Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Healthy Computing: Clear Vision

© Erik Peper Ph.D.

Optimize your performance and prevent computer-related injuries with Healthy Computing Email Tips. Each week we provide hints to help you stay healthier while working.
After working at the computer, do your eyes feel tired and irritated? Approximately 33 to 37 percent of people experience eye irritation such as, itching, burning, dry eyes or difficulty focusing on the distant objects after computer work. Look to your health and increase CLEAR VISION.


Blink frequently when looking (or is it staring?) at the monitor. This helps because our blinking rate decreases approximately 70% when concentrating versus when we are relaxed. Remember to blink at the end of every paragraph or with every mouse click.

Adjust the top of the monitor screen so that it is equal to or lower than your eyebrows. When looking straight ahead or upward at the monitor, our eyes tear less and the corneal surface dries. When looking slightly down, our eyelids will usually sweep down the whole eyeball when blinking, which moistens the cornea instead of only the upper eyeball.

Look out a window (if possible) at a distant tree or lawn when taking a break, when talking on the telephone or when thinking about a task. Green is a soothing color for our eyes. If you don't have access to a window, decorate your work area with green plants that you can look at during your vision breaks.

Adjust and correct other factors that influence vision such as glare, reflections and wearing the correct prescription glasses.

Healthy Computing: Clear Vision

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Arthritis: Rosehip is better than drugs for pain-relief

Published on Saturday, July 26, 2008
by Healthy News Service
Back to Healthy News

Rosehip could be a more effective pain-reliever than standard drugs for people with arthritis, a new study suggests. A powder form of the wild variety of rosehip, Rosa canina, is better at relieving pain among osteoarthritis patients than paracetamol and the nutritional supplement, glucosamine. The three therapies were tested on a group of 300 patients, who tested each in turn for three months.

Overall, the patients reported that the rosehip preparation was almost three times more effective than paracetamol, and 40 per cent better than glucosamine. Rosehip also didn’t come with the side effects associated with paracetamol, including constipation and drowsiness. The researchers from Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen believe that rosehip is so effective because it also reduces the inflammation in the joints, which is characteristic of osteoarthritis. (Source: Osteoarthritis and Cartilage)

Provided by What Doctors Don't Tell You on 7/26/2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Create a Bigger Picture of Health

Health is a function of participation. - Werner Erhard

The "participation" that Erhard talks about is participation in relationships and participation in work that serves a vision or a context larger than your own personal survival. Your health and wellness are by-products of a life that is focused and ripe with meaning, full of generous engagement with others in the creation of a world that works for everybody. This insight is not new. Wise women and men throughout the ages have demonstrated an elegant unconcern for their own problems (physical or circumstantial) combined with a diligent commitment to the wellbeing of others. Such an orientation results in an observable radiance, a tangible strength of character and profound wisdom, as well as a remarkable ability for compassion even in the direst situations. Think of Mother Teresa. Think of the current Dalai Lama. Think of someone whom you admire.

People in Western industrialized nations have a great luxury of time and money to devote to personal health. But it may be beneficial to ask whether these populations are truly healthier and happier than other cultures as a result. Are we really well in body, mind, and spirit?

Obsession with health can be every bit as wasteful of your human potential as ignorance and carelessness can be. Focusing primarily on self-health may be endlessly fascinating, but it can also be tremendously isolating, exorbitantly expensive, and outrageously time consuming. Ultimately, overconcern for personal health keeps people imprisoned in a tiny cell, limiting the vast possibilities of creative expression and loving relationships that await them. The equation is really basic: in serving others, we serve ourselves. Or put another way: Creating a bigger vision and living in support of it, we put our personal concerns in perspective, and we are subsumed and fulfilled by a greater need, a greater possibility, a greater love.

Reaching Out
"People helping people" is a tried and true strategy for moving out of and beyond personal pain and suffering. You are not alone with whatever diseased condition you may be struggling with, even though it may often feel that way. People are typically ashamed of their weaknesses and vulnerability and fearful of more pain, all of which feeds their loneliness and isolation. Yet when someone opens a door by showing friendship or offering a hand of assistance, especially if they have walked the same path of pain or disease, that help can be tremendously beneficial, drawing you out of your closed world and inviting you into the larger world with others who share a common vulnerability.

