The Role Pets Play in Managing Our Mental Health

Taking care of a pet can often feel like a full-time job, but have you ever stopped to think about how they also take care of us?

According to a new study, our pets serve to comfort us when we need it the most, especially for people with mental illnesses. When asked what helped them manage their condition, many people said their pets helped the most.

“Many felt deep emotional connections with their pet that weren’t available from friends and family,” said Helen Brooks, a mental health researcher at the University of Manchester in the U.K. and lead author of the study, to NPR.

The researchers interviewed 54 people with serious long-term mental illnesses. Of the group, 25 of the participants considered their pets part of their social network.

“When I’m feeling really low they are wonderful because they won’t leave my side for two days,” said one study participant with two dogs and two cats. “They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it.”

The participants were asked who they went to for help or advice, where they gained emotional support and encouragement, and how they spent their days. They were then given a diagram to complete. The diagram had three consecutive circles surrounding a square in the middle to represent the participant.

They were asked to write the people, places and things that gave them support into the circles, with the circles closest to the center being the most important. Sixty percent of people placed their pets in the central circle, next to family.

“I think it’s really hard when you haven’t had a mental illness to know what the actual experience is [like],” said one participant. “There’s like a chasm, deep chasm between us … [Other people are] on one side of it, and we’re on the other side of it. We’re sending smoke signals to each other to try and understand each other but we don’t always — we don’t always understand.”

Brooks said many individuals with mental illness find themselves isolated. They start to see less of their friends and pets can give affection without understanding the disorder, she said.

“[Pets] don’t look at the scars on your arms,” said one participant. “They don’t question where you’ve been.”

In addition to providing emotional support and closeness, the participants also said their animals distract them from their illness. One participant placed his pet birds in his closest social circle.

“They help me in the sense, you know, I’m not thinking about the voices, I’m just thinking of when I hear the birds singing,” the participant said.

Mark Longsjo, program director of adult services at McLean Southeast, an inpatient mental facility in Middleborough, Massachusetts, said the participant interviews reflect his professional experiences.

“I think there’s significant value in considering the common everyday pet to be as important as the relationships one has with one’s family in the course of their treatment,” he said.

The pets also keep people from withdrawing from the world. One participant said their cats keep them involved, while another said getting out of the house to walk the dog helps.

“That surprised me, you know, the amount of people that stop and talk to him, and that, yeah, it cheers me up with him,” the participant said. “I haven’t got much in my life, but he’s quite good, yeah.”

The Big Three struggle

After comfortable wins on the opening day of the season Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting struggled in round two of the Primeira Liga schedule.

All three were made to work hard for their 1-0 victories. FC Porto beat Tondela thanks to a first-half goal from the rejuvenated Vincent Aboubakar, who scored twelve times in twenty-seven outings whilst on-loan at Turkish outfit Besiktas last season.

Sporting left it late against Vitoria de Setúbal, needing a penalty, five minutes from time, committed against and converted by Bas Dost.

Benfica left it even later, with impressive new centre-forward Haris Seferovic scoring a stoppage time goal, his second in two games, to unlock a spirited GD Chaves defence.

Portimonense, after their opening day win against Boavista, faced a difficult trip to SC Braga.
The visitors matched their hosts in all departments and thoroughly deserved their 1-0 lead thanks to a Paulinho goal midway through the first-half.

On the stroke of half-time Bruno Xadas collected the ball on the edge of the Portimonense penalty area before unleashing an unstoppable 20-yard left-footed effort that rocketed into the net with goalkeeper Ricardo Ferreira rooted to the spot.

The 19-year-old Bruno Xadas scored eleven goals in thirty matches from midfield for Braga B last season, earning him the chance to make his debut for the senior team at the tail end of the season and a call-up to Portugal’s U20 World Cup squad, where he outshone all his team mates, especially when scoring a brace against hosts South Korea.
The home side improved after the interval and Rui Fonte grabbed the winner in the sixty-eighth minute.

SC Portimonense have made an encouraging start to the season but the club needs to address the issue of ticket sales with long queues in evidence for their opening game.

With an attendance of under 3,000 and apparently only one box office open, many fans gave up and watched the game on TV in the local bars.

