How smartphone apps can actually make you healthier 0 1289

Imagine having a way to make even the most stressful situations seem less daunting. It may seem a bit unrealistic, but there’s a practice dating back to prehistoric times that makes this possible.

The benefits of meditation are well-documented – it can help with anxiety, depression, and even help you with insomnia. It’s also been shown to help calm you down about day-to-day worries.

But how do you take the time to unplug and meditate? Funnily enough, it may take your smartphone. This may seem counterintuitive, but some of the best tools for relaxation are found on your trusted device.

In order for you to experience the full benefits of meditation, it’s imperative you don’t get distracted while using meditation apps – don’t steal glimpses at your Facebook news feed in between sessions. With the right amount of discipline, you’ll be able to take a device that’s often the cause of stress and use it for health and happiness.

Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been meditating for years, these smartphone apps – all available for both iPhone and Android – will kick start your wellness journey.

Headspace: Guided Meditation

This is easily one of the most popular guided meditation apps on the market. With a star-studded fan base (Emma Watson and Gwyneth Paltrow have shared their love for the product) and nearly 62,000 five-star reviews, it’s not hard to see why Headspace has become so trendy.

Fortunately, the app isn’t all hype. Founded by a former Buddhist monk and advertising exec, Headspace has hundreds of sessions on everything from stress to sleep. Additionally, the app has “SOS” exercises in case you run into an unexpected situation and need to de-stress quickly.

Available for iOS and Android. Free for a basic plan; monthly subscriptions start at $12.99.

Relax Melodies

Whether it’s humming your favorite tune in the car or seeing a beloved band in concert, you likely already use music for comfort in some form. But it turns out that music is good for more than that – it’s been proven to improve mood, get rid of burnout, and reduce anxiety.

If you prefer your relaxation with some background noise, it’s imperative you choose sounds that will calm you down instead of creating an unnecessary distraction. That’s where Relax Melodies comes in.

The app specifically focuses on sleep meditation but can be used at any time. The basic plan gives you 52 sounds for free and allows you to mix them as you please. Maybe you prefer listening to the sounds of the ocean over a relaxing piano tune – have no fear. There’s something here for everyone.

Available for iOS and Android. Free for a basic plan; lifetime subscriptions start at $19.99.

Meditation Studio

This is an all-encompassing app with an impressive variety of topics. Since we all use meditation for different reasons, the app doesn’t try a one-size-fits-all approach. If you’re looking to boost your confidence, trying to reduce stress, or dealing with military-related PTSD, there’s a meditation plan specifically designed for your needs. While many of the apps on our list have subscription plans, Meditation Studio has a one-time fee of $3.99.

The team at Meditation Studio boasts over 30 experts who have an array of meditation skills. You can sort by topic or by the teacher, depending on what you’re looking for.

Available for iOS, Android, and Alexa. $3.99.

Simple Habit

Are you too busy to take time to relax? Even if you think the answer is yes, Simple Habit would beg to differ. The app is designed for those with hectic lives and asks for only five minutes of your time daily. According to the folks at Simple Habit, that’s all you need to reap the benefits of meditation.

Founded by an entrepreneur and designed by meditation experts and a psychologist from Harvard University, Simple Habit has been lauded as the go-to app for busy people.

Available for iOS and Android. Free for a basic plan; monthly subscriptions start at $11.99.

Stop, Breathe & Think

This is another option for those who are constantly on-the-go. Feeling overwhelmed at work? These guided meditations are short enough to be done in between meetings, and it picks an exercise based on the user’s current mood.

Additionally, there’s a breathing timer that allows you to practice deep breathing, which is a key part of meditation and a proven way to reduce stress. Bonus: The team at Stop, Breathe & Think donate 10 percent of net revenue to a non-profit that teaches inner-city youth how to use meditation skills to their benefit.

Available for iOS, Android, Alexa, and Slack. Free for a basic plan; monthly subscriptions start at $9.99.

It’s time to take that pesky phone that always demands your attention and use it for good. What are you waiting for? Get started on your meditation journey today.

