Posted at 7:00 pm , on July 29, 2018
A recent study published in The BMJ reports that deaths related to cirrhosis increased 65% from 1999-2016. Cirrhosis, irreversible scarring of the liver, has many causes, including alcohol consumption, obesity, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and hepatitis. Cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer and liver failure, both of which can be fatal.
It caused me to think back on what Dr. Sanjay Gupta said on Anderson Cooper’s Special Town Hall: Finding Hope, Battling America’s Suicide Crisis. Gupta said that life expectancy as a whole in the United States had plateaued and dropped over the last couple of years. The most common causes of premature death for the middle-aged white working class population were liver cirrhosis, typically due to alcoholism, opioid overdose and suicide – the “deaths of despair.”
I think most people have felt despair at one time or another, but how we deal with it can make or break us. I used to deal with stress by overeating. Some people turn to alcohol. But those “fixes” are temporary and eventually leave a person feeling worse than they did to begin with. When I began my weight loss journey in early 2014, I discovered vigorous exercise to be a powerful antidepressant. The higher the intensity, the more feel-good staying power. Spin classes were especially effective.
Despite being a self-avowed “non-runner,” I decided to give running a try with the goal of completing a half marathon in 2015. For a long time I listened to music while I ran, creating playlists that motivated me to get out there and get it done. On the occasions when my phone wasn’t charged, my runs were pure drudgery. Then a month or so ago I had a late-night run in with a creep outside of my favorite grocery store which caught me totally off guard. As a result, I decided to give up listening to music on my runs so that I could be more aware of my surroundings. I became almost hyper-aware of the sounds around me – the chipmunk in the leaves, the birds in the trees, the rhythm of my footsteps. To my surprise, what I once considered drudgery became my calm. I was able to “get out of my head” and just be. It’s a glorious feeling.
I’m not suggesting that running, or any kind of exercise, alone is the cure for all that ills us; but it can play an important role in one’s overall plan to getting and staying well, both physically and mentally.
For more about the mental health benefits of running, I recommend Scott Douglas’ new book, Running is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Right Depression, Ditch Bad Habits, and Live Happier (The Experiment, 2018).
Posted at 9:04 pm , on July 9, 2018
After a glorious 4th of July week, I’ve been reflecting on what made me so happy about it. I’ve come up with my recipe for happiness –
Time with family:
I love doing things as a family. Sometimes it’s going to see a new movie together on a Sunday night when the theater is mostly empty. Sometimes it’s getting everyone in the pool on a sunny afternoon. I also love one-on-one time when I can really connect with people. This past Friday night my husband and I went, sans kids, to Line Creek Brewing Co. where we enjoyed drinks with friends. Saturday night my youngest son and I went to see Hairspray at The Legacy Theatre. It was a fantastic show, by the way. Go see it! Then Sunday night my oldest and I went to the Georgia Aquarium together and did the “Behind the Seas” tour. It’s Monday morning and I’m still giddy from the weekend!
- Whale Shark in Ocean Voyager tank.
Even though the weather was somewhat sketchy this weekend, I was able to get lots of pool time in. Weather permitting, I spend time outdoors every day. Weekdays I often use my lunch hour to go for a walk or run. Getting outdoors for an hour mid-day recharges me for the afternoon. It also helps me clear my head. I’m looking forward to our biennial trip to Maine when we spend a week on a quiet lake and only go inside to sleep.
I love being physically fit. I invested in my health in 2014 when I started Weight Watchers and began attending classes at the gym on a regular basis. I love the feeling of accomplishment at the end of an hour long Spin class or a long run. Bad ass is what I call it. It makes me feel alive in a way nothing else can. Late Sunday morning my husband and I went on an four mile run. It was cloudy and there was a nice breeze. Because of the cooperative weather, we stretched it another half mile.
- Tri-Cities 10K Race
Doing what I’m doing right now. Writing. Thinking. It feels good. I wish I could do it more.
Listening to NPR in the car. Reading a good book. Attending a lecture or workshop. Decatur Book Festival is around the corner!
What makes you happy?