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New Year’s Resolutions are very predictable. While most New Year Resolutions are health oriented, I purport that a healthy mind, body and spirit requires a healthy lifestyle. Interestingly, the ten most popular resolutions listed below, all have an impact on a healthy life.  

  1. More Time With Family And Friends
    • Polls repeatedly show that one of the most consistent resolutions for the New Year is to make more time to spend with family and friends. Moreover, research shows that the comfort and camaraderie of these people whom we love is important to our health and well-being.
  2. Begin or Improve a Fitness Program
    • The benefits of regular exercise is no longer anecdotal, it is factual. Daily exercise, even in small doses, has been associated with more health benefits than anything else known to man. Studies clearly demonstrate that it reduces cholesterol and coronary artery disease and the risk of some cancers. Also, it increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, and even improves arthritis. In short, exercise keeps you healthy and makes you look and feel better. If done properly, there is no down side. So, make this year the year to do it!
  3. Adhere to a Weight Loss Plan
    • Recent studies report that more than 66 percent of adult Americans are considered overweight or obese. As a result, weight loss is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. However, adhering to a weight loss program is not easy. It requires many things, including, setting reasonable goals and staying focused. Often, professional help is required. While this may be one of the most difficult goals to attain, the ultimate reward and value is well worth the effort.
  4. Stop Smoking
    • Second only to losing weight, this resolution, while extremely difficult, is another life-saving goal that must be attempted. Studies report that smokers try and fail four times on average before they are successful. SO, KEEP TRYING! Get help. Talk to your physician about using over-the-counter or prescription nicotine replacement therapy and proven quit-smoking aids. Consider smoking cessation classes, support groups and hotlines in addition to the meds. This is one goal that is worth the effort.
  5. Find Your Smile
    • Due in great part to our hectic and stressful work and family demands, the United States is home to millions of people requiring the use of mood elevators and antidepressants. As a result, it is important to learn what really makes you happy in order to FIND YOUR SMILE. It requires the balance of a healthy mind, body and spirit. It might be a walk in the snow, taking dance classes or a trip to the spa. One hint, it is often something simple and inexpensive.
  6. Moderate Drinking
    • This is one tip for a healthier New Year that I expect to receive plenty of flack about! But, I would be remise if I did not mention this potentially harmful habit. While many people use the New Year as an incentive to finally stop drinking, most are unable to adhere to such a rigid goal. Studies show that moderate drinking can offer many health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and coronary artery disease but that is defined as one or two 8 ounce drinks per day and red wine is preferred. However, many heavy drinkers would do well to taper off to a moderate level. Consider participating in “Dry January!” For those with a problem and have decided that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available such as Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also a number of treatment-based programs, as well as support groups for families of alcoholics.
  7. Get Finances in Order
    • This is one tip that few consider being health related. However, serious stress from financial problems affects millions of Americans every day. This cumulative stress can be very harmful to your health and can be lessened by initiating a plan. Get professional help and learn how to downsize and reevaluate your real needs…less toys with less stress for a longer life!  
  8. Try Something New
    • There may be no one thing more important to gaining a new perspective on life that to have learned something new. It could be as drastic as returning to school to prepare for a career change or as simple as learning to play bridge. Have you vowed to make this year the year to learn something new? Take a course at local college or read a new book. Visit the Everhart Museum or take the free tour of the Scranton Cultural Center. It will enrich your life and make you a more interesting person. Most local colleges and universities offer distance and adult education programs.
  9. Service To Others
    • Service to others is service to you! There may not be anything more gratifying than providing a service to others in need. Volunteerism makes you a better and healthier person. It fits into any schedule. Donate clothes, time or resources. Locally, we have many charitable causes in need of help: Be a “Friend of the Poor,” or serve lunch at St. Frances Soup Kitchen.
  10. Get Organized
    • The goal of organization, like the goal of financial order, has similar health implications because it eliminates tremendous stress. There are many books and websites that offer suggestions on how to organize just about anything in your life. For this reason, I love my iPhone – there’s an App for that!

SOURCE: A. Powell, About.com Guide

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Holiday Spirit Requires a Healthy Mind, Body, Spirit!

Happy Holidays! It is at this time of year that we celebrate life with great hope and faith. People of many faiths take time to reflect, respect, and resolve. Christians celebrate Christmas, the miraculous birth of Christ, the Son of God, and the Messiah. Jews celebrate Chanukah, the miraculous festival of lights, when one night’s oil provided enough light and safety for 8 nights. Both major faiths promote healthy lifestyles for the mind, body and spirit. These faiths are grounded in hope, faith, love and peace. It is no surprise that studies repeatedly demonstrate that faithful and spiritual people live longer and healthier lives! At this turbulent time in the world, it is important to note that people of all faiths benefited equally!

