Does Crying Make You Healthier?

Suck it up. Don’t be a crybaby. Quit your crying. For years, we were told not to shed emotional tears, to pack away our facial tissues and save the tears for something really worth crying about.

But it turns out that a sob session isn’t all bad. In fact, research suggests that crying has a number of health benefits, including:

· Fending off eye ailments. Tears bathe the eyes in lysozymes, antibacterial enzymes that protect against infections like conjunctivitis, according to a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

· Relieving stress -- in the right circumstances. Experts say that after a good cry, your heart rate and breathing slows. The result: You feel calmer and less tense.

· Providing a cathartic release. Research shows that almost 90 percent of people believe that shedding tears is a good way to let go of pent-up feelings.

· Encouraging close relationships. According to evolutionary biologists from Israel’s Tel Aviv University, tears signal your vulnerability to others, which encourages people to bond and form better relationships.

When Crying Feels Good

The benefits of a good cry depend on why you’re shedding the tears, explains Lauren Bylsma, a doctoral student at the University of South Florida and the lead author of a study on crying, which appeared in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

If you’re dabbing at your eyes with tissues over your own actions, like bickering with a friend, those tears are likely to make you feel better. Crying can help you achieve a better understanding of the scenario that you’re involved in, says Bylsma. Plus, you know that you’re able to make a positive change in improving the situation. For instance, you could call your friend to apologize and hash out underlying issues.

On the other hand, sniffling about something you’ve witnessed -- like a dramatic movie or tragic news story -- won’t provide the same healing release. Bylsma says that people are less apt to feel better after weeping about external events that are beyond their control.

A Safe Place for Tears

Whether you reach catharsis also depends on your surroundings. Having friends or family who soothe or hug you when you weep makes you feel loved, which improves your mood. But “if you cry when it’s embarrassing or if others respond in an unsupportive way, that can make you feel worse and more stressed out,” says Bylsma.

So before you grab a tissue and release the floodgates, make sure you’re in the right environment. Surround yourself with supportive people, like friends and family.

But if you think tears will lead to shame or humiliation, try to suck it up -- temporarily. Crying in the office in front of your boss, for instance, may cause you to feel more distressed afterward, explains Bylsma. So suppress those tears until you’re in a safe place, like your home or a friend’s office behind closed doors. Then go ahead and let out your feelings; it can be good for you.

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Create an At-home Spa: 4 Simple Herbal Recipes

You're in serious need of a pampering day at the spa, but you're short on time and money. The solution? Transform your own bathroom into a sanctuary. At the Lake Austin Spa Resort, I teach classes on how to turn common kitchen and garden ingredients into luxurious skin scrubs, bath salts and more.

The key is using herbs and flowers. Certain aromas have a powerful effect on the nervous system, leaving you feeling relaxed or energized. I recommend using the following ingredients for their scents:

  • Lavender: This soothing, antimicrobial herb has been shown to help you relax and get a good night's sleep. Wesleyan University conducted a 31-person study and found that when people sniffed lavender before bedtime, they got more slow-wave (or deep) sleep and reported feeling more energetic in the morning.
  • Eucalyptus: Developing research suggests this woodsy scent may help break up mucus and stop coughs, according to the National Institutes of Health. And a study published in the journal Respiratory Medicine shows that eucalyptol, the active ingredient, has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Mint: Perfect for hot days, spearmint and peppermint are cooling and refreshing. And a recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy also found that applying menthol to the skin increases blood flow.
  • Ginger: When grated and added to a bath, the spicy root provides an invigorating sensory energy boost. It can be mixed with coconut oil for a mildly exfoliating scrub.
  • Rosemary: This herb has a refreshing, stimulating effect.
  • Rose Petals: Pluck them from your own garden to add a sweet fragrance to any bath or body treatment.

Once you've chosen your herbs, mix them up with one of the following recipes. With a few household ingredients, you can go from stressed and tired to relaxed and glowing:

Basic Bath Infusion

  • 4 cups fresh herbs (or 2 cups dried)
  • 4 cups water

Boil water in a large pot; add herbs. Stir, cover and remove from heat. Steep for 10 minutes, strain and pour into a hot bath.

Soothing Bath Bag

  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1/4 cup Epsom salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried herbs
  • 10 drops of essential oil

Stir together all ingredients and place in a muslin bag (or several layers of cheesecloth); secure with a rubber band. Add to hot bath and steep for several minutes. Open the bag and use the softened herbs as an exfoliating body scrub. You can also seal unused bags in a glass jar for several months.

