Category Archives: Mind & Body Care

Meditation for Beginners

meditation

We are often so busy we feel there is no time to add meditation to our schedule. But 10-15 minutes of daily meditation actually gives you more time by calming your mind and increasing your focus.

Your brain can adapt to a chaotic world, but it will function more efficiently over a longer period if you provide moments of inward reflection and rest. Mediation offers an easy way to achieve this. Taking a few minutes to meditate can also help you overcome stress and become more positive, happy and peaceful.  Below are tips for beginners to learn how to breathe right and relax the muscles for meditation.

Breathing 101

  • Sit with your eyes partially closed and turn your attention to your breathing.
  • Breathe naturally, preferably through your nostrils, without trying to control your breath.meditation
  • Try to become aware of the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. The sensation of your breath is your object of meditation so concentrate on this and nothing else.
  • At first, your mind will be very busy; you might even feel that the meditation is making your mind busier. In reality you are
    just becoming more aware of how busy your mind actually is.
  • Resist the temptation to follow different thoughts as they arise; remain focused on the sensation of the breath.
  • If your mind wanders and is following your thoughts, immediately return it to your breathing.
  • Repeat this as many times as necessary until your mind clears.

Muscle Relaxation 101

meditation

  • Squeeze your right hand into a fist as hard as you can.
  • Hold the fist and pay attention to how uncomfortable the tension is in your fist.
  • Now, slowly release your fingers extending them one by one.
  • Notice how the tension leaves your fingers.
  • Now try this with other parts of your body where you might feel stress.
  • Tense your shoulders, neck, forehead, stomach, and then slowly release.
  • At the end of the exercise you may notice that energy in the form of stress has left you and you feel better.

We hope this post has taught you how to easily incorporate a few minutes of meditation into your daily lives!  Make sure to check out the Fit Brains portfolio of apps when you are done relaxing and you’re ready to work out your brain!

6 Tips To Relax The Mind

Sometimes, the influx of work and daily to-dos are stressful for many of us.  Our brains will likely become exhausted on more than a few occasions so we need to remember how to relax the mind!

Here are 6 tips from the Fit Brains team to help you clear & calm the brain during those stressful days!

  1. Yoga / meditation – Practicing yoga or meditation will help relax the body, mind, and soul. Sign up for a trial yoga class, many community centers will offer the 1st class for free. You can also try meditating at home by sitting in a comfortable position, closing your eyes, clearing your mind, and thinking about one specific but stress-free thing for 10-30 minutes.
  2. Keep hydrated – Drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated and clean. Toxins can build up in the body if it is dehydrated, which will often clog up the mind.
  3. Listen to music – Listening to music you enjoy triggers natural endorphins in your brain, so take a break and listen to some soothing music that you love.
  4. Shut off your brain – Do something mindless and/or repetitive. Activities like easy chores or light exercises are good because they don’t require a lot of thinking. Good examples are swimming, folding laundry, going for a walk, doing the dishes.
  5. Eat right – Cut back on stimulating foods such as coffee, energy drinks, sodas, and candy. Also try to avoid processed & artificial foods. You are what you eat so you need to eat healthy to have a healthy mind!
  6. Treat yourself – Do something you love and know will lower your stress level. We have all been living in our bodies long enough to know the things we like to do that will help us relax. Sometimes all we need is a break! Take a nap, get a massage, melt away in a bubble bath…do whatever you need to do to recharge yourself!

While brain breaks are great once in a while, don’t forget to keep your mind active on a regular basis to maintain its optimal performance! The Fit Brains Trainer app is great for exercising the mind without any burden of stress.  If you have kids, they can develop their brain skills with our new Fit Brains for Kids app as well!

Retirement and Dementia

Dr. Paul Nussbaum, the Chief Scientific Officer at Fit Brains, shares his valuable thoughts on the topics of Retirement and Dementia:

It’s ironic how people work their whole lives toward the goal of retirement but when it does come, many suffer anxiety and depression towards the idea of having nothing to think about or do.

For many years I have spoken and written about my resistance to “retirement” the way the policy and concept is positioned and treated in the United States. It is true that there may have been good intent with the idea of retirement, but my guess is that nobody considered the health implications for the brain. This becomes increasingly important when we know that a passive, isolated, lonely, and segregated brain will atrophy when we stop working.

Retirement certainly does not have to be a time of passivity. Indeed, many people at all ages retire to a different and even busier life than when they were employed. However, a recent study of nearly a half-million people by the French government’s health research agency found that people who delay retirement have less risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.

It is believed work is related to physical activity, socialization, mental stimulation, all things known to be good for the brain and three of the five major pillars of Dr. Nussbaum’s Brain Health Lifestyle ® (see www.paulnussbaum.com)For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2% according to the study.

The major finding is supportive of the “use it or lose it” theory and I will simply add to that by saying you should “use it in new and complex ways or lose it.”  The answer is not to delay retirement to have a healthy mind and fulfilling life, it is the importance of keeping your mind and body active even after retirement.  Keep a personally relevant reason for getting up each morning, and feel good about your daily contributions to those around you.

