Friday, November 22, 2013

On slumber, smoke & "happy hormones"

Blowing your budget isn’t a prerequisite to enhancing your looks. Here are simple things you can start doing right now to boost your beauty without spending anything.

How many times have you heard someone explain the pretty looks or the radiant quality of women by saying that such women have the money to maintain their presumably pricey regimen? “Magastos magpaganda” or “May pera siya eh,” you yourself may have uttered at some point to dismiss fresh-looking ladies who seem beautifully put-together.

The good news is, while money can buy things that offer solutions (not necessarily the right ones) to your beauty woes, many of the things you need so as to bring out your natural radiance are a matter of lifestyle. And by making a few simple changes in your lifestyle, you’ll see positive results in your appearance and in your well-being, too.

If your body could talk, it will certainly tell you these three simple things:

“Give me enough sleep.”
Movies and fashion features may turn to zombies for inspiration, but aiming for a “night of the living dead” look in real life is not advisable. Is your shut-eye limited to 4 or 5 hours almost every night? If it is, it’s bound to show up on your face – and in your disposition – over time.

“Lack of sleep causes slackness in the skin, tension in the face, and frown lines, and makes the skin look lifeless,” says dermatologist Gail Dacudao, M.D. of Violets Salon & Skin Clinic in Las Pinas, adding that cells reproduce most actively between midnight and 4 a.m.  A good night’s sleep, therefore, is nature’s rejuvenating treatment for the skin.

Plus, when you lack sleep, you’re bound to be cranky the following morning. Listen to your body and give it adequate rest; this way it’ll be easier for your sparkling personality to come out (or at least more smiles than scowls will show up).

Here’s a tip: Find out what’s causing you to clock in too little time for sleeping, then make adjustments. Is Facebook keeping you up till late? Taking home work too often? Take determined steps to address the problem and you’ll feel the difference when your mind and body get the restorative benefits of enough peaceful slumber.  

“Go smoke-free!”

Let’s not go into the details of lung cancer and emphysema as potential consequences of smoking because you probably know that already. Let’s just underscore the fact that cigarettes can end up making you look ugly. Why? Because “haggard” is not among the adjectives that normally describe women who exemplify beauty. “Lovely” and “charming” will not come to mind when gazing at your parched skin, possibly hollow cheeks and overall gaunt appearance – which smoking, unfortunately, eventually leads to several years down the road. Authentic beauty goes beyond skin-deep, but in this case, your body must be pleading with you to at least think about your skin.

“Studies have estimated that people who smoke appear to be as much as 10 or 20 years older than their actual non-smoking counterparts by the time they reach mid-life,” Dacudao points out.

“Smoking causes accelerated production of an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinase-1 that breaks down collagen in the skin,” the doctor explains. Collagen, by the way, is a protein – found in the skin – which gives the skin its suppleness. “This means that you lose youthful plumpness of your skin far more quickly than you would if you don’t smoke.”

Besides, nicotine has been shown to have a diuretic effect, the dermatologist adds, thereby depleting the moisture in your skin and giving it a parched appearance. Now you wouldn’t want that for your skin, which happens to be the largest organ (not all body organs are internal like the heart or the brain), would you? So, the way to go is smoke-free!

“Make friends with endorphins!”

Simply put, your body releases hormones called endorphins whenever you exercise.  And these endorphins act somewhat as a “natural analgesic” by reducing your perception of pain. In addition, endorphins trigger a feeling of euphoria and a general state of well-being – a natural high, if you will.

Just think: if exercise is part of your routine, then you’ll be giving yourself a regular boost of “happy hormones.” But first, banish the thought that by “exercise” we automatically mean working out at the gym, 10-k runs, hours of zumba, or racket sports. Those are choices and many people do enjoy regularly engaging in such activities, but the key is to be physically active. Walking, if done on a regular basis, is considered exercise already.

So, when you get your heart rate up by brisk walking, running around campus or dancing, you stimulate blood circulation and thereby help your body maintain its health. And when your body is healthy, illness is kept at bay, you feel great, and this in turn influences your disposition and appearance. The natural high, too, from the release of endorphins is all you need to achieve that youthful glow which won’t cost you anything!

