Healthy Routines for Healthy Hearts

There are many ways to help keep our hearts healthy, our circulation smooth and our blood vessels free of plaque. Certain conditions are inherited, but being aware of them can help us embrace the Active Wellness habits that counteract them. Our habits start with choices, and it depends on what we’re willing to do, give up or add to our lifestyles.

No smoking: It’s been decades since the benefits of not smoking cigarettes have been brought to light, but now, there are so many things other than cigarettes to smoke. The truth of the matter is, none of it is good for our heart or lungs—some substances can alleviate pain or quell nausea, but inhaled habitually, can cause heart and lung damage. In other words, quitting smoking means stopping the inhalation of a whole range of things—and vaping is ill-advised, too. The American Heart Association, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention jointly encourage all smokers to quit!1

Curb belly fat: Certain parts of the body have a special impact on heart health. Research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has linked excess belly fat to higher blood pressure and unhealthy blood lip levels.2 Health practitioners advise us to try to decrease the belly fat through diet and exercise, not just from spot routines. In other words, a hundred sit-ups a day won’t get rid of belly fat, but losing some weight by eating better (or less) combined with a daily exercise routine that includes some form of cardio or aerobic activity, may do the trick.

Healthy snacks: We all know that eating right is critical for good health. When trying to eat the right foods, one of the things that is hard to do is to give up unhealthy snacking. The good news is that there are actually healthy snacks we can incorporate into our diets. One example is chips and salsa. The salsa is a delightful mix of healthy vegetables as long as we don’t oversalt it. Add in some whole or blended beans—black, white, pinto, any other choices—and the salsa gets a big boost of heart-healthy fiber. According to the Mayo Clinic, a diet rich in soluble fiber can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol).

Omega-3 fatty acids: Another source of heart-healthy food is fish, due to its omega-3 fatty acid content. Not all fish are equal, but salmon, tuna, sardines and herring, for example, contain good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Nutritionists recommend eating fish twice a week, with the health benefits outweighing the risks of mercury ingestion.3  If you’re a vegetarian, our Kenzen® Omega Green + DHA is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Eat the color spectrum: Have you heard the saying, “eat the rainbow?” This simply means that a heart-healthy diet can be made up of naturally colorful food—green, red, yellow, orange, purple and blue—easily found in vegetables and fruits. Think of favorite fruits and vegetables and simply incorporate them into meals or eat them in between meals.

A half teaspoon of salt a day: Researchers have reported in The New England Journal of Medicine that a half teaspoon of salt is all we need per day!4 Salt is apparently one of the leading culprits of high blood pressure which in turn causes heart disease. Salt is a hidden menace found in excessive quantities in processed foods, many restaurant foods and especially fast-foods. Breaking the salt habit can be challenging, but for starters, never salt anything without tasting it first!

Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains heart-healthy flavonoids. These compounds help reduce inflammation and may lower the risk of heart disease, according to scientists in the journal Nutrients. Incorporating dark chocolate into a diet is prudent but not in copious amounts—a couple of squares is recommended.

Go Nuts: Thankfully, some fats are actually good for us! These heart-healthy fats come in the form of almonds, walnuts, pecans and even moderate amounts of peanuts. They also contain protein and fiber that act as fuel and digestive helpers. Although high in healthy fats, they’re also high-calorie so nutritionists advise eating small amounts daily.

7% fat daily: Like salt, decreasing fat intake daily to just 7% of our daily calories can help lower the risk of heart disease, according to the USDA. One way to help calculate our intake is to read the nutrition labels on the food we buy.

Eat breakfast: Although intermittent fasting is trending for weight loss, breakfast truly is an important meal of the day, if not the most important one. To build a heart-healthy meal that ends the overnight “fast,” incorporate whole grains, such as oatmeal, lean protein such as peanut butter, yogurt or low-fat dairy milk from animal or vegetable sources) and fruit, especially berries high in antioxidants and polyphenols.

Drink tea: Black or green, it’s our choice and either is healthy for the heart. In fact, drinking one to three cups of tea every day may help lower the risk of heart problems. So, have a “cuppa” and enjoy the possibility of lowering the risk of angina and heart attacks!

Fun exercises: Not everyone likes going to the gym and working out, but regular exercise is important for sustained heart health. In fact, sitting for too much of the day is now considered as bad as smoking! It’s therefore imperative to get a move on! There are many alternatives to working out. For example, dancing raises the heart rate and gets the lungs pumping. It also burns up to 200 calories or more per hour, and listening to music while dancing is an added pleasure. Walking, swimming, running/jogging, rowing, hiking and so forth, are all great alternatives to the gym and you can connect with nature at the same time.

