The health benefits of being nice:
How practicing random acts of kindness promotes happiness.

Health benefits of kindess

Not long ago I was running some errands and just before returning home I stopped by Starbucks and went through the drive-through to grab a coffee drink. There was a long line and I was in a hurry to get back on the freeway before the afternoon traffic. You have to beat the rush before 3:30 p.m. at this particular location, or you are in for bumper-to-bumper traffic for the next 25 miles. I was getting a little edgy and wished the line would hurry up a bit.

When at last it was my turn, I reached out my hand to give the young man at the window my $10 bill to pay for my cappuccino but he didn't take my money. Instead he said, "The lady in the car in front of you already paid for your drink."

Excuse me! I looked at the car pulling out of the driveway and I didn't recognize it. I asked the young man to explain to me why she had paid for my coffee. He answered, "No reason that I know of, except maybe as an act of kindness."

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When I finally had my coffee in hand and I moved toward the freeway, I noticed a smile on my face and my mood was definitely lifted. By this time the traffic had already poured onto the freeway, but I was able to spend the next 30 minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic enjoying my coffee and listening to some great songs on the radio.

Practicing acts of kindness
Wherever you are at this moment, right now is the perfect time to participate in Random Acts of Kindness. This activity is a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual. There will generally be no reason other than to make people smile, or to bring them a moment of happiness.

I remember some years back stopping at a fast-food restaurant to get myself a quick lunch to go. I was starved and couldn't wait to get in the car and take my first bite. I was surprised to encounter a very dirty beggar in that neighborhood as I walked across the parking lot to my car. He came up to me and asked for some spare change... or some food. My immediate response was, "I don't have any extra change." Then I quickly remembered he also asked for food. I looked at the bag in my hand and knew what I had to do. I handed it over to him and said, "Maybe this will help." As I walked back into the restaurant to order again I was aware of a lift in my step. It felt good.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop

Research does bear out that giving to other people, rather than to ourselves, does indeed benefit us. A 2008 study published in Science magazine found that "spending more of one's income on others predicted greater happiness."

In remembering these and a few other acts of kindness, I thought to myself, I wonder what would happen if all of us spent time this week or even this month looking for ways to practice random acts of kindness on family, friends, neighbors and strangers? What stories would we have to share with each other?

Let's do it! Let's do something special for others, be creative and make someone's day!

Excerpt from VITAJOURNAL, February 2011. Judy Ellison, Ph.D., is a psychologist, author and motivational speaker. She has inspired people around the world to reach within and find their passionate purpose to live a more meaningful life.

From the Maui Health Research Desk...

Over a dozen fast, simple ways to eat healthier foods (and enjoy every bite)
easy ways to eat more vegetables

There is no better time than right now to start making informed food choices and developing sound eating and exercise habits.

To help put more healthy "color" in your daily diet, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) offers these tips to enjoy fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat/fat-free dairy products.

  1. Enjoy your pizza topped with broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini.
  2. For a sweet and healthy sauce on grilled or broiled seafood or poultry, puree berries, apples, peaches or pears.
  3. Whip up a breakfast smoothie with low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.
  4. Have whole-grain rice left over? Heat it up with chopped apple, nuts and cinnamon.
  5. Make a veggie wrap with roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla.
  6. Instead of chips, try crunchy vegetables with your favorite low-fat dip or salad dressing.
  7. Grill colorful vegetable kabobs of tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
  8. Banana split: top a sliced banana with a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt.
  9. Brighten up salads with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves or mandarin oranges.
  10. Prepare instant oatmeal with low-fat/fat-free milk instead of water.
  11. Make an omelet a meal by stuffing it with broccoli, squash, carrots, peppers, tomatoes or onions with low-fat sharp cheddar cheese.
  12. Wake up to fruit. Add it to your morning oatmeal, cold cereal, yogurt or toaster waffle.
  13. Enjoy "nature's fast food:" raw vegetables and fruits that are cleaned, fresh and ready to eat.
  14. Stuff a whole grain pita with ricotta cheese and apple slices; add a dash of cinnamon.

Broccoli: a vegetable for all seasons

Broccoli is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Developed from wild cabbage in ancient Roman times, broccoli made its way to the U.S. in colonial times, brought over by Italian immigrants. However, its popularity didn't really take off until the 1970s. By 2005, Americans were eating 5.6 pounds of broccoli per person every year.

When choosing broccoli at the store or farmers market, look for firm stalks and florets that are tightly closed and green. Keep in mind that if you overcook it, you won't get the health benefits; overcooking can leach the nutrients out of it.nutritional benefits of broccoli A study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that steaming broccoli is the best way to preserve its nutrients; microwaving is the worst way to prepare it.

Probably the only bad thing you'll hear about broccoli is that it can be odiferous when cooked. But don't let that deter you from enjoying this health-enhancing, delicious treat.

Tips for enjoying the outdoors...

What's the best treatment for sunburn?

You already know it, but we're going to say it again anyway: Preventing a sunburn is much safer and less painful than treating one.

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Despite our best intentions, however, most of us will suffer from some degree of sunburn. When this happens, here are tips for minimizing the sunburn damage and discomfort: both the heat injury to the skin and the radiation damage to our skin's protective, outer layer. (The goal is to get the skin cool and keep it from drying out.)

1. Press gently on the skin with a wet, cool washcloth (cool compress) or take a cool shower.

treatment for sunburns

2. While your skin is still wet, apply an alcohol-free moisturizer (or the gel from a filleted aloe vera leaf) to lock in the moisture. Don't use salve, butter or ointment

3. You can take Tylenol to minimize the pain or Ibuprofen to treat both the pain and inflammation.

4. Avoid additional sun exposure and do not burst blisters if they appear.

5. Sunburned infants under 1 year of age or anyone who is experiencing a fever or severe pain should seek medical attention.

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