Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ending Moderate Drinking Tied To Depression

Scientific evidence has long suggested that moderate drinking offers some protection against heart disease, certain types of stroke and some forms of cancer.

But new research shows that stopping drinking -- including at moderate levels -- may lead to health problems including depression and a reduced capacity of the brain to produce new neurons, a process called neurogenesis.

The findings from the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill appear online in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

"Our research in an animal model establishes a causal link between abstinence from alcohol drinking and depression," said study senior author Clyde W. Hodge, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and pharmacology in the UNC School of Medicine. "In mice that voluntarily drank alcohol for 28 days, depression-like behavior was evident 14 days after termination of alcohol drinking. This suggests that people who stop drinking may experience negative mood states days or weeks after the alcohol has cleared their systems,"

The mice were tested for depression-like behavior using a widely recognized method called the Porsolt Swim Test. The mice are placed inside a beaker filled with water and allowed to swim for six minutes. Mice are good swimmers and have no problem completing this task. The amount of time they spend immobile (floating and not swimming) is measured as an index of despair or depression-like behavior. The more time a mouse spends immobile, the more "depressed" it is thought to be.

"This research provides the first evidence that long-term abstinence from moderate alcohol drinking -- rather than drinking per se -- leads to a negative mood state, depression," Hodge said.

The study also found that the emergence of depression was associated with a profound reduction in the number of neural stem cells (cells that will become neurons) and in the number of new neurons in a brain region known as the hippocampus. This brain region is critical for normal learning and memory, and recent studies show that the development of neurons in the hippocampus may regulate mood, Hodge said.

According to the researcher, the negative mood state in mice may represent depression in humans and appears to be linked to a diminished capacity of the brain to form new neurons. "Thus, people who drink moderate alcohol socially, or for potential health benefits, may experience negative mood or diminished cognitive abilities due to a loss of the brain's ability to form new neurons," he said.

But the study also found that treatment with an antidepressant drug during 14 days of abstinence prevented the development of depression and restored the capability of the brain to produce new cells.

"Treatment with antidepressant drugs may help people who suffer from both alcoholism and depression by restoring the brain's ability to form new neurons," Hodge said. "Moreover, this research provides an animal model of alcohol-related depression with which we can begin to fully understand the neurobiology underlying co-occurring alcoholism and depression, and thereby develop successful treatment options. At this point it appears that blunted neurogenesis may underlie the effects of abstinence from alcohol drinking on mood, but understanding the mechanisms by which this occurs is a key challenge for future research."

Several co-authors, all from UNC, also contributed to the study: Jennie R. Stevenson, neurobiology graduate student; Jason P. Schroeder, Ph.D., and Kimberly Nixon, Ph.D., research associates with the Bowles Center; Joyce Besheer, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry; and Fulton T Crews, Ph.D., director of the Bowles Center and professor of psychiatry and pharmacology.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (a component of the National Institutes of Health) and by the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies.

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If You Like Pina Coladas: Calorie-Conscious Cocktails

By: Heather Glass (View Profile)

Summer’s here in all its glory, which means I’ve been choosing fresh fruits, vegetables, and the gym over ice cream, French fries, and grilled T-bones to keep me in somewhat respectable bathing suit-shape. But after all that hard work and willpower, I still have to contend with summer barbecues, an easy place to succumb to the charms of healthy eating’s evil nemesis: alcohol. I know by now to steer clear of the creamy potato salad, but how can I possibly be expected to keep my calorie-counting wits about me when it comes to frosty margaritas, frothy beers, or chilled glasses of chardonnay? I did a little digging to learn more about which drinks to choose and which to avoid and here’s what I learned: plan ahead and bring your own. If I stay true to both of those mottos with some of these calorie-friendly options, baring down on the beach might not be quite as scary.

It’s not a barbecue without beer (not a fun one, anyway), but be careful what you choose—even light beers add up.

Best Light Beers

Beck’s Premier Light, 64 calories
Michelob Ultra, Amstel Light, both 95 calories
Miller Lite, 96 calories

Milwaukee’s Best comes in at fourth place in the light beer category, with 98 calories, but let’s be honest, unless you’re about to go through fraternity rush, you can’t offer that up to any party host in good conscience.

Light Beer Danger Zone

Sam Adams Light, 124 calories

Best Regular Beers
It is entirely possible to enjoy a more full-bodied beer without the extra calories, but the lower calorie options aren’t much to write home about, with the exception of one. Guinness, a dark Irish treat that feels like it should have more calories than it actually does, is deceivingly delicious and comes dangerously close to light beer-calorie range.

Guinness Draught, 125 calories
Busch, 133 calories
Budweiser, Miller Genuine Draft, Beck’s, all 143 calories

Regular Beer Danger Zone

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Porter, 200 calories
Red Hook ESB, 188 calories
Sam Adams, 175 calories

Wine is sometimes overlooked at barbecues in favor of beer and fruity, blended drinks, but a well-chosen wine can bring out the flavor of a good steak or provide cool refreshment on a hot summer day in front of a fiery grill. Of course, that refreshment comes with calories.

While comparing the calories in different varietals of wine, I noticed that most of the serving sizes were listed as 5 ounces. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been to a barbecue where anyone poured me a measly 5-ounce glass of wine. (They’re usually a little more generous than that, thank goodness.) So I’ve increased the serving size slightly to 8 ounces—still scant when you consider that the amount of the pour probably increases relative to the number of glasses consumed by the pourer, but it may be slightly easier to eyeball 8 ounces instead of 5 ounces.

Best Wines

Sparkling wine or champagne, 156 calories per 8-ounce serving
Medium-bodied red wine (syrah or merlot), 164 calories per 8 ounce serving
Dry white wine (sauvignon blanc or viognier), 192 calories per 8 ounce serving

Wine Danger Zone
It feels a little wrong to use “wine” and “danger zone” in the same sentence, since, in my mind, something so delicious should never be considered dangerous. Even so, watch out for some of these higher-calorie offenders.