With this in mind, I purport, that to be truly healthy, one must have faith because complete health is multidimensional. Socrates preached this message to his students thousands of years before Christ. One must have a healthy mind, which requires intellectual stimulation with attainable goals related to education and intellect. One must have a healthy body by eating well, engaging in physical activity and have attainable goals related to his/her body. Likewise, one must have a healthy spirit with faith, hope, prayer and meditation, comrades and counsel, and set attainable spiritual goals.

5 Health Benefits of Religion and Spirituality….(health.com)

How being religious or spiritual has been shown to benefit your mind, body and spirit.

1. Healthy Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). It affects 1 in every 3 adults and only half of these people have their blood pressure under control. Well, religion and spiritually may help …

The health benefits of religion or spirituality are well documented.  One study conducted at Duke University Medical Center on 4,000 subjects, older adults who described themselves as religiously active were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure when compared to those less active. Moreover, they were surprised to find that those who described themselves as spiritual rather than religious also were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

2. Greater Sense of Satisfaction

Research also indicates that religious people are more satisfied with their lives than those without faith. A sociology study determined that high satisfaction among church goers may be due to the strong social bonds that are developed within a religious congregation. Regular church attendees see the same people weekly and often more often, when participating in rewarding and gratifying church-related volunteer work.

3. Greater Tolerance for Adversity

In an impressive study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers interviewed 345 late-stage cancer patients to assess their spirituality as it related to their illness. 88% stated that they were religious as it related to their coping mechanisms. It was determined that those using religion for coping demonstrated a 7.4% rate of resuscitation as compared to 1.8% for those not using religion as a coping mechanism.   

4. Stronger Immune System

According to a Duke University study of 1,718 older adult participants, those described as “highly spiritual” were 50% less likely to have high levels of anti-inflammatory proteins that weaken the immune system and have been linked to some cancers, viral infections and autoimmune diseases. The outcome was similar for those who attend religious services at least once a week.  

5. Greater Longevity

Those who attend religious services more than once per week are found to live and additional 7 years when compared to those who never attend services. Again, researchers feel that the social benefits of a belonging to a strong religious community may be a large part of the associated longevity. Additionally, the lifestyle of religious people is often healthier: members of these communities rarely engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, indiscriminate, unprotected sex, etc. 

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in Scranton and Clarks Summit and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

The “First Thanksgiving” was in 1621 between the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag tribe in present day Massachusetts to celebrate be grateful for the harvest and other blessings of the previous year. In 1789, President George Washington, at the request of Congress, proclaimed Thursday, November 26, as a day of national thanksgiving. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the national holiday of Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of November.

Americans and Canadians continue to celebrate this holiday as a time for family and friends to gather, feast, and reflect upon their many blessings. Like most, I am very grateful for the simple things; family, good friends, food, shelter, and health. This year, I am also thankful for the dedicated scientists who developed the COVID 19 vaccination so we can safely enjoy Thanksgiving with our families. It turns out that being grateful is, not only reflective and cleansing; it is also good for your health!

Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when it is not reciprocated. A study by the University of Kentucky found those ranking higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when others were less kind. Emmons and McCullough conducted one of the most detailed studies on thankfulness. They monitored the happiness of a group of people after they performed the following exercise:

There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below up to five things in your life that you are grateful or thankful for.” The study showed that people who are encouraged to think of things they’re grateful for are approximately 10% happier than those who are not.

7 Proven Health Benefits of Being Grateful

  1. Being Grateful is Contagious!
    • Studies show that something as simple as saying “thank you” to a stranger holding a door open for you or sending a co-worker a thank you note for helping you with a project makes them more likely to continue the relationship. Showing gratitude can improve your life by fostering solid friendships.
  2. Being Grateful Improves Physical Health
    • Research has found that those who are grateful experience fewer aches and pains and tend to report that they feel healthier than most people. Moreover, grateful people are more likely to be health conscious and live healthier lifestyles.
  3. Being Grateful Improves Psychological Health
    • Multiple studies have demonstrated that gratitude reduces many negative emotions. Grateful people have less anger, envy, resentment, frustration or regret. Gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.
  4. Being Grateful Fosters Empathy and Reduces Aggression
    • Participants in a study by the University of Kentucky found that those who scored higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others and were more sensitive and empathetic when compared to low gratitude scorers.
  5. Being Grateful Promotes Better Sleep
    • A study published in Applied Psychology, found that 15 minutes of writing down a gratitude list before bed led to better and longer sleep.
  6. Being Grateful Improves Self-Esteem
    • When studying athletes, it was determined that those who scored high on gratitude scales demonstrated improved self-esteem which led to optimal performance. Conversely, those athletes who were not grateful and resented contemporaries making more money, for example, had lower self-esteem and negative performance outcomes.
  7. Being Grateful Improves Mental Strength
    • Research has repeatedly shown that gratitude not only reduces stress, but also improves one’s ability to overcome trauma. For example, Vietnam veterans who scored higher on gratitude scales experienced lower incidences of post-traumatic stress disorder. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for, even during the worst times of your life, fosters resilience.

