All posts by demdst485

The Love of Dogs Supports Emotional Health

Dawn Edwardson, MDST 485, Post #6, Type #1

The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that depression affects approximately 40milion adults (2018).  Don’t despair! This article also notes several helpful ways to address depression in order to help you feel better. Some of these helpful ways are to: see a licensed psychiatrist/psychologist, try some of the effective medications that are available(as prescribed), include daily exercise, try eating more healthy, spend time and open up with family, friends, and pets. Yes pets! Not surprising to me, this article specifically mentions that dogs can play an integral role in improving one’s emotional health.

So just how is this claim supported? Where’s the evidence? There have been several studies documented by the National Center for Biotechnology Information(NCBI) which show a positive correlation for Human-Animal Interaction and which support the positive effects of such a scenario. These studies share data which support the fact that dogs can increase happiness. These Human-Animal Interactions prove many positive effects such as decreased stress, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, it’s proven that they reduce loneliness, encourage increased exercise, promote more positive social interactions, and even aide in reducing heart rate and blood pressure.  The studies note that the presence of a friendly dog help to reduce fear, anxiety and promote calmness. When in the presence of one’s own dog these effects are even stronger. Also, there is data that shows simply stroking the coat of your own dog significantly lowers systolic blood pressure and heart rate.

This article touches on three specific aspects which are significantly improved through dog ownership. Daily exercise is improved because dogs need to go for walks, they enjoy playing and interacting with their owners and others, and you’ll likely be enrolling in obedience classes. They also need to be cared for through feeding, bathing, grooming, and displays of affection such as petting.  Socialization is improved through increased interactions with others while you’re out for walks or resting on a park bench with your dog. You may also meet new people while training your dog in obedience classes or at doggy daycare or playtime. These are great opportunities to connect with others and develop friendships as you’ll likely see the same people repeatedly. Self-Worth is improved through caring for your dog. In a sense, by caring for your dog you are proving to yourself that you can care not only for yourself but for others too.

Dog ownership can be expensive and not everyone’s lifestyle is conducive to it. In those situations, you could volunteer to dog sit or volunteer your time at a local animal shelter and websites like are a great way to see the many opportunities available. You can still reap the positive benefits without the long-term commitment.

Radon – What’s Your Level?

Dawn Edwardson, MDST 485, Post #5, Type #1

To be honest, I never really gave this much thought until recently. I’ve been on the house hunt and upon finding a home that was seriously considering and writing an offer on, I was asked by my realtor if I wanted to include a radon test along with the home inspection. I was puzzled and asked her what is a radon test? She explained to me a little bit about radon and why people test for it pretty routinely these days. That got me curious and so I started looking into it to understand a little more.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) defines radon as a colorless and odorless gas that comes from the soil. The gas can accumulate in the air we breathe. Radon gas decays into fine particles that are radioactive. Furthermore, MDH explains where radon comes from as a breakdown of uranium and radium which is found in the rocks and soil that we build our homes on. First uranium breaks down into radium which then decomposes into gas particles which is what we know as radon.

So, why should we care about this? It’s important because Radon exposure can lead to lung cancer. In fact, of all individuals diagnosed with lung cancer, Radon exposure is the primary cause for all non-smokers.  The Minnesota Department of Health shares a wealth of information on Radon in their  Radon in Homes tab on their website. You will find information on the most commonly experienced symptoms of radon poisoning here on the National Radon Defense webpage.  

In Minnesota, radon levels are, on average, greater than 3 times the national average. This is due to our geology and our lifestyle. Due to the extreme cold in the winter months and the extreme heat/humidity in summer months, we rarely have our windows open to allow for exchange of fresh air within our homes. This allows for significant radon build up. The MDH website shares a great interactive radon map @ the county level with helpful statistics specific to each county.  You can see in the picture below, the various pathways that radon follows as it enters your home.

Testing is an important first step in understanding your home’s current radon level. Test kits run about $5 – $30 and are easily available via these links on the MDH website. There are two types of tests that you can perform. A short test (2-7 days) and a long test (90days).  Regardless of the type of test you perform, you will want to ensure you place your test in the lowest level of your home that you use regularly. Tests should be performed about every 2-5 years in order to allow you to be the most proactive with addressing any radon issues.

Once you have your results you may need to take action to correct a high radon reading. Hiring a professional to install a radon mitigation system may need to be part of your action plan. There are different types of radon mitigation systems specific to the type of home you have. Once you have addressed any potential radon issues it will be important to stay on top of things by ensuring you perform your radon test every 2-5 years. The MDH offers some good planning tools in their How to keep your home safe from radon PDF guidebook.

How Do We Get Back to Normal?