Service to others in need can be a powerful remedy for your own pain or sense of alienation. There is relief in putting your own drama aside, for however long, in order to touch, with understanding, the life of another.

Few people can fail to generate a self-healing process when they become genuinely involved in healing others. . . . Selflessness is the greatest weapon in integrating and aiding the self. - Theodore Isaac Rubin, MD

The best healers are often those who know illness intimately from their own experience.

Moving beyond Identification
To identify with something is to incorporate that thing (be it an object, a person, a job, a role, a thought, an action, a feeling, or a series of symptoms) within your definition of who you are. It’s funny, but most people don’t realize how closely their self-definition depends on a particular identification until that identification is challenged in some way. For example, people become identified with their jobs. When they lose their job, they lose their self-esteem.

When you are ill, illness tends to permeate your world, whether it is a simple cold or a chronic condition. Having asthma or having arthritis can easily become "being the woman with asthma" or "being the guy with arthritis." And you may come to identify yourself with that illness. You might use it, and abuse it, to judge yourself or to manipulate others. Some folks believe that illness or disease is some form of punishment. When they are sick, therefore, they feel guilty. They feel unloved and unlovable. They compound an already aggravated situation with negativity and self-judgment. To align with a bigger context of health means refusing to use illness or disease in this way.

Next time you find yourself "under the weather" or experiencing discomforting symptoms, watch the way your mind works. Illness can provide self-understanding, if you don’t get stuck in it. Pay attention to what you identify with. Self-observation is the first and most crucial step in breaking unproductive habits about your health, like blaming or berating yourself, other people, or circumstances for your condition, or thinking that because you are ill you are somehow a failure.

Observation without self-judgment is the key. Seeing clearly what your mind is up to, especially when it is caught in a loop of negative feedback, will teach you to simply move forward, regardless of the mind’s chatter.

Open to Prayer
Some people pray as a means of seeking comfort in difficult times. Others view prayer as a type of communion with a source of love or with the mystery that surrounds their lives. Because prayer, by its very definition, connects you with a higher power, or universal source, or deep innate wisdom, it can encourage a more expansive view of life. With prayer, the gift of health may be seen in a new perspective, which prizes health but does not assign it ultimate importance. The old adage, "If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything," simply isn’t true. There are values more transcendent and meaningful than personal health.

Prayer can also serve as a means of expressing your interrelatedness with others. Recent research indicates that people who are prayed for by others, even by people they don’t know, receive benefit in the form of fewer complications in surgery and faster healing time. Science may question such studies and the efficacy of prayer for a long time. What is unquestionable, however, is what it does for you. When you direct care and attention outside yourself toward another person’s wellbeing, when you unite yourself with others in the commonality of shared pain and shared humanity, there is no doubt that you are healthier for it.

Expanding Your Context
Here are a couple of ways to carry the bigger picture of health even further.

* Spend some quiet time, an hour if possible, in which you simply contemplate and/or write about the ideas presented above. For instance, what do you think about the statement, "Health is a function of participation"? What do you believe about the old adage, "If you've got your health, you’ve got everything"?

* Make a phone call to a friend or relative who is currently ill or dealing with some chronic condition. As you listen, silently support, love, and pray for the person without trying to solve any problems or without demanding anything for yourself. Just be there. Notice if this activity affects the way in which you view your own health concerns.

Simply Well by John W. Travis, MD, & Regina Sara Ryan. Copyright 2001. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. John W. Travis, M.D., M.P.H.,Wellness Workbook with Sara Regina Ryan (Ten Speed Press). The online version of the Wellness Inventory may be accessed by individuals at ( and licensed by organizations (

Sunday, July 27, 2008

It takes one a long time
to become young.

-- Pablo Picasso
Butt Lake Grasses & Blooms, July 2008, c. Janis Davies. all rights reserved.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind,
of what, then, is an empty desk?”


Sometimes more mess means less stress

Learning to tolerate the natural chaos of life can help you feel happier

By Marjorie Ingall
updated 5:41 a.m. PT, Fri., July. 18, 2008

On my desk is a half-empty bag of wasabi peas. Beside it is a disposable razor from a gift bag I received several weeks ago, a bottle of Sally Hansen Sheer Beige Gloss, a flyer from a Tibetan art museum on which I scribbled a reminder to call the pharmacy, an idea for a story, my older daughter's drawing of a robot in a purple minidress, a stack of books I will read someday if it kills me and a festive rainbow of curling Post-its dating back to the Pleistocene era.

