Living a Happy Emotional Life

We all live lives rich in relationships and punctuated with emotion. Lovers arrive, bringing gifts of passion and tenderness, and then exit, marking their passage with anger and sadness. Children flash into being, evoking previously unimaginable exhilaration and exhaustion. Friends and family members tread parallel paths, sharing our emotions, and then pass on, leaving grief and memories in their wake.

Across all our relationship experiences, what balances out our anger and grief is our joy. All human beings share the capacity to relish intense joy and the desire to maintain such happiness in an impermanent and ever-changing world. Also universal is the fact that our personal joy is determined by the quality of our interpersonal connections. When our relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and romantic partners are happy, we are happy, and when they’re not, we’re not.

Yet, joy doesn’t drop magically from the sky into our hearts and minds and stay there. We create joy – through every decision we make and every thought, word, and deed. When we manage our emotional experiences and communication poorly, the interpersonal sorrows we wreak on others reflect back on us in the form of personal unhappiness. When we steadfastly and skillfully manage our emotions, the positive relationship outcomes we create multiply, and with them, our happiness and the joy of those who surround us.

I encourage all of you to keep this thought in mind:

We create joy – through every decision we make and every thought, word, and deed.

Top Ten Healthiest Foods (according to me!)

Top 10 healthiest foods

I have googled many other list, and I have taken health courses, and I have spoke with several nutrionists, and this is what I’ve come up with. I base my daily diet around these foods…and I’m a happy camper! You could be too, and it all begins with what you consume. Happy eating!

Almonds
Almonds
Almonds are a source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and high-quality protein; they also contain high levels of healthy unsaturated fatty acids along with high levels of bioactive molecules (such as fiber, phytosterols, vitamins, other minerals, and antioxidants), which may help prevent cardiovascular disease.

BlueberriesBlueberries
The fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and phytonutrient content in blueberries supports heart health. The absence of cholesterol from blueberries is also beneficial to the heart. Fiber content helps to reduce the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Flax Seeds
Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats thflaxseed-1at have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s. Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.

Baby Spinach
One cup of raw spinach contains:
27 calories.
0.86 grams of protein.
30 milligrams of calcium.
0.81 grams of iron.
24 milligrams of magnesium.
167 milligrams of potassium.
2,813 micrograms of Vitamin A.
58 micrograms of folate.Spinach

Salmon (Wild Alaskan)
Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. …
Great Source of Protein. …
High in B Vitamins. …Salmon
Good Source of Potassium. …
Loaded with Selenium. …
Contains the Antioxidant Astaxanthin. …
May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease. …
May Benefit Weight Control.

Carrots
Benefits. Carrots contain vitamin A, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Evidence suggests that eating more antioxidant-rich fruits carrotsand vegetables, such as carrots, can help reduce the risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Carrots are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Avocado
Avocado is Incredibly Nutritious. …
They Contain More Potassium Than Bananas. …avocado
Avocado is Loaded with Heart-Healthy Monounsaturated Fatty Acids. …
Avocados Are Loaded with Fiber. …
Eating Avocados Can Lower Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels.

Green Lentils
Lentils add essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber to the diet, and they provide protein and sustenance that can Green Lentilsreplace meat in meals. When meat, a major source of saturated and trans fats in the diet, is replaced with a high-fiber food like lentils, the risk for heart disease is further decreased.

Black Beans
The fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and phytonutrient content of black beans, Black Beanscoupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health. This fiber helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Grapefruit
Strengthens Immune System. …
Boosts Metabolism. …grapefruit
Reduces Kidney Stones Risk. …
Fights Gum Disease. …
Protects Against Cancer. …
Reduces Stress.

If you read this list, and are now reading this, please let me know what you think should be on this list.

Top 10 Happiest Songs (of all-time!)

After you look and/or listen to these songs, let us know what song(s) you would put on this list. Let me know if you agree/disagree, what song is missing that I didn’t put on the list. Have fun! And remember, don’t worry, be happy!!!

