Mindful Brain Blog
|Posted on September 27, 2018 at 2:45 PM|
This month we have been talking about Letting Go in our mindfulness classes. The fall season is a beautiful way to honor the process of letting go. As nature transitions her colors, and the leaves fall to the ground to prepare for the winter, we can also think of ways in our lives to let go of what no longer serves us. We can let go of our physical belongings if there is clutter in our living space, to make room for things that may be more useful, important, or relevant. We can also let go of our attachment to thoughts, ideas, and ways of thinking that may keep us stuck or challenged in certain ways. Sometimes just letting go during a difficult or challenging moment can bring relief to the situation.
The link below provides a guided meditation for letting go and is a wonderful exercise for tapping into what you most desire for yourself as the seasons change. This guided practice can help you to explore what you wish to hold on to, and what you feel you can let go of to make room for what you would like to cultivate in your life. We'll be taking some time over the next few weeks to journal, meditate, and think about letting go!
|Posted on August 7, 2018 at 3:55 PM|
We've been following the interesting research that was presented last month in Chicago at the 2018 Alzheimer's Association International Conference related to managing dementia, diet and dementia, new drugs that may slow cognitive decline, and blood pressure and dementia risk.
Go here for more info and highlights: https://www.alz.org/aaic/overview.asp
Some of our favorite findings:
A study by Martha Clare Morris and colleagues showed that "consumption of 1 or more servings per day of green leafy vegetables is associated with less Alzheimer's brain neuropathology (40% less) and macro infarcts (50% less). Leafy greens contain a number of nutrients that may provide neuroprotection through different mechanisms."
A study of a UK biobank lead by Marilyn Cornelis showed that "...coffee consumption was associated with better cognitive ability. Tea consumption was associated with poor cognitive ability and warrants further investigation."
Women’s reproductive history may predict Alzheimer’s risk. Researchers found that women who have had three or more children had a 12% lower risk of dementia in later life than those with fewer children. Other findings support a hypothesis that the "cumulative exposure to estrogen across the life course may protect against the disease".
|Posted on July 5, 2018 at 12:25 AM|
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions." - Dalai Lama
Where does happiness live in the body...the heart? the soul?
Well, the brain is involved, but how exactly?!
We know there is a complex relationship between thoughts and feelings, which both have specific connections to parts of the brain. Thoughts are controlled by our frontal lobes, and feelings involve a sophisticated set of structures in our limbic system. These brain areas communicate and affect our state of mind, our well-being, and our behavior.
There are also several chemicals, or neurotransmitters, that are involved in maintaining a positive and happy mood state, including serotonin and dopamine.
So, how do we promote happiness in our brain?
Research has shown that meditation, physical exercise, and enjoyable activities with other people are great places to start because they support these brain areas and help them to function in healthy ways!
Try this 10-minute guided meditation on Peace & Contentment:
Interested in a Good Read? We love the work of neuropsychologist, Dr. Rick Hanson! Checkout his book, Hardwiring Happiness
|Posted on January 17, 2017 at 4:50 PM|
Yoga for Healing: Focus on Stroke
We were recently asked about yoga classes for stroke survivors in Denver….great question! The benefits of yoga are endless, and yoga can be especially helpful for individuals recovering from a neurological injury. Here are a few Adaptive Yoga classes we found in the Denver Metro area…do you know of others? If so, please share in the Comments!
Rocky Mountain Stroke Center Chair Yoga $15/class
Find your calm in this group adapted to chairs for stroke survivors. Relax while you increase your mobility and practice stretching. Participants will also focus on different breathing techniques that awaken your body and your spirit! This class is open to all survivors and no previous yoga experience is needed. Join us on Wednesdays from 12:00 - 1:00pm!
The PEAK Center at Craig Hospital
Adaptive Yoga Sessions include practical demonstrations, and active practice with therapeutic support. Classes are open to any individual with a neurological disability and their families & Care providers. Classes are included with a general gym membership at The PEAK Center at Craig Hospital. We also offer scholarships for those who are in need of financial assistance. https://craighospital.org/programs/the-peak-center
Adaptive Yoga at The River
The adaptive program at The River aims to foster community while building strength, flexibility and increased mobility. Our adaptive classes move at a slower pace with deliberate transitions to safely expand your relationship with your unique body and experiences. Our adaptive teachers have completed trainings specifically to serve yogis with varying needs and challenges. Modifications are explained and encouraged. Much of these adaptive yoga classes are taught in a chair. Each pose can my modified to meet students needs in and out of a chair.
St. Anthony's Hospital Fitness Center in Lakewood - Gentle Yoga and Chair yoga
Watch this news clip on how Stroke Survivors Improve Health Through Weekly Yoga Class
Read this article about Yoga for Stroke
|Posted on December 3, 2014 at 10:05 PM|
Last month I had the privilege and pleasure of co-leading a workshop with my friend and talented practitioner Dr. Meggie Smith at Chiropractic First. We wanted to share the message that while the holiday season comes with inherent challenges and stresses, there is a dual approach that we can take to sink into what is present and joyful as well. That is, while our nervous system is wired to take in threats and perceive stress around us, we can both acknowlege the reality of those challenges and also experience what is joyful and pleasant. Mindfulness practices can help bring awareness to what is present around us. Gratitude can cultivate a sense of appreciation and openheartedness for what is also inherently joyful during this time of year. Here are a few additional tidbits from our workshop that I thought would be worth sharing!
Five TIPS for using Mindfulness During the Holiday Season
1. This time of year can promote wanting, striving, and immediate gratification that can cause us to lose sight on what the season has to offer us. Mindfully embrace the holiday spirit by recognizing the principles of giving, being thankful, and reflection of the past year.
