Health Tools

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One of the primary tools against global warming, whatever the cause, is the planting of trees. Several countries have initiated tree planting programs as a buffer against climate change — while the world watches the burning of the Amazon rain forest. The hypocrisy and stupidity around the issue can drive you crazy.

What can one do to stay sane? Among the remedies for your personal sanity are a whole bevy of easy-to-implement ideas, none of which require a prescription from your doctor.

While not required, some doctors are prescribing houseplants to deal with anxiety. According to Melissa Breyer, “It is no secret that houseplants have all kinds of benefits to offer their human hosts. Beyond their cheerful demeanor, they provide many helpful assists, like increasing oxygen levels, helping stave off illness, cleaning the air, boosting healing, nudging creativity, and relieving stress — among other things. Meanwhile, one study found that just observing a houseplant can help foster happiness.”

A study reported by Optimal Positivity, “… looked at the connection between prolonged life expectancy and living among thriving vegetation and was able to confirm that women who live among healthy vegetation have lower mortality rates than those who don’t. Moreover, a healthy surrounding with plants and greenery was proven to have a positive effect on their mental health, in addition to lowering the mortality rates.”

Josh Jones notes that music has a role to play in managing stress, quoting Oliver Sachs, “In forty years of medical practice, …I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical ‘therapy’ to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens.”

“Several recent studies, for example, have linked drumming, the oldest and most universal form of music-making, to reduced anxiety, pain relief, improved mood, and improved learning skills in kids with autism. Listening to and playing jazz and other forms of syncopated music, have been shown in study after study to promote creativity, enhance math skills, and support mental and emotional well-being.”

If, as opined by William Congreve, “Musick has charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”, it is no wonder that it can help unknot those tight muscles and soften even the most hardened migraine. Jones continues, “… all kinds of atmospheric, instrumental music has the therapeutic power not only to reduce anxiety, but also to ease pain in surgical patients and reduce agitation in those suffering with dementia.”

Music will help a lot of people, but it may need to be the right kind of music. Jones notes, “Physiological responses from person to person will vary, as will their tastes. ‘One person’s easy listening is another’s aural poison,’ (Researcher Charles) Fernyhough admits. ‘But for a significant number of people suffering severe anxiety and trauma, the droning, minimal, wordless soundscapes of ambient (music) are more effective than any medication.’”

The adage, “Laughter is the best medicine” appears to be supported by science. As reported by Maridel Reyes, seven specific health benefits can be attributed to humor and laughter:
1. Increases pain tolerances
2. Suppresses the release of stress hormones and boosts levels of the feel-good brain chemical endorphin
3. Induces “gamma” frequencies — the type of brain waves that help with recall and memory.
4. Can smooth over most awkward social situations and makes everyone feel more comfortable and supported
5. Dilates your blood vessels, causing increased blood flow and reduced blood pressure
6. Significantly lowers chance of dying from cardiovascular disease and infections
7. Boosts natural killer cell activity — and raises levels of infection-fighting antibodies

Not all humor, however, is appreciated by all people. While visiting a friend’s house, I noted the dead and dying houseplants rotting on the windowsill and commented on her ‘black thumb’. I joked that it was a sure sign of her degraded mental health and impending doom, to which she immediately burst into tears, slapped me across the face and threw me out of the house. In this case, it was detrimental to my health, as well.

Jones observes, “Sixty years ago, when Sacks was still in medical school, avant-garde jazz bandleader Sun Ra had a very Sacks-like experience when he played for an audience of patients in a mental hospital, and inspired a catatonic woman who hadn’t spoken for years to stand up and say ‘Do you call that music?’”

I suspect she, at least, failed to see the humor in that.

Additional Information:
Melissa Breyer, Doctors Are Prescribing Houseplants for Anxiety, Depression, and Loneliness, August 29, 2019, TreeHugger Daily News

Josh Jones, The Therapeutic Benefits of Ambient Music: Science Shows How it Eases Chronic Anxiety, Physical Pain, and ICU-Related Trauma, July 13, 2019, Open Culture

Optimal Positivity, Studies Show That if You Want to Live Longer You Need to Have More Plants Around You, 2019

Maridel Reyes, The Healing Power of Humor — 7 Ways That Laughter Helps And Heals Us, August 21, 2019, Renew by United Health Care

Steve Tarlton, Earth Song, June 6, 2019, Writes of Nature

Steve Tarlton, Harmony of Nature, August 22, 2019, Writes of Nature

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