Create an Active Lifestyle

Create an Active Lifestyle

Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MS/LIS
Posted January 19, 2018

What is an Active Lifestyle?

An active lifestyle includes at least 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate activity, five days a week, according to the National Institutes of Health.

However, most adults nationwide do not meet this 30-minute minimum daily recommended amount of physical activity.

Why Do Many Adults Choose Not to Adopt an Active Lifestyle?

Lack of time is a common reason for not exercising, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How Can You Learn to Choose Active Lifestyle Activities?

The CDC recommends identifying available time slots by paying attention to your daily routine for one week. Identify at least three 30-minute time slots in a week that you could use for physical activity.

Select activities that require minimal time, such as, jogging, stair climbing, or walking.

How Can You Be More Active at Home?

MedlinePlus, which is part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, suggests some ways that you can be active at home.

  • Do housework, gardening, and yard work, which are all physical work.
  • Walk your kids to school, walk your dog, or go for a walk in your neighborhood.
  • Keep moving while you watch TV. Do some yoga stretches or lift hand weights.
  • Get some exercise equipment, such as exercise mats or stretch bands.

How Can You Be More Active at Work?

  • At least once each hour, get up from your desk chair and move around.
  • Take the stairs, instead of the elevator.
  • Use your break or part of your lunch time to walk around the building.
  • Have “walking” meetings with co-workers, instead of sitting in a conference room.
  • Stand when you are talking on the phone.

Experts on physical activity and nutrition say that it is not necessary to do vigorous physical activity, such as running, to have beneficial health effects.

Just 30 minutes of brisk walking most days, in at least 10-minute segments, can have a healthy effect.

Most important, you have to learn to look for opportunities to fit physical activity into your days, according to the National Institutes of Health. You can put on your sneakers and go to the gym, but that is not the only way to get active.

Create an active lifestyle by getting active, wherever you are!

For more ideas on how to get active physically, browse the following Selected Information Resources.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease, illness, or other health condition without first consulting with your medical doctor.

Selected Information Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity.
Summary Note: Lists the ten most common reasons that American adults give when asked why they are not more physically active. Offers Suggestions for Overcoming Physical Activity Barriers.
(Accessed 12 January 2018)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity and Health. The Benefits of Physical Activity.
Summary Note: Lists benefits of physical activity, such as controlling your weight and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Focus is that everyone can gain the health benefits of physical activity. Age, ethnicity, and body shape do not matter.
(Accessed 16 January 2018)

Cunico, Evelyn. CHIME Consumer Health. Physical Activity – How to Start. Information Resources. Blog posted June 28, 2016.
Summary Note: Suggests that believing in your ability to be active physically, combined with social support from family and friends, can lead to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Selected Information Resources include links to authoritative websites, such as, the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the Nemours Foundation.
(Accessed 12 January 2018)

Cunico, Evelyn. CHIME Consumer Health. Walking for Health and Fun. Information Resources. Blog posted January 31, 2015.
Summary Note: Discusses walking as the most popular form of physical activity in the U.S. Lists health benefits and community projects that encourage walking. Selected Information Resources include links to 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and authoritative medical journal articles on recreational neighborhood walking.
(Accessed 12 January 2018)

National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Home page.
Summary Note: The NHLB Institute provides research, training, and education to prevent and treat heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders. The NHLB Institute is also the primary NIH organization for research on Health Risks of an Inactive Lifestyle.
(Accessed 12 January 2018)

National Institutes of Health. May 2015. Opportunities Abound for Moving Around: Get Active, Wherever You Are.
Summary Note: A monthly newsletter from NIH, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The May 2015 issue offers ideas on how to become more active in everyday healthful physical activities without spending a lot of money. Sidebar includes Links and References.
(Accessed 06 January 2018)

National Institutes of Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Health Risks of an Inactive Lifestyle.
Summary Note: Defines inactive lifestyle. Describes how an inactive lifestyle affects your body, including disease risks. Suggests ways to get started with exercise at home and at work. Includes Resources, Clinical Trials, and Journal Articles.
(Accessed 06 January 2018)