Strive to be relevant, useful, healthy, and active every day in your life.  For the days that aren’t as busy as others, you can still keep your mind active and stimulated with the Fit Brains Trainer app!

Top 10 Brain Foods

You are what you eat” – that’s a saying we always hear!  However, most people think about how food affects the body, but not the brain.  The brain needs proper nutrients just like the rest of your body.  It actually needs more energy to operate properly than other organs!

Here are 10 brain foods you can incorporate into your daily diet to maintain a healthy brain:

 

1. Salmon - Improves brain tissue development, fights cognitive decline.
2. Blueberries - Improve memory, reduce stress, reduce age-related declines in motor function and coordination.
3. Avocados - Increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure to maintain effective mind functioning.
4. Flax Seeds - Build and protect neurons, aid the processing of sensory information.
5. Coffee (in moderation) - Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia…and of course, gives you a brain energy boost!
6. Nuts - Improve memory and mental clarity, fight insomnia.
7. Whole Grains - Promote cardiovascular health, which improves circulation flow to the brain.
8. Tomatoes - Eliminate free radicals in your body, prevent age-related cognitive diseases.
9. Eggs - Provides energy for your brain, improves memory.
10. Dark Chocolate (in moderation) - Increases focus and concentration, improves your mood!

 

What foods do you eat to keep your mind active & healthy?  Leave a comment and let us know!

The Importance of Caring for Self

For nearly 15 years I have had the pleasure of working on a brain health lifestyle ® that includes five domains: (1) physical activity, (2) nutrition, (3) socialization, (4) spirituality, and (5) mental stimulation.  This lifestyle is underscored by a fundamental understanding that the human brain can be shaped for health and that what we do is very important to our overall emotional and cognitive wellbeing.

Over the 15 years, I have thought about what my brain health lifestyle ® really is tapping into. I believe the most basic and critically important aspect of initiating a brain health lifestyle is the power of paying attention to oneself, taking the time to understand that you have the power to shape your life for quality and balance.

Lifestyle is an established pathway to health and wellbeing. The paradox is that even though most people know and believe a healthy lifestyle is important, there is very low compliance to following such a healthy lifestyle. The question is why do we not do what we know is good for us? After speaking to nearly 60,000 people over the past decade, I believe compliance with a healthy lifestyle will increase if first, people are educated on why they should follow such a lifestyle and second, the change in behavior must be seen as personal!

I believe in educating everyone on the connection between lifestyle and the impact on the brain. Once somebody understands how the brain reacts to your own behavior there is a type of “light bulb” that goes off and things start to make sense. Often, we are simply told what to do and we are not provided with the why behind it. Also, the message can be powerful if it is personal and not perceived as academic or clinical.

The most critical factor in leading a consistent brain health lifestyle ® is your ability to care for yourself, to give yourself the necessary time every day to understand your emotional, cognitive, and relational balance. By checking in and knowing yourself, you will have the ability to make small changes to get back into balance and achieve real brain health and wellness.

 

 

Stress Damaging to the Brain

Following up on my previous blog on the brain and the importance of keeping peace and harmony in the brain is a new study that indicates stress can cause damage to the brain.

Living a stressful life has been found to atrophy the cortex of the brain, the critical part that processes information consciously. Stress also can cause damage in areas of the brain the regulate emotion.

A lead researcher with Yale University observed 100 healthy participants using MRI scans while they answered questions about potentially traumatic life events, including the loss of loved one, job or home. The authors found a direct relationship between the experience of stressful life events and structural changes in the brain. This supports other research on chronic stress and structural changes and functional changes, particularly memory function in the brain.

Overall, the growing body of research on the impact of stress on the body and brain demands we all take time to care for ourselves and create periods of the day that are stress free.

Latest on Omega-3 Supplements

You may have read or heard about the recent study and news that Omega-3 supplements have no significant effect on reducing cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease. Findings were published in the September 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A meta-analysis pooled from 20 randomized studies including more than 68,000 patients concluded that supplementation did not reduce the risks of all-cause mortality, cardiac death, sudden death, myocardial infarction or stroke.  The authors opined that the findings do not justify the use of Omega-3s as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice or guidelines supporting daily Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid administration.

Authors and clinicians suggest that even though supplements may not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, there is evidence they help reduce triglyceride cholesterol levels. Clinicians also indicate it is important we maintain a plant-based diet with Omega-3 rich fatty fish as part of a heart-healthy Mediterranean-like dietary strategy that hold benefits most likely beyond individual supplements.

It is important to differentiate disease prevention from health promotion. Because something does not prevent a disease does not mean it is not healthy. Omega-3s in the form of food consumption remains health promoting. Even supplements continue to help with unhealthy cholesterol reduction. We should engage in health promoting behaviors including diet, exercise, and stress reduction even if such behaviors do not prevent disease.