Be grateful, be happy

“Count your blessings.” So say philosophers, from ancient Romans to modern-day grandmothers. As it turns out, that’s pretty good advice.

Researchers have found that focusing on what we’re thankful for can increase our sense of well-being and happiness. And, the benefits may go beyond our emotional health. For example, people who make a habit of writing down what they’re grateful for report fewer physical complaints than others.

Make gratitude your attitude. it’s simple (and free!) to reap the benefits of being thankful. Keeping a gratitude journal is a popular way to begin. Some people choose a handwritten journal, while others note their thoughts on a computer or smartphone. Here are a few tips to grow a more grateful attitude:

Have a nose for good news. How about letting your senses be your guide? Every day, list one thing related to each of your five senses that made you happy. For example:

  1. Sight: the stack of clean laundry your partner folded.
  2. Smell: the scent of freshly cut grass.
  3. Hearing: your child’s laughter.
  4. Taste: your first sip of coffee in the morning.
  5. Touch: cool sheets on a muggy night.

The art of the “thank you.” Telling people you appreciate them is another way to practice gratitude. Plus, it’s a wonderful win-win – nice for you and the recipient. So, thank your dad for teaching you to hit a baseball. Let a colleague know that his or her help on a project really made a difference. Thank your spouse or partner for a recent compliment or kind gesture. Write a quick thank-you note to a caring friend or good neighbor.

Stumped for blessings? Consider things you’re grateful for because they didn’t happen. A few examples: You weren’t caught in rush hour traffic. You didn’t forget to pay an important bill on time. You didn’t get rained on during your morning walk.

Take a breath — a deep one

Are you sitting down? No, it’s not bad news. There’s just something you should try: deep breathing. It doesn’t take long, and it’s a great way to de-stress.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sit or lie down.
  2. Slowly count to four while you breathe in through your nose. Hold your breath for one second.
  3. Count to four again while breathing out slowly through your mouth.
  4. Repeat a few times.

It sounds simple, and it is. But there is also something complex at work. Deep breathing actually changes the chemical balance in your brain to help you feel more relaxed. Try it the next time you need to calm down.

Studies Show Acupuncture, Hypnosis Helped Smokers Quit


For years, alternative medicine practitioners have used acupuncture and hypnosis to help smokers kick butts without drugs, and now there’s some new evidence backing up their effectiveness.

Researchers looked at 14 different international studies on quitting smoking.

Some studies showed smokers who used acupuncture were more than three times as likely to be tobacco-free six months to a year after quitting.

Across four trials of hypnosis, smokers had a higher success rate with the therapy compared to people who had minimal help.

If you need help quitting cigarettes, contact me for some resources.

Want to quit smoking? Try acupuncture or hypnosis

Acupuncture and hypnosis have been promoted as drug-free ways to help smokers kick the habit, and there is some evidence that they work, according to a research review that looked at 14 international studies.

Researchers, whose findings appeared in the American Journal of Medicine, said that there are still plenty of questions, including exactly how effective alternative therapies might be and how they measure up against conventional methods to quit smoking.

But the alternatives should still stand as options for smokers determined to break the habit, said researchers led by Mehdi Tahiri of McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

In general, smokers who want to quit should first try the standard approaches, which include nicotine-replacement therapy, medications and behavioral counseling, Tahiri said.

“But some people are not interested in medication,” he said, adding that in many cases the standard therapies had not worked. “Then I think we should definitely recommend (acupuncture and hypnosis) as choices.”

Researchers found that some studies showed that smokers subjected to acupuncture were more than three times as likely to be tobacco-free six months to a year later.

Similarly, across four trials of hypnosis, smokers had a higher success rate with the therapy compared to people who had minimal help.

But there were some caveats, researchers said. The success rate was not consistent in all the tests conducted, although the broad trends pointed to the benefits of alternate treatment.

A 2008 study that ran a few sessions of laser acupuncture on 258 smokers found that 55% who’d received the treatment quit the habit in six months, compared with 4% who were not given the treatment.

But a 2007 study from Taiwan that looked at needle acupuncture around the ear, the area typically targeted for smoking cessation, reported a lower success rate.

Only 9% of those who were given acupuncture had quit after six months compared with six percent who stopped smoking without the treatment.

The situation was similar across the hypnosis trials. Two studies showed a significant impact : 20 to 45 percent of hypnosis patients were smoke-free six months to a year later. The other two trials showed smaller effects.

Nonetheless, Tahiri said, there was a “trend” toward a benefit across all of the studies of acupuncture and hypnosis.

There are still definitely questions, he added, about how many sessions of acupuncture or hypnosis might be necessary, or which specific techniques are best.

Other research reviews, though, have concluded that the jury is still out on alternative therapies for quitting smoking.