Saelens, Brian E., Anne Vernez Moudon, Bumjoon Kang, Philip M. Hurvitz, and Chuan Zhou. American Public Health Association, American Journal of Public Health. 2014 May; 104(5):854-859. Relation between Higher Physical Activity and Public Transit Use
Summary Note: Public transit use data collected in 2008 to 2009 from nearly 700 Travel Assessment and Community study participants from King County, Washington State showed that transit use was directly related to higher physical activity.
(Free PMC Full Text accessed 12 January 2018)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
Summary Note: Provides science-based guidance to help Americans ages six and older to maintain or to improve their health through regular physical activity. View Guidelines by category, such as, Children and Adolescents, Adults, Older Adults, Women during Pregnancy, Adults with Disabilities, and People with Medical Conditions.
(Accessed 15 January 2018)

 

 

 

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights Promotes Dignity and Well-Being

Universal Declaration of Human Rights Promotes Dignity and Well-Being

Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MS/LIS
Posted December 04, 2017

Brief History

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a document adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on December 10, 1948, as a result of the experience of the Second World War.

The document consists of a Preamble (introduction) and 30 Articles (provisions). The document was designed to protect people throughout the world from abuses of power.

Since 1948, the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have influenced many national constitutions. The document has encouraged the independence of former colonies and has helped lead some states and regions toward democracy.

Next year, December 10, 2018, will be the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Your Well-Being

Article 1 of the Declaration states:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

As you enter this Holiday Season, and as you journey through the New Year, ponder this first Article of the Declaration of Human Rights. For instance, think about how you might define the word, Dignity.

Consider quietly, within your own mind, a time or two when your dignity was honored or violated. Ask yourself how the honoring or violating of your dignity affects your breathing, your heart rate, your sleep, and your overall well-being.

For more information, see the Selected Information Resources that follow this blog post.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease, illness, or other health condition without first consulting with your medical doctor or other healthcare provider.

Selected Information Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians. Keeping Your Emotional Health.
Summary Note: Article discusses emotional health as central to your realizing your full potential as a human being. Suggests ways in which you may improve or maintain good emotional health.
(Accessed 29 November 2017)

Hicks, Donna. Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011.
Summary Note: Print book. Donna Hicks, PhD, is Associate, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. Hicks, an international negotiator, discusses the role that dignity plays in both the breakdown and restoration of conflict relationships. Foreword by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Includes Notes and Selected Bibliography.

Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle. Adult Health. Discover the Connection between Health and Friendship
Summary Note: Presents examples of how good friends are good for your health. Offers ideas on how you can reach out to make and keep friends.
(Accessed 01 December 2017)

Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle. Adult Health. Embrace Forgiveness and Move Forward.
Summary Note: Defines forgiveness as a decision to let go of thoughts of revenge, to make way for improved mental and physical health. Suggests ways to move from suffering to forgiveness.
(Accessed 01 December 2017)

National Institutes of Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Mental Health.
Summary Note: MedlinePlus topic page defines Mental Health. More than 40 links are organized under headings, such as, Latest News, Diagnosis and Tests, Treatments and Therapies, Clinical Trials, Journal Articles, and Find an Expert.
(Accessed 29 November 2017)

United Nations. Human Rights Day 10 December 2018. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Turns 70.
Summary Note: Website kicks off a year-long campaign to mark the 70th Anniversary on December 10, 2018 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Translated into more than 500 languages, UDHR proclaims the inalienable rights to which everyone is inherently entitled as a human being.
(Accessed 27 November 2017)

United Nations. Universal Declaration of Human rights (UDHR). History of the Document.
Summary Note: Discusses the history of the UDHR, starting with preliminary drafts in early 1947 through to its adoption on December 10, 1948.
(Accessed 27 November 2017)

United Nations. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Text of the Document.
Summary Note: A milestone document in the history of human rights. Adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on December 10, 1948, as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. Full Text includes Preamble with 30 Articles (provisions). Link to download PDF.
(Accessed 27 November 2017)

United Nations. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Foundation of International Human Rights Law.
Summary Note: Discusses ways in which the UDHR has been expressed in law, such as treaties, regional agreements, and agreements within countries.
(Accessed 02 December 2017)

World Book. The World Book Encyclopedia. H. Volume 9. Human Rights. 2016 World Book, Inc. Chicago, Illinois. Print edition.
Summary Note: Brief history and Full Text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

Federal Agencies Partner to Award Grants for Military and Veteran Pain Management Research

Federal Agencies Partner to Award Grants for Military and Veteran Pain Management Research
Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MS/LIS
Posted October 01, 2017

Joint Initiative Will Award Multiple Grants Totaling $81 Million

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have partnered in a multi-component research project, focusing on nondrug approaches for pain management among military service members and veterans, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) September 20, 2017 news release.