  1. What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

  2. Ode to Joy – Ludwig Beethoven

  3. Happy – Pharrell Williams

  4. Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

  5. Happy Together – The Turtles

  6. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond

  7. Shiny Happy People – R.E.M.

  8. Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys

  9. I’m a Believer – The Monkeys

  10. Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves

Happiest Countries on Earth

What makes a country happy? The United Nations considers the answer with its annual World Happiness Report, ranking a total of 156 countries. Key ingredients for well-being include longer healthy years of life, more social support, trust in government, higher GDP per capita, and generosity.

This year’s list hosts the same top 10 countries as 2017, however some managed to jump the ranks while others fell. Most notably, Finland jumped from fourth place to first this year, snatching the title from Norway. Finland also has happiest immigrants, a new special focus of this year’s report.

While the experiences of tourists were not considered specifically, the report sets a standard for blissful places to visit. After all, aren’t smiles contagious?

After your done reading about these happy countries, please reply and let us know why your country is one of the happiest places to live. Also, for interactive fun you can click the link (Find out which country is for you). Scroll down my home page, and on the right-hand side you’ll see the link. Have fun!

Here are the happiest countries in the world and some of what makes them unique.

1)  Finland

Finland

How’s Life in Finland?

Finns take their soak time so seriously, there are an estimated two million saunas in the country with a population of 5.3 million. Finland also had the happiest immigrants, a special focus of this year’s report. Happiness or subjective well-being can be measured in terms of life satisfaction, the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and the absence of negative experiences and feelings. Such measures, while subjective, are a useful complement to objective data to compare the quality of life across countries.

Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Finns on average gave it a 7.5 grade, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

In general, Finland performs well across the different well-being dimensions relative to other OECD countries. Despite levels of household net adjusted disposable income and household net wealth that fall below the OECD average, Finland benefits from comparatively low levels of both job strain and labour market insecurity. Only around 4% of Finnish employees regularly work very long hours, approximately one-third of the OECD average level, but time off (i.e. time spent on leisure and personal care) is close to the average. Finland performs very well in terms of education and skills as well as social support: 95% of Finns report having friends or relatives whom they can count on in times of trouble, compared to the OECD average of 89%. Air and water quality are both areas of comparative strength, and in 2013, life satisfaction in Finland was among the highest in the OECD. However, housing affordability is below the OECD average, and despite having a comparatively high share of people who feel that they have a say in what the government does (47%, compared to 33% for the OECD on average), Finland has a mid-ranking level of voter turnout.

2)  Norway

Norway

How’s Life in Norway?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Norwegians on average gave it a 7.5 grade, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5. Norway is a premiere destination to view the dancing lights of the aurora borealis. In ancient times, people believed the glowing lights were sent from the gods.

Relative to other OECD countries, Norway performs very well across the OECD’s different well-being indicators and dimensions. Job strain and long-term unemployment are among the lowest in the OECD, while average earnings and the employment rate are in the top third of the OECD countries. Only around 3% of employees regularly worked long hours in 2016, well below the OECD average of 13%, and full-time employees report having more time off (i.e. time spent on leisure and personal care) than the OECD average. In 2015, the average household net adjusted disposable income was among the highest in the OECD, but household net wealth stood below the OECD average. Housing conditions and many dimensions of quality of life are good in Norway. For example, the homicide rate is very low, and almost 88% of Norwegians report that they feel safe walking alone at night, one of the highest shares in the OECD. Meanwhile, 49% of Norwegians feel that they have a say in what the government does, well above the OECD average of 33%.

3)  Denmark

Denmark

How’s Life in Denmark?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Danes on average gave it a 7.5 grade, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5. The city of Copenhagen was built for bicyclists. A third of Copenhageners commute to work daily on 217 miles (350 km) of paths and lanes that stretch across the city.