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What are nootropics? 0 70396

Nootropics, according to Corneliu E. Giurgea, the father of nootropics, are drugs that simultaneously enhance learning and memory, protect the brain, increase the efficacy of brain-related control mechanisms, should lack the pharmacologic structure of psychotropic drugs, and be devoid of side effects. Over time, the description has been expanded to include other non-drug substances.

Whether or not drugs are involved, the idea of nootropics is that they boost mental capacity, allowing you to accomplish goals that would be quite strenuous without them. They are used by various individuals, ranging from students wanting to get more studying done or turning in a paper on time, to engineers trying to figure out a problem.

What are nootropics made of?

Nootropics are traditionally made of naturally-occurring substances like ginseng, or synthetic substances in the form of chemicals not uncommon in drugs (like L-Theanine). Even though Corneliu Giurgea’s description referred to drugs, nootropics have evolved to include non-synthetic substances that can give similar outputs. Nootropics are sometimes called “smart drugs”.

Various nootropics

The large range of nootropics make it difficult to describe them with a blanket sentence other than “they boost brain performance”. So, instead of a generalization, here is a short list of popular nootropics, as well as their specific actions, and possible side effects.

1. Caffeine: Caffeine is without-a-doubt the most popular nootropic, being present in most nootropic substances available on the market. It’s effective in wakefulness, improved concentration, increased motivation, alertness, and focus.

The side effects of caffeine are as well-known as its usefulness. Excessive consumption of caffeine causes insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, tachycardia (elevated heart rate), and even muscle tremors.

2. L-Theanine: Unlike Guarana, L-Theanine is an amino acid that can be found in many tea leaves and herbs. It’s known to aid stress relief and reduce anxiety. Even though is also taken to increase focus and attention, stress relief is its most evidence-based function.

Its side effects may include nausea and irritability.

3. CPD Choline: CPD Choline is naturally-occurring in humans and animals and is an intermediate substance in a common biochemical process that involves converting Choline to Phosphaatidylcholine. Studies show that CPD protects the brain, especially in times of low oxygen supply. In addition, it also increases alertness and consciousness.

Being a natural substance in the body, CPD has no negative effects, except when it is taken in excess, where it can cause stomachaches and diarrhea.

4. Modafinil: As far as performance-boosting drugs go, Modafinil tops the list, having been shown to increase fatigue resistance, improve mood, as well as increase motivation and vigilance. It really is a wonder drug, often rumored to be used by sleep-deprived doctors.

Its side effects are abuse-induced, which means you may suffer things like chronic headaches, if you use it all the time to fight fatigue, without getting enough sleep.

5. Guarana: Guarana, also called Guaranine, is a plant with well-researched and documented effects of improved mental focus and alertness. It is also taken for various other purposes from weight loss to exercise tolerance, but these have not been proven.

Being a naturally-occurring fruit, it does not have severe side effects. However, users have been known to experience insomnia and fatigue when taken in high doses.

6. Panax Ginseng: Certain herbs are sometimes assumed to have positive, even performance-enhancing effects. One of the most popular is Ginseng. Common in East Asia and North America, the plant does not have any nootropic effects backed by strong scientific evidence. However, it has been said to increase energy levels and activity.

Ginseng does not have any known side effects.

7.Ginkgo Biloba: Also a leaf extract, it is wildly known as a cognitive enhancer, with weak scientific evidence to support it.

8. Vitamin B12: The controversy surrounding vitamin B12 is that it may not be a nootropic, as it does not have any noticeable, quick-onset effects. It is considered more of supplement and nutritional requirement than a nootropic. However, it’s on this list because some people still consider it a smart drug.

Nootropic tolerance

Overuse of many nootropics can lead to your body building tolerance, and needing more and more of the substance to get the same effect. It’s a little like what happens with regular alcohol drinkers. They often need more and more alcohol to feel its effects.