2. If demands create a sense of exhaustion or feeling "spent" use your mindful practices and self-care strategies to draw your attention to a sense of being. Focus on connection, celebration, and being with others rather than doing tasks or checking things off your list.
3. Cultivate a sense of compassion for yourself and others. The demands and expectations of the holidays can cause stress - and it's okay! Cut yourself, and others, a break and offer a compassionate message when things feel out of control. Breathe and say "May I be well and calm in this moment", "I am doing my very best and that is all that matters right now", "May my family experience joy and love in this moment".
4. We have a tendency to be stuck in past memories, stressed about the current situation, and worried about the future. Accept things for how they are and release attachment to expectations, fears, and "shoulds". Notice what is present in the here and now.
5. Approach the season with a sense of curiosity and openness. See, hear, taste things as if it's your first time! Take in the sensory experiences, savor and enjoy them.
|Posted on April 1, 2014 at 1:25 PM|
Photo by Margaret Andrews
Hearing difficulties can often make memory difficulties appear worse and we may lose our attention or concentration during daily activities or conversations if we can't hear very well. If an individual cannot properly hear then they are not able to learn new information, making it difficult to remember later on. Careful management of hearing is essential!
Suggestions for maximizing hearing in everyday life:
(Adapted from Academy of Rehabilitative Audiology Website (www.audrehab.org)
Do not speak to each other from another room.
Do not speak with your back towards the person to whom you are addressing.
Do not start speaking and then turn away from the person with whom you are conversing.
Do not speak in competition with anything else.
Do get the attention of the person with whom you wish to speak before you begin speaking.
Do speak face-to-face whenever possible.
Do try to remove obstructions while speaking: Hand from in front of your mouth, food in your mouth, etc.
Do speak clearly and distinctly. Project and enunciate.
Do exercise patience while communicating.
Do be supportive to the person with whom you are speaking if there is a miscommunication.
If you have difficulty hearing others you may feel frustrated or annoyed. Take a mindful breath and with grace and a smile politely ask the other person to repeat themselves and speak up!
|Posted on January 2, 2014 at 12:20 AM|
Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why you are there? Have you ever started to say something to someone and then forgotten what you wanted to say? Usually, we recover from these “memory lapses” and after a few moments, our intended task or thought comes back to us. This experience is not usually related to a memory slip. Instead, it’s most likely related to inattention or distraction. We often feel that we are forgetful in our everyday lives because we are distracted by the many things going on in our environment. We live in a bustling world with lots of demands and activity, not to mention our thoughts are always going going going! This means that our attention is being fragmented in many ways during our daily activities. Dividing your attention, or multi-tasking, makes it harder to be productive in each moment and can decrease the quality of each experience.
To increase your ability to pay attention and to remember what you are doing in each moment, it is important to focus on the present. Pay attention on purpose! Draw your attention to what you are doing in that moment and focus on one thing at a time. When you leave one room to get something from another room, say to yourself “I am going to get my book” or “I am going to look at the calendar.” Try not to distract yourself by making a pit-stop to do something else along the way. Be mindful and “in the moment” during each task as you complete it, rather than thinking of the next thing that you need to do, who you need to call, where you need to go and when. These thoughts create distraction and detract from your ability to focus and remember what you are working on in the present moment.
This simple mindfulness practice can help increase your mental clarity during your daily life and help you to be more efficient, productive, and feel calm in each activity that you do!
|Posted on October 3, 2013 at 12:30 AM|
Photo by Michael Bevis
We all want excellent brain health, right?! In many ways, the brain is like a muscle and the term “use it or lose it” very much applies to optimizing brain health, especially as we age. The following wellness suggestions are intended to stimulate cognitive health and help individuals be their best selves in everyday life.
Live a Healthy Life. What’s good for your heart is good for your brain! If quality of life is high then people are feeling better and functioning better, so, it’s important to work on having a healthy and positive lifestyle.
Research has shown that regular aerobic exercise can assist with maintaining cognitive health and preventing decline with age. Check with your doctor about appropriate physical activity that takes into account an individual’s medical history. There are many enjoyable low impact activities including yoga, tai chi, walking groups, etc. than can be found in your local community.
Nutrition and Diet
Talk to your doctor about diet and nutrition options that are best for you. Generally, a Mediterranean diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limiting unhealthy fats has been associated with lowering risk for diseases such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes than that increase the risk for cognitive decline with age.
Get your Zzzzzz
Sleep well! Getting a good night of sleep each night is important for clear cognitive functioning during the day. Establish a regular sleep schedule and avoid “dozing” during the day. Increasing daytime activity can help promote better sleep during the night.
Meaningful Mentally Stimulating Activity
Meaningful activities are things that an individual enjoys that make their heart sing, puts them in “the zone”, and helps them feel great! This can include things like “brain games”. While there is no strong evidence that crossword puzzles or Sudoku are scientifically beneficial, if a person likes them, then they should do them! Try something new, or revisit an old hobby. If you feel challenged by finding meaningful activities, then consult with a clinician such as a psychologist, social worker, physician, or just talk to friends or family to get ideas. Some suggestions include:
- participating in the creative arts such as a dance movement group or dance class, a painting class, or singing in a chorus
- joining a gardening club or group at a local garden
- reading or joining a book club
- attending learning groups or programs at local museums or community centers
Meaningful social relationships and social support has been shown in some studies to enhance neural functioning. This may include things like scheduling weekly lunch dates with friends or family and attending activity groups in the community. Regular social activity is recommended!
Keep mood up and minimize stress. There are many negative impacts of stress on the brain, mood, and cognition. Spirituality and a sense of feeling grounded and connected to something important can also help maintain a sense of wellness. Talk to your doctor about professional support for emotions and coping with stress.