With Age Comes Balding

Almost all of us will experience balding in some way, whether we watch someone else struggle with losing their hair or we go through it ourselves. There are many types of hair loss but I want to discuss balding as we age, also known as male and female pattern balding or androgenic alopecia.

Why is it called male/female pattern balding?

Age-related balding happens in a specific pattern in men and women. The pattern of balding is how you diagnose balding and determine whether it’s age-related balding or if it is caused by something else such as fungal infection or medications. Females normally have balding or thinning from the centre part of the scalp and males lose hair from the temples or crown.

Diagram showing balding from the temples to give the classic widow’s peak. Image source.

What causes balding from age?

Androgens are a type of hormone in the body that are responsible for controlling the male characteristics in both males and females. The word androgen is made up of the latin words for man (andro-) and generator (-gen). Testosterone is an androgen that is made in the testes, ovaries and adrenal glands and it is found in high concentrations in males but in low concentrations in females.

The body converts testosterone into other forms, ie. metabolises the testosterone, with different enzymes depending on which part of the body it is in, the age of the body and also the gender of that body. There isn’t enough known about how the different types of testosterone products interact with the process of making hair follicles in men and women but we do know that no matter how much testosterone you have or don’t have, balding ultimately comes down to your genes.

It’s genetic!

As we age our hair follicles become weaker and produce weaker, thinner, more brittle hair. Then eventually the hair follicle dies and no longer produces hair. People with relatives who experience male pattern baldness are more likely to also experience male pattern baldness themselves.

There is no cure

There are topical treatments for balding to prevent and/or reduce hair loss. These treatments have limited success due to the lack of knowledge regarding the metabolism of testosterone between individuals.

The best way to deal with balding in your life is to assess your own self esteem and feelings of self worth.

Also consider how you feel when you look at a person who is showing signs of balding. Remember that the way you perceive yourself is very different to the way others perceive you. When you look in the mirror be gentle to the friend in the reflection. You are a beautiful person no matter how many working hair follicles you have.

Stay healthy and safe. Reply in the comments with your suggestions for a specific health topic you would like me to cover.

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The Short and Long Term Effects Of Laughter

You know it feels so good to have a long and intense belly laugh but what is really happening in your body when you laugh?

There are both physical and emotional effects on the body and mind when we laugh. You may have even heard of laughter therapy which encourages forced laughter and also uses humour to reduce feelings of stress and depression.

Scientific research on the effects of laughter indicate that laughter from tickling even forced laughter has a lasting benefit on the body. So whether you’re laughing with someone or just releasing some pent up emotion, the act of laughing will help you to feel better.

Some Short and long term health benefits of laughter:

  • Enhances cardiovascular function by improving blood-flow through our vasculature system.
  • Strengthens immune and endocrine systems by lowering levels of the stress hormones in our body such as cortisol and adrenaline. Ongoing low levels of stress can cause cortisol levels to remain in the system for extended periods, laughter can help reduce stress and cortisol levels.
  • Laughing together with someone else is more rewarding that laughing at them and it promotes a feeling of togetherness. Laughter occurs in many animals too. It is understood that laughter helps to strengthens social bonds between humans and animals alike.
  • Massages and exercises the muscles of the abdomen and diaphragm. Like a very gentle workout.
  • Feels like a physical release similar to crying or screaming but makes you feel good
  • Feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine are released both during laughter and smiling. The brain will respond by providing you with happiness hormones even if you force yourself to smile. Amazing!
  • Improves your sense of humour and outlook on difficult situations.

There are many physical and mental benefits of laughter and science is revealing more and more of them as we incorporate MRI and other technology in our research worldwide.

Thank you so much for reading. Stay happy and keep smiling.

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The Science Behind Changing Your Bed Sheets

The bacteria that live in our world are existing and trying to survive, to pass their genes onto the next generations, just like the rest of us. Even though we can’t see them, they’re growing and multiplying but we don’t notice them because they aren’t immediately causing us any harm.