Twelve research projects, totaling approximately 81 million dollars over six years, depending on available funds, will focus on developing and implementing research on nondrug approaches for pain management in settings that provide care for military personnel and veterans.

NIH will be the lead HHS agency in this partnership. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which is part of NIH, is contributing more than half of the total funding. NCCIH is the lead for this multi-agency initiative, called the NIH-DoD-VA Pain Management Collaboratory.

National Health Interview Survey Results

Data from the 2010 to 2014 National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics, show that Chronic Pain is the most common medical condition requiring treatment for military personnel.

Almost two-thirds of U.S. military veterans say they are in pain, and more than nine percent say their pain is severe.

Although opioids are often prescribed to treat Chronic Pain, long-term use of opioids may lead to addiction and other problematic issues. So, there is a need for nondrug approaches for pain management.

What the Research Means for Military Service Members and Veterans

Pain management research in the multi-agency initiative will be real-world, which means that the research will be conducted in settings that provide care for military personnel and veterans, such as military and veteran healthcare delivery organizations.

The research projects will provide important information about the acceptability, safety, and effectiveness of nondrug approaches in treating pain for military personnel and veterans.

Types of Nondrug Approaches

The following complementary and integrative approaches, among others, will be researched for their effectiveness and safety in the management of chronic pain for military service members and veterans.

  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Movement and structured exercise, such as, Tai Chi and Yoga
  • Manual therapies, such as, Spinal Manipulation, Massage, and Acupuncture
  • Psychological and behavioral approaches, such as, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Integrative treatments that involve more than one of these approaches

Although there is little published information about the effectiveness of these approaches for Chronic Pain in military populations, there is published information on complementary health approaches for PTSD, stress or anxiety, and insomnia in military personnel and veterans, as well as information on Chronic Pain in nonmilitary populations.

Talk with Your Doctor

Talk with your medical doctor or other healthcare provider about any complementary health approaches that you use.

Also consider talking with your doctor about complementary health approaches that you might integrate into your regular healthcare treatment plan.

See the NCCIH web pages titled, Eight Things to Know about Mind and Body Approaches for Health Problems Facing Military Personnel and Veterans, in the Selected Information Resources at the end of this CHIME blog post.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease, illness, or other health condition, without first consulting with your medical doctor or other healthcare provider.

Selected Information Resources

Nahin, R.L. Severe Pain in Veterans: The Effect of Age and Sex, and Comparisons with the General Population. The Journal of Pain: Official Journal of the American Pain Society. 2017 Mar;18(3):247-254. Epub 2016 Nov 21.
Summary Note: Study provides national estimates of U.S. military veterans with severe pain, and compares veterans with nonveterans of similar age and sex. Also see the NCCIH entry titled, Veterans Are in Pain, According to Analysis of National Health Survey, in this list of Selected Information Resources.
(Abstract accessed 30 September 2017. Full Text available on subscription from Elsevier, linked from PubMed Abstract. Free Full Text available from PubMed Central on 2018-03-01)

National Institutes of Health. Federal Agencies Partner for Military and Veteran Pain Management Research. News Release. September 20, 2017.
Summary Note: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Defense (DoD), and Veterans Affairs (VA) join together to fund 12 projects, totaling 81 million dollars over six years, for military and veteran pain management research.
(Accessed 21 September 2017)

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Complementary Health Practices for U.S. Military, Veterans, and Families
Summary Note: Information resources explore nondrug approaches for managing pain and other conditions. Information is organized for two reading audiences, Consumers and Health Professionals.
(Accessed 21 September 2017)

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Veterans Are in Pain, According to Analysis of National Health Survey
Summary Note: NCCIH summary of the R.L. Nahin study, showing that almost two-thirds of U.S. military veterans say they are in pain, and more than nine percent say their pain is severe. Also see the R.L. Nahin entry in this list of Selected Information Resources.
(Accessed 24 September 2017)

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Eight Things to Know about Mind and Body Approaches for Health Problems Facing Military Personnel and Veterans
Summary Note: An eight-point summary of nondrug approaches.
(Accessed 24 September 2017)


Awareness is Key to Healthy Posture

Awareness is Key to Healthy Posture
Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MS/LIS
Posted September 01, 2017

What is Posture?

Two types of posture are dynamic posture and static posture.

Dynamic posture is defined as how you position your body while you are moving, such as when you are walking or bending over to pick up something.