Relative to other OECD countries, Denmark generally performs very well across the different well-being dimensions. Although average household net adjusted disposable income is just below the OECD average, Denmark is among the top tier of OECD countries in terms of both earnings and the employment rate. Denmark also benefits from low levels of both labour market insecurity and job strain, and only 2% of employees regularly work very long hours, one of the lowest percentages in the OECD. Civic engagement and governance is also an area of comparative strength: Denmark has both a high voter turnout and a high share of people who feel they have a say in what the government does. Social support is also very high, with 95% of people reporting that they have friends or relatives whom they can count on in times of trouble, compared to the OECD average of 89%. However, housing affordability is an area of weakness: the average household in Denmark spends 24% of its disposable income on housing costs, well above the OECD average of 21%

4)  Iceland

Iceland

How’s Life in Iceland?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Icelanders on average gave it a 7.5 grade, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5. This country is known as “The Land of Fire and Ice” because of the glaciers and volcanoes that make up the landscape. Iceland’s Vatnajökull—Europe’s largest glacier—is a piece of ice the size of Puerto Rico.

In general, Iceland performs well across the different well-being dimensions relative to other OECD countries. 86% of the Icelandic population aged 15-64 was in employment in 2016, the largest share in the OECD, and average earnings are in the top tier of the OECD. Iceland is the OECD’s top performer in terms of environmental quality: air quality (measured as average exposure to PM2.5 air pollution) is the best in the OECD, and almost everybody in Iceland is satisfied with their local water quality. 98% of Icelanders report that they have friends or relatives whom they can count on in times of trouble, the highest share in the OECD. Personal security and life satisfaction are also areas of comparative strength. In terms of housing conditions, access to basic sanitation is high, but Icelanders spend a higher proportion of their disposable income on housing costs (24%) relative to the OECD average (21%), making housing affordability in Iceland a clear area of comparative weakness.

5)  Switzerland

Switzerland

How’s Life in Switzerland?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Swiss people on average gave it a 7.5 grade, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5. According to the International Cocoa Organization, the Swiss eat an estimated 11 kg of chocolate a year.

On average, Switzerland performs well across the OECD’s headline well-being indicators relative to other OECD countries. Average household net adjusted disposable income, earnings and employment are among the highest in the OECD. Life expectancy at birth, at 83 years in 2015, was one of the highest in the OECD, while 80% of Swiss people perceived their health as “good” or “very good”, 11 percentage points above the OECD average. In terms of housing conditions and environmental quality, Switzerland’s performance is mixed. For example, while access to basic sanitation is good, housing affordability was low in 2015, and although 96% of Swiss people are satisfied with their local water quality, air quality (measured as the average concentration of PM2.5 in the air) is worse than the OECD average. Switzerland’s voter turnout for national parliamentary elections stood at only 49% in 2015, the lowest voter turnout in the OECD; this, however, does not take into account Switzerland’s highly participatory form of direct democracy.

6)  Netherlands

Netherlands

How’s Life in the Netherlands?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Dutch people on average gave it a 7.4 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5. Amsterdam actually has 1281 bridges, three times as many as Venice.

In general, the Netherlands performs well across the OECD’s headline well-being indicators relative to the other OECD countries. Household net wealth was about half of the OECD average level in 2015, but average earnings (around 53 000 USD in 2016) are nearly 20% higher than the OECD average. The Netherlands benefits from comparatively low levels of both labour market insecurity and job strain. In addition, less than 1% of employees regularly work very long hours, the lowest share in the OECD. However, the long-term unemployment rate in 2016 stood at 3%, above the OECD average of 2.3%. Housing conditions in the Netherlands are good, but air quality (assessed in terms of exposure to PM2.5 air pollution) is close to the OECD average. 77% of the adult working-age population have completed at least an upper secondary education, compared to the OECD average of 75%, and the literacy and numeracy skills of Dutch adults are among the highest in the OECD. Personal security is also good, and life satisfaction is just above the OECD average level.