The micro environment existing between the sheets:

Dust mites and bacteria thrive in dark, musty environments, so it’s important to let sunlight and fresh air into your bedroom regularly. It also helps to wait an hour before making your bed in the morning, so that any residual warmth and moisture can dissipate from the mattress before you cover it up again.

How Often Do You Change Your Sheets?

Once a week is the best way to go if you sleep in the one bed every night. You can stretch it to two weeks if you don’t use that same bed for the entire week. Some people need to change their sheets more often than one week but that will depend on your personal lifestyle and biological makeup.

Thanks for reading! Leave a comment below to suggest more science health tips from me, QueeenVK. And subscribe to my YouTube Channel for an extra dose of science.

Crafting People Are Happy People

How good is it to just sit back for a relaxing crafternoon (crafting in the afternoon)? It feels so rewarding when we finish a project and stand back to admire our handiwork, so it is no surprise to hear that there are emotional and neurological benefits of learning a new skill and letting your creativity loose.

Scientific research shows that crafting lowers stress and can help reduce feelings of anxiety. Levels of the stress-hormone cortisol decreases during and after performing creative craft activities.

While you’re crafting you are connecting to the present world around you instead of being stuck in the worries of the past or future. Your brain power is taken up by something far more productive and useful for your health. Some people use art as a therapeutic or meditative process to clear and calm the mind.

Inventing new ideas and exploring old ones in a different way can be so rewarding. It brings on those feelings of self accomplishment as well as expanding your mind to see new perspectives.

You’ve probably heard that doing crossword puzzles staves off dementia by helping keep the brain active. Basically, when you don’t use it – you lose it, so if you’re making new connections in your brain you’re keeping it active. Whether your hobby is crossword puzzles or creating a new piece of art, you are keeping those neural connections in working order.

There are many different types of crafts that are available for you to try. Find one that resonates with you and practice it, letting your mind flow with creativity.

My favourite craft at the moment is crochet. It took me a bit of practice, but once I got the hang of it, it just clicked for me. The repeating movements are quite soothing, as long as you take breaks to rest your hands! Here are some of my previous posts related to crochet crafts.

Here is a list of some other crafts you might like to try, maybe there are some you’ve always wanted to try or maybe you will find something new that you never considered before:

Origami/paper art

Painting

Sewing/needlework

Yarn crafts such as knitting, macrame, etc.

Scrapbooking

Lettering/calligraphy

Clay sculpting/pottery

Resin pouring

Flower pressing or flower arranging

Origami cranes

Reply in the comments with the crafts you love and the crafts that you’ve always wanted to try. Which crafts interest you and which crafts have you tried but didn’t like? For me, I’ve tried sewing and embroidery but they are too complex and confusing for me to grasp, whereas crochet clicked in my brain and I understand it a lot easier. Isn’t neurology so fascinating?!

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Which type of boredom are you feeling?

You can listen to me read out this post on my Podcast channel. Click here to listen.

There are multiple types of boredom. Studies have discovered that there are 5 types of boredom. Knowing which type you are experiencing can help you address your personal needs to improve your state of mind. Here at The Full Cup Wellness we’re all about keeping healthy on the emotional and physical levels and all of the levels in between.

Why would we need to feel bored? What is the purpose of boredom?

Boredom can create a state of searching for something better.

Boredom has been shown to boost creativity.

After learning a new skill boredom can indicate that you are ready to introduce another level of difficulty to the skill and advance your experience level.

What types of boredom are there?

Indifferent boredom

The best kind of boredom. It’s the definition of a lazy weekend being a couch potato. Sometimes you just need to unwind and recharge and do a bit of nothing.

Apathetic boredom

Comes from neither a positive or negative emotion. Often expressed as a lack of will to improve the current situation. Can be a symptom of depression.

Calibrating boredom

When you’re not doing anything and you feel bored but you aren’t sure why. That discontented feeling when you have nothing planned to do but you’re not willing or able to do anything to relieve that discomfort. This type of boredom often causes one to daydream, fantasise or engage in mental escapism through games, books etc.