Full-bodied red wine (cabernet sauvignon), 202 calories per 8 ounce serving
Sweet white wine (riesling or gewürztraminer), 226 calories per 8 ounce serving

Liquor and Mixers
If you bring a bottle of liquor to a barbecue, you might get pegged as the person most likely to do body shots before the burgers even hit the grill. But contributing a bottle of liquor and waistline-friendly mixers to a party may actually be one of the smartest ways to keep your calories in check.

According to, there are 97 calories in a 1-1/2-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor such as whiskey, vodka, rum, tequila, or gin. Before you add any mixers, you’re already at roughly the same amount of calories you’d consume if you just drank a light beer. Mixers can significantly add to the overall calories of mixed drinks, so choose carefully before you swizzle.

Best Mixers

Water, 0 calories (though probably not the best for reducing risk of humiliation and vomiting)
Club soda/soda water, 0 calories
Diet Coke, 0 calories
Diet Sprite, 2 calories per 8 ounce serving
Bloody Mary Mix (Mr. and Mrs. T), 40 calories per 8 ounce serving
Tonic water, 80 calories per 8 ounce serving

Mixer Danger Zone
Compared to some of these mixers, the usual mixer suspects of Coke (97 calories per 8 ounce serving) and Sprite (96 calories per 8 ounce serving) don’t look so bad:

Red Bull, 110 calories per can
Pineapple juice, 120 calories per 8 ounce serving
Orange juice, 122 calories per 8 ounce serving
Cranberry Juice, 130 calories per 8 ounce serving
Margarita Mix (Mr. and Mrs. T), 240 calories per 8 ounce serving
Strawberry Daiquiri Mix (Mr. and Mrs. T), 248 calories per 8 ounce serving
Pina Colada Mix (Mr. and Mrs. T), 320 calories per 8 ounce serving

Exercising some good old-fashioned common sense can go a long way in helping reduce the number of calories consumed. Long Island Iced Tea is a good drink to avoid, for example—it has around 780 calories, thanks to the five kinds of liquor and sweet and sour mix that go into it.

Armed with the knowledge of roughly how many calories are in different types of drinks will (hopefully) help me monitor when to abstain and when to splurge. With a little planning, I might even be able to work in some creamy potato salad with my margarita.

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Live Longer: The One Anti-Aging Trick That Works

By Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience Managing Editor

Anti-aging researchers have figured out how to add about 5 years to the human lifespan, but the technique is unlikely to be widely adopted. Meanwhile, research underway promises simple drugs and therapies that could eventually add 10 to 15 extra years to the average life and promise better health late in life. Charles Shapiro,

While the quest for the proverbial Fountain of Youth is endless and typically fruitless, one method known to extend the human lifespan by up to five years has quietly become accepted among leading researchers.

The formula is simple: Eat less. It could add years to your life, several experts now say. And done in moderation, it could at least help you live a more healthy life.

The only question is: Will the average person do it?

While little short of a nip-and-tuck will make you look younger, calorie restriction, as it is called, is as close to a real Fountain of Youth as any known technique comes. Even scientists who are cautious about anti-aging hype say it works, both by cutting risks for some diseases and by allowing all body cells, somehow, to hang in there longer.

"There is plenty of evidence that calorie restriction can reduce your risks for many common diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease," says Saint Louis University researcher Edward Weiss, who last week announced a new study that brings fresh understanding to how it works. "And you may live to be substantially older."

The numbers

Here's a rough rule of thumb that many experts generally agree on now: Eat 15 percent less starting at age 25 and you might add 4.5 years to your life, says Eric Ravussin, who studies human health and performance at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana.

One important caveat: Ravussin's estimate is based mostly on studies of other animals and only preliminary research in humans. But the work by Weiss and others is unlocking the mysteries of aging and suggesting the animal studies apply to humans.

"There is absolutely no reason to think it won't work," Ravussin told LiveScience.

Perhaps even more promising, though in early stages of research, are drugs designed on the basis of what's been learned from calorie-restriction studies. Those drugs would target human cells to deliver the same benefits, turning off bad things and turning on good things to extend cell life in general, or offer new therapies and cures to vexing diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer.

If you can hang in there until these promising new drug therapies are developed, you may live in a world where lifespan increases by 10 to 15 years, researchers say.

Don’t plan on living to be 200, Ravussin said, "but I think we're going to gain quite a few years."

Mysteries remain

Scientists aren't sure exactly why calorie restriction slows aging. But they're on the verge of a firm understanding. In a nutshell, it is thought to lower metabolic rate and cause the body to generate fewer damaging "free radicals."

One hypothesis is that it decreases a thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (T3), which then slows metabolism and tissue aging.

Weiss and colleagues studied men and women, aged 50 to 60, who did not smoke, were not obese and were in good health. The volunteers were split into three groups — a calorie-restriction group, an exercise group, or a control group — and followed for one year. The calorie-restriction group cut back by 300 to 500 calories per day. (A typical healthy adult diet should include about 2,000 calories.) Volunteers in the exercise group maintained their regular diet and exercised regularly.

While both the calorie-restriction and exercise groups experienced similar changes of body fat mass, only those in the calorie restriction group also experienced lower levels of the thyroid hormone. A longer-term study is still needed to pin down whether reducing T3 levels through calorie restriction indeed slows the aging process as suspected, the scientists say.

The results were published in the June issue of the journal Rejuvenation Research.


Weiss' work advances the body of anti-aging knowledge, said Christy Carter, an aging researcher and assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

"The more that scientists can demonstrate similar biological profiles between rodents and humans with regards to calorie restriction, the greater the possibility that lifespan extension will translate to human as well," Carter said.

