“Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace in our culture, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will ‘spoil’ it,” reports Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology at Notre Dame, in a recent study.

Parenting isn’t a new thing for mankind, but it’s often an entirely new world for first-time parents--especially those living in a modern landscape that is chock-full of people handing out lists of “do’s and don’ts.”

When we look at the current state of society with regard to children, it’s easy to see why these recent studies have a problem with the way parents are raising their children. For example, children are more obese and overweight than they ever have been in the past. They’re spending more time in front of the television than they do playing outside. And parents are separating from one another at incredibly high rates.

Now, some believe that these unhealthy practices are actually negatively affecting the mental and emotional health of the children being reared today.

How much do the little things we say influence children?

As many people say, children tend to absorb almost everything they see and hear. This means that every little thing we say and do is being scrutinized and internalized by our children. Things that we think nothing of will be taken to heart by little ones.

One area that is highly influential in children of a young age has to do with how gender is perceived and created in their world. Parents regularly say things like “act like a man” or “you need to be more lady-like.” These phrases might not seem like a big deal at the time, but for children, it can completely change how they view the world around them. Saying things like this basically tells them that the way they are feeling is invalid. It makes them question how they see themselves and how to act.

Similarly, parents may tell their kids to “grow up” or “stop acting like a baby,” believing that their constant need or desire for affection and love is somehow a weakness to be hammered out of them. But, research suggests that doing the opposite is actually best for the kids:

“Breast-feeding infants, responsiveness to crying, almost constant touch and having multiple adult caregivers are some of the nurturing ancestral parenting practices that are shown to positively impact the developing brain, which not only shapes personality, but also helps physical health and moral development,” continues Narvaez.

Parents are cutting corners for the sake of convenience

Have you ever noticed how often you see young children with electronic devices nowadays? It’s to keep them distracted and entertained instead of crying and throwing a fit.

There seems to be a dramatic shift away from direct touching and soothing. For example, children spend a large amount of their time in strollers, highchairs, and other similar devices, away from their parents. Breastfeeding is becoming less and less common due to the stigma of doing it in public. And parents tend to distract their children when they are upset instead of choosing to take the time to nurture them--something that has a direct effect on the development of their right and left brain.

This type of parenting leads kids to believe that their emotions are more of an annoyance than something to actually be dealt with; it teaches them that their emotions are somehow wrong and that they should just find ways to entertain or distract themselves.

Studies have found that responding to a baby’s emotional stressors helps them develop empathy skills and has even been tied to higher IQ levels.

Parents are being criticized by other parents

It’s also fairly common to see parents get chastised for having a lack of grit and dirt in their parenting. I’m sure you’ve overheard someone say that kids will grow up to be weak if you do not punish them physically or if you show them too much affection; by not yelling and exacting corporal punishment, your kids are somehow at a disadvantage.

All of these tend to lead to one thing: emotional neglect. Something we can see directly when comparing rates of youth suicide across countries--Western youth (ages 15 - 24) suicide rates are the third highest in the world.

But, professor Narvaez says that these effects can be reversed:

“The right brain, which governs much of our self-regulation, creativity and empathy, can grow throughout life. The right brain grows though full-body experience like rough-and-tumble play, dancing or freelance artistic creation. So at any point, a parent can take up a creative activity with a child and they can grow together.”

Essentially, the takeaway from all of this information is this: care for your child in a way that you would want to be cared for if you were still a child. Don’t be afraid to be ridiculed for your parenting style, and do your best to avoid reinforcing false societal constructs that will make your children feel inadequate.

Parents who are irresponsible, lazy and uninvolved in their child’s life will likely see symptoms of stunted brain development and emotional maturity.

h/t Spirit Science

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12-Year-Old Boy Dies From Scrape in Gym Class, But Thousands of Others Are Saved Because of It

Rory’s parents, Orlaith and Ciaran, an Irish couple from Co Louth, decided to establish the Rory Staunton Foundation shortly after he’d passed, hoping to raise awareness about the cause of their son’s death: sepsis.

Sepsis can be caused by any type of infection, be it viral, fungal, or in Rory’s case, bacterial. Young people are particularly susceptible to this infection, and what makes it so deadly is the fact that it inhibits blood flow to the body’s vital organs and raises the risk for blood clots.

With the creation of the Rory Staunton Foundation, Rory’s parents also hoped to help introduce a higher standard of protocol when it comes to the identification and treatment of sepsis, so that others may stand a better chance at avoiding the same fate as their son.

Just a year later on January 29, 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that all New York State hospitals would adopt evidence-based protocols, known as Rory’s Regulations, to help diagnose and treat sepsis infections as fast as possible.

And it seems to be working, according to a New York State report focused on how the introduction of the ‘Sepsis Care Improvement Initiative’ has boosted the performances of New York State hospitals. Sepsis infections are being identified and treated much faster, leading to fewer deaths.