Dawn Edwardson, MDST 485, Post #4, Type #4

We, as a society, want to get back to normal. We want to do the things we used to do, the way we used to do them. This includes not wearing face masks as we enter any indoor space where people come together such as the grocery store, restaurants etc. Many people are fine with riding this whole corona virus epidemic out via mask wearing and they’re holding on to hope of heard immunity via the massive vaccine campaigns. I’m mainly supportive of the thought that we are living in a pandemic and extra precautions are necessary and need to be a part of daily life in order to stay well. I must admit however, that there are many things that are not making entire sense to me such as, masking required to enter and exit a restaurant/brewery/bar but you can readily remove your mask for the entirety of your time as long as remaining seated.  And social distancing while moving through the airport but not once on the plane? And on the plane, you breathe in recycled air the duration of your flight. And then there’s contact sports…players need to wear their masks while on the sideline or bench but not while they’re actively playing in the game?

In her article, It’s Time to Get Back to Normal, Victoria Knight from (Kaiser Health News) shares some of the science behind the current recommendations related to Covid. She begins her article by debunking a Facebook and blog post by conservative radio show host Buck Sexton in which he makes false statements related to science indicating schools need to be re-opened, no facemasks outside, and low risk individuals should start living normal lives. Knight shares the current stance from public health experts, based on science, in three key areas: opening schools, discontinuing mask wearing outside, and low risk individuals should start living normal lives.

What I glean from her article is that we, as a society, would benefit from letting scientific data inform our thoughts and actions throughout the entirety of the pandemic, as related to Covid, just as we do for all other health related issues. I think it is so challenging for many of us because this is new, and we’re not used to it. It doesn’t help that we had a president that was absolute loose cannon, in my opinion, trying to poke holes in scientific data to push the country back into getting the economy up and running again. I understand the rationale on this; however, his approach was less than professional. He was semi effective at getting a large portion of the population to push back against the advice of public health officials. Not a good strategy during a health crisis.

Listening: A Critical Skill to Understanding

Dawn Edwardson, MDST 485, Post #3, Type #3

In his article, The Power of Listening , Jonathan H. Westover shares of a powerful experience he had when one of his college professors actually “heard him out” by simply practicing excellent active listening skills. His article had me interested from the very start as he started it off with a great quote…“No one is as deaf as the man who will not listen.” – Jewish Proverb. This is a powerful quote and one that I will add to my desk at work and home refrigerator. It is simple yet profound and every day I will see it and be inspired at the power of truly listening to others.

Westover shares of a specific example of a time in his college life when he was struggling to make a key decision regarding his classes and possibly changing his major. He sought out a trusted professor and shared with him all of his “scattered, naïve, and probably incoherent thoughts” and the professor intently listened and only spoke when seeking clarification on certain keyaspects. Westover walked away from that conversation feeling significantly more clear about his next steps and he also felt heard, understood, and validated. He was able to actually sort out his own thoughts and confusion simply because the professor cared enough to simply listen.

I think this makes good sense. Through truly listening to others we can convey to them that they are important to us and that what they have to share matters. I know that I have experienced an ability to move through very challenging situations just by being able to share my thoughts with someone close to me who had the time to actually listen. Taking about complex matters out loud with another can really help a person to gain clarity and perspective.

Westover digs a little deeper into the topic of listening and his experience with his professor. He shares about active listening as a skill and he cites Elle Kaplan’s definition of active listening, “giving your complete, intentional focus to what someone says, rather than what their words literally mean.”  I can resonate with this and it makes good sense. Active listening is about listening to what someone is telling you and understanding the context of what they are saying not the literal words they are saying. It’s also about paying attention to their body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. These are all part of the message or information they are trying to share with us. Listening requires us a to be “all in”, no distractions.

The overarching purpose of Westover’s article is from a business perspective; to be an effective and better leader. It was surprising to me that he didn’t specifically discuss that true listening requires us to make time and to clear our minds. It’s very challenging in the workplace to stop in the middle of what you’re doing to truly to listen to another colleague. Maybe if you’re an incredibly skilled/seasoned listener you can but I find that very challenging. It’s certainly important to do your best in a real-time situation, however, for matters that require true active listening, I like to ensure I can do that with a clear mind and no distractions thus I actually plan time for it.  

I think and feel that I am a pretty good listener, however, when I am overwhelmed by all the things that need to get done, such as the daily obligations of work, school, family, and friends..well, my ability to listen in a meaningful way can easily go right out the window. During periods of high stress, I have too much mental interference to actively listen unless I am very intentional about it and actually plan time with someone to talk. By planning time, I can ensure that I have cleared my mind and can be wholly present in my listening. Additionally, I think the hardest part of active listening is just that, actively listening. If we all took a moment, during our next conversation, and paid attention to how many times we interrupt or stop listening because we already know what they’re going to say or we have a response, we’d be very surprised at our inability to truly listen.

Travel and Improved Health: A relaxing yet exhilarating combination.

Dawn Edwardson, MDST 485, Post #2, Type #2

Travel and Improved Health: A relaxing yet exhilarating combination.