Weiss figured it's sensible to take steps now. You can cut 300 to 500 calories by simply skipping dessert or substituting a turkey sandwich for fast food. A nutritional diet and exercise are important to any weight-loss effort, Weiss and others caution.

"Our research provides evidence that calorie restriction does work in humans like it has been shown to work in animals," Weiss said. "The next step is to determine if this in fact slows age-related tissue deterioration. The only way to be certain, though, is to do a long-term study."

Others agree: more research is needed.

"I think that they've documented a real and interesting effect of caloric restriction in humans," said UCLA evolutionary biologist Jay Phelan. "But they are still a long way from demonstrating that it changes human lifespan at all."

Proven in animals

Evidence that calorie restriction boosts lifespans in rodents is solid. Christiaan Leeuwenburgh of the University of Florida's Institute on Aging showed in 2006 that eating just 8 percent less and exercising a little more over a lifespan can reduce or even reverse aging-related cell and organ damage in rats.

Various studies have shown that cutting calories by 20 to 40 percent significantly both extends life and, with a little exercise, leaves old animals in better shape.

Eating fewer calories also reduces age-related chronic diseases such as cancers, heart disease, and stroke in rodents. That's important because it suggests ways to not just make us live longer, but to allow us to age more gracefully, healthwise.

Research last year found that rats on a restricted diet are more physically fit in old age, apparently slowing the typical onset of physical disability. The rodents also looked and probably felt better: "Rats that ate a normal diet lost a significant amount of lean muscle mass and acquired more fat, while calorie-restricted rats maintained lean muscle mass as they aged," said lead researcher Tongjian You from the University of Buffalo. The finding was published in the October issue of the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

Rodents are thought to be good analogues to humans. Dogs are even better.

A 14-year study of 48 Labrador Retrievers found restricting their diets by 25 percent starting at 8 weeks of age extended their lives by an average of 1.8 years. For a creature that typically never gets beyond its early teens, that's a big number. The findings were published back in 2002 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

"The study also showed that lean body conformation forestalls some chronic illnesses, most notably osteoarthritis," said University of Pennsylvania researcher Gail K. Smith, who worked on the dog study. Ailments typically struck the lean dogs 2.1 years later than the others.

Probably works in humans

Convincing humans to eat less, and then studying the effects over a lifetime, is considerably more challenging. But mounting research suggests that what works for rats and dogs seems to apply to people.

Studies are under way with monkeys, which have lifespans of around 25 to 30 years, and early indications are promising, Ravussin said.

A study of humans last year found that cutting calories in human test subjects reduced oxidative damage in muscle cells. In the journal PLoS Medicine, the researchers speculated that the effect might translate into longer life.

Researchers caution, however, that longer lifespans does not mean immortality. The vast majority of mainstream researchers envision lifespans extending a few years.

"My estimate would be that 40 years of caloric restriction would give a 3 to 7 percent increase in longevity, so an optimistic estimate would be an additional four years or so," said Phelan, the UCLA researcher.

But researchers are quick to point out that human nature is not conducive to life-long calorie-restriction diets. "It's going to be limited to a few people who are going to try to do that," Ravussin said.

Seeking balance

"Suffering years of misery to remain super-skinny is not going to have a big payoff in terms of a longer life," Phelan said back in 2005 when the idea of "living forever" was particularly hyped in the media. "I once heard someone say caloric restriction may not make you live forever, but it sure would seem like it. Try to maintain a healthy body weight, but don't deprive yourself of all pleasure. Moderation appears to be a more sensible solution."

Phelan uses rodents as an example of why caution is warranted:

Mice will live longer if their diet is restricted by 10 percent, he said in 2005. "If you restrict their intake by 20 percent, they live even longer, and restrict them to 50 percent, they live longer still. But restrict their intake by 60 percent and they starve to death."

In an email interview the other day, Phelan said he stands by this assessment.

And Phelan now thinks there is "nothing" on the research horizon "that would extend lifespan in a significant amount, on the order of 10 or more years."

Big promise?

Other experts are optimistic that research into calorie restriction will lead to greater things.

Scientists are investigating what they call CR mimetics, or compounds that mimic the effects of calorie restriction. "This includes naturally occurring compounds and pharmaceuticals," explained Carter, the University of Florida researcher. "One that has received much attention lately is a compound called resveratrol, found in red wine."

Researchers have long pondered the French paradox: The French eat high-fat diets but live relatively long lives. Resveratrol and other compounds in red wine are thought by many to contribute to that good life. But testing any anti-aging drug or therapy sets up another tricky paradox: Nobody wants to invest in a 70-year test, and the Food and Drug Administration won't approve a chemical's use without thorough testing. There's a potential shortcut: Researchers are testing compounds thought to thwart aging on Alzheimer's patients to see if they slow the degradation of neurons. And similar human trials will begin soon on diabetes patients.

"However, many of these studies are still in the development phase, still being tested in rodent models," Carter said. "I expect that this field will begin to explode in the next few years. Caution is still merited given the need for extensive study of these compounds as to their efficacy and long-term safety."

Eventually, Ravussin thinks the combined efforts of all these research angles could extend lifespans by 15 years later this century.

In a society where lifespan has already increased significantly in recent decades, many people are at least as concerned with aging well as they are with living long.

"Many researchers are focusing on the effects of CR on health-span as opposed lifespan," Carter said. "We know that small reductions in caloric intake, even as little as 8 percent, result in improvements in health related outcomes."

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How to Keep a Relationship

Photo: stock photo

When it comes to love, you need not fall but rather surrender,surrender to the idea that you must love yourself before you can love another. You must absolutely trust yourself before you can absolutely trust another and most importantly you must accept your flaws before you can accept the flaws of another.

Remember the last time you got in a fight or argument with your significant other? Wasn’t it frustrating? Wasn’t it painful? Was it necessary? What can we do to best deal with these situations without ruining our relationships?

