Tag Archives: Happiness

Tips for improving brainpower and preventing dementia

There’s is no cure for dementia or alzheimer’s, but in the quest for one, researchers are now able to offer evidence-based suggestions to help prevent early onset. Most of the tips are easy to implement. And the sooner you start, the better your chances of prevention.

1. Eat nuts, olive oil, flax seed, and fishAccording to research, it’s all in the omega-3 fatty acids, which might help prevent certain memory and mood problems.

2. Be bilingual –  Bilingual people tend to postpone dementia by several years compared to those who are monolingual, according to researchers in Toronto. If you don’t speak two languages, now is a good time to pick another one up. The challenge can help stimulate reserve parts of the brain. I hear Polish is fun. And who knows, perhaps mastering the tones of Chinese might even improve your pitch and singing skills.

3. Use the computer – It’s still not a good idea to sit at the computer all day long. Learning to use the computer can stimulate the brain, but the research specifically states it’s finding based on computer learning coupled with physical activity, which happens to be #4…

4. Exercise – Moderate activity is always a good thing! Some researchers say resistance training, like Pilates, is best for dementia prevention. Also high on the list is social exercise, like dancing, since studies suggest music also helps in preventing dementia, depression, and enhancing memory recall.

5. Drink – This is the fun one, but it’s also tricky. Certain studies link alcoholism to increased risk of dementia, yet others find moderate drinking, like a glass of wine with dinner, may actually help prevent it. Just another reason why “everything in moderation”, is a pretty darn good maxim to live by.

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Get moving outside and feel better inside

Connecting water and board at the beach in Southern California.

With Spring in full bloom, taking your exercise activities outdoors could not only boost physical health, but mental well being too, according to Mind, a nonprofit mental health organization based in the UK.

Mind recently conducted research on whether or not outdoor, “green” activities improved overall mental health. While the survey samples were small, the findings are strong. Out of 100 people polled, over 94% of commented that green exercise improves their mental health. Another test included setting up two contrasting walks with 20 participants in each group, one outdoors amongst nature and one indoors. 71% of  people experienced a decrease in the levels of depression after an outdoor walk verses 45% indoors.

Mind’s website offers suggestions for making an outdoor date and creative ideas to help inspire more outdoor activity.

Other suggestions?

Taking a stroll in Little Tokyo, Downtown LA

Morning – Find a park or outdoor space nearby offering sunrise Tai Chi.

Evening  – The classic after dinner stroll is a perennial favorite. A nice way to wind down after the day, digest dinner, and enjoy the night air.

Anytime – Pull together your own action/adventure team, and as a united front take on various outdoor challenges and activities.

 

 

Too cool to Dance

KISS might have been the final blow that killed dancing as a socially acceptable thing to do. Noting the temporary outcroppings of dances surrounding music videos and movies, we still never fully recovered from the backlash against disco. And only a few years later were computers born, keeping us complacently docile and more susceptible to head bobbing as a form of musical appreciation.

It’s a shame we don’t dance in America. We tend to view it as a spectator sport.

Breaking it down into two categories, we have the art of dance and social dance. Over an extended period of time, I’d argue, social dance has all but disappeared, while perceiving dance as an art form, reserved for those with skill, has grown…mainly through reality show competitions. And no doubt it is an admirable and beautiful thing to behold, but socially, as a nation we don’t embrace dance as something we all can do. Blame it on KISS, blame it on technological evolution; blame it on the Puritans; blame it on a lack of rhythm; whatever the reason, we generally scoff and say, “Yeah, right. No. Way.”

From an evolutionary perspective, dance let us show off to potential mates. Like peacocks strutting their feathers, it displayed physical capabilities and breeding skills, the remnants of which can still be unearthed in dance clubs today, however, online dating is taking the opportunities and fun away. The most colorful peacocks today have 1000+ friends and a killer Facebook profile.