Things to remember about nootropics

Many individuals have their definition of nootropics, thus making it a controversial topic. The situation is made worse by substances that are claimed to boost productivity but have not yet been proven. Amongst all these controversies, here are some points for you to keep in mind about nootropics:

  1. They are performance-boosting substances and are often used to get an extra edge.
  2. They should be free of side effects, and should have low toxicity.
  3. They contain naturally-occurring substances.
  4. They work by interacting with receptors in the brain.
  5. Even though they are supposed to be side effect free, some supposed nootropics do have side effects.
  6. Some substances considered nootropics work, and some don’t.
  7. The adverse effects of nootropics can sometimes be avoided by keeping dosage low and cycling between usage and abstinence.

5 Yoga moves to add to your daily stretching today 0 53353

Introduction

It’s no surprise that the practice of yoga has grown in popularity over the last couple of decades. It has several benefits like core strengthening and improved flexibility. However, yoga has several poses and positions that can get a little confusing when choosing what poses to do to achieve your goals. Whether you are just starting out, or are looking to raise the bar during your yoga, this is the post for you.

A brief history on the origin of yoga

Modern yoga as we know it is a combination of different poses and forms, evolved over centuries and modified by different practitioners. Take the first ever recorded instance of yoga, which dates as far back as the 2nd century which, although it was not clearly described as yoga, involved a sitting posture described to require a steady form and comfort. The form was assumed for meditation, not unlike what we have today. In about the 11th century, there was a description of a non-seated pose in which the practitioner balances on the hands. As the centuries passed, yoga became more evolved, and more adapted to modern cultures like ours.

Simple forms

Even though yoga has changed over the years, there are simple poses that have remained relatively constant through the ages, retaining their simplicity and form.

Here are 5 of those simple forms that can be incorporated into your daily routine

  1. Lotus Position: The lotus is one of the most fundamental positions in yoga, with a long history like we discussed. The lotus has a special position among all the stretches and positions not just because it is the oldest, but also because it is key to meditation, which is a big part of yoga.

To enter the sitting position:

  • Sit on the mat with your legs and your back straight
  • Fold your legs so that your feet now rest under your thigh as you relax and let your feet rest comfortably on the floor.
  1. Cow position: The cow position is also a relatively easy position to attain. It is especially good for stretching and relaxing the back muscles as it involves stretching the vertebrae (back bone) and the spinal muscles.

To perform the cow position,

  • Start by kneeling on all fours (hands directly beneath shoulders, and knees directly beneath the hips)
  • Breath in and turn your head upwards as if to look at the ceiling, forming an upward facing curve with your back (the hollow facing upwards)
  • Breath out and return to the neutral position
  • Repeat as necessary
  1. Child Position: The child pose is different from the cow position, only because it stretches the back in the opposite direction, as well as the neck, arms, and legs. It also tones and strengthens the core muscles, giving a mild general body stretch. The child pose is especially good in situations where you don’t have a lot of time during the session. It is a great pose for stretching a lot of areas at once.

To enter the child position:

  • Kneel on all fours like in the cow position
  • Lower your hips so your thighs touch your calves
  • Lean forward, and extend your arms so your elbow and hands touch the mat
  • Maintain the position for the desired length of time
  • Repeat
  1. Bridge pose: So named because of the way the body resembles a bridge when done correctly. The bridge position can be considered the opposite of the child’s pose because here, the back is active and extended, with the hips and knees flexed and bearing most of the body’s weight. The bridge is good for stretching the abdominal muscles and the thighs.

To enter the bridge position:

  • Lie flat on your back and bend your knees
  • With your bent knees, elevate your body so your buttocks and lower back lift off the mat
  • Bring your arms forward so they are positioned directly beneath your body
  • Be sure to keep your upper back and head on the mat during the pose
  • Hold for as long as necessary and repeat as desired
  • Repeat
  1. Locust Position: The locust position is an intermediate level position, because of the core strength it requires to execute. It is very similar to the “superman” in resistance training. While the superman is for strength building, the locust is for stretching and relaxation. It concentrates on the arms, legs and upper back.

To enter the locust position:

  • Lie on your chest with your arms and legs stretched out on the mat
  • Lift your legs from the hip off the mat, while simultaneously lifting your head, arms, and upper chest
  • Maintain the position for the desired length of time
  • Repeat

Incorporate these stretches and positions into your daily routine to increase strength, flexibility, and improve inner-peace. Let us know what you think!

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