Relationships with our spouses and girl/boy-friends can be one of the most rewarding aspects of our lives. We hold a special place for that someone with whom we’ve shared countless moments of joy. Personality differences are inevitable, and what makes us unique as individuals can result in disagreements and conflicts during our relationship.

When these disagreements are not properly understood and managed emotionally, trivial exchanges can stir into full-on battles, and possibly end what we’ve spent months or years to build.

Yes, there are relationships where personalities are mismatched and breakups are beneficial. However, many breakups are unnecessary, as a result of built up anger and destructive cycles. When they happen, we experience a tremendous amount of pain and emotional hurt.

By facing our partners with awareness and a genuine desire for understanding, I believe that we hold the key to wellness in these special relationships.

My Personal Story

I’ve had my share of hurt feelings and failed relationships. What I’ve learned is that we do not plan fights with our loved ones, they tend to surface when we are least expecting it, and they hurt. Here’s a personal story from my own experience:

Valentine’s day, 2008. Adam and I had spent a beautiful day on a slice of heaven known as Alleppey in Kerala, India. We stayed in a sweet little bamboo hut along the river. We awoke in the morning to the sound of roosters and black birds, and were surrounded by utter calmness and endless fields of green palm trees. A picture perfect day spent filled with love and the gifts of nature.

The next day, we arose feeling a little agitated due to the heat, dehydration and travel stress. I felt uneasy with the remainder of our trip unplanned, and I cracked and threw a hissy fit. Adam was frustrated by being away from our familiar conveniences. Our hormones boiled and we found ourselves in a very emotional ‘fight’, or rather a day of tense silence.

Isn’t it ironic? Within a matter of 12 hours, a harmonious relationship turned suddenly rocky. Don’t they always happen that way?

Once we started talking openly and candidly, we were able to bounce out of the negative communication pattern and bring awareness into the situation. We turned two self-serving egos battling to-be-right, into an opportunity for mutual growth and personal transformation. The experience had brought us closer as partners and we were able to understand how to better handle such situations in the future.

This article shares what we’ve learned after some hours of introspective questioning on the topic of relationship miscommunication. What we’ve learned has proven wonders for our relationship.

The Truth

Before digging into ways we can overcome arguments, disagreements and fights from a relationship, let’s have a closer look at what happens when we are in this uncomfortable state. The following are some insights we’ve observed from our argument patterns.

  • Playing the Crying Baby - We take turns becoming a baby. At any one point during a fight, one of us is calm, while the other turns into a baby. That person becomes irrational, severely emotional, whiny and defensive. They say things that are regretted later. Once the baby finishes expressing him or herself, slowly rises on become clam, the role switches and the other person becomes the crying baby.
  • Attention, Appreciation, Acknowledgement - When we fall into the crying baby state, we are really seeking attention, acknowledgement, appreciation and care. The root for our emotional reaction when we are in this state is seeking reinforcement for why we matter.
  • Selfish & Self-Serving - When our inner baby subsumes us, we are selfish and self-serving. We cannot understand why our partner does not sympathize. The more we try to express ourselves, the less they seem to tune into what is bothering us. In this state, we lack the capacity to consider our partner’s feelings, and forget that they too are hurt.
  • Victim Mindset - When we become a baby, we feel that we are the victim. Our mind is focused on seeking evidence that support our victim story. By doing so, the other person becomes the unreasonable one. Once we find our evidence, we start playing scenes of ourselves as the victim, and we play this on repeat. We feel pain in our hearts, and we seek more pain and more reasons for pain. In some unconscious way, we enjoy this pain because it allows us to play the victim role, thus feeding our fears that life is full of painful relationships and no one truly understands us.

    Photo by Katsuaki Shoda

  • Right & Wrong - Superficially, the battle can be distilled down to who is right. We believe that we are right and we must prove that the other person is wrong. The disagreement quickly turns into a battle of the egos. In this state, we have a strong urge to prove to the other person that we are right, after all.
  • Bottled Emotions - As the crying baby, we express purely the self-serving thoughts that arise in our minds. The emotions bottled deep inside us are causing those thoughts, but they are often unrelated to the situation. Having bottled emotions does not mean that we cannot communicate our feelings. Often times, we are not even conscious of these feelings until they manifest into our lives. For example, we go out to watch a movie, but we really didn’t want to go see the movie to begin with, so we unconsciously sabotage the movie outing with a problem: complaining about bad seats, or complaining that the ticket line is too long.
  • Alternative Meaning - We collect words expressed by the other person, jump to conclusions, and assume the worst. We find a meaning that serves us but is not the true meaning of their words in that moment. We tell ourselves that this meaning is the absolute meaning, and is definite and permanent. Truth is, when we are irrational, we say all sorts of things we don’t mean out of heightened emotions.
  • Differences Between the Sexes - Men are just as emotional and sensitive as women. The difference is in the way that men and women express themselves, and this is often misunderstood. Here are some differences we’ve observed. Keep in mind the following three things while reading: 1.) I realize that this is a generalization, so bear with me. 2) When I speak about “women”, I am referring to feminine qualities and tendencies instead of the gender. Similarly, when I mention “men”, I am referring to masculine qualities. It is possible for a woman to have more traditionally masculine qualities and vice-versa. 3) I am using male- female couple in the examples, but this is applicable to same sex couples as well.
    • As women, we tend to hide our inner thoughts. When we are upset about something, we assume that the other person is a mind-reader and should know exactly what we are thinking without telling them. We throw hints by being upset and frustrated. This is extremely frustrating for men (or other women), since they want to help, but cannot seem to get anywhere and cannot understand why we are so upset. At the sight of our partner not picking up on our clues, we get even more upset and hurt.
    • As men, we tend to be more verbal, we think out loud. We may internalize some or all of our feelings, but our thoughts are externalized through speaking or writing. Because we speak our thoughts, we often get in trouble with the women in our lives, since she can be hurt by what we say. Society has trained us to have an alpha-male ego, which acts like a wall defending the integrity and strength of our character. This strength defines us and our thoughts, keeping our less-than-rock-steady emotions well guarded. We are actually highly perceptive and more sensitive than society gives us credit for. We can easily sense when our women are unhappy and we want to help by making her happy again. But she remains upset and assumes that we are mind-readers. But we just don’t know what she is thinking. This is really painful. We wish she just told us exactly what we can do to make her happy again.