From a social perspective, dance is a way to celebrate, congregate, and enjoy community. Almost every culture in the world has a social dance that is crucial to their heritage. In plenty of places, dancing is still an important way of getting together and letting loose in everyday life. Brazil has it down, as does India. There is no dancing like in a Bollywood film, and it only mirrors the societal importance of dance in celebration for men and women, young and old.

Finally, from the physical perspective, dance is a way to stay healthy and in shape, getting the heart pumping, and the brain lapping up all those feel-good neurotransmitters. Dance helps balance intrinsic muscles and joints, and our mental capacities in ways we now use somatics, pilates, and yoga, to try and do. Researchers at Washington University have even found evidence of dance helping to control movements in patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

So we get it. Dance is good. It all makes sense, but we still can’t help but cringe at the thought of jumping up moving around. Generally, the places one feels safest dancing are – the hidden underground belly of a dance club (with the aid of alcohol or recreational drugs), at a wedding, (with the aid of alcohol or recreational drugs), at home with the XBox game, or regulated to a sterile gym fitness class.

Unfortunately, our motives are deeply ingrained, and “cold dancing” is a tall order. The larger the group of people dancing, the easier you’ll find it to be….that’s why it’s social.  Try releasing a hangup or two, grab a bunch of friends, and in the immortal words of Swing Out Sister “Break Out”.  It could become infectious. And if it’s not, who cares, you and your friends will feel great. Maybe we need office Spotify dance breaks, where every few hours a song comes on, encouraging movement within the entire office, from receptionist to CEO. I like that picture. You’d be surprised what camaraderie will ensue when dancing next to your boss or the IT personnel. Until then, I dare you to try and bust a move this week.

Next post we’ll look at a dance troupe breaking down the barriers between, social and artistic dance. Until then, I leave you with Bollywood:


Food for thought

We could talk specific foods ingested, numbers of times a day, eat this-not that, caloric intake, etc.  Sure. Dissecting nutrition makes a difference. Knowledge is power, but over-think it, and you might end up neurotic about food. The Puritanical roots of our all or nothing culture places food into good and bad categories, fostering patterns of emotional eating, binging, guilt complexes, eating disorders, etc.  It’s no way to live and eventually we all crash and burn.

Truth is lots of things lend to well-being. It’s not just calorie counting on a plate and minutes counted at the gym. We need activity (unplug more often), natural nutrition (processed foods sparingly), stress regulation, and an understanding of societal ideals on daily life.

BUT…

If you are looking for one big universal answer on how to best handle food and nutrition, I have it. Going back thousands of years, when it comes to food, it’s the real secret to a healthy, fitter you, in mind and body:

Relax. Take pleasure in your food.

Love food and all the ceremony and community that goes with it. Adore wine, meat, bread, chocolate, avocados, whatever. It’s fine. Heck, it’s healthy!  Relax already about calories. And please! Stop forcing down quick bars with everything you need…you don’t really need it. Invest time into real food as much as possible. Use mealtime to celebrate seasonal delights. The appreciation comes from the same place, whether it be the perfect granny smith in October or the perfect bite of a dark chocolate. Taking pleasure in food creates a magical experience where flavor rules over quantity. The need for more diminishes.

This is not to say it is necessarily an easy switch. It’s a lifestyle change. Mealtime, food, and even community must be given more space in our daily routines. To encourage such dietary shifts, there’s a growing movement building awareness around food called mindful eating. I reserve a certain amount of reticence with regards to the introduction of new diets and food rules.  With the best of intent, such guidelines can paradoxically create more anxiousness over food and, ultimately, failure. It’s a strange conundrum, but just letting go and trusting our own instincts often makes the biggest difference. If you do require more reading on this topic,  here is an essay on tuning into your own eating instincts. Humans are social creatures, where community and food have played a role throughout time. The learning curve should be small.