7)  Canada

Canada

How’s Life in Canada?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Canadians on average gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5. Canada’s forest cover represents 30 percent of the world’s boreal forest and 10 percent of the world’s overall forest cover. Unsurprisingly, Canada’s air quality is among the best in the world.

Canada typically performs above the OECD average level across most of the different well-indicators shown below. It falls within the top tier of OECD countries on household net wealth, the employment rate is high (73% in 2016), the long-term unemployment rate is low (0.8% in 2016) and fewer than 4% of employees usually work 50 hours or more per week, less than a third of the OECD average rate. However, full-time employees on average reported having less time off (i.e. time spent on leisure and personal care) than those in most other OECD countries. Housing conditions are generally good, but housing affordability stood below the OECD average in 2016. The average Canadian enjoys relatively good air and water quality, and both feelings of security and life satisfaction are among the highest in the OECD area. A high share of Canadians also report good levels of perceived health, although these data are not directly comparable with those of the other OECD countries, due to a difference in the reporting scale.

8)  New Zealand

New Zealand

How’s Life in New Zealand?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, New Zealanders on average gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5. No part of this island nation is more than 128km from the sea. New Zealand is also home to unique penguin species, including the yellow-eyed penguin, the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin, and the little blue penguin—the world’s smallest.

On average, New Zealand performs well across the different well-being indicators and dimensions relative to other OECD countries. It has higher employment and lower long-term unemployment than the OECD average, and benefits from lower-than-average levels of labour market insecurity and job strain. Reported social support is also one of the highest in the OECD. While New Zealand’s environmental quality is high, its performance is mixed in terms of personal security and housing conditions. Although the homicide rate is low, only 65% of people in New Zealand say they feel safe walking alone at night, compared to an OECD average of 69%. While the average number of rooms per person in New Zealand’s homes is among the highest in the OECD, housing affordability is one of the worst. At 82 years, life expectancy at birth is 2 years above the OECD average. A high share of New Zealanders also report good levels of perceived health, although these data are not directly comparable with those of the other OECD countries, due to a difference in the reporting scale.

9)  Sweden

Sweden

How’s Life in Sweden?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Swedes on average gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5. In Sweden, the coffee break is sacred. Swedes carve out time each day to slow down and enjoy fika, a short beverage break that can be done solo or with company.

On average, Sweden performs very well across the different well-being dimensions relative to other OECD countries. In 2016, the employment rate was one of the highest in the OECD, and only 1% of employees in Sweden regularly worked very long hours, the second-lowest share in the OECD. However, the household net adjusted disposable income and earnings are just below the OECD average levels. In terms of education and skills, 83% of the adult working-age population have attained at least an upper secondary education, compared to the OECD average of 75%, while both adult skills and students’ cognitive skills also exceed the OECD average. Civic engagement and governance, assessed in terms of voter turnout and the percentage of adults who feel that they have a say in what the government does, are in the top third of the OECD. Sweden’s environmental quality and health status are also good, and life satisfaction was among the highest in the OECD in 2013

10)  Australia

Australia

How’s Life in Australia?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Australians on average gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5. From the packed shores of Bondi Beach to the quiet hideaways along the Great Ocean Road, Australia has a whopping 10,685 beaches.

In general, Australia performs well across the different well-being dimensions relative to other OECD countries. Air quality is among the best in the OECD, and average household net adjusted disposable income and household net wealth were among the highest in the OECD in 2015 and 2014 respectively. Despite a good performance in jobs and earnings, Australia lies below the OECD average in terms of work-life balance: Australian full-time employees reported having 30 minutes less time off (i.e. time spent on leisure and personal care) than those in other OECD countries, and more than 13% of employees regularly worked 50 hours or more per week in 2016. In terms of personal security, despite the comparatively low homicide rate, only 64% of Australians felt safe walking alone at night, compared to the OECD average of 69% in the period 2014-16. A high share of Australians report good levels of perceived health, although these data are not directly comparable with those of the other OECD countries, due to a difference in the reporting scale.