On certain days, this mess stirs up all of my anxiety and self-loathing, especially when, in addition to the detritus on my desk, toys cover my living room floor, the cat is stalking a dust bunny the size of a rabbit and I can't find the phone number of the scientist I'm supposed to interview in 20 minutes. I gaze around at it all and, feeling utterly overwhelmed, become convinced that I will never make another deadline or write another book until I frantically straighten up.

I see desks in decor magazines, naked except for one perfect potted plant, and I moan and sigh like someone looking at porn. I'm not alone in my obsession: According to Consumer Reports, Americans spent more than $2 billion in 2004 to impose external, Container Store-like order on their life. “The world is so complicated today, with images and information bombarding us all the time,” says Carol Gould, a marriage and family therapist in San Francisco. Who wouldn't want a home that felt like a serene refuge?

Coping with chaos
Many experts would say that my chronic longing to be neat and tidy has less to do with the state of my stuff than the state of my life: A year ago, my husband was diagnosed with thyroid cancer; ever since, my day-to-day has been nothing if not disorderly. Suddenly, I had to live with the most painful, agonizing kind of messiness. Would Jonathan get better? I wondered again and again. If he didn't, could I handle it? “Controlling your environment allows you to feel that you're at least controlling something,” confirms Julie Holland, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City. “You can't control Iraq; you can't control the economy; but you can control the amount of dust in your carpet. It's a way to feel as if you're not powerless.”

But although it's possible to impose neatness, at least temporarily, exerting control over life is more challenging, as I discovered when my relatively young, always-healthy husband got sick. Learning to accept occasional messiness and the uncertainty that goes along with it — the life kind as well as the clutter kind — is really about accepting this fundamental lack of control.

That may seem grimly fatalistic, but there's a positive side to letting go. Order and predictability may sound better, but mess, it turns out, has its own rewards, even if you can't always see them at the time. “A chaotic period can be a catalyst for greater understanding,” says Rabbi Irwin Kula, author of “Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life” (Hyperion). “Ambivalence, contradictions and tension ultimately give rise to wisdom.”

I relate to that. I am the least Zen person you can imagine, but while Jonathan was having surgery, getting radiation and acting completely zonked-out from his resulting low thyroid levels, I had no time to be a drama queen. I had to earn a living and take care of our daughters, 3 and 6, not to mention my spouse. I had to learn to tolerate untidiness. And a disorganized desk is nothing compared with the messiness of a relationship and the tension that can arise when two people make a life together.

Cultivating tolerance
While Jonathan was sick, for instance, I wanted to talk about it. He didn't. “When there's stress in a marriage and you work through it together, it leads to greater intimacy and depth,” Kula says. “You can run from emotions and ideas that make you uncomfortable, you can repress them as fiercely as possible, or you can step back and figure out what you're struggling with.” I did some figuring, and it led me to realize that I needed to work on my own generosity so I could meet my husband's needs rather than focus on my own desire for reassurance. The last thing my husband felt like doing was discussing what he was going through. I had to accept that, for him, simply being together felt comforting, even if we were sitting in silence. His illness brought us closer not only because we relied more on each other, the two of us clinging against the storm, but because I learned to be more tolerant of his way of coping.

If you happen to be in a crisis, relationship or otherwise, Kula suggests coaxing the process of understanding along by asking yourself, How can this situation help me better grasp who I am? How can it make me more compassionate in my web of connections? “The more you face your frailties and understand yourself, the more empathy you'll be able to muster.”

My struggle to accept that Jonathan and I had different communication styles made me think that perhaps I also needed to view the other imperfections in my life more tolerantly, including the debris on my desk. The two concepts may seem different, but just as discovering how to coexist peacefully with life's emotional messes (and your spouse, for that matter) can make you a stronger, more empathetic person, so, too, can living with a bit of physical clutter. Both, after all, are about letting go of the need to control every last thing and seeing what comes into your life in return. “If you focus all your energy on excessively organizing your time — or your desk — you won't be as open to all kinds of opportunities,” says Eric Abrahamson, co-author of “A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder” (Little, Brown).