Reactant boredom

This is a very negative and emotional type of boredom that is normally caused by being stuck in an inescapable situation. For example, a road trip or long plane ride, a work meeting, a lecture at uni or lesson at school.

Searching boredom

Happens when you’re feeling frustrated and discontented. Often when you feel this type of boredom you’re actively searching for a solution to your boredom. This is the type of boredom that can lead to the creation of new ideas or solving a problem that you’ve been sitting on for a while. Start writing down ideas and work on problem solving when you get into this type of head space. You might be surprised by what you come up with.

Personally I have a few techniques to help me on those days I wake up feeling bored and discontented. Often I am able to banish boredom by actively changing my mindset and incorporating goal setting habits in my daily life. The feeling of ticking things off the To Do list is so rewarding and keeps me motivated throughout each day.

What tips do you have to bust boredom? Comment below!

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The health benefits of deep restful sleep

Sleep is linked to multiple aspects of our health because it affects different organs and hormone levels throughout the body. Deep restful sleep is also known as slow wave sleep and occurs as the third stage of non-REM sleep. The REM stage of sleep comes after this deep sleep stage. During deep sleep the brain detoxifies itself from harmful proteins that build up during the day and sorts out your recent memories. We cycle through the stages of sleep multiple times during the night. However, people who snore or have sleep apnea are less likely to reach the deeper stages of sleep as they are waking themselves up multiple times during the night.

For the adults, you want to make sure you’re having 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night. Everything is better in moderation. Teens and babies need different amounts of sleep depending on their age.

Less than 7 hours of sleep or poor quality sleep can cause:

Your blood to thin leading to an increased risk of low blood pressure and dizziness. Fewer red blood cells are made so your blood ends up being thinner than it should be.

Reduced cognitive abilities. Lack of sleep can affect you in the same way as too much alcohol. Don’t drive while sleepy, it’s as bad as drunk driving!

Poor memory recall as your recent memories aren’t effectively processed by the brain.

Difficulty in maintaining weight due to disruption of levels of hormones involved in hunger (ghrelin) and feeling full (leptin). Studies have shown that less than 5 hours sleep cause a decrease in leptin levels. This is probably because your body wants to make sure you last the fast of the night but if you have a shorter sleep then your body thinks you need less leptin to keep you feeling full. Unfortunately ghrelin then comes in and makes you feel hungry before a meal. It isn’t affected by your sleep but I have noticed that if I’m not asleep by midnight I get those hunger pains that make it difficult to get to sleep without having a snack first. In the long run it becomes harder to maintain your weight if you’re always eating a second dinner before bed (which was me back in the day when I was up late studying for uni exams).

Lack of deep restful sleep to clear the build up of toxic proteins in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s. Current research indicates that Alzheimer’s might be caused due to build up of tau and amyloid-beta proteins in the brain that are created during the daytime. These proteins are cleared from the brain during deep sleep so it’s very important to deal with insomnia if you can.

Life span can be affected by poor quality sleep. Studies have shown that shift workers may have a decreased life span. Disruption to sleep patterns can cause insomnia as our circadian rhythm is a daily cycle consisting of different hormones released during certain times of the day.

Too much sleep can lead to:

Thicker blood which leads to increased risk of stroke and high blood pressure. More sleep doesn’t necessarily make you feel more refreshed. It can leave you feeling more drowsy if you sleep longer than around 9 hours.

Tricks to beat insomnia:

I know everyone says this one but it’s absolutely true: AVOID CAFFEINE. Caffeine has a lasting effect in the body so limit your intake to the morning and no more than one cup of coffee per day. Black tea contains less caffeine but it’s still there so limit cups of tea or make them weaker.

Blue light filter: Exposure to blue light suppresses your body’s natural melatonin levels. Melatonin is the hormone that increases in your body during the evening, telling your body that it’s time to go to sleep and recharge. The release of melatonin helps to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm and sleep cycles. Blue light is emitted from your TV, computer and smartphone screens. Use the blue light filter function on your smart phone after the sun goes down. You can set them to turn on and off at your chosen times. Personally, my smartphone’s blue light filter is set to switch on at 9 pm and off at 6 am. If your TV, computer or laptop doesnt have a blue light filter function you can purchase blue light filter glasses that look just like regular reading glasses. Search for them online. There are specialty online stores that focus on these light filtering glasses.

