Author Archives: Dr. Paul Nussbaum

On That Annual Resolution

By now most of us have declared our 2012 resolution (s) with great passion and hope. Honesty tells us that we may have been in this same spot last year with a wonderful declaration to give this up or to start that. Well, what happened? How many actually accomplished their 2011 resolution and if not, why not?

First, the hardest thing to do is to change another person’s behavior. The second hardest thing to do is to change our own behavior, particularly when it comes to lifestyle. We know that the resolution to eat healthy is a great idea, but why are so many of us not able to follow through? We know losing weight is tremendously helpful to our health, yet many of us are actually gaining weight! We even know that being more patient and understanding of others can reduce our stress, but that irritability and anger often creeps in.

So there is an obvious disconnect between what we know to be good for our health and what we actually do. Why? I suggest that you take a good look at your resolution for 2012. Please try to keep it to one resolution, remember behavior change is hard and we need some success for the entire year. Second, develop a resolution that is personally relevant to you, something that is meaningful. Is losing weight really something you feel personally? The more personal something is the better chance you have to change or to begin. Third, who is holding you accountable? You need someone other than yourself to hold you accountable. Finally, with success comes a reward. Establish up front what your reward for successful completion of the resolution is and enjoy it!

  1. One resolution only.
  2. Make the resolution personal.
  3. Identify who will hold you accountable?
  4. Reward yourself upon your success.

Have a great 2012!

Christmas, the Holiday Season, and World Peace

It is too easy to turn the television or internet on and witness humans across the globe behaving with violence and harm towards others. This stands in direct contradiction to what Christmas and the Holiday season represents. It is hard to imagine what drives someone or a group of people to attack others. Peace is a noble goal worth pursuing and Peace on Earth is what Christmas and the Holiday season are about.

Peace begins internally by cleaning out our own ill will and negativity. We can literally engage in mental exercises by thinking positive thoughts and feeling positive emotions. This stimulates the left frontal region of our brain and can leave us feeling balanced and peaceful. We can then work with others to try and sway their thinking and behavior towards unity and away from conflict. War, death, and violence are no recipe for progress of the human race.

This is a special week for many across the planet, one that provides the ingredients of love, joy, and peace that can unite us. We are one race and we live on one planet. We have much more in common than we differ. My hope is that we begin to treat one another with greater respect, attending to our similarities and common ground, and to refrain from the impulsive actions or reactions that can lead to harm.

World peace is indeed a noble goal and one that is actually within our control. It begins with everyone taking some time to develop inner peace despite the fact we live in a fast and imperfect society. Treat one another with love and respect and keep in mind what Christmas and the Holiday season represent.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to all.

Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving

The annual holiday known as Thanksgiving is upon us here in the United States. This is a day of great food, family, friends, cheer, football, and being together with those we love. It is also a day of thanks and it is important to reflect on all that we have and the many blessings in our lives.

Thanksgiving is a time to praise the great men and women in our current and past military. Their sacrifice is beyond what we can imagine. The families of those who serve in the military also are deserving of our gratitude. We should take time to thank our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. They most likely have sacrificed much to help the next generation in the family.

While many of us may be experiencing personal financial distress because of a chronic economic downturn, we can still use Thanksgiving to recognize the areas of our lives that may be positive. Health is always one of the most important blessings we need to recognize. Being thankful for our own health and for the health of our family is important. Having the ability to be together with those that you love is another blessing worthy of our attention.

Prayers for those less fortunate, for those in the military, and for those in need can be beneficial to all of us. Simply taking some time on Thanksgiving to enjoy the moment and to enjoy those who have gathered while leaving any anxiety behind can help to make your Holiday a positive one.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Meditation Improves Immune System

Meditation is best known as part of the Buddhist and Indian Yoga traditions. It has now migrated and become more integrated into western civilization including the United States. Research has supported a relationship between meditation practice and positive health outcomes.

A recent study suggests that mindfulness meditation can promote health and cognitive function. The study, published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science indicates benefits for improved immune function, reduced blood pressure, and enhanced cognitive function. The authors also explain the way mindfulness helps with our health.