Think of it this way: When you're looking at a variety of things in front of you — pictures, desk toys, disparate stacks of paper — your mind starts jumping around and making intriguing connections. “The more stuff you have out in the open, the more ways there are to arrange the items and the more information you can gain from them,” Abrahamson explains. My friend Tanya, a textile artist, concurs. “I need to see my materials, tools and photos around me. They make me want to create; if I don't see them, I'm not as inspired to move forward with my work.”

The same thing happens when you mix different types of people. “In companies, there's a tendency to put everyone with the same function on the same floor,” Abrahamson says. “But if you sit different departments together so folks mingle at the coffeemaker, there's more chance for an influx of new ideas.”

This isn't to say that we should all throw our papers into the wind, let cat hair coat every surface and allow dishes to pile up to the heavens. The point is to find the level of mess that feels optimal for your work, life and peace of mind. For some people, that may be quite a bit; for others, not so much.

Accepting a little messiness
Take my friend Katie, a reformed megaslob. “Twice,” she says, “I've actually thrown out a sink full of dishes that had been sitting for so long that they were caked in muck rather than attempt to wash them. It was simply easier for me to buy new ones.”

That's extreme, granted, but most of us end up with a few dirty pots left in the kitchen when we sit down to eat. If we stopped to wash every last one of them, the food would get cold. “You can't let mess impede your enjoyment of the meal,” Kula says. “They'll get washed — later!” As for Katie, when she moved to a new, larger apartment, she swore she'd make a fresh start. “I vowed to be tidy in all areas, not only in the kitchen. I set up an ultra organized filing system and spent days stashing every piece of paper I owned into its exact place,” she recalls. “But it was so disheartening when the mail came, with new bills and things to file. I realized I was never going to keep up.” Perfection, after all, is ephemeral, as evanescent as the moment when all of Katie's papers were neatly filed (and her dishes washed).

Katie has now found a happy medium, tossing paperwork into a few general folders and doing a more elaborate sort-and-toss a few times a year. Abrahamson points out that being able to tolerate a bit of dishevelment can make you more efficient in the long run. “By letting paper pile up for a while before you deal with it, you make one trip to the filing cabinet instead of 10.” Even Albert Einstein, great thinker that he was, advocated messiness, famously saying, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?” Perhaps that's why a 2005 survey by the nationwide recruiting firm Ajilon Office found that people who call themselves neat freaks are likely to earn less than folks who don't describe themselves that way.

This compromise between entropy and order can make life feel more meaningful, if you let it. As my friend Jessica says, “I sort of accept my messiness, but I still strive for some kind of system, and that's when I make my discoveries. When I'm weeding through the monstrosity of paper that is our dining room, I inevitably find a year's worth of my son's drawings in a bin, and it's fantastic to see his progress. Same with all the other stuff around. I love the serendipity of it, especially when I've lost something for so long that I've forgotten about it. When I do tidy up, however half-assed, it turns life into a treasure hunt.”

Beauty in disorder
You could say that Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, came to the same conclusion about mess. The man was a genius; his lab, a pigsty. In 1928, he left for vacation and abandoned some cultures in their petri dishes. When he returned, he found that mold had grown in one of them; observing the fuzzy growths, where bacteria seemed unable to flourish, led to his lifesaving breakthrough. (Abrahamson adds that years later, when Fleming was given a tour of a pristine, well-organized laboratory, a fellow scientist exclaimed, “Imagine what you could have discovered here!” Fleming wryly replied, “Not penicillin.”)

Even if you're unlikely to have a scientific aha! moment anytime soon, you may find that more disorder means more random moments of beauty. (Chaos theory actually refers to a seemingly random jumble that contains hidden order.) “If you're not always focused on finding the main path, you're more open to the world,” Dr. Holland says. With that in mind, I recently played hooky from work to chaperone my 6-year-old's class trip. If you haven't figured it out already, I have problems with procrastination — which is about holding out for perfection rather than jumping in and taking risks, even if the results are a little messy. I spend far too much time at my desk checking e-mail and looking at important cat pictures online. Then I castigate myself for being so unfocused. So on this morning, I told myself that because I wasn't accomplishing anything anyway, I might as well be with my daughter Josie, instead of at my desk.