Conclusion:

Amy Morin, psychotherapist, mental health trainer and bestselling author offers this advice: “Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life. We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Simply take a few moments to focus on all that you have, rather than complain about all the things you think you deserve.” So…be grateful and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Source: NIH, Forbes, Amy Morin “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.”

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

 Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Part II of II

According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults 18 and older had an anxiety disorder in the past year. Anxiety disorders were higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%). An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.

There are a wide variety of anxiety disorders and will vary by the objects or situations that induce them. However, the features of excessive anxiety and related behavioral disturbances are similar. Anxiety disorders can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships. Symptoms include: distress, nausea, shortness of breath, bowel pattern changes, excessive perspiration, frequent laughing or crying, restlessness, and is often associated with depression. While there are many types and degrees of anxiety and there is no substitute for medical and psychological care, there are some simple and basic tools to help manage the problem…daily exercise is one easy, affordable and accessible suggestion for most. Multiple studies have discussed the incidence of unhealthy self management of anxiety, including the use of alcohol and recreational drugs.

Last week, I presented coping tips for the management of anxiety. In this column, I will discuss one of the most understated benefits of exercise – mental health! Specifically, aerobic exercise (exercise that increases your heart rate for 30 minutes or more) such as walking, biking, running, swimming, hiking, elliptical & stepper machines to name a few, is the secret to “runner’s high.” This exercise euphoria is not limited to runners alone, but all who engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to experience high energy, positive attitude and mental wellness.

Physical activity, specifically aerobic exercise, is a scientifically proven useful tool for preventing and easing anxiety and depression symptoms. Studies in the British Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Exercise and Sports Science found that anxiety and depression scores were significantly reduced in groups that engaged in aerobic running, jogging or walking programs, 30-45 minutes 3-5 days per week for 10-12 weeks, when compared to a control group and a psychotherapy counseling group.

HOW EXERCISE REDUCES ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION:

According to research reported in sports medicine journals, exercise reduces anxiety and depression in two ways, psychologically (mentally) and physiological (physically). 

Psychological or Mental Benefits of Exercise on Anxiety and Depression:

Physiological or Physical Benefits of Exercise on Anxiety and Depression:

HOW TO BEGIN EXERCISE FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION:

Work hard to recognize and overcome these symptoms to begin an exercise program. An aerobic exercise routine should eventually lessen these symptoms.

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

SOURCES: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC); National Institutes of Health (NIH); The American Journal of Sports Medicine

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”  

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Paul's articles, check out our exercise forum!

Part I of II

According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults 18 and older had an anxiety disorder in the past year. Anxiety disorders were higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%). An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.

There are a wide variety of anxiety disorders and will vary by the objects or situations that induce them. However, the features of excessive anxiety and related behavioral disturbances are similar. Anxiety disorders can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships. Symptoms include: distress, nausea, shortness of breath, bowel pattern changes, excessive perspiration, frequent laughing or crying, restlessness, and is often associated with depression. While there are many types and degrees of anxiety and there is no substitute for medical and psychological care, there are some simple and basic tools to help manage the problem…daily exercise is one easy, affordable and accessible suggestion for most. 

Multiple studies have discussed the incidence of unhealthy self management of anxiety, including the use of alcohol and recreational drugs. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) recommends the following healthy tips for coping with anxiety:

Healthy Coping Tips

1. Get Enough Sleep 
Adequate sleep is critical for mental health. Unfortunately, anxiety can lead to sleeping problems and, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) inadequate sleep can worsen anxiety.

Seven to nine hours of sleep each night is recommended for most adults. The National Sleep Foundation recommends maintaining a regular schedule that includes going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning.

2. Practice Mindfulness Meditation 
Incorporating meditation into your life can help you cope with anxiety, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Research shows mindfulness meditation programs are effective in reducing anxiety and depression. UPMC offers a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course and a Beginners Guide to Meditation that have been proven to be very effective. Another option for reduction of anxiety and stress is Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This mind-body technique can be found in 5, 10, 15 or 20 minute videos.

3. Spend Time in Nature 
How you deal with anxiety should include a walk in the forest or even a tree-lined park. In NEPA we are very fortunate to have access to beautiful walking and biking trails and state parks. Make time to enjoy them.