Four key factors of mindfulness are proposed as important to our health: (1) attention regulation; (2) body awareness; (3) emotion regulation; (4) and sense of self. When integrated, these four factors may help with alleviation of stress.

Health and The Daily Meal

Socialization and mental stimulation are two of the five major components of my brain health lifestyle ® (see www.paulnussbaum.com). One practical tip I have advocated is having one meal a day with the family, friends, or even with new people. I believe this activity is not only social, it promotes story telling, communication, listening to music, use of utensils to consume healthy foods, and slowing down. One activity provides socialization, mental stimulation, nutrition, and even spirituality. Four of the five major components of my brain health lifestyle ® are accomplished with one 45 to 60 minute activity!

It was with great enthusiasm that I read an article in my local newspaper yesterday that outlined a new study detailing the benefits of eating a daily meal with the family. The benefits were particularly important to the emotional and cognitive health of children. The study was published in the American Journal of Pediatrics and supports the health benefits of a non-medical behavioral ritual of our society. The critical point is that we need to work to create and to respect the daily meal and to not let our “busy lives” interfere with this important and necessary daily tradition.

Sleep Deprivation and Alzheimer’s

A new study to be published in the Archives of Neurology reports levels of amyloid beta, a byproduct of brain activity considered a marker in Alzheimer’s disease, normally rises during the day and decreases at night. Authors of the study suggest a possible link between sleep deprivation and people’s risk for developing dementia such as Alzheimer’s.

It is well established that reduced sleep can lead to cognitive dysfunction. However, prolonged sleep disturbance may play a role in pathologic processes underlying disease.

The authors indicate that levels of amyloid beta increase and decrease naturally. In healthy people, levels of the protein drop to their lowest level about six hours after sleep and then return to their highest levels six hours after peak wakefulness. The transition from sleep to wakefulness strongly correlated with the rise and fall of amyloid beta. The relationship was most pronounced in healthy, young people and less so in older adults who suffer shorter or more prolonged periods of disrupted sleep.

The authors suggested that the brain’s low activity during sleep allows the body to clear amyloid beta through the spinal fluid. Levels of the protein in Alzheimer’s patients, however, appear to be constant. The authors note that more research is needed, but there are reasons to believe that better sleep may be helpful in promoting brain health and reducing risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep may be a factor in the known relationship between exercise and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s as sleep is related to enhanced sleep.

Emotional Well-Being

We all want to feel good, emotionally healthy, and balanced. For many of us this is a great goal, but a rare reality. The question is why do we not fell balanced emotionally? Why do we tend to feel tense, rushed, stressed, or ill inside? One pathway to explore is “control.”

We humans need to feel control, control over our self, our stuff, and our future. Life creates situations and circumstances that remove control from us and unfortunately, we can make decisions that ultimately remove control as well. Our ability to live with reduced control, to give up control, and to not “have to” control most things around us can relate directly to our sense of emotional health. H

How would you rate your need to control things or others around you in your daily life? How well do you do when you are not in control? More importantly, are you at peace when things occur without your control, do you recognize things are okay without your control?

Most things in life are not life and death. Certainly we need to exert control and influence when such circumstances occur. However, I am writing about the hours of little stuff, not life threatening stuff, that we deal with everyday. These are the things that we react to and lead to a healthy or unhealthy existence. Simply put, how do you feel inside?

Make a list of the things that you feel a need to control. The list might contain the behavior of others, the appearance of self, others, or space around you. It might be something relating to time, how things have to get done, or how events have to occur. The things on the list are nearly endless. Once you have made your own list of “Control Items, “ begin to explore more deeply whether you have the ability to let go.

You will need to work consciously on letting go of control with these life items and events. It will not be easy. Try to let go a few times and let life carry on without your control. Then, pay attention to how you feel, particularly inside. Are you okay? Better yet, do you feel a sense of relief enjoying your observation of life events with or without blemish?

Is your need for control in balance? It probably relates directly to your sense of emotional health. The great news is that you have control over letting go of your control!