What You Need to Know about Sargassum Invading the Caribbean

There has been a lot of discussion and concern about the invasion of seagrass we have had in Mahahual and throughout the Caribbean this year. It has really effected tourism and caused problems on the beaches this year. I came across this article today from Barbados, and I thought I would share. To me it is the best explanation and insight into this problem that I have come across. It is written by an official of the Barbados government.

Peter Gregory Sargeant GSM HST (MAN OF GOD)
Public Relations Officer at The Asthma Association Of Barbados

A strange phenomenon occurred in the Caribbean in 2011. A massive tide of sargassum, brown invasive algae, washed on to the shores of the region’s popular beaches. A similar event is occurring today. Tourism officials are disgruntled by the masses of smelly brown seaweed that are inundating coastlines. Although seaweed is normally seen as a nuisance for local residents and travelers, it does offer some ecological benefits. Plus, sargassum is only temporary and it’s fairly unpredictable, so don’t let its presence in the Caribbean affect your travel plans. Here’s what you need to know about sargassum in the Caribbean.

1. Where Does Sargassum Come From?

The algae originates in the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean around Bermuda. The Atlantic is home to two species (S. natans and S. fluitans) which reproduce vegetatively and travel on the ocean’s surface. These two species are also found throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, transported by the Gulf Stream.

2. What Causes Sargassum Invasions?

An explanation for the sudden invasion of tons of algae on Caribbean shores is changing weather patterns and creating warmer temperatures in the region. According to one marine biologist, cooler autumn weather traditionally slows the algae’s growth, plus changes ocean circulation patterns, water temperature and nutrient systems and “typically keep the weed at sea.” As the sea temperature increases, sargasssum is more likely to make its way to the shores of Caribbean beaches.

3. Inhabits All of the World’s Oceans Except…

The Arctic. Sargassum can be found floating on the surface of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, but you will not see the brown algae in the world’s most southern body of water.

4. Sargassum’s Healing Powers

The brown algae has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since the eighth century. Sargassum seaweed is a source of iodine used to treat goiters, thyroid disorders, and as a diuretic. It also treats pain from hernias and swollen testes.

5. Sargassum’s Great for Soil

In Tobago, the government has been encouraging farmers to use it as fertilizer. Sargassum is full of nutrients and carbon, making it an excellent natural manure for farmers in the region. Sargassum is also an excellent fertilizer for worn beaches.

6. The Turtles Love It

When sargassum is traveling in the ocean, it acts as both a shelter and food source for turtle hatchlings who are not strong swimmers yet. Green sea turtles will eat large amounts of sargassum throughout their lifetimes. Besides sea turtles, this floating habitat provides food, refuge and breeding grounds for an array of other sea life including crabs, shrimp, mahi mahi, jacks, and amberjacks.

7. Sargassum Protects the Beachfront

The algae serves as buffer on the beach by reducing wave and wind erosion. It also protects the sand in dunes, making them more resilient. Less erosion means more sand on the beaches to structurally support beachfront properties and for people to play in.

8. Food for the Birds

When the sargassum and all of the organisms living within the masses of seaweed wash ashore, it provides food for pelagic seabirds and pelicans.

9. When Sargassum Sinks

Berry-like gas-filled structures, called pneumatocysts, make up the plant. These “berries,” which are filled mostly with oxygen, cause the algae to float. When sargassum loses its buoyancy, it sinks to the seafloor, providing energy in the form of carbon and also food sources to fishes and invertebrates in the deep sea.

10. What’s Next?

Many are wondering if the invasion of sargassum in the Caribbean will be a cyclical occurrence. Marine biologists note that as weather patterns, temperatures and wind speeds change within the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, sargassum can be expected. Biologists are working hard to understand the source and patterns of sargassum. You can visit the Sargasso Sea Commission website for updated information.

A ‘Festive’ Christmas Cake Recipe

I am sure everyone will love this one, read and enjoy, then spread the word. Here is a festive Christmas cake recipe with full ingredients and method in detail, for everyone to enjoy.