Research shows that “forest bathing,” long, slow walks in nature for health purposes, can lower blood pressure and relieve anxiety. A review of clinical trials published in the International Journal of Biometeorology found that salivary cortisol levels, biomarkers for stress, were significantly lower in groups who participated in forest bathing versus the control group.

4. Take up Yoga or Tai Chi 
Yoga does more than increase your flexibility. It incorporates exercise, deep breathing, and meditation. Yoga is an all-in-one anti-anxiety activity, as shown in a review of body-centered interventions published in Frontiers in Psychology. Tai chi, a mix of meditation and martial arts, works much the same way.

5. Dance Therapy 
That same research found that dance therapy, also known as movement therapy, reduces anxiety by engaging the body’s nervous system, which regulates how the body reacts to stress. In addition, dance/movement therapy increases production of serotonin, a chemical produced by the cells that’s responsible for mood.

6. Breathe Through It 
When you begin to feel anxiety or a panic attack with symptoms such as: sweating, trembling, dizziness, rapid heartbeat and nausea, start to come on, “take a deep breath.” Research shows that slow deep breaths can calm you down and lower your heart rate while quick, shallow breaths  can induce or worsen anxiety.

One breathing technique shown to reduce anxiety is diaphragmatic breathing. Using your diaphragm for deep breathing requires you to fill your lungs to capacity.

Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach rises. Then, tighten the stomach muscles and exhale slowly through pursed lips. Repeat several times.

7. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol 
Too much caffeine restricts blood vessels, which can increase blood pressure and contribute to anxiety. Coping with anxiety also doesn’t mean masking it with alcohol. Studies show that there is a complex relationship between alcohol and anxiety. While some may use alcohol and recreational drugs to mask the symptoms of anxiety (often leading to substance abuse disorder), some studies show that alcohol can interfere with the neurotransmitters that manage anxiety and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Drinking to cope creates a sort of feedback loop, which makes the anxiety worse and can lead to alcohol dependence.

8. Check Your Medicine 
Certain medicines, such as corticosteroids, asthma drugs, and others, can cause anxiety. Ask your doctor if any medicines you take may be a contributing factor.

9. Eat Healthy Foods 
Keeping the body nourished is essential for all functions of life. New research shows that a healthy diet may affect more than just weight and energy levels. One example is a Mediterranean Diet, with lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, whole grains, extra virgin olive oil and a moderate amount of fish (especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids), with limited use of red meat.

10. Keep a Journal 
Keeping a journal can be a great way to keep track of your progress with anxiety and how your body responds to such situations. Tracing the triggers of anxiety can help you develop the skills to properly respond when put in anxious conditions.

11. Exercise Regularly 
Exercise promotes the release of endorphins. These brain chemicals reduce the body’s reaction to pain and stress. They also produce a feeling of euphoria, or happiness, that’s comparable to morphine. Just five minutes of aerobic exercise can kick start these anti-anxiety effects, according to some studies.  Next week in “Health & Exercise Forum” specific details about exercise for anxiety will be presented.

Talk to a Mental Health Professional

Chronic anxiety also can point to an underlying mental health issue. When your anxiety causes extreme distress or interrupts your ability to function on a daily basis, or when panic attacks are frequent and debilitating, it’s important to talk to your physician and ask for a referral to a mental health professional. They can provide a treatment plan, which may include specialized anti-anxiety medicine, psychotherapy, or both.

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

SOURCES: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC); National Institutes of Health (NIH);

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” Next week: Coping with Anxiety Part II This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Paul's articles, check out our exercise forum!

Since 1949 May has been designated as National Mental Health Month for the purpose of eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness by raising awareness. One of the most common mental health conditions is depression. New research from Boston University School of Public Health has found that depression has been increasing in the United States and life with COVID for more than two years has accelerated it rapidly. In 2021 the number of people suffering from depression increased more than 32 percent, affecting 1 in every 3 American adults. However, research also has good news to offer: one of the most understated benefits of exercise is mental health! Specifically, aerobic exercise (exercise that increases your heart rate for 30 minutes or more) such as walking, biking, running, swimming, hiking, elliptical & stepper machines to name a few, is the secret to “runner’s high.” This exercise euphoria is not limited to runners alone, but all who engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to experience high energy, positive attitude, and mental wellness.

Physical activity, specifically aerobic exercise, is a scientifically proven useful tool for preventing and easing depression symptoms. Studies in the British Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Exercise and Sports Science found that depression scores were significantly reduced in groups that engaged in aerobic running, jogging or walking programs, 30-45 minutes 3-5 days per week for 10-12 weeks when compared to a control group and a psychotherapy counseling group.

Depression is the most common mental disorder and is twice as common among women as in men. Symptoms include: fatigue, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, decreased sexual interest, weight change, and constipation. Many of these symptoms are likely to bring an individual to their family physician.

