Improve Mental Health
I recommend the following tools for improved mental and physical health because I have used them personally and professionally.
Biofeedback, whether of the hand warming or EEG or heart rate variability variety, is an incredible tool for self-regulation.
Now you can improve your mental health at the same time you improve your brain fitness.
Never heard of the concept of brain fitness?
Never heard of neurogenesis or neuroplasticity, which are capacities of the human brain which can be attended to?
Neurogenesis means that the human brain can does grow new neurons on a daily basis if it is taken care of and that those new neurons can migrate to the area around the hippocampus where they become part of the memory forming part of your brain.
Neuroplasticity is word used to describe the capacity of those new neurons to make new connections with other neurons which is what improved mental health is actually all about.
If I am taking care of what the experts are calling the pillars of brain fitness, I am going a long way towards improving my mental health.
Who are these experts and what are the pillars of brain fitness?
Two experts whose work I like are Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., authors of a great e-book (or hard copy) called Brainfit for Life which speaks to the importance of the pillars of brain fitness for improved mental health.
The pillars are physical exercise, nutrition, including lots of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid, sleep, stress management (where Heartmath comes in), and novel learning experiences, which can include the use of computerized brain fitness programs.
Most folks who do not include physical exercise in their daily routine are worried that the kind of physical activity required is the "fling-around-heavy-barbells" kind, which is not true.
According to Evans and Burghardt, the kind of physical exercise required is the kind that makes us breath deep for about 10 minutes a couple of times per day.
They advocate that we start with more of what we are already doing. If you walk in your neighborhood, do more of that, so that you begin to breathe deeply enough that it is hard to breathe and talk at the same time.
You can do this kind of exercise at home, with no more equipment than an exercise ball and a few dumbells.
No club membership, or coach, but you may sweat a bit.
Want a model? I suggest taking a look at what Angie and Scott Tousignant describe in their model. If you click on that link, about half way down the page you will see Bill and Pat who are in their 80's and do the Tousignant model.
If they can do it so can I.
Evans and Burghardt go on to talk about the importance of nutrition for brain fitness, and they are very specific in how they stress the role of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid for brain fitness, and improved mental health.
Exercise and cognitive behavior therapy and omega 3 fatty acid are key components in any program working with depression for example, and if you are a Boomer or Senior, it is vitally important that we exercise and eat well so that we can take care of ourselves and the grandkids.
The best source of omega 3 fatty acid is fish, which may conjure up worries about mercury poisoining, so you may want to consider a omega 3 fatty acid supplement.
Stress Management and Improved Mental Health
Stress management is a key piece of the brain fitness for improved mental health puzzle, because stress hormones (and booze and environmental toxins) kill those new neurons before they get imported to already existing neural circuits.
The best stress management program is deep breathing, and I have talked to many clients about learning that, until I discovered Heartmath or heart rate variability biofeedback, which not only feels good, but teaches me to manage the time between heart beats on any given heart beat.
There is a nervous system in your heart which is sophisticated enough to learn and make decisions independently of any other brain you have, and the Heartmath tool will teach you to access this cooperative and affiliative heart intelligence in 5 to 10 practices, and it is then available to help in the neurogenesis and neuroplasticity process by reducing stress hormones.
Part of the Heartmath process is very much akin to the REBT (rational emotive behavioral therapy) or CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) process of disputing or changing thoughts, and I have used it with domestic violence and anger management clients to demonstrate that physiology follows thoughts, and thoughts can be changed anytime you want.
For example, when I am stressed, I like to think of my kids and place the image in my chest next to my heart, which immediately changes my physiology, and my thoughts, and improves my mental health immediately, and also opens up the higher perceptual centers in the brain for better decisions.
If I change back to stress thoughts, all I need to do is repeat the Heartmath imagery.
I think that kind of awareness and choice about thoughts and physiology is key to improved mental health.
Heartmath can improve my sleep? And sleep is a key component in brain fitness? Heartmath can help with test taking, athletic performance, and emotional eating?
Sounds like the perfect mental health tool.
Novel Learning Experience and Improved Mental Health
The kind of novel learning experience most often associated with brain fitness and improved mental health is the kind of learning involved in learning a new language or a new musical instrument, or even taking on a new career.
If you do not have the time for a new language or instrument, then check out some of the computerized brain fitness programs like Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, Lumosity, or the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program.
Research into the use of programs like these, which are much more kind to your schedule is showing some real results for improved performance.
Please read the IMPACT research about the Posit Science Brain Fitness program for example, and there is excellent research about the IQ producing results from using the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Program.
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