Meditations: Yoga nidra for sleep and mindfulness meditation. These types of meditation are like a brain training exercise to keep your thoughts on the present moment. Insomnia can sometimes be caused by us dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. When we’re in the present moment we’re free to control our thoughts into something more productive. Specifically with yoga nidra mediation you will focus on each part of your body individually, making sure it is totally relaxed and ready for sleep. You willl often find that you’re only a quarter of the way through before you fall asleep, it’s surprisingly effective! Give it a go, there are guided meditation tracks online or in my favourite free meditation app Insight Timer.

Supplements: There are some supplements you can purchase from your pharmacy off the shelf. I like velarian root supplements. I’ve also tried melatonin with some success. Personally I haven’t experienced any side effects of using these but ask your doctor for more advice on these supplements and if they’re right for you.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Visit my Youtube channel, QueeenVK, for more Full Cup Wellness.

Keep your cup full!

Finding Gratitude During Tough Times

Gratitude is already a difficult practice at the best of times. So how do you tap into those feelings of gratitude when you’re not feeling grateful for the bad experiences happening around you? Or maybe you’ve been feeling depressed for a whlie and you’re not sure how you can feel gratitude at all. There are some easy exercises you can introduce into your life that will help bring feelings of gratitude even when things around you seem grim.

Why would I want to experience gratitude?

  • Resilience
    • Resilience is a meta-skill that can help you get through the darkest days. Notice how difficult times are easier to navigate through when your thoughts are coming from a positive slant. Any negative emotions that could lead to unproductive actions or reactions can be challenged and re-framed into productive motivation. Gratitude isn’t about completely removing sadness and negativity, but it is used to help process those difficult feelings.
  • Good mental health
    • Remaining in depression and a negative mindset will hinder your path to better mental health. When your mental health hasn’t been tip top, it’s so important to address it just like you would any injury that is affecting your daily life. You may not see how poor mental health is affecting you day-to-day but it does affect the way you perceive every personal experience and your interactions with the people around you.
  • Life is easier
  • Everything around you is exactly what you need and want at this point in time. When you have gratitude in your life you will be completely grateful for your current possessions. You’ll notice that the importance you’ve placed on material objects is diminished and you are better for it. You’re no longer stressing about having more, being more, doing more.

How to begin your gratitude journey

Gratefully accepting the situation around us is the basic idea of the practice of gratitude. Life is already difficult, that is something we must accept. But we don’t need to accept the negativity and mental rut that can come from difficult life experiences.

  • Focus on the good
  • Your perception of the world will frame how you respond to your present situation. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but you need to identify the blessings in disguise. Maybe the unexpected loss of your job has led to you investing more time into your passions and a more rewarding type of work.
  • Time and patience helps
  • Be kind to yourself and grant yourself patience without judgement. Any negative jugemental thoughts about yourself will only hinder your path towards feeling gratitude.
  • Find joy in small things
  • Taking the time to focus on the little things in your life that make you smile will serve as a reminder of the positivity surrounding you. This practice also helps you feel less concerned with the things you don’t have and distracts your thoughts from negative emotions.
  • Thought swapping
  • Stay in control of your feelings and actions by reframing any of your unproductive and negative thoghts into the postive. This pratice is also known as CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. You are acknowledging the difficult internal thoughts and making the choice to move away from them and towards reconnection with the world around you.

Wishing you all the best as you introduce gratitude into your life. Leave some comments below sharing your experience with gratitude.

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The power of journaling

What is journaling?

The basic idea is that you record your thoughts, emotions and experiences. Normally this is done daily in a book. The act of writing things down encourages the information to be stored more effectively in your memory.

Why journal? Is it right for you?