    The Solutions

    It is inevitable that partners are going to have different opinions, and everyone has days where their emotions can get the better of them. The problem is not that we have conflicts with our partner, the problem lies in the way we handle the situation. When our egos get in the way, our mind becomes clouded and we end up making mountains out of mole hills.

    Photo by Meredith Farmer

    Some of us use these conflicts as an opportunity to answer: Is my relationship stronger than the problem? They use the situation as a way to measure the relationship stability. They fail to see that this question itself causes conflict, since it forces comparison. Instead, a more effective question to ask is: Are we mature enough as people to resolve the conflict with consideration, awareness and grace?

    The following are some pointers that have proven to be effective in our relationship:

    1. Awareness - Bringing awareness into the situation. Become the observer of your thoughts, your emotions, your needs, and your ego. Ask yourself,

  • What is it I want at this moment?
  • Is what I want from my heart or filtered by my ego?
  • Will getting what I want help me become a better person?
  • Will getting what I want bring happiness and fulfillment to me and those around me?
  • What are the most important aspects in my life? Does getting this fit into my values?

2. Express, Don’t Suppress - Speak candidly and freely. Yes, the truth can hurt, but if you take responsibility for your words and speak with respect for the other person, the honestly and sincerity from your message will shine through. The other person will deeply appreciate you for it. Honestly not only releases your mental load, but also helps mutual understanding.

3. Recognize the Crying Baby - By bringing awareness into a situation, we will get better at recognizing when our partner is in the crying baby state. When they are in a baby state, it is highly beneficial if we remain calm. Don’t take what they say personally during this state, they don’t mean it.

4. How to Calm the Baby - The crying baby state is a primal state. We become irrational and unreasonable. We feel like we’re a little kid again crying for attention. With this in mind, what can our partner do to calm us when we ourselves are in a baby state? Sit down with your partner ahead of time to openly discuss what would make them feel better when they are this baby state? For example, to calm the baby in me, I would love to be held and caressed. To calm the baby in Adam, he wants to be focused on deep breath to draw out of that state of mind. What will calm the baby in you?

5. Pattern Interrupt - When we repeatedly do something, it becomes a habit. Instead of giving in to a comfortable action that doesn’t give you the result you want, interrupt that pattern by doing something (shockingly) unrelated or random. When you feel yourself going down a negative spiral, get up and do 10 jumping jacks with exaggerated movements, make funny faces, do a happy dance around the living room. This will help to bounce you out of that state of mind.

6. “Look into my Eyes” - If you see that your partner is in an irrational baby state or is upset, ask them to look into your eyes, even for just 30 seconds. When they are looking at your eyes, look back into their eyes and imagine passing an infinite amount of love towards them. Through their eyes, look for their soul. You may be upset too, just surrender to the moment, take some deep breaths, and focus only on their eyes and how beautiful they are.

7. Breathing - Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Take a few deep breaths and continue to breathe normally. Continue to do this for at least 5-10 minutes. Draw your focus into your lungs expanding and contracting. Feel the energy the air brings. As you change your focus, you will also change your mindset.

8. Ask yourself: “Am I arguing so that I could win the battle?” - If the answer is yes, ask yourself whether winning this battle will make a difference in your life in 40 years? How about tomorrow?

9. Ask yourself: “What is it about myself that I don’t like?” - Oftentimes, the arguments we get into are simply an extension of ourselves, though we may not realize it until we reflect at a later time. When we find ourselves jumping quickly into judging other people, we are really projecting what we dislike about ourselves on to that person. Observing our thoughts and behaviors toward others can expose our own insecurities on the subject matter.

Photo by Katsuaki Shoda

10. Try on Different Shoes - Imagine yourself in your partner’s shoes. To the best of your ability, feel the pain the other person is experiencing. How does it feel? What is your new perspective like? For a few seconds, pretend that “Me” does not exist, and that you are now the other person. Experience their words and feelings as if your own. This simple exercise helps to give you compassion and consideration towards another’s point of view.

11. “How it made me feel.” - When communicating your points of view, always speak in terms of how something made you feel. Example, “When I didn’t hear from you, it made me feel that I was not important.”. Expressing how something made us feel instead of what we think they did wrong, reduces their instinctive need to feel defensive. When people are not on the fence about something, they are more likely to listen and be more willing to resolve an issue.

12. Step Out, Cool Off - Go to a different room, separate yourself for a few minutes to gain perspective and clarity. Do some deep breathing exercises. Re-group yourself and bring awareness into the situation. Regain a clear grasp of what is most important to you, and reevaluate whether the “fight” is worth battling.

13. Listen - Listen to the other person. Really listen to them. Give them the respect that you would like to have, give them a chance to speak without judging them. Surrender to the moment and just be there. Listen to them as if you were listening to yourself. Listen to them in the way you want to be listened to.

14. Forgive & Accept - Remember that inside, we are all good people. Really, we were all born innocent, loving, kind and generous. See the light in them, as you too have that light within yourself.

15. Apologize & Explain - Say I’m sorry and show that you mean it by explaining why you are sorry. Don’t be shy or let your pride get in the way. Life is short, do the right thing, instead of the thing right for your ego.

16. Relinquish Defensiveness - Relinquish the need to be defensive. Listen when the other person express their feelings. Don’t treat their expression as criticism, listen with acceptance and a genuine desire to love them. This is not a power struggle, it is a conversation. Your partner’s expression of their feelings and needs has nothing to do with you. And don’t tell the other person, “Stop being so defensive”.

