So as the New Year approaches and you make your resolution to be more fit in 2012, grab your kid and your parent and make it a family affair! You’ll all be happier, healthier and SMARTER!!!
Is Happiness Gender Specific?
Recent research actually shows that happiness may have a gender specific component and that it is apparent even during fetal development. By the 8th week after conception, the female brain begins to differentiate from the male brain in very specific ways.
The female brain generates more neurons and therefore more neuronal connections in areas like the hippocampal region, which is actually physically larger in the female brain than in the male brain. This area is one component of the brain that is thought to govern emotional experience.
This may explain why many women have more capacity for tolerance and patience than most men do. It isn’t just in the areas that govern emotions that womens’ brains are more abundantly wired. The same is true in other parts of the brain which govern language; in fact women have 11% more neurons for language and hearing than do their male counterparts. Perhaps this is why we have to ask our husbands and sons to take the trash out repeatedly!
The male brain is wired completely differently. In the male brain, the neuronal circuitry is more abundant in areas of the brain, like the amygdala which is thought to govern aggression and sex drive. In fact the amygdala is up to 2 1/2 % smaller in women’s brains. Perhaps this is why women tend to be the peacemakers and men have traditionally been the warriors.
All of this different wiring leads researchers to hypothesize that happiness may have a genetic component, with women finding more happiness in strong relationships and community and men finding more happiness derived from acquisition and accomplishment.
Does this make men or women happier as a whole? Research indicates that women are alternately happier and sadder and that men tend to be more stable in their emtional experiences. After studying twins, one researcher has suggested that there is an actual “Happiness Set Point” that seems to be genetically determined. Similar to our weight’s set point, this is the level fron which we may deviate temporarily but to which we always seem to gravitate back.
The good new seems to be that while happiness may be up to 50% determined by genes and another 10% may be determined by circumstantial factors such as environment, income and comfort, the remaining 40% of our happiness is determined by how we choose to see life and how we react to what happens to us.
We can learn to experience life as if it holds blessings or curses in store for us, and our level of happiness will reflect this expectation… regardless of whether we happen to be male or female.
The Weight of the Holidays
The little monsters came and went with Halloween and now we are left holding the bag of left over treats! What will you do with yours? We certainly don’t want to waste food now do we? So odds are that one by one, we will eat those tempting left over treats. And when they are gone we will be facing Thanksgiving feasts and then the Christmas season with all of its attendant parties and food-centered gatherings. No wonder then that the average American will gain 5-7 pounds between Halloween and New Years Day!
We are counseling our clients that now is the time to take a proactive approach to the holidays in order to avoid gaining those extra holiday pounds and we are encouraging you to make a commitment to someone and to stay accountable to that person regarding diet and exercise whether it is a friend, family member or your personal trainer.
Recent research, reported in the New Englad Journal of Medicine, indicates that your friends and family members are a key part of weight loss and are also important too a successful weight management program. A recent study of over 12,000 adults reported that a person’s risk of becoming obese increased by roughly 40% if her spouse or sibling became obese and that risk jumped as high as 170% if a close friend were to become obese.
This is why it is important for friends and family to support one another’s goals this time of year. And it is also important for you to know what your own goals for your weight are. Knowing what your calorie intake per day should be is extremely helpful. For women, take your current weight (or desired weight) and multiply it by 11 (men multiply by 12) and that will give you the number of calories that you can ingest each day and neither gain nor lose weight. Simply knowing this number helps many people think about what they put in their mouths and that single action can help keep you true to your weight management goals this holiday season!
We will share some Holiday Weight Management Tips in the coming days to help provide you with the tools to meet the holidays head on and have no regrets come January first! That way you greet the New Year with Health and Happiness and in the mean time, donate your left over candy to a food bank, daycare center or a local Boys & Girls Club – or even better – just throw it away!