Static posture refers to how you hold your body when you are not moving, such as when you are sitting, standing, or sleeping.

Posture involves your musculoskeletal system, which includes your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves that connect the parts of your body.

Why is Posture Important?

Posture is important because scientists are finding that the ways you hold your body while going through your day affect your health over a lifetime.

For example, holding your body and moving in unhealthy ways may lead to back, neck, and shoulder pain. In any three-month period, about one in four adults in the U.S. has at least one day of back pain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Poor posture can decrease your flexibility, how well your joints move, and your balance. Slumped posture can make it more difficult to digest the food you eat and to breathe comfortably.

Some research suggests a link between posture and mental health, according to NIH researchers. For example, scientists are exploring the connections between posture and how the brain thinks and processes information.

Awareness is Key

When you are learning how to become aware of your posture, it is best to begin with small steps. NIH researchers suggest that you become mindful (that is, aware) of how you hold your body and how you move. The following suggestions are steps in the right direction.

  • When you walk, become aware that lifting your head will improve your posture and may increase your confidence.
  • When you walk or sit, become aware that pulling back your shoulders will help you to feel more comfortable.
  • In everyday situations, become aware that tightening your abdominal muscles will strengthen them and lead to greater flexibility.
  • When sitting in front of a computer, become aware that stretching your muscles gently and taking brief walks around the office will increase your energy and will help to straighten your posture.
  • Become aware of how your weight may affect your posture. Overweight weakens your abdominal muscles, contributing to poor posture and low back pain.

Medical doctors, physical therapists, and other healthcare providers can give you feedback on how you are moving.

Ask your medical doctor about the types of physical activity that may help you to become more aware of your posture, so that you can maintain your health and mobility over your lifetime.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease, illness, or other health condition without first consulting with your medical doctor or other healthcare provider.

Selected Information Resources

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. OrthoInfo. Warm Up, Cool Down, and Be Flexible.
Summary Note: Discusses flexibility and balance training as part of a fitness program. Describes sample stretching exercises with accompanying images of correct postures.
(Accessed 28 August 2017)

American Chiropractic Association. Tips to Maintain Good Posture.
Summary Note: Directions help you to move toward a healthier body posture. Includes instructions on how to correct your posture when standing, sitting, and lying down.
(Accessed 11 August 2017)

National Institutes of Health. NIH News in Health. August 2017. A monthly newsletter from the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Getting It Straight. Improve Your Posture for Better Health.
Summary Note: Article focuses on news interview clips from NIH physical therapists and researchers. Body awareness and mindfulness (that is, awareness) can help you to learn how to feel what is wrong in your posture, so that you can improve both your physical movement and your emotional state.

National Institutes of Health. NIH News in Health. December 2016. A monthly newsletter from the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tai Chi and Your Health: A Modern Take on an Ancient Practice.
Summary Note: Discusses the flowing postures and gentle movements of tai chi, also called, moving meditation. Focuses on improving posture, confidence, and mood.
(Accessed 26 August 2017)

Nemours Foundation. KidsHealth. TeensHealth. Backpack Basics.
Summary Note: Discusses health benefits and problems when using backpacks for school books and supplies. Cautions that not using a backpack properly can lead to bad posture.
(Accessed 27 August 2017)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Workplace Safety and Health. Easy Ergonomics: A Guide to Selecting Non-Powered Hand Tools.
Summary Note: Booklet offers advice on how to prevent musculoskeletal disorders caused by hand tool use in occupational settings. Suggests work tools that require the least continuous force and can be used without awkward work postures. Includes checklist for hand tool selection.
(Accessed 26 August 2017)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthfinder dot Gov. Prevent Back Pain.
Summary Note: Practical advice on how to strengthen your back muscles. Lists risk factors for back pain. Includes section on how Good Posture Can Help Prevent Back Pain.
(Accessed 26 August 2017)

U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Computer Workstations e-Tool. Good Working Positions.
Summary Note: Describes office environment sitting and standing postures that reduce strain on your muscles, tendons, and skeletal system to decrease your risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. Website tabs link to discussions on positioning of your desk, keyboard, and mouse/pointer, to maintain healthy body postures.
(Accessed 26 August 2017)

 

Ten Ways to Build Your Social Support Network

Ten Ways to Build Your Social Support Network

Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MS/LIS
Posted August 22, 2017

What is a Social Support Network?