17. Focus on What They Did Well - When we are upset with our partners, we tend to focus on what they did wrong, and qualities we believe to be character flaws. “What we focus on expands.“, and these qualities amplify the more we give focus to them. This in turn makes us even more upset. Focus on what he or she has done right. Focus on the things we love about them. Focus on the beautiful characteristics that make them unique.

18. Stop Point Fingers - Placing blame will keep the fighting alive. It is a natural progression to blame our unhappiness and un-comfort on other people or events around us. I too have done this, many, many times. At the end of the day, the only thing we have control over is ourselves, and our reactions to life situations. Can we really blame others for our unhappiness? Instead, look within ourselves and see what we can proactively do to shift our thinking and perception of the situation such that we can feel happy? As one of my favorite quotes states so wisely, “We cannot control the wind, but we can direct the sail.” So true.

19. Gratitude - I’ve always found it helpful when feeling moody and argumentative to focus on the blessings in my life. By shifting our focus, we shift our state of being and move away from continuing to feel bad. List out the things you are grateful for today, close your eyes and thank every part of your body for its endless function, appreciate your surroundings, write in a journal on all things you are grateful for today, or read an old journal entry of your gratitude list.

20. Build Strong Sense of Self Worth - I believe that the insecurities that rise out of relationships are the result of insecurities we have with ourselves. We have to love ourselves before we can truly accept love from others. Dedicate time to building relationships with ourselves, and in the process, we will find that our insecurities slowly disintegrate and we end up falling in love with ourselves. We do not fall in love in an ego driven way, but in the same way we experience love and connection for all beings. Go on self dates, spend quality time with yourself, appreciate you, do things that feed your soul. What do you love to do that you wished you could do more of? For me, that’s reading.

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7 Habits to Master the Art of Winning against the Odds

Success in life is determined by your ability to go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
~ Winston Churchill

Have you had days when you woke up staring at the ceiling with a mind void of purpose to begin the day? Have you felt that you needed a jolt of motivation to ignite your passion? I have. I had those days when defeatist thoughts held my brain hostage by counting all the “bad things” that took wind out of my motivation and perseverance. It’s like kicking yourself in the rear when you’re already down.

When you’re down, it seems impossible at times to ever win the game of life. Your thoughts gravitate rapidly towards the abyss of despair and pessimism. Seemingly even a nice, sunny day makes you feel lost in the never ending tunnel of darkness. You pronounce that it’s over and tag yourself a loser. All of these happen between your two ears.

The real reality is starkly different than the “reality” that you’ve created in your mind. What you’ve created is a reality based on the mental conditioning that exists in your brain by interacting with your friends, family members and even the media. The real reality is that if you think hard, if you don’t cave into those defeatist thoughts, if you never lose focus of what inspires you in the first place - there’s always a lifeline to latch on to and pull yourself up from the odds.

What Causes the Slump?

When we feel a slump, there are three factors contributing to foments this downward spiral in our mind. Once we understand these factors and develop an awareness towards them, we can start looking up and push ourselves out of the abyss of despair.

  • Our perceived result ~ Anything we do in life has to deliver a fulfilling, achievable result in terms of financial or spiritual reward that we seek from this effort.
  • Our thoughts ~ Our desire to seek this reward is tied to our self imposed limitation by a factor called time.
  • Our environment ~ This includes our family members, friends and others who influence our thoughts.

The nexus between our expectations and the time is one of the lethal combinations to spark the flame of slump in our mind. When I wanted to purchase my first hotel, I had to trudge along many bumps on the road. I’ve stumbled upon some shiny truth about the slump that I felt and also found the ways to overcome that slump. At first after waiting for many days, I was told by the seller that he had no interest in selling the hotel to me at that time. His grudging voice on the phone indicated a harsh reality. I started thinking, “Why is he doing this to me?”. Then more thoughts rushed in, “I better give up. If he is so harsh, he may already have a buyer. It’s a waste of time.” - This was the fake reality that I’d created in my own mind. I’d been cornered by the defeatist thoughts for the mental chatter that made me believe that I ought to give up. Months later, I received a call from the same seller. When I met the gentleman and spent few hours with him, I was appalled to think how wrong I was in creating a fake reality about one of the nicest man I ever met in my life. When I look back, my perceived result of buying a hotel with a time line that I had in mind was a creation of my own thoughts. What I learned from this experience is that the result that we seek always comes - sometimes earlier than what we allow ourselves and sometimes later than what we allow ourselves. The variance of time plays a major role in our slump. The art of winning against odds lies in learning an important axiom of life - We can control what we seek. We cannot control the time it takes to achieve what we seek.

Habits to Win against the odds

1. Learn to accept responsibility for your actions. ~

Finger pointing is one of the most repugnant of all character flaws. With illusive self-image, we tend to live in denial to admit that the desired outcome has not arrived at the time limit we imposed on our efforts. That’s all there is. It’s a misalignment of our perception of time it takes to achieve a desired result that throws us into this dismal behavior. Learn to admit that what you’ve set your mind to achieve has not happened or delayed for some things that were not known to you. Make a steadfast commitment to learn from the experience and revise the time to achieve your set goal.

I can help take someone from failure to success but I can’t take them from excuses to success because if you’re making excuses you haven’t yet realized where the real problem lies.
~ John Maxwell

2. Admit your mistakes. ~

Another character ding is not admitting a mistake in the face of adversity. Adversity is nothing more than a perception flaw of what we wanted against what we reap after exerting our efforts. If you are wrong, admit it. That’s the first step towards building our own conscience. It also helps us receive support from others to try harder by creating a positive self image of transparency. If you don’t allow mistakes in your life, success may always be in exile. The road to success is built with the asphalt of mistakes.

