Better Brain Health

I’ve been studying some stress management techniques. Here recently one of my favorite experts to glean knowledge from is Dr. Daniel Amen. Amen offers several tid bits of applicable knowledge that everyone can use to have a healthy brain and a lot of it we have heard before from our grandmothers, mothers!:

1. Do Regular Physical Exercise
2. Use a helmet when riding a motorcycle, bike or any other ATV
3. Limit toxins to the brain: alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, street drugs
4. Get more than 7 hours of sleep per night
5. Avoid chronic stress as much as possible
6. Learn new things
7. Dance
8. Take multi-vitamins, fish oil, Omega-3s, 5 htp, etc
9. Eat healthy-blueberries, beans, pumpkin squash, salmon, tuna, walnuts, yogurt, spinach, broccoli
10. Drink lots of water
Bonus tip- Imagine that your hands are warm. Yes this sounds different and weird but trust me, when you are in a stressful environment your hands will get cold. If you imagine that your hands are warmer than they really are, then this type of biofeedback actually helps your body! Try it!

Monday Manifesto

I believe you! I believe you can manage your stress. I believe that you can be free from the heavy burdens that seem to be pulling you down. I believe that you can direct your thinking, learn to relax and take control of all areas of your life. I want you to live in a world where stress and anxiety are not ruining your life. I want you to live in a world where you are liberated from unhealthy habits and distress. Here is what I know for sure: life is a balancing act. We must take care of our self. This balance is a holistic view of self. Life needs examined and challenged for full potential and growth.
I want to help you live that way. This is my mission and my manifesto.

Guided imagery

The past few weeks, I have been offering mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
Today is no different, this time, I want to offer a guided imagery. This type of activity helps us to slow down and learn to relax.  This is a little more challenging to attempt online in a blog but bear with me.

As with before, begin by getting as comfortable as possible…take a few deep breathes to get relaxed. After reading each statement, close your eyes and try to picture the situation in your mind and read this script slowly, as you follow in on each statement:
Imagine yourself on a tropical island. You can return home any time you wish, but you can stay and enjoy the serenity of the island as long as you care to.
You begin your journey by walking on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach. No one else is in sight. The beach is all yours. The sun is warm on your face…notice a gentle refreshing breeze coming off the water. Listen to the waves flow rhythmically onto the sand. You hear seagulls calling over the powerful ocean. Their voices sound distant compared to the roar of the surf.
You lie in the warm sand to enjoy the peacefulness of this place. The sand is warm and soothing to your body. You close your eyes to the pleasant sun overhead and relax for a while in the comfort of this warmth…as you inhale deeply, you enjoy the fresh smell of the ocean…
Once you feel rested, you notice a grove of palm trees you have never seen before. You start walking toward them…as you get close, you can hear the large palm leaves rustling in the breeze overhead…you find a path entering the grove and follow it…it is much cooler and very refreshing to be in the shade of these trees. As you continue, your path leads you into a tall, dense thicket of tropical plants…it is impossible to see where the path is leading, but you are curious about what lies ahead and also strangely hopeful about what you will find…
After a while, you hear rushing water and see daylight up ahead. You emerge from the thicket and step into a clearing. From a cliff high above, a silver ribbon of waterfall cascades into a pool of water at your feet. The sunlight reflecting off the pool dazzles your eyes…You climb up on a rock at the edge of the pool…and look down into the clear water. The water is the color of sapphires and so deep that you cannot see the bottom.
You look up at the waterfall and notice vividly colored flowers growing out of the rocks along the cliff—blue flowers, lavender ones, red and yellow—all offset by the lush green ferns and moss-covered rocks. As you begin walking toward the waterfall, you come upon a glade of trees covered in orchids. You have never seen so many of the beautiful flowers together. They hang from the trees, forming an enclosure with soft, fragrant walls…now you see things moving among the flowers—crimson and yellow butterflies flitting busily from place to place. You sit down in a sunny spot in the middle of the orchids and butterflies, amazed at the peace and beauty that you alone have discovered…
The sun is warm on your back, and you notice that the sunlight seems to energize the iridescent butterflies as they flutter in and out of it. You, too, begin to feel a sense of renewed energy…and a renewed sense that if you look hard enough, you can find peacefulness and beauty in the world…after today’s journey, you also feel a little more adventurous, more willing to take a path you have not been on before…and less afraid of what lies ahead.

