Tuesday, November 15, 2016

5 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude (And How to Start Today!)

Written by November 4, 2016 in Health & Fitness 

5 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude (And How to Start Today!) // What's Up, USANA?

Since November is the month of giving thanks in the United States, I thought this subject of gratitude and well-being would be a great idea for the blog.  Little did I know just how much information on gratitude and health was out there.  Gratitude not only has the power to change our day, but research also shows it has some amazing benefits for our health.
“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other,” Randy Paul said in his memoir, The Last Lecture.
Over the last few years, I have seen a challenge pop up during November on social media.  In this challenge, you write every day in November about one thing you’re grateful for. Many people write about family, friends, traditions, and health.  By the time you’re done reading this post, you might just convince yourself to give it a try—and not only for this month but for the rest of the year!

How does gratitude affect our health?

  1. Gratitude can improve physical health. People who are grateful are more likely to take care of their physical health.  They exercise more, are more likely to attend regular check-ups, and they experience fewer aches and pains.
  2. Gratitude can improve relationships. A study of couples found that individuals who took the time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship. [1]
  3. Gratitude can reduce stress. If you experience high levels of stress, combat it with gratitude.  This WebMD article states “Gratitude, it turns out, can help us better manage stress.” Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,” Emmons says.
  4. Gratitude helps with sleep. A study found that individuals who kept a daily gratitude journal at night reported half an hour more sleep than the control group. Focusing on things we’re grateful for before we go to bed instead of focusing on our worries will lead to an easier time falling and staying asleep. [2]
  5. Gratitude will make you happier. When you acknowledge the good things you have in your life, it helps you connect to something larger than yourself. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. [3]
With all the benefits that gratitude can have in our lives, it’s important that we try to foster an attitude of gratitude every day.

How do we cultivate gratitude?

  • Keeping a journal.  One study found subjects who wrote down one item that they were grateful for every day reported being 25 percent happier for a full six months after following this practice for just three weeks!
  • Show people you appreciate them.  Be sincere and specific when you say “thank you” to someone.  Recognize the work others do and let them know how it has helped you.  Thank you notes can be a fun way to communicate this, and you’ll find the more you write, the more detailed your thank-you notes will become.
  • Talk with friends or family. When talking with your family, ask them what the best part of their day was.  What made them happy?  Making gratitude a discussion can help promote positive connections and community.
  • Meditate. Meditation is a great way to help calm your mind and think on things you are grateful for.  Even if it’s just for five minutes, try to focus on your day and what you’re thankful to have.
  • Make a gratitude board.  What’s a gratitude board, you ask?  It’s similar to a vision board, but the purpose is to use images that depict what you’re grateful for.  Find sayings that reflect gratitude and include pictures of family members and activities you love.
That was a lot of information, so just to recap:

 Gratitude can influence how well we take care of our physical health, improve our relationships, reduce stress levels, help us sleep better, and make us happier.

After researching these benefits of gratitude I will be challenging myself to appreciate others more and show gratitude.  For starters, I’m grateful for this USANA family and the amazing community everyone has built together.
Now, how about that 30-day challenge?

What are you grateful for?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Do You Know Which Substances and Foods are Toxic to Your Health?

How Do I Know Which Substances are Toxic?

How Do I Know Which Substances are Toxic? // What's Up, USANA?
Editor’s Note: Check out the Ask The Scientists blog for more articles like this!

Toxic or Not?