Writing down your thoughts right before sleep can help to release your brain from the noise of the day. Or you might like to keep record of exciting or happy memories. For example, I have a memory that I wrote in 3 separate journals because it was so exciting at the time. At the age of 10 I watched a dog give birth to a litter of puppies. In my first 10 years of life that was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced and I needed to record it. Eventually my young mind started worrying I would forget my memories and made sure to journal all my family holidays and various events in my life. Now in my 30s I gladly live mindfully in the moment without fear of forgetting the past. We do not need to be attached to our past in a way that affects our mental health negatively.

Writing things down can help you to let some difficult emotions go. Once the thoughts and fears are set out on the page in front of you they don’t seem so big and overwhelming. And bonus, you don’t feel the pressure to keep the thoughts and memories in your head because they’re recorded for you already. That takes a lot of stress off your brain.

According to various articles from psychological research there are positive and negative outcomes to journaling. It can either help you understand yourself in relation to others or it can hinder your self discovery journey if you only concentrate on “yourself in isolation”. The results of a collection of research articles include the following positive and negative outcomes of journaling.

The pros of journaling

  • Encourages you to evaluate your reactions and emotions
    • Identify action vs reaction. Reaction is what we do with our “monkey brain” when we act on impulse without consideration.
  • Allows you to find resolutions to open issues
    • You can see all aspects of a problem when it’s written out in front of you.
  • Clarifies your views and motivations.
  • Focuses your negative energy into creativity and positivity.
  • Increases your tolerance of change and unpredictable or unexpected situations.
  • Improves mental health by making you feel more connected to the world around you.
  • Helps you define your goals and encourages action through motivation.

The cons of journaling

  • Causes negative rumination
    • You live within your own negative thoughts.
  • Prevents you from living in the moment
    • You begin to focus on how you’ll record your life events instead of experiencing them.
  • Makes you become egocentric and obsessed with your needs.
  • Allows you to blame the situations around you but not come to any positive conclusions.
  • Prevent resilience by encouraging thoughts to remain on negative experiences.

Maintaining the habit of journaling regularly can be a challenge. Although it becomes easy once it becomes part of your daily routine. Encourage yourself to keep at it by making it a fun and rewarding experience. Use different coloured pens and highlighters to really engage with your journal pages. I have an old sticker collection from my youth that I’m re-purposing in my journals, cards, labels and craft. Some are those holographic stickers from the 90s, they really jazz up a sparse journal page.

Thanks so much for reading! Comment below with your journal experiences. Or share your tips and hints to make the most of our journaling journey.

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Your phone camera may be lying to you

I recently upgraded my phone to a Samsung Note 9 and it wasn’t until a few months later that I noticed the function of a particular setting that is default on. In the Settings menu this particular setting says that it corrects the shape of faces that appear distorted. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant but I guessed it would help me take better photos.

So I was taking some selfies, trying to figure out my best angles to show off some cute new earrings when I noticed that the default camera app on my Samsung had distorted my face on purpose. Then I understood what the setting meant and it kind of broke my heart.

I love you Samsung. Why would you purposely distort my oval shaped face into a heart shaped face? Are you saying that my natural normal appearance, the features I have written in my DNA, are distorted?

DISTORTED.

In a time of low self esteem this is not appropriate. People are getting plastic surgery to look more like these camera filters. All humans have the choice to live their life however they wish, with or without body modification. But when we’re constantly shown fake images of what people are supposed to look like then we begin to feel that we don’t measure up to this impossible standard and it leads to mental illness. I struggled for many years before I gradually taught myself to have self esteem and if I’m being completely honest, it is the absolute best thing to do for yourself if you struggle with lack of self worth and self confidence. Future-you will thank you for it, trust me. Once you are no longer preoccupied with your perceived faults (Hint: they don’t exist) life is easier in every aspect. Bonus: Once people see the confidence you have in yourself they will have confidence in you too. It’s science. The branch of science is psychology.

