, whose responsibility your life actually is, and healing your heart, I offer you some “here and now” antidotes to feeling desperately lonely. So you don’t go and find another relationship just like the last one, or just like our friend’s.

11 things you can do when you feel desperately lonely:

Feel. I say we have to feel it to heal it. And if we don’t know what we feel, we don’t know what we need. Get a pillow, sit on the floor, and bring it on. Facing our fears sometimes is the perfect answer. Two and three o’clock in the morning are when loneliness hit me the worst. Whatever time it is, facing the boogeyman is ultimately what we all have to do if we want to be free and choose a relationship out of love rather than need (or desperation). If I was gentle, waited and sat with myself long enough, I would begin to feel and heal. I spent many nights (and days) just letting the floodgates loose and attending to what was underneath all my anxiety.

Move. Give what’s inside some space. Let it move. Moving saved my life! Sometimes I had so much energy, so many feelings welled up in me, that I stood in my kitchen barefoot on the hardwood floor and gyrated around spastically flailing my fists at God and everyone, like James Brown on crack. I screamed and cried and danced and collapsed until I was empty. Running, hiking, swimming, dance classes—you name it, I did it!! Here’s a simple, but powerful movement exercise that will help you to listen to what your body is saying and get the feelings out.

Read. Yes, it is not easy to quiet that restless mind, so pick books that are inspirational and will engage you every time. Ones that have exercises and great “if I can do it, you can, too” stories. I always had a stack of self-help books and autobiographies nearby. Still do. Here’s a list of my favorite books on relationships and a list of my favorites on the spirit and soul.

Write. Write love letters … to yourself. If you write one every night, you may find they get longer. Whatever you have pinging around in your head, put it on paper. Doesn’t matter how you do it: journal, write to God (he/she will answer back), write letters to your future self. You may have the next New York Times bestseller in you! I wrote copious amounts of dark, intense poetry. It was so great to get it out of my body!

Collage. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn about yourself–what you long for and what you really like–by pulling out magazine bits, art work, doodles, quotes, pictures of people, places and things. Sit quietly and ask yourself: What am I longing for most? And see what comes. If you want some help with your inquiry questions check out my article on divination. Using prompts like the Great Relationships Begin Within divination deck that my husband and I created to help support our inquiry practice can help prompt powerful healing and growth. (Also available as an IOS app.)

Talk. I had a list of folks who I could call when I needed to be “talked down”… if you know what I mean: friends who cared about me, knew my history and were devoted to my well-being. Honestly, I have never been a big phone talker, but when I got lonely sometimes it would take the edge off—just hearing someone’s voice was comforting enough to get me to the next place!

Play. Find your version of what healthy fun is. We all need things that have positive consequences, but that we don’t have to “win” at. I started dancing the Five Rhythms, took salsa lessons, ice skated w/my son, played cards with friends, trained for the Avon Walk (okay, for me training is fun), painted with watercolors, took classes at City College, went to open-air markets. There are a million online resources to find “clean living,” fun things that will bring you joy. Play!

Get a pet. I love cats, have two (Chloe and Leila), and a dog named Bella. I cannot tell you how many times my cats have come and cradled me in the midst of some of my most intense loneliness. And I let them. I was learning how to comfort myself when I had only known how to reach to someone else before (most of the time not the best someone, either). And yes, they respect me in the morning, all of them, every time—and best of all, so do I!!!

Laugh. Comedians are fab and I recommend getting a library of them—one of my all time faves is Orny Adams, or Saturday Night Live reruns. OR a great alternative is funny movies, and my list is long. If you don’t have them already, check out Hulu or Netflix, it’s way less expensive than a one-night stand or bad relationship choice.

Pray. Never underestimate the power of prayer. I have said prayers over and over, hoping someone or something out there would hear me, and then one day it happened. I found my Divine connection to…well, The Divine. It was like coming home, and now I find great comfort in prayer and meditation, as corny or simplistic as this sounds. I know, I know, you are desperately lonely. Then I say to you, pray like it!! I’ve found praying for guidance to be of particular help. Here are some thoughts on prayer that has helped me through difficult times.

Meet your Tomorrow Me. Discover the part of yourself that looks out for you today on behalf of all your tomorrows. It has wisdom to help you be happy and thrive.

Get Support and Counseling

My work counseling clients over the past 30 years has confirmed what I experienced myself: great relationships begin within. Honoring our own bodies, longings and dreams will lead us not only to more compatible partners, but deeper fulfillment. Often this takes some self-discovery and healing that is easier to do with the support and guidance of someone who has been down this path before.

Meeting my husband was an incredible gift, but by the time I met him, I had already found what I longed for in my relationship with myself and my spirituality. My relationship with David was a bonus that reflected all the work I’d done on myself.

 

Maryanne Comaroto, PhD is a relationship specialist with a private practice in Marin County. One of her core beliefs is that great relationships begin within.  She’s a researcher, author and teaches throughout the United States. She hosts an internationally syndicated radio program about new approaches to relationships. For more information visit www.maryannecomaroto.com.