  • port wine
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 pack butter
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • 4 large eggs
  • Nuts
  • 3 bottles wine
  • 2 cups of dried fruit


  1. Sample the wine to check the quality.
  2. Take a large bowl, check the wine again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.
  3. Repeat the last operation.
  4. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
  5. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.
  6. At this point it’s best to make sure the wine is still OK. Try another cup… Just in case.
  7. Turn off the mixerer thingy.
  8. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
  9. Pick the flipping fruit up off floor.
  10. Mix on the turner.
  11. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver.
  12. Sample the wine to check for tonsisticity.
  13. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something.
  14. Check the wine.
  15. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
  16. Add one table.
  17. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find really, hic.
  18. Greash the oven.
  19. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.
  20. Don’t forget to beat off the turner.
  21. Finally, throw the bowl through the window.
  22. Finish the wine and wipe counter with the cat.
  23. Go to Modelo and buy cake.

Bingle Jells!

Bianca Animal Shelter

Bianca Animal Shelter is a private Portuguese association, a registereBianca Animal Shelterd charity with a public utility status, whose objective is to rescue dogs and cats and to rehome them to good homes.

Bianca runs a shelter for around 250 dogs and has 50 cats in “temporary families”. The shelter is in Sesimbra – a coastal city 30 km south of Lisbon.

Bianca receives around 30 new animals every month. It is always a struggle to keep a reasonable number of them in the shelter and to be able to rehome as many as possible every month.

Many animals that we receive are in a very bad state: after an accident, with broken bones and wounds, puppies and kittens found dehydrated in garbage bins, animals physically abused. We count with the help of the vets who give us discounted prices but nevertheless our monthly veterinary bills are significant.

Every animal that is given for adoption from our kennel is vaccinated, dewormed and has a chip. All adult female dogs and cats are sterilised and many male dogs and cats castrated. Female puppies and kittens are given for adoption on the basis of an adoption contract in which the new owner obliges himself to have them sterilised when they reach the right age.

How can you help :

1. You can adopt a dog or cat. This is our primary objective – to find a loving home to those animals that have never had a good one. They have plenty of love to give and they will be eternally grateful. Do not worry about the distance, if you live in Algarve or Central Portugal, we can try to bring the animal to you.

2. If you cannot adopt, you can offer a temporary home to puppies until they complete vaccinations, or to old dogs that find it very difficult to live in rough conditions in the shelter, or to sick dogs in recovery, or to kittens and cats.

3. If you cannot adopt, you can also help us increaseanimal rescue centre portugal their life quality in the shelter: You can foster a dog on distance – choose your dog, choose a monthly amount you want to donate and help us like this.

4. You can come to the shelter and help, especially during the weekend, when many volunteers come. There is job for everyone.

5. You can sponsor a kennel, a dog house, a tree, a particular medical treatment, medications – whatever you choose.

6. You can become a member of the Association – by paying a yearly membership fee by the end of 2010 we have many gifts for you.

7. You can regularly call our solidarity number: 760 20 70 60, with one phone call you feed one animal per day.

8. If you fly from Lisbon to Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark or Sweden, you can help our pets. As we have some adoptions abroad, you can take an animal with you to its new home. Let us know when you fly and we will manage all details like animal passports, skykennels, a person to take the animal to Lisbon airport and do the check-in with you and a person at the destination airport to pick up the animal. You don’t need to do anything except transporting the animal.

Bringing Food, Plants, and Animals into Mexico

National Health Services of Mexico (SENASICA) has guidelines on what is allowed, regulated and prohibited to bring across the border. The following is an overview of some of those items. Detailed information can be found on the SENASICA website.

Allowed Imports

Allowed imports may be brought in quantities for personal consumption if they are no risk of introducing a pest or disease. They are subject to inspection.

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Leather products, except for endangered species like wild lamb, jaguar, black bear, etc.
  • Honey
  • Dogs and cats (a maximum of two per traveler) with health certificates and rabies vaccine records. Visit our “Traveling with Pets in Mexico” guide for more information.
  • Roasted coffee, dried prunes, packaged spices, dried herbs, preserved fruits and vegetables cooked or dried mushrooms and dried truffles.
  • Dry cooked, packed and bottled foods
  • From the USA and Canada: refrigerated, frozen, vacuum packed, pork and processed vacuum packed pate, milk and cheese. All must be in the original package and properly labeled.