The most used cultural food case study, looks at the French.  A Guardian article from 1994 quotes stats from the French government’s Committee for Health Education (CFES) which found that eating is still very closely linked to a national heritage of consuming good food for pleasure. In France, (in 1994) 76 per cent ate meals prepared at home, with 75 per cent eating at the family table.  The French typically spend two hours over lunch and they don’t eat in front of the television. The French eat slowly, enjoying both the food and the company.

In fact, most Countries have some cultural heritage in and social connection to their diet. Notable places include Japan, China, Greece, and Italy.

Food is not ingested for energy alone, but a source of personal and national pride, with time and care taken to prepare meals.  Rich or poor, this pride is for everyone. Due to seasonal ingredients limited quantities and time available the focus of meals is on little plates with big flavor, encouraging one to savor every bite.

Now here’s your food for thought:

Why not create your own personal culture and traditions around food. Be creative and enjoy all the pleasures it offers year round. Food should be fun. Your waist might respond in kind, so go ahead and feel free to play with your food.

Cheers


Celebrating Spring, Movement, and Fashion

Spring fever is in the air in Vanessa Bruno’s 2010 Spring Collection video.  It’s a frolicking romantic piece, swelling with lightness that’s oh so French.

Featuring Jane Birkin’s daughter, Lou, whose character in the video celebrates not just the movement of the gorgeous clothes she wears, but the beauty of movement in general, as Spring awakens with new life. It makes me want to stomp in chalk and roll down hills in big dresses.

Here’s to Spring, the French, dreamy fashion, and the beauty of movement!

Resolve

To do more of nothing.

Take time to be still.

There is wisdom in silence.

明けましておめでとうございます

(Happy New Year)

From Mind Body Arts

Magic Weight Loss and Brain Power Tips

Yeah, No.

Not really. No magic here. Mentos and diet cola looks pretty magical too, but it’s not. If anyone offers you magic solutions to health, you might as well be buying the Brooklyn Bridge. Has the price gone down on it yet?

There are only habits. Stopping old rituals and starting new routines. Doesn’t that sound daunting? It really doesn’t have to be. Start small. Go slow. Keep steady. Yeah, not glamorous, but it works.

Think Slow and Steady


Invest 10 minutes everyday in a new habit. No more.

Below are a few opportunities to start making changes. Pick only one. Who we kidding, we all want to do more. Go ahead and try a few, but stick to one. If you force too much too soon seeking immediate results, you will crash and burn. If you can keep that one new habit for a 2 months, then perhaps add another. This slow steady method goes a long way in helping maintain better mental and physical health.

  • Just 10 minutes of exercise first thing in the morning can increase your metabolic rate for the rest of the day.
  • Up your consumption of water throughout the day. Drink sugary beverages sparingly.  Be fully hydrated. This can increase your metabolic rate.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Big ugh, I know. Make it more interesting. Go seasonal. Get to know your local farmers. Frequent the farmers market or local grocer. Ask how they like to prepare the harvests of the season. My personal favorite way to eat most veggies is a quick sautee in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Bam.

  • Eat more fats. The good kind. As in HDL, not LDL.  Latest research suggest that cholesterol lowering foods such as avocados, almonds, olive oil, soy beans, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, chili peppers, oat bran, beans (kidney, pintos, black, navy, etc.), onions, fatty fish, and flax seed play a crucial role in lowering LDL and sometimes raising HDL levels. These foods fill you up and help your cholesterol stay healthy.
  • Drink Green Tea. This one is personal.  Although skeptical of touting weight loss benefits, green tea has been helpful in curbing sugar and nicotine cravings.  A little green tea after dinner helps in digestion and is a wonderful winter ritual rounding off dinner with a mandarin orange or two as dessert.
  • Journal 10 minutes a day. Huh? Yup. Get a notebook. Vent your anxieties, frustrations, write down your hopes, dreams. List three thing you are grateful for everyday. These little moments help clear the brain and make the rest of your day smoother, creating peace of mind and less stress.

Take your time and enjoy the process. As enticing as quick fix solutions can be, slow and steady habit shifts will keep the body and mind healthier throughout a lifetime.