Yoga: Another ongoing trend is the practice of yoga. Since it originated in India more than 5,000 years go, this “trend” has proven it’s here to stay. The western world had some catching up to do, but has now shown that yoga has the potential to improve heart health. By stretching virtually every part of the body (even ears, nose and mouth), yoga can help improve balance, flexibility and strength. It also helps relieve stress and helps improve sleep, all adding up to maintaining a healthy heart.

Make your HaHas Loud: This is such a great to-do to incorporate into an Active Wellness lifestyle. Laughing out loud may be good for the heart, according to the American Health Association. Laughing out loud has been found to lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation on arteries and raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HLD or good cholesterol).

Gum and tooth health: Cleveland Clinic researchers have found that bacteria that can cause gum disease also may raise the risk of heart disease. Findings to date are mixed, but there’s only good that come of keeping teeth and gums healthy. Brush and floss every day if you don’t already, and see the results.

Get enough sleep: When we don’t get enough sleep, the heart is significantly impacted.5 It’s no surprise that the entire body needs its rest, but the heart works 24/7 and really needs to rest!

Remember, Kenzen® Nutrition is here to help fill in the gaps of anyone’s diet! From now until March 23, 2023, each purchase of a PiMag Waterfall® will be accompanied by a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Immunity; each purchase of a KenkoAir Purifier® will have a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Clarity; and each purchase of a Kenko Sleep Pack will contain a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Joint.

1, 2 3, 4 https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-heart-tips#know-your-numbers

5 https://www.scripps.org/news_items/5146-5-heart-healthy-habits

Stress and the Mighty Trio: Immunity, Mental Clarity and Mobility

Stress is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response.”1

When working properly, the stress response protects us and allows us to stay focused and alert. For example, to avoid a car accident, we might slam on the brakes as our stress response. In this way, stress is a positive part of our lives.

Too much stress, however, can cause major damage to our bodies and minds—not only to health, but also to mood, productivity, relationships and overall quality of life. Stress can definitely put a damper on the pursuit of an Active Wellness lifestyle.

The varying levels of stress can be likened to a spectrum. At one end is “eustress,” the manageable levels of stress that help tackle challenges at work, school, or in relationships. Eustress does not necessarily feel comfortable, but it is useful and can help us succeed.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is “distress.” This is the type of stress that is destructive—it disrupts sleep and creates undesired tension, mood disorders and a negative outlook. Distress can occur when we are too busy at work, owe money, are grieving or suffering any type of painful loss.

Our personalities and perspectives on how we work, compete or play can affect whether stress takes the form of eustress or distress. For example, if there is a looming deadline and it worries or overwhelms us, we are going to experience distress. If that same deadline creates a sense of excitement about the ensuing outcome, we would experience eustress. We therefore are somewhat in control of the stress we live with, but we cannot foresee the future or the unknown.

When we get stressed out frequently, the body exists in a heightened state of anxiety most of the time. That can lead to serious health problems, since chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in the body and its functions. It can suppress the immune system, upset the digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.2

Chronic stress occurs because stress is sneaky. It can creep up on us and we get so used to feeling stressed out that we don’t even notice its ill effects until they manifest in disturbing ways. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the symptoms that chronic stress can cause.

The three main areas that stress impacts are immunity, mental clarity and mobility. We need a strong immune system to fight disease, but stress weakens the body’s defenses. Stress can reduce the number of natural killer cells or lymphocytes in the body, which are needed to fight viruses, according to the American Psychological Association. It makes us catch colds or the flu more easily, for example.

Chronic stress can produce higher-than-normal levels of the hormone cortisol. This can hamper the body’s anti-inflammatory response and cause continual infections, according to recent immunology research studies.3

Issues with mental clarity include memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, persistent anxiety, runaway thoughts, constant worrying, moodiness, irritability and depression.

Mobility is affected when stress causes pain, tightness, soreness or spasms in the muscles. According to the American Psychological Association, muscles tense up during stress. When the stress is gone, the muscles then relax and release the built-up tension.