HOW EXERCISE REDUCES DEPRESSION

According to research, exercise reduces depression in two ways, psychologically (mentally) and physiological (physically). 

Psychological or Mental Benefits of Exercise on Depression:

Physiological or Physical Benefits of Exercise on Depression:

HOW TO BEGIN EXERCISE FOR DEPRESSION

Work hard to recognize and overcome these symptoms to begin an exercise program. An aerobic exercise routine should eventually lessen these symptoms.

After a long, cold and snowy winter, complicated by COVID 19, we look to spring as a time of renewal. It is a time for great hope and optimism; trees are budding, flowers blooming and more people are doing their civic duty and receiving vaccinations…all contributing to a sense of promise for a fresh start!

Spring can also be a time of personal renewal…a time to reestablish goals for health and wellness. However, to be completely healthy, one must have a healthy mind, body and spirit. A healthy mind requires intellectual stimulation, a healthy body requires eating well and engaging in physical activity and a healthy spirit, requires faith, hope and prayer and meditation. This spring, consider the following tips to promote a healthy mind, body and spirit throughout the year.

Eat Healthy 

Begin your meal with healthy vegetables and salads will fill you up and reduce the temptation to over-indulge in high-fat, high-calorie foods. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is also very important for good health.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise Your Body

Physical activity is one of the most important factors in improving a lifestyle in a positive way. But, it does not have to be complicated. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity, 3-5 days per week will have many positive effects on your body.  

Suggestions for beginning an exercise program are:

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise Your Mind

One cannot be completely healthy without a healthy mind. Like your body, you must continue to challenge your mind in order for it to remain strong, learn, expand, and grow. Read a good book, do crossword puzzles or try something new...piano lessons! Emulate my mentor, Dr. Gino Mori, who has been taking classes (and takes the exams) in art, science and history since his retirement more than 20 years ago!

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise Your Spirit

Prayer, meditation, or chanting has been known to reduce your heart rate, blood pressure and stress level. These activities can lead to a sense of peace, serenity, joy, and faith. Remember, those who are spiritual and faithful live longer.

Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin.

Learn to Love Who You Are Not Who You Want to Be!

Those who love themselves are more likely to take care of their bodies. People who are not comfortable in their own skin are never satisfied with their appearance and often attempt to change their body. For example, men use steroids to appear “bigger and better” or women have cosmetic surgery to appear “younger and better.” It is impossible to love others if you don’t love yourself. You must learn to accept and embrace change in your body and life in order to have a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Get Adequate Rest

Get the appropriate amount of uninterrupted sleep. A good sleep promotes healing and refueling for your body. When needed, sit, rest, or take a short nap to recharge.

Enjoy the Moment

Countless hours are wasted on feelings of anxiety, regret or worry about a past or upcoming event. This can be a waste of precious life time and adds stress to the body, which makes you more susceptible to disease.  Stay focused on the beauty of the present moment!

Spend Time With Healthy People

When you associate with healthy people, you take on their healthy habits. You will drink less, eat healthier and exercise more if you are hanging around with those who engage in these habits...they will have a positive influence on you! Bob Knowles, local insurance broker, is my health and wellness role model. He has tremendous discipline; exercises every morning before work, eats and drinks in moderation and makes time to reflect for self-improvement.

Spend Time With Positive People

The camaraderie of good friends is essential for a healthy mind, body and spirit. Make it a priority to associate with people who “celebrate life!” The health benefits from these positive-minded, healthy people who appreciate you for who you are will provide you with the support, love, and respect necessary to survive any challenge. Find people who know how they celebrate life! My role model for optimism is Steven Scheinman, MD, President and Dean of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. He demonstrates a keen instinct to find good in others and maintain a positive and optimistic attitude in challenging situations.

Spend Time With People Who Make You Laugh

Studies show that laughter has health benefits and assist the body in healing. Laughter is contagious, so hanging around with people who are fun and funny, will bring fun and laughter into your life. Try to look for humor in every situation and keep laughing.  Spend more time with people that spread joy and laughter. Silly sisters, Rosemary Quinn Malloy, Melissa Quinn LeStrange and Rebecca Quinn Walsh bring a smile to my face whenever I see them or hear their names!

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – Every Monday. This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician.

For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

See all of Dr. Mackarey's articles at: https://mackareyphysicaltherapy.com/forum/

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

Laugh and Walk Your Way to Happiness!