Regulated Imports

Regulated imports may be brought into Mexico according to their origin and manufacturing process and they have fulfilled the importation requirements.

  • Poultry and poultry products
  • Wild plants and hunt trophies
  • Rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, etc.
  • Seeds, seedlings, fresh plant parts, etc.
  • Plants, fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, raw cereals, etc.
  • Dairy products
  • Bees and bees’ products (except honey)
  • Fresh, dried, canned, smoked or frozen meat and meat products from quarantined countries
  • Flours like corn meal, etc.
  • Veterinary medications and biological products
  • Agricultural chemicals and raw materials

Prohibited Imports

Prohibited imports are those at risk of introducing a pest or disease into Mexico and under no circumstances can be imported.

  • Soil
  • Bales of hay, natural straw or any straw decoration
  • Homemade food items
  • Meal of bone or meat

5 Spices With Brain Health Benefits

Every day there are new studies touting the best medicines and supplements that can improve your brain health. But believe it or not, some of the items you can take for your mind can be found in your kitchen cabinet. Check out these five spices that will boost your brain power.


A favorite spice used in everything from oatmeal and pancakes to apple pies and sweet breads, cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree native to South Asia.

A study published in 2015 found that a cinnamon spice extract protected lab rats from cognitive impairment and brain damage. But the brain benefits for humans are also numerous. Eating cinnamon has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve memory, increase attention and enhance cognitive processing.


Nutmeg is composed of a variety of compounds that have been shown to boost mood, relieve pain, relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Research even suggests that a nutrient found in the spice slows cognitive delay in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Nutmeg has also been known to help promote the recovery of brain tissue after a stroke. The spice originates from an indigenous Indonesian evergreen.


Also native to Indonesia, but made from the dried flower buds of an evergreen clove tree, cloves are an antioxidant superspice. Not only does it have some of the antioxidant power of blueberries, a compound found in the spice is 29 times more powerful than aspirin when it comes to preventing blood clots.


Ginger is an excellent pain reliever made up of active compounds that mirror that of capsaicin, a well known pain reliever found in chili peppers. But ginger is pretty spectacular on its own; it reduces nausea, controls inflammation, counters the movement of cell-damaging free radicals and works as a blood thinner. This spice is also known for protecting brain cells from Alzheimer’s related deterioration. Sixty middle-age women who participated in a 2012 study found that 800 mg of ginger extract improved their working memory and attention.


A study published in the Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics found that consuming just a half teaspoon of cardamom a day for three months, in conjunction with taking part in a healthy diet, normalizes blood pressure and lowers risk of a stroke. The spice does this by relaxing the arteries and the muscles of the heart. A close relative of ginger and turmeric, cardamom’s antibacterial properties and antioxidant properties also help protect the brain cells from free radical damage.

A Scoop on Mexican Ice Cream

I got nothing today, i have been sitting here all morning trying to think of something to write about, and I got squat. Mind is not working good today, can’t get in the mood. So I opened my email, and I got this article sent to me from a newsletter I belong to here in Mexico.

Yesterday I was with my new friend from the Ukraine, and she was wanting some ice cream. So when I saw this article about ice cream in Mexico this morning, I thought some readers may be interested in ice cream since it is summertime, and hot everywhere.

It sometimes seems that every time you look around there’s a new ice cream parlor or store offering the latest in exotic flavors. The proliferation of fancy brands — Haagen Dazs, Ben and Jerry’s, Santa Clara — might lead you to the wrong conclusion about just how much ice cream Mexicans consume.

According to some reports, Mexicans only eat on average 1.5 liters of ice cream a year, a small fraction of what Americans and New Zealanders — the world’s top consumers — guzzle down.

Also somewhat surprising, for a relatively low-wage country, is the amount of business done by ice cream brands of which a single serving cone or tub can cost anything from three to four US dollars.

Market studies here can be incomplete in a country where there is a large informal economy, and products such as ice cream and popsicles are often made by individuals whose sales are off the marketing experts’ radar screens.

It’s ice-cream franchises, however, that are expected to generate the growth in product consumption in the country.