Other physical symptoms include skin breakouts, irregular heartbeats, fluctuating weight, trouble sleeping, indigestion and other digestive issues. If inflammation is persistent and widespread, it can contribute to chronic diseases, including the buildup of plaque on the arterial walls. This is just one of the many factors at play in the complex relationship between stress and the heart.  Stress is related to heart rhythm abnormalities, high blood pressure, stroke and asthma. Lung conditions include shortness of breath and rapid breathing.

Knowing our stress triggers can help us deal with them more effectively. Here are a few ways to cope with stress:

Exercise: Regular exercise is known to improve moods and relieve stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and dancing are particularly effective, especially when focusing attention on the physical sensations of each movement.

Make human contact: In this day and age of electronic devices, we often spend more time with screens than with people. The simple act of talking face-to-face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress. Even a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe the nervous system.

Use the senses: Sight, sound, taste, smell, touch. The key is to find the sensory input that works best for each individual. Does listening to an uplifting song produce calmness? Is the scent of a favorite flower soothing? Research has shown that the act of petting a dog or cat not only comforts the animal, but also the human.  Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so finding the best use of any of the five senses can be a fun experiment.

Relax. Some people are good at letting go of stress at the end of the day and can relax. Others need to consciously practice the art of relaxation. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the polar opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities can help reduce everyday stress levels and boost feelings of joy and serenity. They also may increase the ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.

Eat healthy food. “You are what you eat” doesn’t need to be taken literally, but it holds truth. Food can improve or worsen moods and affect how we cope with life’s stressors. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress, while a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help us cope with life’s ups and downs.

Get enough sleep. Feeling tired can magnify stress. Getting restful sleep can be tricky because chronic stress can disrupt sleep. Making the sleep environment as comfortable as possible and adhering to a sleep cycle that allows for 6-8 hours can be helpful.

The pursuit of Active Wellness includes finding adequate ways to cope with stress. At Nikken, we have three nutritionals that may help in the “mighty trio”: Kenzen® Immunity, Clarity and Joint. From now until March 23, 2023, each purchase of a PiMag Waterfall® will be accompanied by a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Immunity; each purchase of a KenkoAir Purifier® will have a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Clarity; and each purchase of a Kenko Sleep Pack will contain a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Joint.

1, 2  https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes

3, 4  https://health.umms.org/2020/11/10/stress-immune-system/

A Healthy Start for 2023

Wipe the slate clean each day! In life, we begin every day anew, but somehow the start of each year is when many of us decide to make resolutions or set goals. The reality is that without good health, we cannot do anything else, so total body wellness has to be an annual goal in one way or another.

We all know the ABCs for good health: restful sleep, clean air, fresh water, nourishing nutrition, adequate exercise and refraining from smoking, excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages and overusing medications and other addictive substances. All of this can be achieved, but consistency is the key. If we “fall off the wagon” in any area, wipe the slate clean, don’t beat yourself up and start fresh the next day.

Here are half a dozen things that may help make 2023 our healthiest ever:

1.         Pay attention to how your body feels. Are you constantly tired? Do you wake up in the morning feeling as if you never even slept? Commit to making changes, so that you have energy. It’s simple to say, “get enough sleep,” but so many of us don’t. It may require going to bed earlier or later than what you are currently doing. Striving for eight hours is fine, but be content to start with six or seven restful hours. Quality sleep not only makes us feel energized, but it also helps manage weight and cardiovascular health. Adequate sleep even helps us to think more clearly and accomplish daily tasks.

2.         Reach out to someone you care about but haven’t been in touch with regularly. Even if you don’t continue to reconnect consistently, you may be surprised what happens as a result of a simple phone call or “miss you” card in the mail. Remember that mental health is as important as physical health, and staying in touch with those we care about gives us a boost in multiple ways.

3.         We often forget to check important areas of our bodies, as many of us avoid going to the health practitioner unless we actually feel ill. This year, vow to get eyes, ears and teeth checked. Letting these three areas go untended can lead to problems down the road.

4.         Set aside time to read. Reading has different effects on our brains. Although studies largely focus on children, it is reasonable to believe reading vs. screen time has similar effects on adults. A 2020 study of 47 healthy children, aged three to five, found those who spent more than an hour daily on screens performed worse on cognitive tests than those who frequently read books with their parents or caregivers.1 Whereas screen time may produce a hypnotic effect, reading triggers thought. Regardless of age, retention of information and cognitive reasoning are precious.

5.         Make a conscious effort to be kinder to yourself. Sometimes we are kind to everyone else but we tend to be our own worst critics. The effect of being kind to ourselves has big health ramifications, all good ones! We really can help ourselves be happier!