The trip was the essence of messiness. There was no AC on the school bus, but instead of bitching, I focused on Josie's luminous skin and delicious little-girl smell. At the beach, where the children were studying tidal pools, I observed from the shore as Josie was knocked down by a wave. Instead of rushing to her, I stayed still and watched her eyes widen and her body freeze for a moment, before she bounced up laughing, coated in sand. (That night, I washed half a cup of the stuff out of her hair. Talk about mess.) After she was in bed, I stopped procrastinating for once and started writing. I had to crank to meet my deadline, but I also felt rejuvenated and newly motivated. Away from the computer, my ideas had the time to gel.

The Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi is about the beauty of imperfection, the art of appreciating the loveliness of hair that's full of sand as opposed to a perfect, sprayed, unmussed 'do. Wabi-sabi isn't about embracing dirt; it is about savoring the beauty that can be found even in a chipped bowl, recycled to hold some stones from the beach, or in the inviting softness of old leather. It's a truly environmentally friendly way to live — the opposite of our craze for consumerism — and one that's very human.

A perfectly minimalist, clutter-free house, on the other hand, may be beautiful, but it's also sterile, a little cold. You might say the same of someone who worries more about a wine ring marring her countertop than enjoying the wine. Something meaningful is getting sacrificed on the altar of tidiness. “If you feel hollow inside, a fabulous apartment won't make everything better,” Dr. Holland says. “You'll always be searching for the next level of perfection.” Or you'll be guarding against the natural devolution of what you've crafted, unable to relax for a moment. “You can treat your home like a museum but still get termites,” Dr. Holland adds. You can also treasure your white flokati rug, asking every guest to take off her shoes and drink only clear beverages, as an acquaintance of mine did, but then one day, a visiting dog can manage to scarf a bowl of M&M's in a minute, and upchuck in Technicolor all over the rug (true story).

Similarly, you can exercise, eat right and go for regular checkups and still end up getting cancer, as my husband did, or scrupulously avoid soft cheeses, sushi and litter boxes and still have a miscarriage, as I did. Accepting human frailty — and occasional piles of newspaper — is a lot saner than constantly seeking perfection.

Organized all along
Clearly, mess isn't simply about stuff. Ambiguity will always be with us, and finding the right balance between order and anarchy is a work in progress. There will always be pain and uncertainty; the trick is learning to live with it. “It's possible to be happy, even if your desires are never fully satisfied,” Kula says. “Your yearnings themselves can be a huge source of self-awareness and joy.”

Unfortunately, most of us expect life to be as clean as an operating room. When something terrible (and therefore messy) happens, we want there to be a reason. She shouldn't have gone to his apartment on a first date. They shouldn't have taken that adjustable-rate mortgage. “But when we try to justify the unjustifiable, what we're doing is blaming or deflecting; we're saying, ‘That can't happen to me!’” Rabbi Kula explains. “You can't separate nature's beauty from its destructiveness.” That's terrifying but also liberating. If you admit that understanding the universe or fixing its messes isn't always possible, you can be more loving and humane, toward others and yourself.

“Mess is life, and too often we don't appreciate it until it's gone,” says my friend Judith, whose golden retriever died earlier this year. “A few days ago, I went to get my idiotic, overpriced vacuum cleaner fixed and discovered that — surprise! — dog hair had gummed up the works. The guys at the repair store were joking that I needed to get a different, less sheddy dog. Then I told them what had happened. And they hugged me! Now every time I look around my apartment and notice that the tumbleweeds of rusty hair are gone, I feel sad. In retrospect, there was joy in that mess.”

I had a revelation of my own when my husband got sick, and then recovered: I need to be a little more forgiving of my own disorganization, internal and external. Instead of beating myself up and lamenting my Post-it collection and seemingly scattershot way of working, I'm better off focusing on the things I have the power to improve and letting-the-hell-go of the rest. In the process, I've discovered that my tendency to do several things at once, all imperfectly, may not be such a liability. When I get stuck on one assignment, I can move to another; if my mind isn't worrying a problem like a dog with a bone, my subconscious tends to come up with a solution. In my way, I've been organized all along. I just couldn't see it.
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