Woman Today magazine
September 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

After the winds and the water

It's not "business as usual" in my country -- it's been that way for nine days now. November 8 was the day typhoon Yolanda (int'l codename: Haiyan) pounded central Philippines, hitting the provinces of Leyte, Samar, parts of Cebu, Panay island, and several islets in the region.

One thing that is becoming evident as stories are told and shared on various media is the incredible resilience of the Filipino people. I'll leave it to Anderson Cooper to delve on it through a report he filed after spending a week in my country, most of it in Leyte, which has been called a "wasteland" after the devastation became clear. Rebuilding of homes has started as I write this. The residents of Leyte and Samar are also being evacuated, over a thousand of them already making it to Manila. Some are to stay with relatives while others, in Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) centers for the time being.

One thing that many have found overwhelming and remarkably moving is the demonstration of concern and solidarity by dozens of countries in the way of messages of support, prayers and material aid. Many have also brought medical teams, disaster management experts, high-tech equipment that I didn't even know existed, and other means of helping the survivors in more ways than one, directly and indirectly.

So, to all the people, countries and governments that have extended their support to my people, thank you very much!

Due to all that the survivors experienced during the typhoon and in the aftermath, not only are they in need of physical/medical treatment but what someone has dubbed "psychological first-aid" as well. The graphic below has tips that can come in handy if you should find yourself face-to-face (or side by side) with someone who lived through the ordeal. It's important to give comfort to people who have lost much, if not everything, including their families.

* A previous blog post includes information on how you may donate or volunteer.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) whips through Philippines: reports and footage

To give you a clearer idea of what the people in some parts of the Philippines have experienced in the last couple of days due to typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan), here are links to several reports, both posted on November 8 evening. The first is the day's episode of State of the Nation with Jessica Soho. Most affected areas are Leyte and Eastern Samar.

At least one church and several hospitals have been destroyed. And there is mounting concern over the dozen or so bodies so far found because even funeral homes have been destroyed. Public health could be at risk as a result.

Communications in many parts of the affected areas are still down as of this posting.

Prayers and practical help needed and will be deeply appreciated.

At least 33 dead as super typhoon Yolanda pounds central Philippines

Pinsala ng Super Typhoon Yolanda sa Palo, Leyte

In Yolanda's wake, more than 100 bodies found in Tacloban's streets; city airport 'ruined' - CAAP exec


How you can donate and volunteer  (from Tina Santiago-Rodriguez of Truly Rich Mom)

Caritas Manila (contains info even for those overseas who may want to donate money)


UPDATE / NOV. 10: I'm adding the following news report with footage, but it was posted on the network's website yesterday, Nov. 9. The report is in Filipino but the images tell the general story.

The second link contains photos from Yahoo! News.

1,200 feared dead in typhoon-devastated Philippines

Super storm 'Yolanda' (Haiyan) hits the Philippines

And adding the last one for today, a report by foreign media:

Death toll after Philippines typhoon could reach 10,000, according to local officials

Some more info on helping the victims:


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Music, madness and Manila driving

When news of buses being banned in the city of Manila came out, how did you react? Were you the picture of unbridled fury, feeling like the female version of the Incredible Hulk in mid-transformation? Did you simply whimper, imagining the chaotic daily morning commute to the office you would now have to bear with? Were Mayor Joseph Estrada and Vice-mayor Isko Moreno the target of your verbal darts on Facebook? Or, did the news go ignored since you don’t pass Manila anyway?

Well, the news was totally unexpected for a lot of us. What was expected was the barrage of protests as a result of the move aimed at addressing the perennial traffic problem in the metropolis. Frankly, after getting over the initial incredulity over the news, my dismay turned to delight. No buses in Manila? That means... Taft Avenue without those horrible things that zoom and zigzag down the road as if each of them was designated Manic Driver of the Day? Yeheyyy! And now they’re even cracking down on colorum bus units!

If you get behind the wheel at least once in a while, you know that driving in Manila is a test of virtue. In fact, “patience is a virtue” is one helpful slogan to keep in mind when plying the city’s streets, as you are bound to encounter temptations of various kinds. Since people of different persuasions and temperaments are on the road, expect differences in driving styles and even in definitions of words – such as courtesy, right of way, one way, no parking on this side – so you can more easily adjust to those differences and overcome temptations to yell invectives or shoot dirty looks at the other driver to show your displeasure.