6.         Weight loss is one of the most popular new year’s resolutions. It is also one that quickly fails and can even lead to depression. One alternative healthy habit to pursue is to simply ditch the sodas. Diet sodas with artificial sweeteners are even worse than the high-calorie sugary ones, because the chemicals added for flavoring may actually be health hazards.2 It’s not as big of a change as going on a special diet; it’s eliminating one item, but the positive results can be inspiring.

Nikken is committed to helping our Global Wellness Community live a healthy lifestyle, and our products reflect that. We are proud of our PiMag® water filters, Kenko Sleep System, KenkoAir Purifier®, Kenzen® nutritionals and True Elements® Marine Organic Skin Care as well as our vast array of magnetic support products. These products give you the power to take your health into your own hands, to sleep well, eat and drink well, breathe easily and obtain optimal hydration. They enable you to maintain the healthy lifestyle that gives you energy and ultimately, more joy.

1 https://sparktutoringservices.com/reading-time-vs-screen-time/

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198517/

Prepare for Winter: Boost Your Immune System

As autumn turns into winter, daylight grows shorter and temperatures go lower. In terms of darkness and lightness, we move from the warmth of the light into the coolness of the dark—in fact, winter consists of the most dark months of the year.

We think of warm weather as a time of lots of activity, vacations, and being outdoors. On the other hand, winter is associated with being indoors, dodging viruses and getting “cozy”—being snug as a bug in a rug, so to speak. This actually is not just a perception but true to life.

When we transition into winter, we are dealing with temperature changes and an overall shift in the atmosphere. This shift allows colds, flus and any number of viruses to emerge. It’s important to bolster our immune systems all year round, but especially during these transitional months when we are most susceptible to catching germs that abound in the colder climates.

We generally think of boosting immunity with a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables that are chockful of vitamins and antioxidants. Moving from autumn to winter is a great time to incorporate immune-enhancing minerals, such as iron, zinc and selenium. Iron can be found in red meat, fortified cereals, kale, broccoli, quinoa, and pulses. Zinc and selenium are found in protein-rich beef, turkey, chicken, shrimp, lobster and fish—if you are a vegetarian, you can get your fill in a handful of Brazil nuts! 

Beta glucans are natural sugars that help the immune system to recognize and destroy germs but our bodies don’t produce any of this particular type of soluble fiber, but we can eat things that contain them. Kenzen® Immunity contains mushroom blends that are rich in beta glucans, but we can also incorporate oats, barley, rice, wheat, seaweed and nutritional yeast into our daily diets. Those familiar with Kenzen® Immunity may take a couple of extra capsules when moving from season to season.

A healthy diet does wonders for an Active Wellness lifestyle, but it’s as important to get enough quality sleep. As daylight hours shorten, we are also susceptible to feeling less energetic during the longer “dark” hour.

Getting restful sleep goes a long way towards keeping mentally and physically well. Sufficient sleep will help keep us focused, less stressed and more confident. When we cannot get rejuvenating rest when sleeping, it not only affects our moods (tired and cranky) but also our overall ability to relax and feel well (tense muscles and achy body). The winter season is when it’s critical for us to recharge our batteries every night, so that we don’t face fatigue and stress during our working hours. Sleep goes hand-in-hand with boosting immunity: Research reveals that sleep deprivation prevents our immune systems from building up its forces, leading to less protection against bugs.1

There are still a few days left in October, so you can take advantage of our Autumn Kenko Makura Sleep Pack Special, perfect for getting ready for winter! Get any Makura Sleep Pack, and receive the pillow for free! In other words, when you purchase a Twin Size Makura Sleep Pack, you receive the one pillow for free—you only pay the price of the Kenko Naturest® Fit and Kenko Dream or Dream Light Comforter of your choice. When you purchase a Full, Queen or King Makura Sleep Pack, you receive two pillows for free. Don’t pass up these savings!

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5768894/

Self-Care is Self-Empowerment

As the old saying goes, “Prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A big part of prevention in the area of Wellness involves taking good care of oneself. Mothers and fathers too often are so busy taking care of their families that they don’t pay enough attention to their own health. The truth is, we can take care of others only if we are in good enough health ourselves.

According to the World Health Organization, self-care not only helps to promote better health, but it can also help people cope better when illness hits. Specific forms of self-care have also been linked to different health and wellness benefits. For example, exercise, having a sense of purpose in life and consistently getting restful sleep are all connected to living a longer life. On a daily level, a wholesome self-care routine is believed to help reduce anxiety and stress, improve energy levels and social interactions, and boost resilience and happiness.