Energizing Coffee Body Scrub

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 4-inch sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup coffee beans, finely ground
  • 2 tablespoons bentonite clay (found in health food stores)
  • 3 tablespoons oil, such as olive, grapeseed, coconut or avocado
  • 3 drops each of rosemary oil and grapefruit or peppermint oil

Combine sugar and rosemary in a spice grinder and process until finely ground. Pour into a medium-sized bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients. Use the scrub on skin; shower off. Moisturize with additional body oil.

Skin-Softening Bath Blend

  • 1/4 cup rolled or instant oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup milk powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup herbs of choice
  • 10 to 15 drops of essential oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons body oil

In a food processor, combine oatmeal, milk powder, sugar and herbs until coarsely ground. Pour in bowl and combine with essential oil, honey and body oil. Place in muslin bag and steep in a hot bath for a few minutes. Use cold tea bags (green tea or chamomile) over your eyes as you enjoy your bath.

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Massage Away Allergies: 6 Expert Moves

Without a doubt, allergies can make you and your little one miserable -- not to mention wipe out your tissue supply. Fortunately, it's possible to reduce the congestion, stress and headaches with the right touch: Massage can relieve these symptoms by improving circulation, lessening anxiety and releasing muscle tension.

Case in point: Researchers from The Ohio State University found that allergy sufferers had more severe -- and lengthy -- attacks under stress. That's where touch can help:

According to a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,  massage lowers stress hormones like cortisol and stimulates the immune system.

But there's no need to book a massage every time you're stuffed up. By gently pressing on your acupressure points, or on those of your child, you can safely ease allergy symptoms and return to your usual sunny-day activities within minutes. In other words, in about the same amount of time as it takes to blow your nose. Just follow these six expert moves:

Massage to Ease Allergy Congestion:

1.    Place the tips of your index fingers where the inside corners of your eyebrows meet the bridge of your nose. Use gentle pressure, and either hold until you feel a release or massage in slow, small outward circles.

2.    Place the tips of your middle fingers just to the side of your nostrils, at the edge of the cheekbone. Hold with gentle pressure or massage in easy outward circles.

Massage to Ease Allergy Headaches:

3.    With your middle and index fingers, lightly massage temples (outside corners of your brows, above your cheeks) in a circular motion toward your ears. It’s actually an instinctual reaction to rub this point, and for good reason: It melts away pain.

4.    Locate the points where your neck muscles meet the base of the back of your skull, and hold with moderate pressure. Press in an upward direction until the muscles release.

Massage to Ease Stress:

5.    Squeeze the fleshy part of the hand between the thumb and index finger. The thumb of the squeezing hand should be on the top side of the hand being squeezed. Hold with moderate pressure and then stroke for a few repetitions, gently pulling out (in the direction away from the wrist).

6.    Place your index, middle and ring fingers at the tops of your shoulders and hold. If massaging your child (or another adult), you can also gently squeeze the muscle or rub it along the fibers toward the outside of the shoulder (versus upward, toward the neck).

For all points, hold or massage for 20 seconds to two minutes or until there is a release. The pressure should feel good -- not acutely painful.

One warning: If you or your child has a fever (and congestion from a potential virus or infection), steer clear of massage of any kind, as it increases circulation and could actually worsen the illness. The same goes for inflammation and skin irritations, like a rash.

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Stay Positive in Stressful Times

When everyone in your family is down for the count with colds and the flu, you're often the one who continues to be the family cheerleader. But keeping a positive perspective can be tough under some circumstances. 

“Being upbeat during stressful times is difficult," says Dr. Eva Ritvo, vice chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "To stay positive, you've got to work it."

What's the best way to maintain an upbeat attitude? Ritvo offers these useful suggestions for rising to the challenge, no matter what you're up against.

1. Sleep on it.

Busy moms know from experience -- observing their own children -- that getting enough shut-eye helps banish blue moods. So why not apply the same principles to yourself? "As adults, we forget about these things," says Ritvo. "It's difficult to stay upbeat when you're working with a sleep deficit. For a positive outlook, getting a good night's sleep of at least eight hours as many nights as you can is really important."

2. Fuel up.

The right diet is as crucial to keeping a positive perspective as getting enough sleep. If you're not eating properly, you're stressing your body, and when your body is doing all it can just to function, a happy-go-lucky attitude is hard to obtain, says Ritvo. "Avoid things that send your blood sugar rising, like alcohol, diet soda or candy. You're not going to have a positive outlook if your basic nutrition is not attended to."

3. Get moving.

Experts agree that regular exercise can boost mood thanks to the feel-good endorphins it releases. "Our bodies were designed for a lot of movement," says Ritvo. "Exercise makes you feel good, helps circulate your blood, gets rid of toxins, maintains your weight and stimulates your brain." It does so many things that are essential to everyday happy functioning. Try to work in at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, whether it's a power walk, a bike ride or Pilates.