After having driven around these streets for over 20 years now, I’ve discovered some things that help make the driving experience more pleasant, less nerve-wracking, and most important of all, safer. One of them is the fact that music can make a lot of difference.

So you like listening to the radio or your own carefully compiled playlist while driving through traffic. That’s good. Music can do wonders to calm the senses, lead to positive feelings, facilitate focus, and keep one wide awake. God knows a drowsy driver has no place behind the steering wheel of a moving vehicle! And positive feelings are definitely vital during the daily rush hour. But have you considered that your choice of music can spell a big difference when it comes to calm, focused and safe driving? At this point, let me exalt the merits of classical music, which not everyone relishes and which can even put some to sleep (not good in this case). There is reliable data to back up my claims but first let me tell you why I opt for Mozart, Bach and some of the other classical giants when I drive through routes that include Taft, Edsa, Espana or any other major road in the city:

The resonant strains of violins, the melodious patterns played on the piano, and the cadence the instruments in an orchestra produce as a result – these soothe the soul. Minutes after this kind of music starts playing, it’s like I am enveloped in serenity. And it doesn’t matter if I’m with three other people in the car or driving on my own. But it has more of an effect, I suppose, when it’s just me and the music.

Someone said that classical music can draw people closer to God, and a friend theorized maybe that’s because it encourages contemplation. Well, this is something good because contemplating things of God is crucial when the only other thing you feel like doing is getting even with the driver that almost hit you as he swerved to your lane. I mean, a clear head and a clean heart should be constant – whatever situation you’re in – but on the road, when tempers can flare, when pride has led disgruntled drivers to resolve situations by shooting, and a corrupt system issues driver’s licenses to people who seem oblivious to traffic rules and road courtesy, those Godly qualities become even more important to keep your sanity (and to stay alive!). Can you imagine having the one with the horns and forked tongue serve as your “inspiration” whenever you encounter drivers that cut you off or motorcycle riders that zigzag down major roads as if they were stuntmen in action? You will want to contemplate God, not the one whose goal is to make you do wicked things.

As for empirical data showing the benefits of classical music on human behavior, yet another recent study has yielded findings that show how listening to Mozart enables people to concentrate more. This time it’s a research led by scientists from Kyoto University and Harvard University and which involved children aged 8-9 and adults aged 65-75. Participants demonstrated significantly quicker reaction time and committed less errors on tests when taken with a Mozart minuet playing in the background. The two other times had them taking the tests in silence and with a modified version of the minuet (with dissonant or irregular intervals). 

So is it any wonder that institutions turn to classical music as a means to alter behavior? They have found that listening to Mozart helps restless and agitated people – children and adults alike – become more relaxed. In the case of Manila’s exciting streets, unless there is a way to feed Mozart’s minuets into the headsets and speakers of every driver for some mind control, it’s only you who can benefit from the soothing sounds of the Austrian composer – or any classical composer for that matter.

Regardless of scientific findings on the effects of this musical genre on the brain, listening to Strauss waltzes as well as pieces with titles like “Canon in D Major” and “Symphony No. 9” frankly makes me unconsciously adopt the demeanor of someone like Elizabeth Bennet rather than Lady Gaga or Rihanna (Who is Elizabeth Bennet, you ask? Think “vulgar,” coarse,” “crass” – words that do not describe the protagonist in Pride & Prejudice). So, would a lady from the 1700s yell at a rude driver? No, she’s likely to inspire courtesy on the road – and any other place she graced with her presence. Would someone like the pop performers inspire courteous behavior on the road and good manners anywhere else they showed up? Well, let’s just say ladylike bearing brings out the gentlemen in men, and I certainly don’t want to bring out rough attitudes on the street (in myself and in others). If it’s the likes of The Nutcracker Suite and Fur Elise that will inspire virtue in me whenever I’m on the city’s major roads, then this type of music will dominate my playlist. Let’s leave Call Me Maybe and other pop staples for the times I’m a pedestrian or a passenger far from the steering wheel.

 Woman Today magazine
November 2013

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