Remember to tell us why your country is the happiest place on Earth!

Tips for Vitality & Serenity

Be Realistic – Accept your basic personality, utilize your strengths and accept your weaknesses.

Appreciate What You Have – rather than focusing on what you don’t have.

Say “No”! – You’re no good to anyone if you are exhausted, resentful, and overstretched.

Say “Yes”! – List to what you want and go for it. You’ll experience more joy and pleasure in life.

Move Your Body – Stretch, strengthen, and get your heart pumping. You’ll look and feel better.

Sleep – You know how much rest you need; aim to get it.

Choose Food Wisely – Include plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, eat some protein, and avoid excess sugar, fat, and salt. Stop eating when slightly full. Enjoy Simple, Everyday Pleasures – It will brighten each day.

Reduce Guilt – Be clear on what you can and cannot control and move on.

Live in the Present – rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

Feel Your Feelings – and express them in healthy ways.

Laugh More – It’s one of the best ways to reduce tension.

Keep Hopeful – A positive attitude helps to create positive outcomes.

Try New Things – Take a risk, keep an open mind, invite spontaneity…it keeps life fresh.

Recognize When You Need Help – and ask for it.

Take Quiet Time – It’s important to reflect and contemplate.

Remember to Relax – and breathe deeply.

Communicate Openly and Honestly – to avoid conflict and confusion.

Embrace Creative Expression – Dance, music, art, and writing are powerful and magical resources.

Connect With Your “Spiritual Self” – however you define it.

Listen to Your Intuition – It has very good advice.

Follow Your Dreams – and keep dreaming … it creates happy people.

Adapted from materials provided by the Social Work Department of Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
https://roswellpark.org

The Friend Effect

The friend effect: why the secret of health and happiness is surprisingly simple

A study has found that regularly eating meals alone is the biggest single factor for unhappiness, besides existing mental illness. Why is hanging out with friends so helpful?

Jenny Stevens

@jenny_stevens

Wed 23 May 2018 01.00 EDT Last modified on Wed 23 May 2018 10.54 EDT

People who eat socially are more likely to feel better about themselves. Photograph: PeopleImages/Getty Images

For some, eating alone can be a joyous thing: forking mouthfuls of pasta straight from the pan, peanut butter licked off a spoon, the unbridled pleasure of walking home from the chippie alone on a cold night. But regularly eating meals in isolation is a different story. This one factor is more strongly associated with unhappiness than any other apart from (unsurprisingly) having a mental illness. This is according to a new study by Oxford Economics that found, in a survey of 8,250 British adults, that people who always eat alone score 7.9 points lower, in terms of happiness, than the national average.

This research is far from the first to suggest a link between eating with others and happiness. Researchers at the University of Oxford last year found that the more that people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives. The study also found that people who eat socially are more likely to feel better about themselves and have wider social and emotional support networks.

Robin Dunbar, a professor of psychology, worked on the Oxford University study. He says that “we simply don’t know” why people who eat together are happier. But it is clear that this is a regular social ritual, a moment of union and communion in our often chaotic lives. It can be a place of conversation, storytelling and closeness.

Loneliness linked to major life setbacks for millennials, study says

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“At a psychological level, having friends just makes you happier,” says Dunbar. “The kinds of things that you do around the table with other people are very good at triggering the endorphin system, which is part of the brain’s pain-management system. Endorphins are opioids, they are chemically related to morphine – they are produced by the brain and give you an opiate high. That’s what you get when you do all this social stuff, including patting, cuddling and stroking. It is central to the way primates in general bond in their social groups and relationships.”

Our face-to-face relationships are, quite literally, a matter of life or death. “One of the biggest predictors of physical and mental health problems is loneliness,” says Dr Nick Lake, joint director for psychology and psychological therapy at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. “That makes sense to people when they think of mental health. But the evidence is also clear that if you are someone who is lonely and isolated, your chance of suffering a major long-term condition such as coronary heart disease or cancer is also significantly increased, to the extent that it is almost as big a risk factor as smoking.”