Part I of II

It has been 9 long months living with COVID 19! Most of us are weary and tired of social distancing, wearing masks, visiting with family from a distance or virtually. We miss the hugs and kisses of our family and friends. While it is critically important that we continue to stay vigilant, with no end in sight people are beginning to get “the COVID BLUES.” It only takes a few other problems like stress at work and health issues to put you over the edge…

Depression is the most common mental disorder and is twice as common among women as in men. It impacts life in many ways; family, friends, work, play and general health. Symptoms include: fatigue, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, decreased sexual interest, weight change, and constipation. Many of these symptoms are likely to bring an individual to their family physician. Unfortunately, depression is on the increase in the United States. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, in the early 2000’s, 7 million visits to a primary care physician were for the treatment of depression. 10 years later the number doubled.

Recent research is very encouraging and supports the use of laughter and exercise to prevent and treat depression as a powerful adjunct to therapy and medication. While it is important to state that depression is no laughing matter, many mental health professionals support it as a method to confront an unpleasant situation and gain some level of control over it. One study showed that in elderly people who used humor on a regular basis, reported improved satisfaction in life as compared to their less humorous contemporaries.

4 Reasons Why Humor is Helpful in Battling Depression (based on recent studies)

1. Humor Demystifies Depression

Humor lets others know that you can be depressed and still be human…a productive and valuable member of society. For example, “I’m depressed but I am not a bad person and I can still be funny and fun to be around.”

2. Humor Improves Your Mood

Humor lightens temperament as it increases blood flow to the brain to release dopamine and endorphin, which are chemicals that improve mood.

3. Humor Relieves Stress

Humor increases chemicals in the brain that control the release of a stress release hormone called cortisol.

4. Humor Improves Self-Esteem

Telling a joke, being funny, and making others laugh, make YOU feel good about yourself…and feel more normal.

4 Tips to Improve Your Sense of Humor

1. Hang Around With Fun and Funny People

Whenever possible, try to associate with good people who “pick you up” and have good karma. Avoid people who are “downers” and tend to “such the oxygen” out of the room.

2. Listen to Jokes & Learn to Enjoy Them

While this may be difficult to do when your down, but it will go a long way to pick you up.

3. Learn to Tell a Joke

This is also not easy but very important to improve your sense of humor. It will help you rediscover your “inner child.” Ease into it and start slowly. Practice in front of a mirror in the privacy of your home. Begin using it on family and good friends.

4. Joke About Your Depression

It will be cathartic. For example, “oh my God, that would be so funny if I wasn’t depressed!” “Don’t tell my shrink I laughed so hard because he will take away my meds!” Don’t put yourself down, but laugh at yourself if you mess up telling a joke or trying to be funny. Then, try again.

Sources: LifeScript.com. If you or someone you know is in danger from depression contact the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention at 1-888-333-2377.

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – every Monday. Or view all of Dr. Mackarey's articles in out Health and Exercise Forum at: https://mackareyphysicaltherapy.com/forum/

Next Week, Part II of II - Exercise to Prevent Depression.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

(Read Part 1 Here)

Special Feature “ Health & Exercise Forum” with Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine-- the third Monday of every month! 

Guest Columnist: Kathryn Schmidt, MD

Dr. Kathryn Schimdt
Dr. Kathryn Schimdt

Personal Bio: Kathryn received her medical degree from Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in 2019 and is now an Internal Medicine resident at University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City. She loves her program and her new city, both of which allow her to optimize her wellness, with easy access to skiing, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Prior to medical school, she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her undergraduate studies and Northwestern University where she completed a post-baccalaureate pre-medical and health program. Throughout school, she worked as a research assistant, first with stem cell transplant recipients and women affected by gynecological cancers, and then with solid organ transplant patients. During medical school, she served as a volunteer at the Care and Concern Clinic, as well as at an organization called Pathstone, acting as a mentor to men and women who were transitioning back into the community after having spent time in prison. During her last year of medical school, she received a global health scholarship that allowed her to teach English in Thailand, with an emphasis on preventative health care topics. She has joined the global heath track within her residency program and hopes to continue to stay engaged in global healthcare throughout her career. When not working, she likes to kick-box, ski, hike, write, and be in the company of good friends or family, whether that be taking a weekend camping trip to a new place or just having a board game night. Something that makes her really happy is traveling… she has been to all 7 continents and is always ready for the next adventure!

My name is Kathryn, and I am a resident physician in Salt Lake City, far away from family, who reside in various locations on the East Coast. It’s always tough to be so far from family, but especially now. I know everyone is experiencing their own version of disappointment or grieving for a lost sense of normalcy, but my hope is that the more effectively we deal with this now, the sooner we can get back out there - where everything should be waiting for us, just as we left it. I’m finding it harder and harder to complain, given that I have patients who can’t see their families due to strict, but necessary rules, yet still happily greet me each morning when I wake them up before it’s light outside. In the meantime, I am grateful for and energized by all the people around me doing good. I am in awe of everyone in SLC (from my residency program director, the hospital administrators who have come to personally check in, the people working tirelessly to find creative solutions to obtain additional masks and ventilators, and all of the hospital staff who help in both medical and non-medical ways to the restaurant/grocery store workers and other essential community workers etc etc ETC), and on a larger scale - Utah, the US, and the entire world - who are coming together to figure this mess out.

