Five Fun Facts About Laughter

Consciously keeping laughter as part of our daily routine is a great self-care strategy! Here are five fun facts about the importance of keeping yourself amused:

  • Laughter is contagious. People are 30 times more likely to laugh when in the company of others.
  • Laughter has bonding qualities; when couples tackle stressful situations with humour, they are more likely to report higher levels of satisfaction with their relationship.
  • The average person laughs around 13 times per day; spontaneous laughter bringing about more instances of belly laughs.
  • Whole-hearted laughter boosts our immune system, working against harmful illness.
  • In an average day, children tend to laugh 3 times more than adults.

What do these facts tell us about the importance of laughter? They all tend to focus on the importance of working towards adopting a carefree attitude to our daily stresses; using laughter as a way to counter some of the challenges we may face in our busy lives.

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Tom Brady and a Comment to Think About

Most people know who Tom Brady is; an American Quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and winner of six Superbowl championships. I recently heard him in an interview talking about what he does to maintain a healthy lifestyle and he commented:

“My body is an asset.”

Makes sense, coming from a super athlete that makes his living in sports. But it got me to thinking about how we view our own bodies – super athlete or not, is our body not an asset? Imagine what is happening behind the scenes to keep our bodies healthy. Did you know for example that:

  • Our bodies automatically function to stabilize our body temperature.
  • Our bodies have the ability to self-heal. Regeneration of damaged cells occur as we move throughout the day.
  • The function of our heart is to pump blood throughout our body, bringing oxygen to our cells. In one day, it is averaged that our blood travels a total distance of 19,000 kms.
  • It is estimated that our brain can hold five times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannia. The memory capacity in the average adult brain can store trillions of bytes of information.

This post doesn’t even touch on what how our skin, liver, and stomach do to help keep the miraculous function of our body in tact. Without us even paying attention. 

Perhaps we can begin to view our bodies as assets; creating conscious choices in what we eat, how we move, the sleep we get. Feeding our comfort system through daily self-care, creating space for our bodies to relax and renew.

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The Benefits of Laughter

In an article entitled, “Give Your Body a Boost — With Laughter” and featured on WedMD, author R. Morgan Griffin writes about the physiological benefits of laughter:

  • We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.
  • When laughing, blood vessels expand and contract more easily.
  • Using humour may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells.
  • A study of people with diabetes demonstrated that laughter lowered blood sugar levels.

Griffin goes on to say that the science of laughter is early in its stages, with more studies needed in order to back up its true effects.

Until then, perhaps we can rely on the way laughter makes us feel as our own proof that it does our body good. Laughter opens up the face, produces a warm and welcoming smile; we feel lighter, brighter, connected to others and more relaxed. Sounds like a great prescription to me 🙂

To read the full article:

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Just Ask Your Gut

There is mounting evidence that our gut is like a second brain. Now, this brain cannot think or express an opinion, but it can influence your mood and well being. Here are some interesting facts about your gut:

  • Serotonin (the hormone most often associated with happiness) is actually produced in your gastrointestinal tract.
  • There are close to 100 million neurons lining our digestive tract, creating an ecosystem that sends signals to our brain about our mood.
  • 90% of the cells responsible for our psychological stress response are found in our gut; explaining the feeling of nausea when anxious.
  • The second brain may be able to mediate the body’s immune response.
  • There is a higher percentage of people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and functional bowel issues who also present with depression and anxiety.

Although research is continuing to uncover the deeper connection between our brain and our gastrointestinal system, this part is clear: a healthier gut leads to a healthier mind. Now that is something to get cleaned up about 🙂

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The Power of Nature

The benefits of walking are without question; not just from a health perspective but also a psychological one. A study, conducted by Stanford University entitled “Stanford Researchers find Mental Health Prescription: Nature,” addresses the increasing trend of urbanization (we have reached the 50% mark for people living in urban areas) and along with this statistic, two accompanying trends: a decrease in the amount of exposure we get to nature and an overall increase in mental illness including anxiety and depression.

For the study, participants went for a walk either in a natural setting or on a busy street, both near Stanford U campus. Their brains were scanned before and after their walk; the participants walking in nature had decreased rumination (the looped cycle of negative thinking that often accompanies the onset of depression) whereas for the urban participants, there was no change.  “These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” said co-author Gretchen Daily. 

Although the article highlights the benefits of planning green space into urban settings, perhaps this study can also encourage those of us who live in small towns or rural areas to get outside. It would seem that the very act of being in nature soothes the mind and gives us the space to slow things down, bringing clarity to our thoughts and a feeling of weightlessness to our spirit.