"We have met the people that have been saved by these protocols," said Rory’s father, Ciaran.

"We are happy that their parents are not joining us in this miserable life. We want that fighting chance extended to every family in America".

But, while Ciaran Staunton is happy that regulations and awareness have both been dramatically increased in the state of New York, he says that his ultimate goal is to have similar regulations implemented in every state in the U.S. by the year 2020.

"When our son died, there was no awareness, no sepsis protocols, nothing in the A-Z book on sepsis," he said.

"Now we've shown here's what we can do in New York - we want the US Government to have the same level of anxiety and awareness of sepsis as they do Ebola."

According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), over a million people in the United States suffer from sepsis each year, with anywhere from 28 percent to 50 percent of those people dying as a result.

Rory’s father says that they’re not looking for a miracle, they’re looking to inform people, as he believes that less than half of all Americans have even heard of sepsis before.

"We're not looking for a cure for sepsis, we're looking for awareness," he said.

"Our foundation looks to change that and to reflect how everyone affected in America is being treated".

h/t Independent

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How Hiking Changes the Brain, Based On Science

Those of us who love being outside in nature probably aren’t too surprised that hiking can have benefits for the brain, but now researchers are saying that they’ve found actual positive changes made by the brain after going on hikes.

Reducing negative thought patterns

How many of us have a bad habit of being incredibly hard on ourselves or always thinking negatively? It can be hard to control that inner dialogue that is constantly churning, constantly saying negative things. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discovered that being outside in nature helps reduce the amount of negative, obsessive thoughts that an individual has throughout the day.

The study focused on the rumination levels of people who spent time hiking in the great outdoors versus people hiking through urban environments. Subjects who spent 90 minutes walking in a natural environment said they had less feelings of rumination and showed reduced subgenual prefrontal cortex activity, which is the part of the brain closely tied to mental illness. Subjects who spent their time in the urban environment did not report decreases in rumination.

Creative problem solving and exercise

Exercise is often touted as one of the most, if not the most, important things for humans to do regularly. Why? Because it helps improve your health in almost every way. And hiking is a great way to get outside and pursue active goals while also helping to boost one’s mental health.

Research out of the University of British Columbia has discovered that exercise helps reduce and prevent memory loss in older folks and has similar benefits for people of all ages. Particularly, exercise is great for boosting one’s self esteem while reducing stress and anxiety.

Another great benefit was discovered by psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David Strayer, who found a strong link between one’s capacity for creative problem solving and ditching technology while being out in nature. Subjects in their study were asked to backpack through a natural environment for at least 4 days without using any sort of technological device. Along their trip, they were tasked with problems that forced them to problem solve in creative and complex ways.

What they found? Creative problem solving performance rates went up by about 50 percent for everyone who participated in the free-hike adventure. This lead the researchers to note that technology and the ambiance of urban environments often keep an individual from focusing, which eventually leads to mental fatigue. Long hikes in nature without these disturbances help calm the mind, reduce fatigue and ultimately increase one’s ability to think and creatively problem solve.

So, are you ready to start hiking yet? Put your boots on, grab your pack and get on the trail! You won't regret it.

h/t Collective Evolution

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This Is What Happens When You Stop Using So Many Cosmetic Products

Photo Credit: tomwang / 123RF Stock Photo

Researchers at UC Berkeley and Clinica de Salud del Valle Salinas recently conducted a study that illustrated the dramatic changes that happen to one’s body after even just a short break is taken from using cosmetic products such as shampoo, sunscreen, soap and other personal hygiene amenities.

Published in Environmental Health Perspectives journal, the study had 100 teenage Latina girls try out personal care and cosmetic products that did not contain chemicals commonly found in traditional and conventional personal care products, such as phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and oxybenzone. Studies involving animals have shown that these chemicals can actually directly affect the body’s endocrine system, which is why they are being targeted for study regarding human use now.

“Because women are the primary consumers of many personal care products, they may be disproportionately exposed to these chemicals,” said associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health and study lead author, Kim Harley.

“Teen girls may be at particular risk since it’s a time of rapid reproductive development, and research has suggested that they use more personal care products per day than the average adult woman.”

What the study discovered

After just three days of the Latina girls using products without the chemicals mentioned above, their bodies had significant reactions. Urine samples revealed decreases in all levels of these chemicals in the body. Methyl and propyl parabens fell by 45 percent, metabolites of diethyl phthalate fell by 27 percent, and triclosan and benzophenone-3 both had 36 percent decreases.

“The results of the study are particularly interesting on a scientific level, but the fact that high school students led the study set a new path to engaging youth to learn about science and how it can be used to improve the health of their communities. After learning of the results, the youth took it upon themselves to educate friends and community members, and presented their cause to legislatures in Sacramento,” says Kimberly Parra, co-director of the study.

