Friday, May 26, 2017

Floating--the new "Mental Floss"

You may be too connected in this day and age to technology. The constant barrage of bad news, fear based reports, work stress, financial pressures make it really difficult to ever detach and shut down the internal noise.

This past week, I found a way by doing a "float." This is an exquisite way to relax, clear your mind and really let go. On the right is the pod filled with epsom salt to make you totally buoyant and float in the pod. I was welcomed to the MIZU Integrated Medical Clinic & Float Center by Drs.' Mahyar & Hannah Badrei. This clinic helps heal the body and mind. There is research to support this process.

Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) first came about in 1954. John C. Lilly, a physician, neuroscientist, and psychoanalyst at the National Institute of Mental Health, set out to test the idea that the brain is at rest when deprived of external stimuli. Some studies over the years have shown that floating promotes stress relief and relaxation and helps to lower blood pressure, release endorphins, and relieve chronic pain—to name just a few of its many purported benefits. 

The concept of floating is simple: The floater rests in a shallow solution (about ten inches) of salt water, which keeps him or her naturally buoyant, eliminating the body’s need to exert force to stay afloat. The water is kept at a constant 93.5 degrees, the same temperature as the skin, which negates any perception of separation between the body and the water. Because the flotation tank is dark and soundless, the brain is relieved from processing external stimuli. This complete lack of stimulation initiates a “parasympathetic response,” thereby slowing down the heart rate, dilating blood vessels, and allowing the body to repair itself.

Relax, detach and enjoy the freedom, relaxation and clarity that comes from letting go. I really enjoyed my time in the pod. Thank you for the experience at the MIZU Clinic.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Brain Harmonics

Have you ever heard a song come on the radio and been immediately transported back in time to a vivid memory? Have you felt the emotions that came with that time in your life? Has music inspired you to dance? Has music helped you through a tedious project or long drive? Has music made you feel good? Has music relaxed you?

Most of us can say yes to all of these questions, and it is no coincidence. Music is powerful. It activates the brain in very unique ways. It has been proven to illuminate brain activity in the movement, attention, planning, and memory parts of the brain, even though those parts of the brain have little to do with the auditory processing center of the brain. Scientists have also found that listening to music can actually instigate the release of dopamine, which is responsible for rewards and pleasure in the brain. It has even been seen as more effective in lowering Cortisol than anti-anxiety drugs when 'administered' before surgery. Few other actions can produce this level of integration in the brain.

Perhaps the most powerful example of music's impact on the brain is the recent movement of music therapy for patients with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Scientists and therapists are finding that music can reawaken the brain for these patients, and bring them into a much more communicative state. The brain activates, the memory returns, emotions pour out, and he is energized. In other words, the different parts of his brain all kick in. This all happens when he hears his favorite artists!

Watch this video to brighten your day!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Cortisol: The Slient Killer

Have you ever been stressed out? Silly question, right? Well, it is very normal to feel stressed. But have you been stressed for days, weeks, months, or years at a time? That could hold some serious implications for your brain and health.

When you're stressed, your brain releases a chemical called Cortisol. Cortisol has many functions. It heightens awareness and serves to help with a flight or fight response. Imagine running away from a saber-tooth tiger or lifting a car off of a child. Cortisol sends these heroic capabilities into action.

When the stressful event has subsided, the body has mechanisms to calm itself and returns to a normal state. This is often through a physical release. But stress has changed these days! Stress used to be a hunt for the next meal. Now, some of us engage with stress on an almost constant basis. Which begs the question... how do we release stress?

Exercise and meditation are proven methods. But for those "too stressed" to take a break, the Cortisol remains in your blood. Since it is not released, it becomes a toxic presence in the brain and body. It results in a heightened state in the body that cannot be sustained. This eventually results in a bevy of physical and emotional complications: elevated blood pressure, depression, anxiety, decreased memory, and has even been linked to an increased chance for dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It's true that Cortisol can be a killer.

Want to know more about these physical implications? Watch this video below...

Monday, May 8, 2017

Stress Proof Your Brain??? Is it possible?

Is it possible to build resilience into your life, let alone your brain? I believe the answer is a resounding "YES."

Of course, you will most likely have to make some adjustment in your thinking, beliefs, behavior and perhaps actions you take for self-care. 
Psychologist Melanie Greenberg offers tips on how to better react to stressors.  (The Stress-Proof BrainNew Harbinger Publications). The main premise is as follows; 

"changing the way you think about stressors can eliminate this phenomenon."

The brain's amygdala acts as a kind of alarm system for the brain that can hijack it while looking for threats. The prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, can calm the amygdala down through meditation and mindfulness." So, relaxation, changing your thinking changes the brain's reaction to stress and negativity. Melanie Greenberg has 5 notions she presents in the book.
  1. Live in the moment.
  2. Focus on what you can control.
  3. Examine your thoughts.
  4. Practice self-compassion.  
  5. Find "like minded people" & take action.
If you aren't familiar with CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, then it may be time to do so. Automatic negative thoughts are circuits in our brains that become entrenched with their associated negative emotions.

For example, "I am afraid to fly" causes feelings of fear, panic, anxiety and anticipatory anxiety. These thoughts and feelings get imprinted on the brain. Unless or until you create new thoughts, called a "reframe."

Reframe your negative thoughts into positive ones. Sounds simple, but it takes practice and creativity. I believe this is not a figurative change in the mind, rather, literally a new circuit you are creating in your brain. This new circuit replaces the existing negative circuits. The quote that captures this concept best it. "If you fire it, you wire it into your neural network." This new circuit can change your perception of stress and reduce the reaction of your amygdala so you can relax, remain calm and be more at peace. Study mindfulness, yoga, exercise, develop good sleep hygiene and have more fun.

What is the key to happiness?

Wikipedia states: Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being which can be defined by, among others, positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being." 

Is there actually a key to happiness? I tend to believe there are many keys that lead to happiness and ultimately....... joy. Take a moment to track the 
  • Times, 
  • Places
  • People you associate with your happiest moments. 
Where were you? What were you doing? Who were you with? Once you explore these questions, you may find some patterns and opportunities to recover this mindset. What you may discover are the elements that make up happiness for you. These elements are opportunities to either ignite those same times, people and places of happiness or invent new ones that will instill new happiness moments. Finally or shall I say ultimately, we are all responsible for our own happiness.

If you are expecting someone else to make you happy, It may be a long and futile wait. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Beating your head on a wall?

Do you feel this way sometimes when it comes to trying to communicate or get something done? Have you thought about what might be causing this frustration and block? Perhaps it is time to go deeper and explore the patterns in your life that seem to end up leading to a dead end, anger, disappointment or a feeling of powerlessness. Part of the problem may be some of the following:

  • Being liked
  • Pleasing others
  • Conflict avoidance
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to express yourself
  • Fear of authority
  • Depression
  • Burnout
This model may help you understand how to become more expressive, assertive, feel heard and get more of what you want out of life.
If you remain passive, you will end up feeling used and a victim. If you become aggressive, you become a bully and hurt others. Finding the middle zone to 1) express your thoughts and feelings in a respectful manner creates an opportunity to resolve a conflict or at least begin the repair process, 2) frees you up from pushing down feelings that cause anxiety, depression, stress and resentment.

Do you know why the man is beating his head on the wall, because it feels so good when he stops. Just saying........

Why Worry? Recently, a reprint of the book  Why Worry  by friend and prolific author, Eric A. Kimmel was recently released. Gayle and ...