Weekly health rail, with items on aromatherapy, a survey on teen drug use, tips on quitting smoking, and more.
With household chores, family gatherings, school events and work activities, life can get a little hectic this time of year. So, when you actually have time at home, you either want to unwind and relax or use the free moments to bolster more energy and finish the day's to-dos.
"Scented candles, diffusers and sprays work very well to bring a calming, positive essence to a house, or to add a bit of energy to the air," says Dr. Rachel Herz, a scent expert from Brown University and the author of "The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell."
Here are some of her tips to keep your household energy levels on an even keel during the winter months:
- After arriving home from a busy day at work, the smell of oranges can help you relax and put you into a good mood. Research has shown that orange scents reduce anxiety and increase calmness in stressful situations and increase positive mood overall.
- Several studies have shown that peppermint aroma can enhance both physical and mental energy and performance. So, when your motivation is flagging, a sniff of fresh peppermint aroma can be a good boost.
- Holiday meals are frequent and filling, and the last thing you want to do is gain extra weight this season. One way to help you resist extra sweets is by infusing the room with a lovely vanilla scent. The scent will reduce your desire to nibble on all those sugary treats, and help cut down the pumpkin pie cravings.
- Sleep well so you are refreshed and ready for the next day. Before crawling between the sheets, spray some lavender around the bed, or light a lavender candle while taking a warm bath. This scent will help you to calm down so you can fall asleep, even if you are struggling with heavy stress or a huge workload.
"'Tis the season to create a positive atmosphere at home by drawing on your sense of smell to help beat the stress and feel calmer, happier and invigorated," Herz says.
Survey: Teens still using prescription drugs
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has released its annual Monitoring the Future survey. The report is a series of classroom surveys of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders. Some of the results include:
- The number of high school seniors reporting they used methamphetamine in the past year is now at only 1.2 percent -- the lowest since questions about methamphetamine were added to the survey in 1999.
- Cigarette smoking was at the lowest point in the survey's history on all measures for eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders.
- The downward trend in marijuana use across the three grades has stalled, with rates at the same level as five years ago.
- Nearly 1 in 10 high school seniors reported past year non-medical use of Vicodin, and 1 in 20 reported abusing Oxycontin, also a powerful opioid painkiller. Non-medical use of these painkillers has increased among 10th graders in the past five years.
-- National Institute on Drug Abuse
Did You Know?
Scientists in the Netherlands are studying whether foods that release hunger-quenching aromas during chewing could fight obesity.
Health Tip: Hoping to quit smoking?
The American Cancer Society and Free & Clear recommend taking these steps to prepare for quitting on Jan. 1 or another date during the New Year:
1. Decide on a quit date. About two weeks prior to your planned quit date, call 1.866.Quit.4.Life and enroll in the American Cancer Society Quit For Life Program. A coach will help you prepare to quit and stay quit, and will help you make a decision about using medication during the process. The medications may be at no cost to you.
2. About one week before your quit date, identify where and when you smoke and test strategies to break up daily habits. Try to replace cigarettes with other substitutes, such as a water bottle, toothpicks or carrot sticks.
3. The night before your quit date, clear away all cigarettes and other smoking paraphernalia, including cleaning out the ashtray in your car. Removing all visual reminders will take away opportunities to easily relapse.
-- American Cancer Society
Number to Know: 443,000
Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million have a serious illness caused by smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Children’s Health: Tips for picky eaters
If you are looking to expand the horizons of your child’s eating habits, here are some helpful tips from Registered Dietitian Julie Tucci:
- Follow a schedule: Children should eat every two to three hours. Have a set time for three meals and two to three snacks each day. Hopefully, your child’s body will adapt to this schedule, and they will get hungry just as food is being served.
- Avoid grazing: Because children have very small stomachs, grazing – whether its food or beverages -- between scheduled meals will guarantee that they won’t be hungry when it’s time for the next meal.
- Let them help: Children generally eat better when they have helped create the dish, whether it’s picking ingredients or helping prepare a meal.
- Be a role model: If your child sees you trying and enjoying a variety of foods, there is also a better chance they will be willing to try new foods.
Senior Health: Service activities help the brain
Volunteer service, such as tutoring children, can help older adults delay or reverse declining brain function, according to a new study.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers found that seniors participating in a youth mentoring program made gains in key brain regions that support cognitive abilities important to planning and organizing one’s daily life.
The small study is the first of its kind to examine the effect of Experience Corps, a national volunteer service program that trains seniors to help children in urban public schools with reading and academic success in other areas.
-- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
GateHouse News Service