A Social Support Network may include your family members, friends, or co-workers who offer you genuine emotional support.

A Social Support Network is different from a support group, which is generally a structured meeting run by a health professional.

Why is a Social Support Network Important?

Scientific studies show that having a strong Social Support Network contributes to mental and physical well-being.

Having strong social support can improve your self-esteem and sense of self-direction. In fact, knowing that you have strong social support can make you more able to cope with problems on your own.

How Do You Start to Build a Social Support Network?

You do not need a large network of friends and family to benefit from social support, according to the American Psychological Association. Your Social Support Network might be a small group of people whom you like and trust.

The goal of your Social Support Network is to reduce your stress level, according to Mayo Clinic staff. So, watch for persons who, in general, are positive, not constantly critical.

Build Your Social Support Network

  • Give Social Support.
    Some studies have shown that to stay healthy in mind and body, it may be more important to give social support to friends and family than to receive it. So, reach out to lend a hand, or to just say, Hello.
  • Make the First Move.
    If you meet someone you think might become a good friend, invite him or her to join you for coffee, or another casual activity.
  • Stay in Touch.
    Answer phone calls and reply to e-mail messages. If someone offers you an invitation and you accept, offer one in return, to let persons know that you care.
  • Pay Attention.
    Be a good listener. Let persons know that you are paying attention, by asking questions or by commenting on what they say.
  • Celebrate Accomplishments.
    When your friends succeed, be happy for them. Celebrate without envy or competition.
  • Show Appreciation.
    Take time to say, Thank You, in person or in a written note. Let friends and family know that you appreciate their thoughtfulness. Be there for them when they need support.
  • Practice Problem-Solving.
    First, try to find ways to solve a problem on your own. Be careful not to overwhelm friends and family.
  • Join a Community Activity or Recreation Center.
    You can make friends while you are exercising in a class or walking on a trail.
  • Volunteer.
    Think of a cause that is important to you and get involved with persons who share similar interests and values.
  • Visit Your Public Library.
    Reference Librarians may help you to find safe local clubs or community groups that meet regularly and match your personal interests.

Research shows that persons who enjoy high levels of social support stay healthier and live longer.

So, do not wait to build your Social Support Network. Begin now.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your medical doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease, illness, or other health condition without first consulting with your medical doctor.

Selected Information Resources

American Psychological Association. APA Help Center. Manage Stress: Strengthen Your Support Network.
Summary Note: Article draws from the APA annual nationwide public survey, called, Stress in America, released in February 2017. Suggests six ways to increase your social support, by both providing and receiving help in our personal interactions.
(Accessed 19 August 2017)

American Psychological Association. Stress in America: Coping with Change. APA Annual Survey: Part 1 and Part 2. Released, 2017.
Summary Note: Survey identifies leading sources of stress among the general public. Part 2 focuses on stress related to Technology and Social Media. Links to topic-specific APA press releases.
(Accessed 21 August 2017)

Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Turner, R.B., Doyle, W.J. Does Hugging Provide Stress-Buffering Social Support? A Study of Susceptibility to Upper Respiratory Infection and Illness. Psychological Science. 2015 Feb; 26(2):135-47.
Summary Note: Using a sample of 404 healthy adults, authors examined the roles of perceived social support and received hugs in buggering against interpersonal stress-induced susceptibility to a virus that causes a common cold. Among infacted participants, more-frequent hugs predicted less-severe illness signs. HHS Public Access provides free Full Text article via PubMedCentral.
(Full Text accessed 21 August 2017)

Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle. Stress Management.
Summary Note: Article discusses benefits of having a network of supportive relationships. Offers practical approaches for building and maintaining your relationships. Includes References.
(Accessed 16 August 2017)

National Institutes of Health. NIH News in Health: A monthly newsletter from the NIH, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. February 2017. Do Social Ties Affect Our Health? Exploring the Biology of Relationships.
Summary Note: Reviews scientific studies showing that people who have larger and more diverse types of social ties tend to have better physical and mental health than people with fewer such relationships. Gives examples of how kindness in social environments, versus hostility in social environments, affects personal health
(Accessed 20 July 2017)

Reblin, M. and Uchino, B. Social and Emotional Support and Its Implication for Health. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2008 March; 21(2):201-205.
Summary Note: Summarizes research findings from selected publications focusing on links between social support and physical health. HHS Public Access provides free Full Text article via PubMed Central.
(Full Text accessed 20 August 2017)

 

Reading Literary Fiction Builds Empathy

Reading Literary Fiction Builds Empathy

Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MS/LIS
Posted July 17, 2017

What Is Empathy?