The plant in the picture is natural, beautiful, and yet its seeds contain ricin, one of the world’s most lethal toxins.
Toxicity is one of the least understood concepts in popular health information, and you are constantly bombarded by sensational and inaccurate information. I know, because I consistently get questions stemming from this messy topic. So, let’s start with a quiz. Of these 10 items, how many are toxic?
  1. Water
  2. Oxygen
  3. The sun
  4. Titanium dioxide
  5. Iron
  6. Cyanide
  7. Alcohol
  8. Vitamin A
  9. Formaldehyde
  10. Chocolate
The answer to all of them is: it depends.
Whether something is toxic or not depends on the dosage, the route of exposure, and sometimes, the length of exposure.
Be aware that just because two chemicals sound the same, does not mean they have similar safety characteristics (propylene glycol and ethylene glycol as an example). And just because something is “almost” the same structure, does not make it similar. Water is H2O, and adding a single oxygen makes is H2O2, or hydrogen peroxide.


We all know we’re supposed to drink plenty of clean water. Without adequate hydration you will die. But, if you inhale it, it can be deadly. There are also cases of death related to intake of too much water too fast.


We need a certain level of oxygen in the air we breathe to survive. The mixture in the atmosphere is about 20%, along with nitrogen and other gases. But, breathing pure oxygen too long can cause cell damage and death, especially in the central nervous system, lungs and eyes.


Obviously we need the sun to survive, for many reasons. And an adequate level of exposure to sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D for most people on earth. On the other hand, solar radiation is a class 1 carcinogen, meaning it is known to cause cancer.

Titanium dioxide

Too much lung exposure to nanoparticles can cause cancer. This is typically associated with inhalation due to industrial chronic exposure. It is not absorbed orally or dermally, and is basically inert through those routes of exposure.


Iron is an essential mineral absolutely necessary for survival. It is also one of the top causes of poisoning deaths among children.


We all know cyanide can be deadly. But small amounts are easily complexed and excreted through the urine, and it does not accumulate. And that is good, because many healthy foods contain cyanide: spinach, bamboo shoots, flax seeds, cassava, and others.

Alcohol (ethanol)

Moderate intakes may be beneficial for health, yet it is also classified as a class 1 carcinogen.

Vitamin A

Excessive amounts can be toxic to the liver, yet vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of childhood blindness in the world. By the way, toxic effects of vitamin A are not known to occur in adults with intakes below about 25,000-30,000 IU. The upper limit of 10,000 IU, especially during pregnancy, takes into consideration a huge margin of safety. Vitamin A is not nearly as toxic as it is often implied.


Also a class 1 carcinogen, but you may not be aware that formaldehyde is found in significant dosages in many fruits, berries, seafood and mushrooms. In addition, formaldehyde is involved with methylation reactions and biosynthesis of some proteins and nucleic acids in the body and is a normal constituent in our blood.


With the exception of gaining weight, too much chocolate won’t do you any harm. However, it can be highly toxic to dogs and some other animals. The point is, that just because a specific poison works to kill a plant or an insect, does not automatically mean it is poisonous to humans.

Propylene glycol and ethylene glycol

Propylene glycol is absorbed and metabolized rapidly in the liver to lactic acid and pyruvic acid (normal components of the citric acid cycle) and then further to carbon dioxide and water. On the other hand, ethylene glycol is acutely toxic and can severely damage the kidneys.

Don’t judge a substance by its name

A statement I’ve heard consistently over the past 35 years. “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.” The length or complexity of a name has no relation whatsoever to its safety, function or benefit. Nor does the fact that it is natural or synthetic. Simple to pronounce Polonium 210 is deadly at dosages of less than 1 billionth of a gram. While the scary sounding chemical 2-methyl-3-[(2E)-3,7,11,15-tetramethylhexadec-2-en-1-yl]naphthoquinone is also known as Vitamin K.

What do we do now?

I hope this helps illustrate that “toxic” is a relative term. Most healthy substances are potentially toxic, and most “toxic” substances are potentially harmless. It’s the dose, route of exposure, and length of time exposed and other factors that is the difference between harmless and harmful.
Yes, we are exposed to a lot of various toxic and unhealthy compounds as a part of normal life, which is part of the reason it is important to exercise and get sufficient nutrients through diet and supplement to support the function of our lungs, liver and kidneys (our normal routes of detoxification).
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