In the 2008 film "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) takes a Hawaiian vacation to get over his recent breakup. But his ex and her new boyfriend turn out to be staying in his hotel. The discovery shatters him, and he ends up sobbing on his balcony. Then the front desk calls: "We're getting complaints about a woman crying hysterically," the desk clerk says. "I think it's from the floor above me," he replies, trying to deflect blame. "You're on the top floor," is the retort.
Being a crier like Peter may sound embarrassing, but science shows that he was getting healthy, on several levels.
▪ Research indicates that crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system, or your "rest and digest" state. That's also equivalent to a meditation response to stress, and the opposite of your alert, fight-or-flight state -- good for the cardiovascular system and the spirit.
▪ Tears that express emotion contain beneficial chemicals and help eliminate toxins from your body.
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▪ Crying also stimulates release of the love hormone oxytocin, a chemical associated with comforting and happiness.
▪ It is thought that crying releases opioids in the brain, which helps reduce pain. In short, crying is an effective form of self-soothing. ("There, there, things will be OK.")
▪ In the blink of an eye, you'll be transferring oxygen, moisture, nutrients and antibodies that fight infection to your cornea.
▪ It helps rally support from those around you when you're down.
Our advice to Peter: Cry it out; hop the next boat to Maui; find a new gal!
Potassium for the heart
If you were shopping in a grocery store in the 1940s, you wouldn't recognize the bananas in the produce section. The Gros Michel species was shorter and stubbier than today's version, without that signature curve. That banana was wiped out by the TR-1 (Tropical Race-1) fungus. The Cavendish bananas we eat today are resistant to TR-1, and they're clones of a banana species that was grown in the Duke of Devonshire's hothouse in China.
Now a new fungus, TR-4, resistant to all fungicides, is threatening Cavendish bananas, and the race is on for a resistant replacement.
We don't just hope bananas stick around for their great texture and flavor; they're also a great source of potassium, and mounting evidence shows how important potassium is for heart health. (But don't go nuts; each one averages 105 calories.)
A new lab study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that potassium-rich foods could help protect against atherosclerosis, which reduces your risk for a heart attack. The study showed that animals with lower dietary potassium were more likely to experience artery calcification, hardening of their arteries. In addition, previous research found that increased potassium levels and lower sodium levels reduce the risk of heart disease. Plus, a deficiency can trigger an irregular heartbeat and boost your blood pressure.
So make sure you're getting enough potassium in your diet: Adolescents and adults should aim for 4,700 mg daily. Not a fan of the banana and its 425 mg potassium)? Try salmon (3 ounces gets you 300 mg), beans (1/2 cup equals 300-475 mg) and/or a baked potato (925 mg).
Exercise fends off depression
In the 2003 movie "Lost in Translation," over-the-hill American movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) rambles around Tokyo – he's there to shoot a whisky commercial – in a fog of depression. Trying to pick himself up, he hits the elliptical (he had the right idea), but ends up losing the battle of the machines and limping around feeling blue until Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) shows up. Fortunately for Mr. Harris, those (American) Scandinavians know a thing or two about dealing with depression.
Recently, researchers looked at nearly 34,000 Norwegian adults and monitored their physical activity, along with depression and anxiety symptoms, over the course of 11 years, making it the largest study of its kind. They found that for some folks who suffered from depression, exercising just one to two hours a week fought off their funk. In fact, the study showed that just one round of exercise could snap you out of your funky mood.
So, if you're feeling down in the dumps, get up and move! Don't stop at an hour or two a week – start from there. There's tons of solid scientific evidence that shows working out for at least 30 minutes, five or six days a week, battles everything from the blues to the bulge – and all the associated ailments that make it hard to feel upbeat about your future. Plus, you'll be well on your way to 10,000 steps (or equivalent) per day. No matter what language you say it in, a sunnier outlook comes with regular exercise, and nothing gets lost in that translation.
Do as I do
That much-favored, hypocritical saying bandied about by lazy authoritarians, "Do as I say, not as I do," never seems very convincing to any kid. And now, research has demonstrated that the exact opposite is actually what motivates kids to tackle tough situations – because when responsible adults communicate "Do as I do," it's inspiring to young 'uns, especially if the doing takes effort.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an institution that regularly turns out award-winning mathematicians, rocket scientists, engineering marvels and world leaders, did a study published in the journal Science that showed that kids as young as 15 months old who observe adults struggle at different tasks before succeeding try harder at their own tasks, compared to kids who watch adults sail through their problems/tasks without any trouble. And other studies have found that a kind of persistence and toughness in the face of adversity predicts success more than IQ does.
So folks, the pressure's off: You don't have to know how to put together that robot-in-a-kit right off the bat or put that car seat in the mini-van smoothly. That's not how you teach your child what it takes to master a task. You teach, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," through your calm (no swearing) persistence. The researchers found that the effect is amplified when you talk directly to your child, explain what you are trying to do, what worked – and what didn't. Then, in a few years, your child can help you when you get stumped. Count on it!
Mehmet Oz is host of "The Dr. Oz Show" and Mike Roizen, M.D. is dhief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.