Empathy is a complex term that includes the ability to recognize the emotions of other persons and then to respond emotionally to those persons. Empathy includes sympathy and concern for others.

Why is Empathy Important?

Developing empathy as a behavioral skill is important, because empathic behavior creates positive and helpful ways of thinking and acting. Persons who have developed their empathic skills find practical approaches to promote social acceptance and friendship, which are central to a healthy lifestyle.

Empathy helps people to develop a broader range of action skills, leading them to consider more alternatives in finding solutions for complex problems.

Study of empathy is important because people who are highly empathic are more prosocial, which is associated, for example, in the workplace, with creativity, higher performance, and productivity, according to a Public Library of Science 2013 article by researchers P. Matthias Bal and Martin Veltkamp.

What is Literary Fiction?

Literary Fiction refers to narratives, that is, stories, that focus on in-depth portrayals of characters’ inner feelings and thoughts. In Literary Fiction, the characters teach values about social behavior, such as the importance of understanding other persons’ beliefs.

Literary Fiction is different from Popular Fiction, which portrays unrealistic situations with characters whose actions are predictable. Literary Fiction is also different from Nonfiction, which is literature that is not fictional, such as, scientific literature.

How Does Reading Literary Fiction Build Empathy?

Readers who are emotionally “transported” into the fictional story are imaginatively experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and actions of the fictional characters.

When readers identify with a fictional character in a story, they may develop a feeling of sympathy for the character. While reading, the readers are, in effect, “practicing” being empathic.

As readers take the perspective of a character by experiencing fictional events as though they are events happening to themselves, readers are integrating empathy into their own self-concept.

The readers accumulate their ability to take the perspective of others, and, so, to feel empathy for others in their everyday lives, according to Bal and Veltkamp.

How Can You Select Literary Fiction that Helps to Increase Empathy?

Generally, librarians at the Reader Services Desk of your local public library can help you to select Literary Fiction for both adults and youth.

Many of today’s public libraries also offer reading programs and book discussion groups, which offer in-person gatherings where you can share insights, discuss various opinions, and, in turn, enhance your own empathic listening skills.

Selected Information Resources

Bal, P.M., Veltkamp, M. How Does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy? An Experimental Investigation on the Role of Emotional Transportation. PLoS One. 2013;8(1): e55341. Published online 2013 Jan 30.
Summary Note: Two experiments show that when people read Literary Fiction narratives, and they are emotionally transported into the narrative world, they become more empathic over time, according to a study conducted at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Study includes extensive footnotes and references.
(Accessed 07 July 2017. From abstract, link to Free Full Text via PubMed Central or PLoS One, Public Library of Science)

Chiaet, J. Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy. Scientific American. October 04, 2013.
Summary Note: Chiaet discusses the study, titled, Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind, published in the journal Science [see Kidd, D.C., Castano, E., in this list of Selected Information Resources]. Chiaet writes that Emanuele Castano, a social psychologist, and David Kidd, a PhD candidate, The New School, New York City, suggest that the types of books that persons read may affect how the readers relate to other persons.
(Accessed 14 July 2017)

Kidd, D.C., Castano, E. Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind. Science. 2013 October 18;342(6156):377-80.
Summary Note: Theory of Mind is the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires that may differ from one’s own. This study provides experimental evidence that reading passages of Literary Fiction, as opposed to Popular Fiction or Nonfiction, enhances the reader’s performance on theory of mind tasks.
(Abstract accessed 14 July 2017)

Mar, R.A., Oatley, K., Djikic, M., Mullin, J. Emotion and Narrative Fiction: Interactive Influences Before, During, and After Reading. Cognition and Emotion. 2011. August;25(5):818-33.
Summary Note: Provides snapshot of what is known about the interaction between emotions of readers and Literary Narrative Fiction, before, during, and after reading.
(Abstract accessed 14 July 2017. Full Text available from Taylor & Francis Online by subscription or purchase)

Sasse, Ben. The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017. Hardcover book.
Summary Note: Author discusses economic, social, and technological reasons for why adolescence has become what the author calls, “perpetual.” Book outlines five character-building habits to strengthen self-reliance and the desire and ability to help others. As a way to develop awareness of others’ emotions and intentions, Chapter 8, titled, “Build a Bookshelf,” suggests reading American novels that trace personal journeys. Includes Bibliography.