I love that moment when you make the decision that you’re actually going to do it…you’ve been dreaming about it for weeks, maybe even months. You’ve had that hotel room sitting in your cart and you just clicked “complete purchase”…ahh, what a great feeling!  Now I’ve got to book the flight!

I often find myself dreaming of a get-a-way when life begins to feel too overwhelming or too mundane. I believe that travel can be a way to ease the mind and body of stress and pre-occupation. Pre-occupation with the many seemingly overwhelming responsibilities we face daily. We wake up to them each and every day: work, school, family, pets, church, youth groups, extra-curricular activities and the list goes on and on. It’s not a wonder that we have physical and mental illness on the rise – we need a break!

How do I know when a vacation is due? This is a question many people ask and there are some tall tale signs to be on the lookout for such as: constant irritability with co-workers, disinterest in your work, and making mistakes daily. The list goes on and on and we can read about many more of them here Ultimately, it’s about knowing yourself and monitoring your behavior to know when you need to get away.

What are the health benefits of taking action on my dream of walking on the beach or hiking in a National Park? WebMD is a source many rely on for health advice and they recently shared (2020) on their website, that “exploring new places and immersing yourself in new cultures is mentally stimulating. Doing this regularly can have great effects on your mental health.” You can read more about the details here

I have experienced many of the health scenarios that spoken about above. I have found travel to be a source of escape and rejuvenation from life’s daily grind. I’ve learned that it’s ok to plan a little and let the rest be an adventure. We’ve made it a point on our family vacations to remove watches and not pay attention to time, rather, we get up when we feel rested, east when we’re hungry, and go to bed when we’re tired. It’s amazing how freeing it is to simply release yourself from the constraints of living every minute of your life by a schedule. I hope that this message has been helpful and inspiring! Take care of yourselves and go on an adventure!

Homeowner Associations: A Homeowner’s Dream or Nigthmare

Dawn Edwardson, MDST 485, Post #1, Type #1

Yes, you guessed it, I currently live within a homeowner’s association community and actually the home I live in is governed by not one, but two of these associations. The primary association governs all of the amenities within the community such as the clubhouse, gym, parks, pool, tennis and basketball courts, walking paths, along with other additional recreational facilities. The secondary association governs ten townhome complexes within a literal sea of additional townhome complexes.  The sea of townhome complexes, that surround my ten, are governed by the same primary association and also have four secondary associations which govern them. So, to put it plainly, there’s significant overlap in associations within the community I live.

So just what does this mean? From where I sit, it means over governance of people and some pretty outlandish rules and apparently, I’m not alone. Check out these articles for some great examples of just how outlandish some HOAs can get.,

 I understand the rationale for many of the rules. For example, the community pool is for the residents of the community and we are allowed to bring one “guest”. This avoids overcrowding of the pool on behalf of one resident who wants to invite their entire family and friends for a Saturday afternoon “pool party”. That makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is that every single thing you do outside of your home is regulated. So, if you’d like to hang a wind chime, that’s a no. If you’d like to place some potted plants on your porch/door step/deck, you are limited to certain size pots, type of pots, when and how long you can keep them outside(May through Sept) etc.  If you don’t abide by these rules, you receive a warning and must correct the issue, or you are fined and then also charged for the association to remove said items. This over regulation isn’t limited to potted plants and windchimes. It goes as far as to regulate where you keep your trash/recycling containers to where you park your car(s).

There are absolute perks to living here which are coupled with the absolute nightmare of living here. Let me share some examples…I love that as I walk my dog on the countless miles of beautiful walking paths that I have multiple opportunities to conveniently dispose of dog waste in well maintained and routinely emptied dog waste stations. That being said, the association has announced that they are working with a company to provide DNA testing on all dogs owned by members of this association. The process they are planning to implement is in response to the amount of dog poo that is not disposed of properly. So, their plan is to do DNA testing on all of the dogs owned by members of this community. The members who own dogs will be expected to provide a sample of their dog’s dog poo for DNA testing. Then, whenever there is dog poo laying on the ground, they can test it and trace it back to the correct dog and fine the dog owner. I wonder how well this is going to work. And can they really get this up and running? Another perk is that I can walk across the street and use a nice clean gym for my work outs at any time of the day (5am – 11pm) with well-maintained equipment. That being said, the office personnel will always check you to be sure that you are changing into a different pair of shoes prior to using any of the equipment. They are there every day 8am – 8pm and outside of their office hours, they have cameras running to “catch” any rule breakers and follow-up with them accordingly.

Here,, is a great article that simply and clearly suggests productive steps that HOA members can take when their HOA is pushing on their rights as citizens. Of course, the best step one can take to address pushy HOAs is to simply avoid them buy refusing to purchase or rent a property that belongs to one. As my grandmother used to say, “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.”