3. Develop mental toughness. ~

Your mental toughness is a gauge of your ability to persist in the face of adversity. Developing mental toughness allows you to remain poised when the going gets tough. After finishing my graduate studies in Mechanical engineering, I had to wait four long months to get an interview. The job was for a machinist. I was determined to be a machinist. I was the only machinist on the floor with a master’s degree. It didn’t bother me. Later on, I was promoted to be an engineer and in less than a year, I was the lead engineer in the same group. Many of my friends never found a job in early 90’s. What I learned from this experience is that it took a while for me to get a job but I succeeded with the poise and determination to get the job I wanted in the end. No one is born with the inherent character of mental toughness. It can be learned and you must learn it to win against the odds.

4. One goal at a time. ~

Whenever I have tried to accomplish many goals by juggling to allocate time to several goals, I’ve found myself exhausted at the end of the day with the feeling of lack of accomplishment. This negative influence has worked like a chain of reaction by causing more stress and misery on the following day and so on. Life is good when we make it simple. Untangle the web of conflicting goals and start working at one goal at a time. You’ll be amazed at the boost in your energy level and a new found passion as a result.

5. Develop your inner self. ~

We do many things in life to glorify outer existence that is a mean to show off to others. Building a strong body, possessing a nice home, possessing a nice car and so on - These are the goals for our ego. I’m not against it but I’m also amazed by many who ignore their inner self in a vain search of happiness from this ego nurturing goals. Do you meditate everyday? Or do you perform yoga? Or do you spend solo time to reflect on your inner strengths and weaknesses? All of these build your character. I personally have benefited immensely by spending thirty minutes to meditate daily. It has built my character, faith and resolve to persist in the face of adversity. Try any of these activities and see the result for yourself.

6. Focus on what you can control. ~

Our impulsive thoughts always tend to waste our life-energy by focusing on things that we cannot control. For example, when I wanted to buy my first hotel, I made an offer and I was rejected. The seller was not ready to sell for some personal reasons. This was beyond my control. I started to think, “Why is he doing this to me?” I drowned myself in the ocean of self-pity for the reasons that I didn’t know, and even if I did, I had no control over them. My reaction should have been - “What thoughts, habits and actions can I change to get the result I wanted?” Dwell more on what you can do rather than what you cannot. It’s not the circumstances that cause us to react in a certain way, it’s rather a certain way we choose to react to the circumstances that matters most to win against the odds.

7. Never stop learning. ~

Learning is a life long process. When time get tough, we tend to close all the doors leading to our enlightenment. Leave the doors of knowledge open. Try to learn new skills, try to read daily, try to listen to the motivational or a personal development tapes to feed positivity to your mind. All of these can make you a better person with the attitude, self-esteem and the skill to master the art of winning against the odds.

When everything seems to be at its gloomiest, remember that the darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointments.
~ Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American politician.

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Top 10 Modern Life Survival Skills

Avoid everyday problems and modern mini-calamities by arming yourself with the right know-how before you head out into the world. Locking yourself out of your apartment, losing your car in the Gargantu-Mart lot, standing lost on a city street corner—you can overcome almost any day-to-day disaster with some clever thinking and a bit of knowledge. We've compiled some of our favorite tricks that can make any Average Joe/Jane feel like a regular commando at work, at home, or on the go. Hit the link for a list of our top 10 non-computer modern life survival skills. Photo by *clarity*.

10. De-fuzz your sweater or coat at the last minute.

top10_cathair.jpgCat hair and couch lint—it all gets stuck to you, and it can all make you look a lot less presentable, especially when you've got that big presentation to the Higher Ups in 10 minutes. If you're at the office, head to the supply closet to grab an extra FedEx airbill pouch and turn it inside out to create an instant, sticky, de-linting glove. At home, de-pill your sweater or coat with an old disposable razor. Photo by Walraven.

9. Get into and out of tricky conversations.

top10_convo.jpgCocktail parties, family gatherings, and supermarket lines—they're all full of conversations you have to escape from, or pretend you're interested in. Make the pretending less painful by exiting gracefully, forcing yourself to absorb information, and avoid being a bore yourself. You'll have to practice a bit before putting these techniques to use, but that's what pets and roommates are for.

8. Tell time without a watch.

top10_sun_in_sky.jpgDeny it all you want, but there will be moments in life when neither a watch nor a cell phone, nor even a bank with a big digital street clock, will be handy, and you'll want a rough estimate of what time it is. To prepare for such rustic (or post-apocalyptic) moments, check out wikiHow's guide to telling time without a clock. The two main methods involve dividing the sky into fractions or using your fist size to measure the horizon, and, like using the sun as a compass, both require thinking a bit about Daylight Saving Time and your general location in the world. And both give you a pretty great feeling of independence when you pull them off. Photo by rileyroxx.

7. Recover from a late night.

hangover_scaled.jpgOne too many pints, or spending the wee hours on the net or other obsessions, and the whole world will know your pain the next day. Unless, that is, you fight back against your body's delayed punishment. Clear up puffy, dark under-eyes with fridge-cooled spoons, and get back your focus and drive with some pre- and post-drink hangover remedies—namely a ginseng regimen, a carb-and-vitamin schedule, and the advice of our tavern-savvy readers. Temporary cures, for sure, but they're pretty essential when needed.

6. Boost your night vision.

Finding one's way through the dark has been a true survival skill for ninjas, stealthy travelers, soldiers, and many other adventurers. Even if you only need to find your way to the fridge at 2AM, you can put their time-tested advice to work using blogger Sam Noyoun's tips for improving natural night vision. Any or all of them—getting down low to better scope an object, covering one eye to retain light sensitivity, using your cell phone's camera instead of your eyes—will help you navigate a dark path or find your cell phone. To, uh, call command ops and relay target positioning, of course.

5. Read body language to tell if someone's lying.

top10_liedetector.jpgThe best liars can beat even the most sophisticated detection gear, but your average "My aunt in Wyoming died" teller gives off more than one telltale sign. Learn to listen for pitch, speed, eye contact frequency, verbal tics and other signs with tips from's Marty Nemko and eHow. If you're a corporate denizen, this is one skill you really can't live without. Photo by celesteh.

