Healthy holiday tips are much the same as tips for healthy any other day.
If you are feeling ok, and sticking to your routine even though there are a few more social events on your calendar than usual, congratulations.
I think you have discovered the best healthy holiday tip of all, which is to keep your thoughts close to your routine for health.
If you are searching for a model, then I think the brain fitness folks have given us a wonderful guide for health.
Since I value my ability to think creatively, it makes very good sense to take care of the organ where that happens, and now it is possible to work out your brain like you do your bicep.
It just so happens that when you work out your brain, you are doing things which keep the rest of your body healthy too.
Need a model? Read Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan, and fear not, the book is written for us the consumer, not other scientists.
Evans and Burghardt say that there are five pillars of brain fitness that need to be attended to on a daily basis, which have a big payoff for us in our counseling or our lives.
The pillars are physical exercise, nutrition, including lots of omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, sleep, stress management, and, novel learning experiences.
The payoff for us? Neurogenesis, or the growth of new neurons every day, and neuroplasticity, or increased connections between neurons, which means memory, for example, is enhanced.
While it is very important that all those pillars be attended to, it is easy to weave the brainfitness activities into our existing schedule.
For example, the single most important activity is physical exercise, which might make you think you need to join an exercise club, hire a coach, buy expensive equipment.
Not so, what Evans and Burghardt say is that we can do more of what we already do to meet this requirement.
So if you are getting outside to walk, even if it is from your car to the shopping mall front door (it is the holidays), park further away, and walk a little faster. Neurogenesis will happen when we challenge ourselves to breathe deeper, and the requirement is to breath deeply enough that it is hard to talk and breath at the same time.
You can even do this kind of workout at home, in ten minutes, using a model called HIIT, for high intensity interval training, and I hope that does not scare you.
Please check out the workout that 88 year old Bill and 82 year old Pat do. If you click on that link you will find them down the page a bit, about half way.
They have not invested in expensive equipment or memberships, and their brains are doing just fine.
You have been hearing eat your fruits and vegetables your entire life, but did you know that a key piece of the brain fitness puzzle is omega 3 fatty acids?
Your neurons are sheathed by a membrane that is about 70% omega 3 fatty acid, and if that membrane does not get appropriate fatty acid replacement molecules from your diet, those membranes get brittle and do not talk to each other very clearly, which means poor decisions.
The best source of omega 3 is fish, but that may conjure up fears of mercury poisoning, so you may want to consider an omega 3 supplement.
To maintain neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, we need to sleep enough and well enough, which means move through sleep stages in an orderly fashion daily. If we do not get enough sleep, hormonal events that are necessary for brain fitness and memory consolidation do not happen.
Stress management is self-explanatory anymore. The best stress management tool is deep breathing, and if you are like me, you breathe deeply for a breath or two, then go right back to the shallow style of breathing which brings the stress response right back.
For a more permanent relaxation skill, one of the top brain fitness gurus around, Alvaro Fernandez, the creator of Sharp Brains, recommends the Heartmath suite of tools.
So do I, your regular counselor in Rockford, Illinois who has used Heartmath personally and professionally since 2001.
Heartmath is an easy process to learn, and permanent, and I can use it in the middle of any holiday stressful situation, to helpf me find just the right words to gracefully refuse some of the fruit cake being passed around by your aunt. If interested, there is a link to the Heartmath suite of tools in the right column.
The brain fitness folks say that for neurogenesis and neuroplasticity to be optimized, we need to challenge our brains daily with novel learning experiences, which are usually characterized as the kind of learning we experience when we learn a new language or a new instrument.
Not sure about you, I would find learning a new language stressful right now, so I am going to take advantage of the computerized brain fitness programs like the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, which increases IQ, or the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, which produced incredible results in the recently published IMPACT study.
I have tried all three of the following programs and recommend them for brain fitness, and I cannot think of a better present to yourself or your family for next year.
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.
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