Resilience: How to Build Your Own Inner Strength

Resilience: How to Build Your Own Inner Strength
Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MS/LIS
Posted June 30, 2017

What is Resilience?

Resilience means being able to adapt to life’s setbacks. Resilience allows you to step back from misfortune, such as an illness, a job loss, or the death of a friend. When you are resilient, your anger, grief, or pain does not go away, but you are able to keep functioning in your everyday life.

You Can Learn How to Build Your Resilience

Research findings show that resilience is most often viewed as a process, rather than a personality trait. Resilience is a learned skill. Therefore, you can build resilience through the process of developing your own mental, physical, and social approaches to daily living. Practicing your own approaches can prepare you for challenges before they occur.

Mental Approaches

  • Count your blessings. Mentally express gratitude for the positive things in your life. Enjoying nutritious food, restful sleep, a safe living environment, and time with friends are a few ways to feel grateful.
  • Show compassion. Say Hello and smile to persons you meet. Open a door for someone who is carrying a heavy package. In a crowded store, excuse yourself if you inattentively bump another shopper.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Think of them as learning opportunities to change your future behavior. Then, when you find yourself in similar circumstances, remind yourself of your past mistake, and practice your changed behavior.
  • Remain optimistic and hopeful about the future. Do not seek perfection, but whenever possible, stay focused on positive emotions.

Physical Approaches

  • Maintain your physical health. Exercise for 30 minutes each day, by walking, or gardening, or taking a yoga class.
  • Make an appointment with your medical doctor for a wellness exam.
  • Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Participate in activities that you enjoy.
  • Get at least seven or eight hours of restful sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Practice relaxation techniques, such as prayer or slow breathing.

Social Approaches

  • Stay in regular touch with family and friends. If someone has not contacted you in a while, reach out for a brief talk or get-together.
  • Create a daily sense of purpose. Write a letter or call a community leader about a local event. Volunteer to help a neighbor. Treat yourself to an hour of social relaxation.
  • Seek social support for a challenge you are facing.
  • Build strong positive relationships that you can count on when unexpected frustrations become overwhelming.

Becoming more resilient takes time and practice. Start with small steps. Most important, believe in your ability to build your own inner strength.

For more information, see the Selected Information Resources at the end of this blog post.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your medical doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease, illness, or other health condition without first consulting with your medical doctor.

Selected Information Resources

American Psychological Association. Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers.
Summary Note: Guide includes tips on how to help children and teens build resilience. Separate sections focus on helping students in preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school.
(Accessed 22 June 2017)

American Psychological Association. Resilience for Teens: Got Bounce?
Summary Note: For a teen audience. Includes Ten Tips to Build Resilience.
(Accessed 22 June 2017)

American Psychological Association. The Road to Resilience.
Summary Note: Brochure helps adults to find their own road to resilience. Defines resilience, describes strategies, and suggests Ten Ways to Build Resilience. Includes links to Related Reading and Geographic Search to find local psychologists.
(Accessed 22 June 2017)

Chawla, L., Keena, K., Pevec, I., Stanley, E. Health and Place. 2014 July;28:1-13. Green Schoolyards as Havens from Stress and Resources for Resilience in Childhood and Adolescence
Summary Note: Observational and interview study of elementary and high school students in Colorado and Maryland describes how green schoolyards can reduce stress and promote protective factors for resilience.
(Abstract accessed 26 June 2017)

MacLeod, S., Musich, S., Hawkins, K., Alsgaard, K., Wicker, E.R. Geriatric Nursing. 2016 July-August;37(4):266-72. The Impact of Resilience among Older Adults
Summary Note: An overview of the scientific literature on resilience reveals that resilience is most often viewed as a process, rather than a personality trait. Identifies key characteristics of resilience.
(Accessed 28 June 2017. From Abstract, link to Free Full Text via ELSEVIER Open Access)

Mayo Clinic. Tests and Procedures. Resilience Training. Resilience: Build Skills to Endure Hardship.
Summary Note: Defines resilience. Offers tips to help build resilience skills. Includes cartoon video [4:23] titled, A Very Happy Brain, narrated by Amit Sood, MD, MSc, Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN. Take-away message is that the pursuit of gratitude and compassion will make you happier than the pursuit of happiness.
(Accessed 27 June 2017)