One of the most striking pieces of evidence for this, says Dunbar, is a meta-analysis of 148 epidemiological studies that looked for the best predictors that patients would survive for 12 months after a heart attack. “The best two predictors, by a long way, are the number and quality of friends you have and giving up smoking,” he says. “You can eat as much as you like, you can slob about, you can drink as much alcohol as you like – the effect is very modest compared with these other two factors.”

Human beings are biologically engineered for human interaction – and particularly face-to-face interaction. One study from the University of Michigan found that replacing face-to-face contact with friends and family with messages on social media, emails or text messages could double our risk of depression. The study also found that those who made social contact with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest level of depressive symptoms.

Loneliness is a hazard of old age. A phone call can mean a lot

Michele Hanson

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We are the most social of all the animals,” says Prof Paul Gilbert, a psychologist and the founder of compassion-focused therapy. “Our brains and our bodies are built to be regulated through interactions with others from the day that we are born.” This is not the case with many creatures, such as turtles and fish, that procreate in vast numbers. “They don’t need looking after,” says Gilbert. “Many of them will die before they reach reproductive age. The caring behaviour [associated] with mammals is a major evolutionary adaptation – it changes the brain and the physiology of the body so that a parent is interested in staying close to an infant. One of the most important things is the human capacity for soothing and engaging. So, when a mother smiles at a baby and makes eye contact, that positive emotion in the face and the voice of the mother is stimulating positivity in the child. You can see why it’s called mirroring, the baby smiles back.

“The ability to stimulate positive emotions, which is linked to happiness, begins in interactions with others who are having positive emotions about you. So, when we see our friends and they say, ‘Good to see you’ – it’s important.”

But there are many factors that might prevent us from seeing friends and family: mental ill health, immobility, a lack of money. Alison Harris is a consultant clinical psychologist and professional lead for psychological services in Salford. “Austerity has a huge influence on the loss of happiness and wellbeing,” she says. “Homelessness and unemployment in particular takes us out of contact with others. In addition to the obvious harms of homelessness, it does massively increase social isolation and anxiety. To take that even further, many people are in exile from their communities. In mental health services, we see an enormous amount of grief, depression and anxiety in people who are asylum seekers and refugees and much of that is not just due to trauma or torture or detention or fleeing from their country, but from the severe rupture of being cut off from their families and communities of origin.”

When we are around others, it has an effect on our body. Some forms of friendship – going to parties, getting married, having positive interactions with others – stimulate our sympathetic nervous system. Gilbert says that the parasympathetic nervous system (otherwise known as the “rest and digest” system) “is stimulated through the verbal and voice tone of relations with each other. As far as we know, it’s not that stimulated through texts. Generally speaking, you’re designed to respond to voice tone and expression, and stroking. We are physiologically designed for face-to-face interaction.”

Of course, for those struggling with depression, the idea of physical contact can be impossible to fathom. At those moments, the capacity to lift up a mobile phone and type out a text is an enormous mark of progress. It may not be the ideal form of interaction, but it’s a vast improvement on staring at a wall.

Dragging ourselves out of low energy states – be that by trying to cultivate compassionate voices internally or having compassionate relationships with others – is key to Gilbert’s work. “If you ask someone, ‘What is your internal critic most frightened of?’ [you will find] it’s frightened of rejection, of being seen as no good. Of being unlovable, of not being wanted. All the raging that goes on beneath us, the thing that we fear most is shame – not being good enough or wanted. We are frightened of being revealed to be not so nice.”

He says that what has happened in the past decade, with the rise of social media, “is that it has become a very plastic society. We are all living like theatrical actors, presenting ourselves as our best. That can’t be real, and so we have many people who feel like failures or useless. They say: ‘I’m not as attractive as that, I’m overweight, I’m not kind or compassionate to others.’”