Most of us are going through a roller coaster of emotional states as this storm –called COVID-19 – continues to gain momentum, with global impact. Millions of people are experiencing major life changes. If this resonates with you, you are not alone. People have been self-quarantining or socially isolating for various amounts of time. With the cancellation of planned trips and weddings, the closing of schools and colleges, and mandated work-from-home arrangements, it is easy to be discouraged, especially given that we aren’t yet seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. While each person will respond differently to the challenges we are facing, fear and anxiety seem to be two feelings commonly cited during this difficult time. 

While there is no perfect solution, there may be some helpful things you can do to feel more in control of your day-to-day emotions and general well-being. Different things work for different people, and there isn’t any single, correct way of doing things, so I would recommend getting rid of “should do’s” and expectations. Collectively, we need to cut ourselves some slack and realize that this is a process of trial and error. My hope is that we can feel a sense of togetherness and global solidarity despite physical isolation, understand how to continue living in this very unusual and weird time, and ultimately, find some peace among the chaos. 

10 Tips for Being Happy & Healthy During COVID-19 Crisis

1. Social distancing and self-quarantine can be isolating and lonely, but social distancing does not mean we must socially isolate. Take this opportunity to use face time or the phone to catch up with friends and family. Set up virtual happy hours or dinner dates via Face Time or Zoom or try having a game night through Jack Box Games. 

2. Focus on general wellness. There are many free apps right now for meditation, yoga, stretching, online exercise classes, and breathing techniques. Additionally, be sure to stay hydrated, get a good night’s rest, and get some fresh air. In many areas, walking outside in areas where you can be 6 feet from other people is okay to do. Make a sound track of your favorite relaxing or pump-up music to go along with your stretching or work out routines. 

3. Do those things you have been meaning to do for the last month, but always seem to put off. This is the perfect time to try out a new recipe, read a new book, catch up on your favorite tv show, organize your closet, teach yourself a new language (a little bit each day goes a long way), try out a new hobby or craft (there are apps for learning to draw, scrap-booking, etc.), play a new board game or do a new puzzle, or come up with something else fun and unexpected. Get creative!! 

4. Be present. As someone who likes to plan ahead of time, living day to day has helped me to be more present in the now rather than worrying about the future. It has also helped me to focus on the enjoyable activities of day-to-day life rather than worrying about always being in some spectacular place or taking some awe-inspiring picture. This is a time to reset and find our way back to what is most important in our individual lives. 

5. Reach out to others. It is easy to feel alone, but sending a text or card can make someone else’s day. You could also consider making cards for people in nursing homes who can’t currently see their families, donate blood if you’re healthy and meet all requirements, foster an animal from a local shelter, or buy groceries for elderly neighbors. Additionally, having a sense of purpose can increase your happiness and help you to feel more fulfilled. 

6. Recognize that the emotions you are feeling are valid & normal.  AND talk about them. It is okay to grieve the loss of normalcy. It is also okay to not be okay, but please reach out and allow others to assist you while you’re feeling this way. While it is certainly okay to feel this way, it can be helpful to list a few things each day that you are grateful for. Committing to the daily practice of writing down just a few things that we are grateful for helps to re-wire connections in the brain making it easier to choose happiness in times of distress. 

7. Be productive. Regarding working from home, find a place at home you can work away from the spaces where you sleep or play. Try to find a spot with good lighting. De-clutter your space (and your mind). Eliminate distractions. Set a time during which you will focus on your work and stick to it. During this time, try to avoid checking news about COVID-19 and save all the social media and meme hunting as a reward for after you have finished your work for the day. It may be helpful to outline your goals and priorities for the day. An organized to-do list will keep you focused on the specific tasks at hand and checking items off provides a sense of accomplishment. If you have children, try incorporating their structure they may need. 

8. Exercise. We all know this is easier said than done though. So choose to do things that fulfill your daily exercise needs. Use an indoor exercise bike, treadmill or elliptical, climb the stairs for 10-15 minutes, lift soup cans or use exercise bands.

9. Spend more time outdoors. Fresh air, scenic views, and a little vitamin D from the sun can make all the difference…but practice social distancing!

10. Fake it until you make it. It sounds silly, but the more you smile, even if it’s fake, positively affects how you feel because it triggers something in the brain that makes you happier…AND LAUGH. Only second to loving, laughing is the easiest way to feel like everything is going to be okay.

Read Dr. Mackarey’s "Health & Exercise Forum" every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. 