What makes for an effective self-care plan? Since each of us is different, with varying priorities, body types and mental dispositions, an effective self-care plan needs to be customized. Consider what in life is overwhelming to you. At Nikken, we use the 5 Pillars of Wellness as a way to achieve balance. These 5 Pillars serve as a gauge to assess what we need to work on most in our lives. Is it physical (Body), mental (Mind), Family, Finances or social standing (Society)? Which of these areas stress us out and require the most attention? That’s how to devise a self-care strategy.

•          Make a list of the different parts of your life. This can be work, school, family members, non-family relationships, community events you’re involved with, and so on.

•          Evaluate what stresses you out. Then think about what you can do to ease the stressors. Sometimes easing stress requires setting boundaries and saying “no” without feeling guilty. In other words, we need to recognize when our plates are full and when they’re overflowing. Prioritize.

•          Think about the things that make you happy. Consider the activities that produce a relaxing effect. It can be as simple as a daily walk, a swim, a self-massage, grounding and meditating, talking to a friend or favorite relative, playing with a baby or your dog, listening to the birds—so many small and simple things that we sometimes forget to appreciate.

•          Taking care of yourself is just like everything else we learn to do: practice makes perfect. If we haven’t been practicing self-care for a long time, we’re not going to have a great plan we can work with right away. Take small steps, but do take a step. Take a deep breath and tell yourself: “It is ok.” Exhale and get on with it.

•          Every single day, take time to do something for yourself. It doesn’t matter whether it’s making your favorite cup of tea or going in a room and having a good scream. You know yourself best and whatever works for you is what’s best for you! Do not judge yourself!

•          Realize that your self-care strategy can change from day to day, definitely from year to year. Go with the flow. Assess and reassess your personal needs and adjust your plan to fulfill the changes in your life.

The International Self-Care Foundation includes health literacy as a pillar of self-care, meaning that any steps you take toward better understanding health information you need to make appropriate decisions about your health and well-being counts as self-care, too.1   Good self-care can help decrease the number of visits to a health practitioner but it also requires that we know when we need to get checked out by a doctor or hospital.

We can certainly make it a point to be knowledgeable in the six basic areas of Wellness and self-care: Health, Fitness, Nutrition, Appearance, Sleep and Mindfulness. At Nikken, we practice Active Wellness through the 5 Pillars of Wellness and our products reflect our commitment to self-care. Our magnetic, support, energy, PiMag® Water and HEPA air purifier products address Health & Fitness, we have organic Kenzen® Nutrition, True Elements® marine organic skin care addresses Appearance, Kenko Sleep Technology provides solutions for Sleep and Humans Being More training to emphasize Mindfulness.

1 https://www.everydayhealth.com/self-care/

Healthy Routines Create Active Wellness

Routines help us. They provide a sense of familiarity and comfort. So, when we want to live a healthy lifestyle of Active Wellness, the easiest way is to create a comfortable routine that we can stick to.

Look at children and dogs, for example. They thrive on routine. Same time to get up, to go to school (or go for a walk if it’s the dog), to have meals, to go to bed. Switching it up can feel disruptive to them, so ideally, their routines are healthy to begin with!There are five main goals to keep in mind as we create our healthy routines:

Grownups are not so different: when we establish a healthy routine, the body and mind get into a nice rhythm. The trick is to make your healthy routine do-able. You can change your routine, bit by bit if you want to make further improvements, but the basic parts of a healthy regimen revolve around eating and drinking right, getting enough sleep, exercising consistently, breathing fresh air and being conscious of our thoughts. That really means we need to pay attention to our mental state as well as our physical condition. There are five main goals to keep in mind as we create our healthy routines:

  1. Better Immunity: A robust immune system not only helps us function at a high level, but it also helps us prevent illness and recover more quickly if we do contract something. A nutrient-dense diet, plenty of restful sleep, exercise and a clear mind all help to boost immunity.
  2. Improve Mood: Happiness. It’s what we all want and it begins with a good mood. It improves our confidence levels and even helps our social lives. A good mood works hand-in-hand with a positive can-do attitude. Foods high in antioxidants and minerals have been shown to help fight depression and exercise is known to get our feel-good endorphins in motion. Drinking water throughout the day also keeps us happy: no one is in a good mood when they’re feeling thirsty.
  3. Boost Energy: Everyone wants to feel energetic and with our modern hectic lifestyles, we can all use more! The busier we are, the more prone we might be to skipping meals or eating not-so-healthy fast foods. The best ways to boost energy levels are to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and stay on a sleep schedule. Fad diets are not helpful over the long run to keep energy at high levels.
  4. Prevent Sickness: Regardless of our genetic makeup, it’s best to prevent sickness rather than deal with it. Knowing your family history can be helpful, as some issues are hereditary. For example, some people may have high cholesterol because both their parents do. Regardless of genetics, staying with the basics of eating lots of vegetables/fruit, breathing fresh air, staying active daily and getting enough rest can be a great formula for maintaining flexible joints, a healthy heart and weight, balanced blood sugar levels and clear thinking.
  5. Longevity: Living a long life has been a goal of people around the world. But living long without good health is not so desirable. Once again, the key is to stay healthy with a proper diet and healthy routine. In other words, create healthy habits, stay with them year after year, and that will up your chances of living to a pleasant old age.

So much of an Active Wellness lifestyle depends on what we grow up with, so it’s up to us to educate our youngsters. Not only can we practice what we preach, but we can role model it. What might be an area we have to improve in our own lifestyles, can be something the next generations start out with: breathing fresh air, eating an abundance of vegetables and fruit, exercising daily, drinking water rather than sugary, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, sleeping on a healthy schedule and thinking positive thoughts.

At Nikken, we provide solutions: Kenzen organic nutrition, PiMag® filtered alkaline water, KenkoAir Purifier®, Kenko Sleep System, KenkoGround® and so many magnetic massage and support products. They’re all part of a Wellness Home!

Managing and Overcoming Stress

At some point, anxiety and stress affect everyone. They can manifest in a variety of ways in different people, and the intensity one experiences may fluctuate, but the bright side is that there are ways to manage our reactions to stress and pursue Active Wellness.

People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control.1 They often realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants, but they can’t help how they feel. Anxiety disorders may relate to low tolerance of uncertainty and the unknown. Many people with GAD try to plan or control situations. At times, anxiety can cause people to struggle with physical symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches.

When anxiety levels are mild to moderate, people with GAD can function socially, lead full lives and work effectively at their jobs. Many with GAD may avoid certain situations because they are worried about having an anxiety attack under those specific circumstances. This can be a social situation, travel, giving a presentation/speech, etc. When anxiety is intense, some people can have difficulty performing the simplest daily activities.

Here are some practical tips for preventing or dealing with stress and staying in Active Wellness:

  • Take breaks throughout the day. Do stretches, listen to music, meditate, give yourself a massage—these are all ways to relax and help clear anxious thoughts from your mind.
  • Eat well-balanced meals. If your body is in a satisfied state, your mind has a better chance of staying calm. Do not skip meals, and do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
  • Alcohol and caffeine can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks, so minimize their consumption.
  • Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest. On the other hand, lack of sleep can cause stress!
  • Exercise is a known stress buster, so incorporate it into your daily routine. When you make time for it consistently, exercise becomes a daily treat to look forward to. 
  • Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly. This procedure can even shorten the duration of an anxiety attack.
  • Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, aim for completion. And, congratulate yourself!
  • Put your stress into perspective: Is it really as bad as you think? Accept the reality that you cannot control everything. What you can learn to control is how you react.
  • A good laugh goes a long way. So, don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Make a concerted effort to think positively. Negativity is a habit that can be broken with effort.
  • Focus on the present. Doing so can help manage thoughts and feelings. Thinking about unpleasant past experiences and fearing what might happen are all triggers for anxiety.
  • Stress itself does not cause anxiety but adds to it. You may need to confront your fears, learn new facts about your symptoms, learn tolerance for some experiences, or change how you think, feel, and behave. It takes time, but with practice, you can break the pattern of anxiety.

Health awareness takes on many forms, and managing stress is just one part of Active Wellness. We can do it!

1 https://adaa.org/tips

See You Next Year, Summer! Hello, Autumn!

What happens to our sleep patterns when we move from the summer months into autumn? In Europe and North America, this transition has already started as we approach the end of September.

During the summer, sunlight continues into the evening hours and the feeling of night feels delayed. That’s why it may be so difficult to get children to sleep at their regular bedtimes during the summer months! As daylight hours shorten, it may become easier to get the small ones to sleep but actually harder for adults to get their needed rest. The reason for this is our exposure to vitamin D decreases in the autumn months.