4. Predict the weather (without a forecast).

top10_weather.pngThe "official" forecasts and weather reports you can get on your phone or laptop aren't always perfect, and you don't need a meteorology degree to beat them. Take a look at the clouds, while also keeping your nose open for telltale smells. You can also watch animal behavior and follow other signs to get that ultra-cool old-man-with-a-trick-knee mystique going.

3. Know your direction without a compass.

top10_watch.pngWhen navigating unfamiliar territory, directions like "Head South on Franklin Street" aren't terribly helpful. Using a non-digital wristwatch, or just a mental image of one, you can find your way with Wired's hour hand/sun position method. For more rural direction-finding without a watch, try wikiHow's methods for finding true North. Either way, you're never really lost when you've got your wits.

2. Use your head to amplify your car alarm remote's signal.

Ever notice how putting your hand on your clock radio tends to clarify and boost the signal? You can use that same body-as-extended-antenna trick to locate your car in a stuffed parking lot. Hold your remote opening fob against your skull, hit the alarm (or beep-beep locking button), and you'll locate your vehicle from farther away.

1. Pick a lock.

top10_lockpicking2.pngLock picking is one of those rare skills that give you serious cool cred and come in really, really useful at the right moments. With a little study, you can grab a piece of that respect and come to the rescue of friends, neighbors, and your own forgetful self. Here's a guide to the basics, and a guide to making your own vibrating pick to ease the learning curve. Forgotten the combination to your locker? Here's how to crack the Master Lock code. If you're feeling a serious secret agent kick (and it's a pretty sad lock you're facing), you can always open a door with a credit card.

What ninja-like skills impress your friends whenever you get to break them out? What clever tricks are you waiting to pass on to your kids (or apprentice)? We want to hear about them, so drop a line in the comments.

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Sales of gas-saving gadgets rise with gas prices

NEW YORK (AP) -- With fuel prices soaring, sales of products designed to boost gas mileage are also rising -- even though the government says they're not worth the money.

The Vortec Cyclone, which fits inside a car's air intake hose, aims to improve an engine's air flow.

The Vortec Cyclone, which fits inside a car's air intake hose, aims to improve an engine's air flow.

The products range from devices that fit inside an engine's air intake valve to fuel additives. Their makers claim they boost mileage by helping gasoline burn more efficiently.

"The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has tested hundreds of these products," said Laura DeMartino, a Federal Trade Commission attorney.

"Even for the few that worked, the gas savings was so small it didn't justify the price."

But that's not discouraging people from searching for ways to eke extra mileage out of their vehicles when gas prices are hovering above $4 a gallon nationally.

"Our sales have probably close to doubled," over the past year, said Dan Baxley, founding partner of Automotive Research Laboratory LLC, which makes the Vortec Cyclone, a device designed to boost gas mileage by improving an engine's air flow.

The $40 device fits inside a car's air intake hose, where it, "creates a swirling mass like a tornado," Baxley said. That creates a finer gas-air mix than normal, which burns more efficiently.

Some Vortec Cyclone users have claimed a benefit of as much as 6 miles per gallon, though most see an improvement of 1 to 2 mpg, Baxley said.

Kevin Shaw, vice president of development at The Coffee Beanery, has tested it on four of his company's vehicles. The coffee chain found that it improved the performance of two of his service vans by 2 miles per gallon, while one passenger car's fuel efficiency rose by 1 mile per gallon. The fourth car saw no improvement, but Shaw said three out of four is enough to convince him that the device is well worth the money.

"I have nine on order right now," said Shaw, who believes the devices will save his company at least $1,400 a year per vehicle in fuel expenses.

Like other companies that sell gas-mileage-improvement products, Baxley is used to skepticism.

He says his company's tests prove that the Vortec Cyclone improves gas mileage, and Automotive Research Laboratory backs its product up with a money-back guarantee. Returns run only around 5 percent of sales, he said.

Automotive Research Laboratory has never received a complaint from the FTC, which declined to comment on specific products.

National Fuelsaver Corp., which makes Platinum Gas Saver, can improve fuel mileage by 22 percent, said company owner and technical director Joel Robinson. The product, which the company started selling nearly 30 years ago, injects a small amount of platinum into a vehicle's air intake system.

The platinum molecules boost the amount of fuel burned by the engine, company press materials say. The remainder is expelled as vapor and burned off by the catalytic converter.

Robinson said he has been contacted by the FTC and some state attorneys general. But he's been able to defend his product thanks to his victory in an early 1980s lawsuit brought by the U.S. Post Office, which said he was trying to obtain money through the mail by making false claims.

"They all thought we were frauds until I sent them the judge's decision," Robinson said.

Robinson produced data that, he says, show Platinum Gas Saver works. But he also notes that -- aside from his product -- there is merit to the FTC's warnings.

"Except for ours, I think there's a lot of truth to it," Robinson said. "The problem in selling this product is that in the last 10 years there have been 10,000 phony fuel savers."

Platinum Gas Saver costs $150 for a 30,000 mile supply. Robinson declined to disclose annual sales.

Another company, Magnetizer Industrial Technologies Inc., has stopped selling a $150 gas-savings device to the general public, citing high costs to fulfill individual orders and the general skepticism that surrounds any kind of magnetic gas savings device.

"There is a technology here that can benefit," said Ron Kita, director of research, but "there has been a lot of negative press."

Magnetizer's magnets work by changing naturally formed chemical associations, "into a single, potentiated molecular state," which burns more efficiently, the company's Web site explains. The company still sells the system to fleet operators as an emissions reduction device.

The government's advice to people looking to save on gas: Drive the speed limit, use cruise control, combine errands and remove excess weight from the trunk.

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