Special Feature “ Health & Exercise Forum” with Geisinger Commonwealth School Of Medicine – The third Monday of every month! 

Dr. Kathryn Schimdt
Dr. Kathryn Schimdt

Guest Columnist: Kathryn Schmidt, MD

Personal Bio: Kathryn received her medical degree from Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in 2019 and is now an Internal Medicine resident at University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City. She loves her program and her new city, both of which allow her to optimize her wellness, with easy access to skiing, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Prior to medical school, she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her undergraduate studies and Northwestern University where she completed a post-baccalaureate pre-medical and health program. Throughout school, she worked as a research assistant, first with stem cell transplant recipients and women affected by gynecological cancers, and then with solid organ transplant patients. During medical school, she served as a volunteer at the Care and Concern Clinic, as well as at an organization called Pathstone, acting as a mentor to men and women who were transitioning back into the community after having spent time in prison. During her last year of medical school, she received a global health scholarship that allowed her to teach English in Thailand, with an emphasis on preventative health care topics. She has joined the global heath track within her residency program and hopes to continue to stay engaged in global healthcare throughout her career. When not working, she likes to kick-box, ski, hike, write, and be in the company of good friends or family, whether that be taking a weekend camping trip to a new place or just having a board game night. Something that makes her really happy is traveling… she has been to all 7 continents and is always ready for the next adventure!

You can actually worry yourself sick

Most people have heard the expression, “worried sick,” but did you know that you can worry enough to the point where it results in emotions that leave you physically ill? For the normal person, this isn’t good, but for the cancer patient, this is just downright dangerous. During my undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I worked in a research lab that examined various predictors of recovery from cancer. Specifically, we examined the extent to which mood disturbance impacts cancer patients’ recovery following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), which is just a fancy term for a medical procedure in which a donor’s stem cells can be given to a patient suffering from certain cancers of the blood or bone marrow, like leukemia or multiple myeloma. Without getting into the complexity of the study, at the most basic level, we wanted to find out if patients who found meaning in their illness, didn’t avoid unwanted thoughts and emotions, and generally felt less depressed prior to transplant had more successful recoveries and stronger immune systems post-transplant. 

Our study results echoed the conclusions of similar studies conducted prior to ours, demonstrating that there is indeed crosstalk between our psychological states and the neuroendocrine and immune systems, or in other words, our mental state can affect our physical state. 

In patients undergoing HSCT, this is particularly salient, given the critical role of immune restoration in preventing recurrence of cancer, reducing complications, and ensuring survival. Distress, depression, and anxiety have been associated with a downregulation of immune responses relevant to tumor containment among cancer patients, and depressed mood has been linked to relapse and poorer survival following HSCT.1 So now that we know these things, if you are a cancer patient, fighting for your life, the importance of being happy is no longer just for your sanity, but is quite literally one way to increase your chances at a successful recovery. Interesting, right? But how does this apply to you? Well, you don’t have to have cancer for depression or other emotions to weaken your immune system. This basic concept is applicable to all of us in our everyday lives, and this link between the mind and body may be more powerful than you think…especially during this COVID-19 Crisis!

Here are just a few examples of what I’m talking about…

Mood Matters

Most of us are going through a roller coaster of emotional states as this storm –called COVID-19 – continues to gain momentum, with global impact. Millions of people are experiencing major life changes. If this resonates with you, you are not alone. People have been self-quarantining or socially isolating for various amounts of time. With the cancellation of planned trips and weddings, the closing of schools and colleges, and mandated work-from-home arrangements, it is easy to be discouraged, especially given that we aren’t yet seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. While each person will respond differently to the challenges we are facing, fear and anxiety seem to be two feelings commonly cited during this difficult time. 

While there is no perfect solution, there may be some helpful things you can do to feel more in control of your day-to-day emotions and general well-being. Different things work for different people, and there isn’t any single, correct way of doing things, so I would recommend getting rid of “should do’s” and expectations. Collectively, we need to cut ourselves some slack and realize that this is a process of trial and error. My hope is that we can feel a sense of togetherness and global solidarity despite physical isolation, understand how to continue living in this very unusual and weird time, and ultimately, find some peace among the chaos. 

We can’t control everything but we can try to control our psychological state and not allow negatively affect our physical health and immune systems, and if we are sick with something serious, we need to do everything in our power to give ourselves the best fighting chance at recovery. Just knowing that mood and psychological well-being affect our physical state is motivation in itself to decide that we are going to choose happiness. This is not to say that you can’t ever be in a bad mood… you can! We all have bad days, but we should work harder to not let our bad moods consume us. 

NEXT WEEK: Part 2: Tips for Being Happy & Healthy During COVID-19 Crisis

Read Dr. Mackarey’s "Health & Exercise Forum" every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.