Our bodies actually manufacture vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is important in the production of melatonin, which helps us regulate our circadian rhythms and promotes restful sleep. During the autumn months, there are fewer sunlit hours so our bodies may produce less melatonin. One way to overcome this possible shortage is to make sure to spend time outside, even as the weather cools down. In other words, make sure to get sun exposure!

Depending on personal preferences, some people may find it difficult to exercise when summer heat is at its highest. Autumn may well be the perfect outdoor climate for those who stayed in air-conditioned rooms all summer long! Getting a good dose of outdoor exercise—even in cloudy weather—helps obtain the sun exposure (you can get sunburned even when it’s cloudy!) and the sleep benefits that come along with a well worked-out body. And, exercise is known to decrease anxiety and stress, all of which help promote a good night’s sleep.

One proviso about exercise is not to work out too close to your bedtime. When you exercise, your body is revved up. If you do that right before you go to bed, it might take longer to fall asleep, because your body will need to calm down. In order to get the most sleep-boosting benefits, aim to workout at least three to six hours before you plan to go to sleep.1

When we transition into autumn, just as some people will find it harder to get restful sleep, there are others who might actually find it hard to stay awake until it’s their actual bedtime. This is again related to light exposure. Falling asleep too early can also disrupt the natural circadian rhythm and lead to an exhausting day; therefore, staying in brightly lit rooms up to two hours before bedtime is recommended. This helps to keep the brain alert until it’s the correct time to start winding down.2

Depending on your sleep habits—whether you sleep with the window open or use centralized air conditioning or heating—moving from summer into autumn may be the ideal time to change your bedding. You may opt for flannel sheets instead of lighter cotton and you may choose a warmer comforter for autumn. It all has to do with temperature control, and you are the best judge of what helps you sleep best.

Our immune systems are more fragile during seasonal transitions, especially since we are exposed to colds and flu at this time of year. We need good restful sleep to keep the immune system functioning optimally. So, if you can’t get the best sleep at night, try for a “power nap” during the day. Even 20 minutes can be helpful for staying in a state of Active Wellness.

No matter what season we are in, Kenko Sleep Technology is the Nikken way to help you sleep like a baby. We just added the Kenko Naturest® Makura to our line of sleep products and rave reviews are coming in. Try this layered ergonomic pillow with three types of sleep technology—pair it with a Kenko Naturest® Fit and add a Kenko Dream or Dream Light Comforter for sweet dreams. And don’t forget that tomorrow is the last day to get 30% off the KenkoAir Purifier®, HEPA filtration to help you breathe fresh air all day and all night long!

1 https://blog.fitbit.com/transition-sleep-routine/

2 https://www.wellandgood.com/change-in-seasons-affects-sleep/

To Sleep Well You Need to Breathe Well

To ensure good sleep, we tend to think about the comfort of our mattresses and pillows, room temperature and keeping the environment dark. According to sleep specialist and neuroscientist Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib, breathing properly is essential for staying healthy and getting proper sleep.1

She says, “Poor air quality can increase your risk of developing allergies and certain diseases such as asthma, or respiratory infections such as colds, the flu, bronchitis, COVID-19 and pneumonia. People with proper breathing experience deeper, more refreshing sleep, are able to fall asleep faster, and are less likely to experience nighttime awakenings. If air quality is low, and breathing is poor, you may wake up several times per night. This can keep you from entering the deepest, most refreshing stages of sleep, leaving you feeling tired the next day.” 2

Scientists have noted that our brains function better when it receives an abundance of oxygen. The brain does not shut down when we are sleeping but continues to process information, so it still requires lots of breathable air even when the body is resting. Since the brain uses about 25% of total oxygen intake, supplying it with enough good air is crucial for health, not only during sleep but all day long.

One of the easiest ways to improve air quality is to allow fresh air to circulate through the bedroom. This increases oxygen levels in your blood, which then increases the overall quality of sleep. That’s why many sleep experts recommend keeping the windows open to let in outside air to boost ventilation.

Just as fresh air boosts the brain’s performance, stagnant air has an adverse effect. The brain will wake us up to force us to take deeper breaths to clear out carbon dioxide and get the oxygen it needs. The fresher and cleaner the air, the deeper the sleep because the brain does not need to work hard to get the oxygen it needs. Proper hydration and nutrition can also help improve oxygen levels.

On the other hand, people with allergies should be careful with open windows during spring and summer months, when plant pollen is at its highest level. There’s also the risk that outside air quality could be worse than inside your home—if you live in an area with high pollen counts or busy traffic.