To read the full article (there is a 2 min video):

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5 Interesting Facts About Sleep

We all know how important a good night’s sleep is for both our physical and mental health; a few sleep deprived days can leave us feeling as cranky as a bear with a sore paw. Recently, I was introduced to a website called “Tuck” (what an awesome name!) and from their many resourceful articles, I was able to come up with some interesting facts about sleep:

  1. The ideal nap is 10 to 20 minutes. Anything exceeding the 20 minute mark can lead to feeling sluggish; potentially creating sleep problems at night.
  2. Experts estimate about 41% of people sleep in the fetal position, making it the most popular way to sleep, and it’s favoured by twice as many women than men.
  3. The best temperature for sleeping for adults is 15 to 19 degrees (for babies and toddlers add 3 degrees); as cooler temperatures help the body to maintain a consistent temperature.
  4. Tart cherry juice is a natural sleep remedy that boosts melatonin and staves off insomnia; specifically, tart Montmorency cherries.
  5. Sleeping naked is good for you! When we sleep in our birthday suits, it helps our body’s thermo-regulation system achieve the perfect temperature for getting a good night’s shut-eye.

All of this and more can be found at Tuck’s website:

They also have some great guides to explore under their Sleep Health tab:

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Cortisol: A Bad Rap

Cortisol, the hormone that courses through our system when under stress, is often given a bad rap. Known as the “stress hormone,” elevated cortisol levels have been linked to health issues as well as an increased risk for developing a mental illness. But what is it’s core function? Cortisol is secreted as part of the body’s stress response; a perceived or experienced threat will create a physiological response, eliciting a quickening of our pulse, a burst of adrenaline and the release of cortisol which helps to regulate our system.  Essentially, cortisol plays an important role in helping the body respond to stress. That is, acute stress; stress in the moment, periodic lapses of feeling overwhelmed (trying to get out the door in the morning), and moments when we immediately need to respond (a car veering into our lane).

It is chronic stress that elevates cortisol to levels that our system has difficulty with. Our bodies need to get back to the relaxation response that is necessary for the cortisol loop to best function. Reducing overall stress in our lives can be difficult, but necessary. In tomorrow’s post, we will look at ways to help reduce chronic stress and give cortisol its rightful place on the podium. 🙂

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Resources for ADHD

If your child was recently diagnosed with ADHD/ADD or you suspect that a diagnosis is on the horizon, let’s begin with information from Statistics Canada:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and is one of the most common mental health conditions in children.
  • Boys are three times more likely to develop ADHD than girls.
  • Symptoms of ADHD usually arise between the ages of three and five but are typically most prominent in the elementary school grades and often persist throughout adulthood. In fact, approximately 75% of cases will continue to have the diagnosis through adolescence, and over half of the cases continue into adulthood.
  • The most effective treatment for ADHD is currently considered to be a combination of medication with psychotherapy, behavioural therapy, and/or emotional counseling.

Two websites that you may find to be particularly helpful include:

  • The Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada which has a wide variety of topics and resources regarding everything from understanding ADHD, to assessment, best practice, useful tools and techniques, a podcast and so forth.
  • ADDitude – Inside the ADHD Brain is a website that includes just about everything you can think of when it comes to ADHD, including lots of great articles to read.

As with most things, knowledge is power. When we read up on the ins and outs of a topic, we are less likely to be led by fear and assumptions. Instead, we feel validated, supported, and can move with confidence in the decisions we are making for our children. 🙂

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10 Facts About the Brain

Here are some amazing brain facts from The Nature of Things with David Suzuki:

  1. Your brain contains 100 billion neurons: about 16 times the number of people on earth.
  2. 95% of your decisions take part in the subconscious mind.
  3. The language and consciousness part of the brain (neocortex) accounts for 76% of the brain’s mass.
  4. Your gut, or “second brain,” contains 100,000 neurons.
  5. Your brain keeps developing until your late 40’s.
  6. Our IQ’s have dropped over 13 points since the Victorian era. 🙁
  7. Women have more grey matter and a larger hippocampus (involved in emotional processing) than men.
  8. The brain consumes 20% of the body’s energy production.
  9. The brain is capable of re-wiring, re-engineering itself.
  10. Neuroplasticity is the science behind the “wires that wire together, fire together.”

With the notion that the brain is not fixed; that it can change itself, we can begin to really appreciate what our brains do for us in terms of not only our physical being, but our psychological lives as well. All the more reason to holistically take care of ourselves on a daily basis; it’ll do the brain good!

To listen to an interesting video on “The Brain that Changes Itself/Part 1/The Nature of Things” with David Suzuki and featuring Norman Doidge

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The Science Behind a Hug

It’s really all about touch. We are inevitably a relationship species and because of that we seek out connection with others. As a way to bond with others, we use touch. The science behind that comes from a hormone called Oxytocin; often referred to as the “hormone of love,” it triggers nurturing and loving feelings and helps to promote trust. In a study conducted by Dr. Kathleen Light, she discovered that “warm touch” between couples (which included a 20 second hug) increased Oxytocin in both males and females. In a separate study, she was able to connect warm contact to a positive effect on blood pressure and heart rate. An important aside worth mentioning is that she states that the quality of the relationship made a big difference to the lasting effects of the hug. Even more reason to keep our relationships healthy and our hugs in good supply. 😊

To read the study:

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