4. Try something new.

To keep a positive perspective, introduce variety into your daily routine. A study conducted at the National Institute on Aging found that the novelty of performing new activities has wide-ranging positive effects, including extending your life.

“Do something you haven't done before, which is very stimulating for the brain," says Ritvo. Make a new friend who doesn't fit the mold of your old friends. Take a language class if you've never spoken a language. Take an art class if you've never done art. Give yourself the opportunity to grow in different ways. That's very energizing.

5. Pair up.

Looking to change your perspective? Surround yourself with positive people. "Everybody knows someone who is the life of the party and looks at things in fun ways, so put yourself near them," suggests Ritvo. "Ask them out to dinner. I like going to a book signing where everyone is excited to be there, or a sporting event where people are excited to be. Be around positive energy."

6. Set aside time for yourself.

“It's very easy to attend to people all day or attend to work and neglect ourselves, but that doesn't work for creating a positive outlook," says Ritvo. "It doesn't matter what you do, but be sure to honor yourself and allow yourself to be in a space that works for you." Ritvo suggests setting aside time for a bath, reading for half an hour or meditating to pump up your attitude.

7. Talk about it.

Sometimes, using positive language is all you need to shift your perspective. Ritvo suggests talking with a friend and making a pact to share with each other the things that you're grateful for each day. "Tell each other two things, such as "I'm grateful for my health,'" she says. "Or 'I'm grateful that I could walk up the nine flights of stairs today without being out of breath.'"

8. Put your best face forward.

As the old saying goes, when you look good, you feel good. You don't have to compete with a fashion model, but do try to look your best whenever you can, says Ritvo. To be sure you do this even on your busiest days, set up a quick beauty station by your front door. Just place a basket with a mirror, mascara, eyeliner, blush and lipstick near the door so you can stop and quickly primp before you exit. Don’t forget to tuck a pack of Puffs facial tissues into your bag for touchups later. "Beauty can be an instant boost, and it matters," says Ritvo.

9. Have faith.

Having confidence in yourself and your ability to tackle any challenge is key to keeping a positive perspective. "I like to call it a "faith lift,'" says Ritvo. "Tell yourself that you can survive these things, and it will come true. Having faith is very important. For some people, it might be a religion, for others it might be spirituality or just an inner confidence. Tell yourself you're valuable, and the world will see it too."

10. Practice being positive.

To make a positive mood a part of your permanent psyche, try this experiment: Ritvo suggests challenging yourself to pinpoint one appealing thing about everyone you encounter in a day. "One person might have a beautiful smile, and another a kind word to say," she says. "Train yourself to zero in on positive things (even if it's just one day a week), and (in time) you'll see a change in your overall perspective."

Beat Home Allergens

To ease your child's allergies, you probably encourage her to stay inside when the pollen count is sky-high. But what if it's your home that is causing those sniffles? Many parents don't realize that kids with seasonal allergies may also be sensitive to allergens indoors, like dust mites, mold and pet dander. If your little one tends to have symptoms year-round or sneezes like crazy after petting Rover, see your health care professional. Then, consider making these moves to beat home allergens:

1. Leave your shoes at the door.
Place a bin and clothes rack by the door and ask family members to take off their shoes, jackets and bags before entering. That way, you'll prevent tracking pollen throughout your home. If your child is particularly sensitive, you may also want to change your outfit and rinse off any residual pollen in the shower too.

2. Run the air conditioner.
Pollen can enter your home through open windows and settle on furniture, while fans may stir up dust. Try shutting your windows and using your air conditioner in your home and car to block out those allergens. Just make sure to clean the unit's air filter regularly.

3. Keep tabs on Rover.
When your pet comes in from the outdoors, wipe him down with a wet towel to remove any pollen clinging to his fur. If your kid is also sensitive to dander, teach your pet to stay off furniture and out of your child's bedroom.

4. Wrap up your bed.
Keep dust and pollen from burrowing into your pillows and mattress by encasing them with covers.

5. Do laundry regularly.
To remove allergens, wash bedding weekly in hot water that's at least 130 F (54.4 C). Dry bedding in a dryer -- don't hang it up outside -- and remember to remove it promptly. Leaving it in the machine can encourage mold growth. Cold temperatures also kill dust mites, so pop delicate items, like soft stuffed animals, into the freezer for 24 hours.

6. Ban cigarettes.
It's a no-brainer, but some parents need reminding. The chemicals in smoke can aggravate allergies, so declare your home and car smoke-free zones.

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