6721107911_9c0e9f961a_zStudies show having friends is beneficial for both your mental and physical health.
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This is the sixth in our two-months-long series (40 Things for Every Woman in Her 40s) of Medical Monday articles intended to be useful to all our readers, but pointed especially toward those in their 40s—that in-between decade in which hormonal change has begun but fertility is still possible. Our first article focused on self-care; our second emphasized the need to pay attention to psychological issues; the third provided tips on preventing and repairing skin damage; the fourth focused on “exercise as medicine”; and last week the topic was sexual intimacy.

This week Megan Riddle, M.D., Ph.D., writes about actions you can take to reduce stress and improve your mood. Dr. Riddle is a psychiatry resident at the University of Washington and a graduate of the Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering Tri-Institutional MD-Ph.D. Program. —Ed.




Build and Strengthen Your Friendships: In grade school through our college years, our friends are most often our classmates, with birthday parties, sleepovers, and hanging out after school. Then new friends become those we meet at work. When we have kids, our circle of friends fills with fellow preschool parents or soccer moms. As kids grow older, jobs change, and life marches forward; it can be easy to let friendships fall by the wayside as we rush from one thing to another. Take the time to nurture your friendships. Having friends is beneficial for both your mental and physical health. Studies have shown that friends don’t just make us happier — those who fill their social calendar have a stronger immune system, are better able to recover from stress, and even live longer. And, yes, while friending someone on Facebook can be the first step, for the most benefit you need real life interactions — so pick up the phone, meet for lunch, go for a walk, and reap the benefits of friendship.

Happify: Why Friends are So Crucial to Our Happiness



Opt for Doing Over Obtaining: There’s that little buzz you feel after purchasing something you’ve had your eye on. Whether an impulse buy or a well thought out purchase, buying something can give a brief boost to your mood. However, for sustained happiness, opt for experiences. Research has shown that, when you have money to spend, buying experiences rather than things brings greater happiness, not just to you but also to those with whom you share the experience. Despite acknowledging this, research has shown that many continue to make purchases rather than invest in experiences in part because we miscalculate the value of those experiences. In short, we tend to underestimate the value of happiness. So, next time you’re about to buy a new outfit or upgrade your laptop, pause for a moment to consider how else you might want to invest your money. Lunch out with your friend? A class on rolling sushi? A trip to the coast? Invest in your own happiness.

Pchelin P and Howell R.  The Hidden Cost of Value-seeking: People do not Accurately Forecast the Economic Benefits of Experiential Purchases.  Journal of Positive Psychology.  4/2/2014.



Get Your Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids, the kind of healthy fat found in such foods as fatty fish (like salmon), walnuts, flaxseed, soybean and canola oil, have gained popularity for their health benefits, but they may offer a boost to your mood as well. Studies have shown that increasing your consumption of omega-3s reduces the risk of clots, decreases atherosclerosis and reduces inflammation. Evidence now suggests we can add treating depression to that list. Initial epidemiological studies showed an association between higher levels of fish consumption and lower levels of depression. Omega-3s have been shown to help with depression and may even have mood stabilizing effects for those with bipolar disorder. While studies of whether they have much mood benefit to those not dealing with depression is somewhat mixed, given the overall health benefits with minimal side effects, they’re a good bet.

Freeman, M. P., Fava, M., Lake, J., Trivedi, M. H., Wisner, K. L., & Mischoulon, D. (2010). Complementary and alternative medicine in major depressive disorder: the American Psychiatric Association Task Force report. J Clin Psychiatry, 71(6), 669-681.



Put Your Cereal in the Cupboard: Research has shown that we are far more apt to nibble on whatever is in sight and it has real effects on our waistline. Looking at the kitchens of 200 families, researchers found that women who kept cereal on the counter were an average of 20 pounds heavier than those who did not. Keep sugary beverages on the counter and that number climbs to 24–26 pounds heavier. Storing these items out of sight — whether that’s in the cupboard, the pantry or out of the house entirely — decreases the likelihood of grabbing these foods for snacking. You can use the tendency to snack on what is in plain sight to your advantage. Families who had a bowl of fruit on the counter weighed 13 pounds less than those who did not. So, swap out those cereal boxes for a bowl of apples and oranges.

Wansink B, Hanks AS, Kaipainen K. Slim by Design: Kitchen Counter Correlates of Obesity. Health Educ Behav. 2015 Oct 19.



Unplug to Unwind: Between our smartphones, our tablets, our laptops and Wi-Fi everywhere, it becomes possible to be connected to the work 24/7. It takes deliberate effort to not be connected. But sometimes, it’s worth the effort. Research indicates we need time to be truly away from work — without the constant pings to remind us of new work emails landing in our inbox. Also, while we may think we are being extremely productive at night, answering emails in front of the television, while also cruising Facebook and helping with our children’s homework, such multitasking is seldom effective. Studies indicate that those who feel they multitask well are typically the worst at it. Give yourself the pleasure of an unplugged evening and the opportunity to focus.

Park Y, Fritz C, Jex SM. Relationships between work-home segmentation and psychological detachment from work: the role of communication technology use at home. J Occup Health Psychol. 2011 Oct;16(4):457-67.

Sanbonmatsu DM, Strayer DL, Medeiros-Ward N, Watson JM. Who multi-tasks and why? Multi-tasking ability, perceived multi-tasking ability, impulsivity, and sensation seeking. PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54402.


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