Maritza Cardenas, one of the high school students who helped design and develop the study (and who is now an undergraduate at UC Berkely), says that raising awareness about these chemicals and their effects was part of the motivation behind the study:

“One of the goals of our study was to create awareness among the participants of the chemicals found in everyday products, to help make people more conscious about what they’re using. Seeing the drop in chemical levels after just three days shows that simple actions can be taken, such as choosing products with fewer chemicals, and make a difference.”

If you want to avoid buying these products, the best thing you can practice is checking the ingredient list. Unfortunately, many cosmetic products do not contain their ingredient list on them, so if you have any brands in particular that you like to use, it may behoove you to contact their manufacturer directly.

While “organic” and “natural” are typically good indicators, these words are also often used by marketers to sell products, meaning they might not actually be as natural or organic as you’d hoped. Buying products from health food stores is your safest bet, but again, it is wise to ask someone about what you are purchasing.

Ideally, many of the products with high amounts of chemicals will eventually be phased out as more and more people make the switch!

h/t Collective Evolution

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Common Relationship Problems Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Aries (March 21 - April 19)

Aries, you’re a fiery sign that is intent on getting your way. That means you have a hard time accepting defeat and will flat out deny anything that isn’t going according to your plan. Sometimes your partners will struggle to keep up with all of your wants and needs, and leaving toxic relationships is difficult because of your willpower and determination to save them.

Taurus (April 20 - May 20)

Taurus, you tend to be very dramatic when a partner has wronged you, but you always choose to settle the matter instead of simply calling it quits. You will sometimes struggle to communicate effectively with your partners and can be judgmental of their actions and words. You also like what you like and rarely ever see the point of compromising.

Gemini (May 21 - June 20)

Gemini can struggle in relationships because of their unrealistic expectations and tendency to become a little self-absorbed. You sometimes forget about your partner’s needs and desires while simultaneously fantasizing about passionate, everlasting love. Bickering over small things is normal and you can get territorial when you share living spaces.

Cancer (June 21 - July 22)

Cancers like to strut the boundary between not feeling loved enough and feeling too loved. You have irrational fears about your partners leaving you and want their affection often, but you also get uneasy when you’re shown too much affection. In a similar style, you regularly think about starting a family and settling down, but fear that you’re missing out by not staying single.

Leo (July 23 - August 22)

Leos can be hard to be with romantically because they hold a lot of their emotion inside, hidden from the rest of the world. They want things to look like they are fantastic. Financial security and a happy home life are sought after, but Leos tend to expect more from their partners than they receive. They also have a common internal struggle of never knowing whether or not someone is enough for them.

Virgo (August 23 - September 22)

Virgo have an unhealthy tendency to take on more than they can handle. They regularly get upset and hurt over the heavy burdens they take on and are prone to angry outbursts that they usually end up apologizing for. Virgos are also usually the people who want to constantly be with their partner, even though this can be a toxic habit.

Libra (September 23 - October 22)

Libras have the good and bad habit of looking through rose-colored lenses: they always choose to see the good. This sometimes has them blinded to the toxicity of the people they choose to be with. But, this makes sense, because Libras would rather lie than speak the painful words of truth. You also want to save broken people, but also expect a lot in return.

Scorpio (October 23 - November 21)

Betrayal is at the top of the list when it comes to the best ways to hurt a Scorpio. They tend to excommunicate anyone who knowingly hurts them. Scorpios tend to be the most passionate in a relationship when it first starts, but can lose interest as time passes if things aren’t going well. They like to hold grudges and rarely ever see negative comments as anything other than personal attacks.

Sagittarius (November 22 - December 21)

As the free spirited among the zodiac, Sagittarius struggle in relationships with maintaining that freedom. Wanting to travel and be in open relationships are common problems the Sagittarius will encounter. You’re not keen on reconciling differences and your relationships sometimes become exhausted due to feelings of being burnt out.

Capricorn (December 22 - January 20)

Capricorns will often sacrifice many of their own needs and desires to satisfy their partners. Along this same thought, they also tend to become comfortable in doing so. They don’t like to argue or fight, so they tend to just let problems go unsolved or assume their partner will deal with it alone. And they always have an excuse for every part of the toxic relationships they sometimes find themselves in.

Aquarius (January 21 - February 18)

Aquarius like relationships that never become stale. They need a partner who is always on their page because they’re great at communicating and absolutely hate when people can’t understand them. Staying in a stagnant relationship is not something they will do, especially because they already have a big fear of being with someone for too long and missing out on everything life has to offer.

Pisces (February 19 - March 20)

Pisces can be hard to be with because of how much they struggle to understand and express their own emotions. And when things are stressful or not going well, they tend to become quiet and reserved, potentially leading to even more confusion. If your feelings aren’t reciprocated by your partner, you feel as though the relationship is one-sided with you caring more, which can be breed feelings of resentment.

h/t Thought Catalog

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