It is now time to return. You can bring the experience of peacefulness and beauty of this tropical paradise with you. Any time you desire, you can close your eyes, breathe deeply, and return to this place.
How was this moment? Was it peaceful and relaxing? Is your mind at ease? There are many similar guided imageries, like this one online. But I also recommend talking to a counselor or pastor, as these professionals are often trained in more specific types of guided imageries. There are Christian based ones and others focused on healing pain/traumatic experiences. It is also helpful to meet a professional, as they have experience at reading these scripts slowly and helping you process after the script is completed.
So now, take with you the most pleasant and peaceful thoughts. For some people it will be laying on the beach and listening to the waves for others it will be sitting on the rock and looking at the wonderful waterfall. Each of us are different and enjoy different hobbies and aesthetics. So when stress or negative things happen to you this week, think upon the imagery that gives you peace. If you have some free time and want to re-read this entire script, please do so or as suggested earlier, find other imageries that are pleasant to you.

Links to Children’s Health

Five year-olds who watch TV for three or more hours a day more likely to be antisocial: But the risk of this behaviour is very small by Science Daily

Deep breathing and muscle relaxation

Last week, I offered a simple exercise to help you begin thinking about being mindful. 
I challenged you to be fully present in the here-and-now both at work and at home. This exercise helps people to de-stress and be more productive and pleasant to be around bot hat work and at home. 
Today I want to offer some more mindfulness exercises. 
 The first is called deep breathing or belly breathing. 
 First get comfortable. Second take a lot deep breathe in, count to 5 or 6 in your head as the oxygen fills not just your lungs but your entire chest/stomach area should stick out. Next just as with the in, the out should take at least 5 or 6 seconds and your whole belly will again move in as the oxygen is released from your body. Do this 3 to 6 times consecutively. Scientifically this is proven to lower blood pressure, get more oxygen in the brain, improve thinking and fight anxiety. Try this!
With more oxygen flowing through your body, you may begin to feel a little sleepy! That is okay, once you get moving again, you will be energized and more productive and de-stressed.
If you like that, you will also really enjoy this next technique called progressive relaxation. Several clients comment on how useful this is!
First, while continuing the mindful belly breathing, get comfortable in your chair. You can do this in your bed or on a coach as well! Close your eyes and imagine that you are on a cloud, there is nothing else to think about or any worries. Focus on your feet. Tense up your feet and hold the tension for five seconds. Count with me: “1,2,3,4,5.” Now release. Your feet are heavy and tired. Relax. Now focus all your thoughts on your legs. Tense up your leg muscles 1,2,3,4,5, now release! Your legs are heavy. You are on a cloud. There are no worries. You are feeling tired. Now focus on your thighs. (Do the same thing with thighs then again with chest, arms, shoulders, neck  and then head/face).  
Many clients use this technique just before going to bed. This helps them to stop and relax and fall asleep instead of worrying about everything and anything else. This is mindfulness for the body. 
Next week I will offer even another technique that is useful in mindfulness. 

Where you are, you are

Often times we hold images in our minds from our harshest critic. 
We can be kind to others. We are shepherds and we are caretakers to others.
Although we are awfully hard on our own self. 
In reality both sides are battling it out inside of our heads. Imagine the old cartoons, where there is a devil (or a critic) on our left shoulder and an angel, (the caretaker) on our right shoulder. Both are whispering in our ears, what we need to hear. I challenge you to take five minutes to think through and write down what each voice has been telling you. If you are being honest with yourself, you will hear your own inner-critic first and then notice your strengths, second.
It is natural for our minds to be so focused on the negative first. Although, we can learn to control our thinking. The first step is practicing being mindful. Try being here-and-now. Do not focus on what you have to get done in two hours or later tonight. Be present with yourself, right here and right now. First this starts with breathing. 
Keep your eyes open but just focus on your senses rather than your thoughts. Notice the environment and what you are feeling, sensing, breathing, seeing around you ….
What are you seeing? Look only at one thing at a time. If you are thinking about what you are thinking and interpreting, you are no longer being mindful. Attempt to perceive without judgments, interpretations, evaluations or too much  input from the brain. You should have a running commentary of what you are experiencing right now.
 This exercise was meant to help us become more alert and aware of our surroundings. Mindfulness is “thinking about thinking.” We do have some control over our thinking.  We call this being “mindful.” Being mindful can help us de-stress and relax. Doing this meditation will help you be more present in the here and no, not distracted by thoughts and judgments. At work, be fully attentive and present at work. But then at home, be fully present with your family, instead of focusing on your thoughts and worries of work.
Next week, I will offer some more techniques to help you de-stress and be even more mindful.