With global conditions in today’s environment, using an air purifier is a good idea, no matter where you live, no matter which season of the year.

The entire month of September, we are celebrating sleep technology with the launch of the Kenko Naturest® Makura and the Makura Sleep Packs. To make September even better, we’re taking 30% off the KenkoAir Purifier® from September 20 through September 30. You’ll see the effects of ozone-free HEPA filtration combined with the revolutionary Kenko Naturest® Makura and Fit. It’s an Active Wellness combination that will help you sleep well all year long.

1, 2 https://www.sleep.com/sleep-health/fresh-air-benefits

Are You in Tune with Your Circadian Rhythm?

We’re reminded that humans are part of Nature when we discover the many similarities between all living things. One interesting commonality has to do with our circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things, including animals, plants, and microbes. One example of a light-related circadian rhythm is sleeping at night and being awake during the day.1

The study of circadian rhythms is called Chronobiology, from the Greek “chronos” meaning time, and “biology” which pertains to the study of science and life. The body follows an internal timekeeping system known as the circadian clock, and this clock is what regulates the natural circadian rhythm.

What makes up the circadian rhythm? Our daily cycles of sleeping and waking, hunger and digestion, hormonal changes and other bodily processes all pertain to the circadian rhythm. Circadian comes from Latin, “circo diem,” which literally translates to “about a day.” Most circadian rhythms automatically reset every in 24 hours, the timeframe for “circo diem.”

Circadian rhythms are not only affected by light and dark, but also by interactions with people, meal times, and hormonal fluctuations. For example, when the sun rises in the morning, the body produces cortisol, a hormone that makes us feel refreshed and alert. After waking, a healthy person will become increasingly tired throughout the day until the sun goes down, when feelings of tiredness are at their highest. As the sun begins to set, the pineal gland will release melatonin, a hormone that reduces wakefulness and alertness.

There are variations on when people feel tired and when they feel alert throughout the day. Two examples are “early risers,” who go to bed and wake up early, and “night owls” who go to bed relatively late and then sleep in. Our sleep rhythm may evolve and change with age—older people tend to go to sleep and wake up earlier in the day than younger people, while babies will sleep in multiple phases throughout the day and night.

A master clock in the brain coordinates all the biological clocks in a living thing, keeping the clocks in sync. In vertebrate animals, including humans, the master clock is a group of about 20,000 nerve cells (called neurons) located in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus where it receives direct input from the eyes. In the grand scheme of Nature, researchers have identified similarities in the master clocks of people, fruit flies, mice, plants, fungi and other organisms!

When our circadian rhythm goes out of whack, it can cause insomnia, weight gain, mood changes, anxiety, shortened attention spans, daytime sleepiness and lethargy. The good news is that we can help keep our circadian rhythm functioning smoothly.

  • Wake up every day at the same time: Keeping a regular sleep schedule will help reset your circadian rhythm. Even if unable to fall asleep at the desired time, make sure to set an alarm and wake up at the set time anyway. This will keep you on track.
  • Bright light therapy: Exposure to bright artificial lights can re-orient circadian rhythms. Different light therapy devices are available, including lightboxes, desk lamps and sunrise simulators. Before using one of these devices, it’s best to speak with a credentialed sleep medicine physician about the light exposure level and times of the day that are best suited to the particular timing of your personal circadian rhythm.2
  • Different meal times: Circadian rhythms regulate when we feel hungry and how we digest food—some studies have found that eating sooner or delaying meals can alter how your circadian rhythm adjusts those processes.
  • Exercise: Proper exercise can improve sleep quality and duration, while a healthy sleep-wake cycle ensures more strength and endurance when you work out. However, exercise is also stimulating if you work out too close to bedtime. If you find you don’t get enough sleep at night and want to reorient your circadian rhythm, try incorporating regular exercise into your routine. But as with all things related to the circadian rhythm, timing is important so do not exercise within 1-2 hours of your bedtime.
  • Keep your electronic devices off or out of sight. Light from electronic devices at night can confuse our biological clocks.

Check out the latest contribution that Nikken has made to the world of Active Wellness and sleep technology with the Kenko Naturest® Makura and Kenko Naturest® Makura Sleep Packs. When you purchase a twin, full, queen or king Makura Sleep Pack, you get 10% off automatically.

1 https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/Circadian-Rhythms.

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm/can-you-change-your-circadian-rhythm