If you visit or live in a large city or tourist resort, the most likely place you’ll find ice cream is at one of these chains, many of which are located at malls. Local grocery stores—las tienditas—convenience stores such as Oxxo and 7-Eleven, as well as a majority of pharmacies have fridges with prepackaged ice creams and popsicles, mostly in single servings. Multi-packs and larger presentations are found in the freezers at supermarkets.

The best known brand of ice cream in Mexico, and apparently the one with the largest market share is Helados Holanda. These tend to be cheaper than the boutique brands, whether bought in individual servings or in larger packages. This makes a lot of sense when buying ice cream for a family, but for those particular about quality—all natural ingredients, for example—this apparently won’t do, and those who can afford it prefer to buy the expensive stuff.

It’s almost impossible not to come across a popsicle shop — paleteria — called La Michoacana. These shops sell a wide range of fruit-flavored paletas as well as cream ones, paletas de crema. A word of advice, go for the water ones. Although originally from the state of Michoacán, apparently just about anyone can call their paleteria La Michoacana, as this interesting report suggests.

In small towns, and still occasionally in large cities, you can find the traditional ambulant purveyors of helados, or nieves in the case of lime sorbets, being served from a push cart or from a container placed in ice on the front of an adapted bicycle. These vendors are famous for crying out “de limón la nieveeeeee!!!”

Soft ice cream from a machine is also growing in popularity, not only because of the flavor but also because of the price. McDonald’s offers a range of these ice creams at its restaurants, but also has external ice cream counters at many of its outlets for those who just want to pick-up some passing refreshment. If your budget is somewhat strained and it’s hot out, this can be quite a useful option.

Talking to Ourselves May Help Us Control Our Emotions

People who speak to themselves in the third-person are more likely to be able to control their emotions during stressful times, says a new study led by Jason Moser at Michigan State University.

Participants were asked to reflect on their feelings after viewing aversive images and remembering painful memories using “I” or their name while researchers measured their neural activity. Moser said the study was based off a prediction about how people refer to others by names and how it could affect one’s brain if they referred to themselves by their own name.

“Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third-person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain,” Moser said to The University Paper. “That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.”

“What’s really exciting here is that the brain data from these two complementary experiments suggest that third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of emotion regulation,” said U-M psychology professor Ethan Kross. “If this ends up being true — we won’t know until more research is done – there are lots of important implications these findings have for our basic understanding of how self-control works, and for how to help people control their emotions in daily life.”

The study authors said the results contradict current findings that declare self-control and emotional regulation as effortful. They said the results suggest third-person speech can help with emotional control without recruiting cognitive control.

“This is not to say that other forms of automatic self-control do not exist,” the authors wrote. “Rather, our findings add to this work by demonstrating how a linguistic shift that promotes psychological distance from the self modulates emotional responses.”

The researchers said by having people reflect on their emotional experiences using their name quickly changes the way emotions are represented. This allows people to reflect on themselves the way they would reflect on others.

Current findings suggest that third-person self-talk doesn’t recruit cognitive control like first-person self-talk does, and the study does not suggest that cognitive processing is not involved in third-person self-talk, the authors wrote.

“What our findings do suggest is that third-person self-talk does not recruit the network of brain regions typically implicated in the cognitive control of emotion,” they said.

Good Idea for Waste Plastic Bottles

Sealing a Bag with waste Plastic Bottles?

This was passed on by one of our readers… Wow, what a fantastic idea!
How to seal a bag and make it air-tight, for Free.

No more need to grapple with rubber bands, spring clips or twist ties, when sealing plastic bags.

Here in Portugal, like many hot countries, we all use lots of water bottles, especially in the hot summer months. This is a great idea to re-use them rather than recycling or throwing them away. Not only does it get rid of the bottle is gives you a brilliant water-tight bag sealer.

So if you are bagging up all your summer garden produce ready to freeze for the winter or bagging any sort of stewed fruit then this is a great eco idea.

Cut up a disposable water bottle and keep the neck and top, as shown in the left photo.

Push the open end of the plastic bag through the cut-off bottle neck, then open out the bag top so that it goes over the bottle kneck.

Then screw the bottle top over to seal it. The bottle is made to be air-tight, so that water will not leak, the secret lies with the top and screw!