Your physical appearance is irrelevant

Another setting on my Samsung that I turned off as soon as I could find it: the beauty filter. All it does is blurs the image so that you can’t see my pores and wrinkles and it seems to add extra dark pixels to my eyes and eyelashes to make them pop. If you’ve noticed any changes your particular camera app makes to your face, regardless of whether you prefer the setting on or off, write it in the comments below.

I turn these filters off because I know my face is acceptable as it is. I choose not to wear makeup most days because I know my face is great purely because it’s attached to me. I enjoy applying makeup when I feel like it because it’s fun, like an art project or special effects/cosplay.

Your physical appearance is irrelevant. Remember that. To me, I have absolutely no reason to judge your character based on a couple of features. Most of the time I don’t even notice appearance and it is extremely difficult for me to describe a person if they aren’t in front of me. It’s because I’m too busy focusing on your personality and that’s all I need to see. That’s the part that matters.

You are beautiful because of who you are and who you choose to be. Your appearance is irrelevant to me. Now go out there and get that self confidence.

You got this.

PS. I ended up taking the photos of my cute earrings with the camera filters off and a makeup free face. The only “flaw” I did notice is that I poke my tongue out a lot.

Featured image credit: https://kamdora.com/2014/07/16/how-to-tell-the-shape-of-your-face/

It’s a catastrophe! How to avoid catastrophic thinking

The dreaded anxiety spiral. It’s so difficult to stop it once it begins so the key is to stop it before it gets completely out of hand.

This is going to take a little daily brain training and a lot of mindfulness. Let’s do this!

Mindfulness

Mindfulness means being present and aware in the moment which is a very useful skill for humans to practise. Practising mindfulness encourages us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, once we’re more in tune with them it’s easier to have better control of our thoughts.

We all have those moments when our thoughts start spiraling down into very negative territory. The negative thoughts keep getting worse and worse often causing us to feel helpless and full of despair. This is called catastrophic thinking and it usually goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety.

Once we get to that catastrophic level of thinking it can feel impossible to get out of it and back into positive territory. It’s important to identify and re-route our thinking before it gets unmanageable. We can’t control the crappy world around us but we can train ourselves to have control over our thoughts and responses. It’s quite challenging to learn this skill but it’s worth it to feel the freedom that it brings.

The negative thoughts we encounter can feel so real, so true and completely valid. How do you combat that? The answer is to remember that thoughts are not facts. My psychologist taught me this 10 years ago and it has become a mantra in my mind, constantly reminding myself. I even wrote it on my mirror in my bedroom so that I could remind myself constantly, training my brain towards this valuable reminder. You can do it too. Repeat it so that you remind yourself when you need it most.

Thoughts are not facts

This practice of mindfulness can help keep those catastrophic thoughts in check, which will help minimise your anxiety or be a great tool to manage your depression.

Be mindful of your thoughts

Keep an eye on your thoughts and notice how they are affecting you. Is is a great way to train your brain against catastrophic thinking. Practise observing your thoughts without judgement, this is a type of meditation practice.

There are many meditation apps out there that can guide you through a mindfulness meditation session. My favourite meditation app is Insight Timer.

Mindfulness meditation will teach you how to acknowledge your thoughts without placing judgement on them. During your meditation allow yourself to notice feelings without being swept up by them. This will become your regular training so that you can learn to have more control over your actions and your response to negative emotions.

Challenge your thoughts

Being consumed by anxious or negative thoughts is scary because the thoughts feel completely real and rational. If you notice yourself slipping into a spiral take a deep breath and challenge your beliefs. Ask yourself, “Is this threat real right now?” Or is this my brain interpreting this as a dangerous situation?

Focus on the here and the now. Focus on the facts. Thoughts are not facts.

A professional can help

It’s difficult to overcome catastrophic thinking alone, don’t be discouraged! If it’s a challenging task you can ask for help from a therapist. If you don’t already have a psychologist, speak with your regular GP about obtaining a referral to a psychologist that is right for you.

A mental health professional can work through the causes of your catastrophic thinking and recommend the tools and techniques that are suited to your personal situation. 

Never give up. You can learn to remove yourself from the negative spiral of thoughts and combat catastrophic thinking.