As Gilbert says, the best relationships are the ones where people love us for our perceived dark sides and flaws. “People forget that love is about loving you for the difficult things, not the easy things,” he says. It is those who know us intimately who can provide that, and they do it through their physical presence, through touch, and through eating, drinking and sharing with us. Spending time together is social nourishment. So, instead of texting a friend or messaging them on social media, why not knock on their door, look them in the eye and make yourselves both feel better?

  • This article was amended on 23 May 2018. Dr Alison Harris works for the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS foundation trust, and not Salford Royal NHS foundation trust, as an earlier version said.

Here’s How Much Exercise You Need to Keep Your Brain Healthy

By Alice Park

May 30, 2018

TIME Health

For more, visit TIME Health.

There’s no question that exercise is good for the body, and there is growing evidence that staying physically active can help slow the normal declines in brain function that come with age. Health groups recommend that adults try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense activity a week to keep their hearts healthy — but is that the same amount that’s needed to keep the brain sharp?

In a new study published in the journal Neurology, researchers led by Joyce Gomes-Osman, an assistant professor in physical therapy and neurology at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, set out to find an exercise prescription for the brain. She and her colleagues scanned nearly 100 existing studies that connected exercise with more than 122 different tests of brain function. Based on data that included more than 11,000 older people, they found that people who exercised about 52 hours over a period of about six months showed the biggest improvements in various thinking and speed tests. On average, people exercised for about an hour, three times a week. And the effect applied to both people without cognitive decline as well as those with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

“I don’t think 52 hours is really a magic number,” says Gomes-Osman. “There really is a range. But I do think that these results signify to us that in order to get the known benefits of exercise for the brain, to help areas involved in thinking and problem solving — to get that machinery going, you need longer exposure [to exercise]. Those are all mechanistic processes that take time to develop.”

People in the study showed the strongest improvements in their ability to solve problems and process information. The effect was not as robust in memory tests, but Gomes-Osman notes that most complex brain functions, from reasoning and processing speed to recall, are related. “There is an overlap between being able to manage time, pay attention and [do] memory tasks,” she says. In future studies, she hopes to home in on a few that appear to be the most sensitive to the effects of exercise.

MORE: This Amount of Exercise Keeps Your Heart Young

What surprised the researchers was that the only strong correlation between exercise and brain function occurred when they looked at the overall time people spent being physically active. They did not find associations between improvements in thinking and the frequency, intensity or length of time people exercised. “I had a mindset [going into the study] that the weekly minutes spent exercising was definitely something that was helpful, since we know that is important for the guidelines for physical health by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association,” says Gomes-Osman. “But I was surprised to see that it wasn’t.”

That may further support the idea that for brain health, the overall and cumulative effect of physical activity is what’s important. This suggests that exercise affects the brain in a variety of different ways, from preserving the brain’s nerve network that starts to decline with age, to boosting the function of neurons and improving blood flow to brain cells, as well as promoting the production of growth factors to help cells involved in higher level thinking tasks.

MORE: Even Light Exercise Can Help You Live Longer

“These results help us get a little closer to very practical advice,” says Gomes-Osman. For her, the quest for an exercise prescription for a healthy brain is personal. Her grandfather died with Alzheimer’s disease, and she is aware that her family carries some genetic vulnerability to developing the neurodegenerative condition. “What could I have told my grandpa about exercise?” she says. “And when could I have done it?”

The current study included different types of exercise: aerobic (which is backed by the most research on its relationship to the brain), weight training and mind-body activities like tai chi. She hopes to learn more about what types of exercise seem to have the most benefit for the brain, as well as how that movement should be distributed in minutes, hours and days. That information could one day help people be more proactive about avoiding cognitive decline, and may even help to stave off some of the brain problems associated with more severe degenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“Exercise is a really, really great thing for the brain,” she says. “We need to learn more, since we have nothing better at this moment to combat cognitive decline.”