Brain Tips For Those Winter Months

snowflakes.jpgIt is important to point out that I am not a fan of the winter season. In fact, I dread it and would rather be on a beach somewhere! However, regardless of my personal stuff, it is important to keep our brains active and engaged in the brain health lifestyle regardless of the season.
For some, the winter season does not represent a change in the options available to follow the brain health lifestyle. If you live in a part of the world where the sun continues to shine throughout the year keep your brain health lifestyle active over the 12 months. For those of us who actually see snow our options to venture outside may be limited at times.
Winter can be a time of increased stress and simultaneously a time for creativity and increased family time. Consider the following ideas for brain health this winter:

  1. Save your pennies and get a family membership to a gym or exercise club. Set up the family schedule for exercising together and use the gym as the snow may keep you inside at times.
  2. Break out the skis and get some exercise from this sport. Cross country skiing is also a great physical exercise.
  3. Try to walk in the snow if it is not dangerous.
  4. Break out the board games and have a family game night. This includes some family fun with Fit Brains brain games.
  5. Try to have winter as a time for getting your brain health diet started. Have a family member pick a night to help cook a brain health dinner.
  6. Have some friends and family over once a week.
  7. Start a family book club in which each family member will read one or two books during the three months of winter.
  8. Try to reduce driving in dangerous conditions during the winter as this will reduce your stress.
  9. When the sun does surface, get outside as you will benefit from the Vitamin D.
  10. Take a day or two and get the family together to make a snowman or go sled riding (wear a helmet).

While the winter can limit our opportunities for brain health, it also offers us a time to be creative and to increase family experiences.

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Economic Anxiety and our Health

economy.jpgThe world economic situation is fertile ground for anxiety, some realistic and other perpetuated from misinformation and personal agendas. It is important to take some time to consider the following as methods for coping with these uncertain times:

  • 1. Information and knowledge will help to reduce anxiety, even when the information is not positive. Most of us experience anxiety or unease when we are confronted with uncertainty. As such, it is a good idea to spend some time researching the economic issues (stock market, credit, employment, etc) from a variety of viewpoints. You may have noticed that reading and predicting the economy is not a science, but for those in the stock market, there are predictable patterns based on many years of past behavior. This should provide some certainty even though the present represents a turbulent time.
  • 2. Meet with your financial planner to review all investments and liabilities. He or she will help you reduce your risk and loss while planning appropriately for the near and long term future.
  • 3. Have a family meeting to discuss the issues and to provide a forum to express fears and hopes. Make a family plan that adapts spending and saving to the current market demands.
  • 4. Place a focus on your emotional condition and make an extra effort to exercise and eat healthy. This will enable your body to handle the stress better.
  • 5. This is a great time to use relaxation procedures such as breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Meditation is also a good daily activity.
  • 6. Have faith in our human innovative and adaptive nature and believe that we will survive this period of uncertainty.
  • 7. Reach out to others who may be in a particularly difficult situation and offer them your time and friendship.

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Brain Better than Calculator

books.jpgI have the wonderful opportunity of traveling the nation and internationally to speak about the wonderful miracle of the human brain. During my public presentations I always describe the brain as the most complicated, integrated, and miraculous system ever designed in the history of the Universe! I then scream from the mountaintops that we need to understand that our greatest moments of innovation, creativity, cures for illness, and ability to communicate in ways we only dream about now will be accomplished by learning how to tap into the greatness of our brain!

It is from this context that I read my local newspaper to find the following headline “Brains beat buttons for learning mathematics.” New research finds that third graders learn multiplication better when they use their brains before they use a calculator. The results of this study can be found in the next issue of the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology and the article is published in The Pittsburgh Tribune Review (Sept 4, 2008).

We have known for some time that learning is enhanced when the person doing the learning “does it on his or her own.” This is another way of saying “uses his or her brain.” We also know that the more one is exposed to a particular stimulus the more deeply they will remember or encode it. This again reflects the ability and efficiency of the human brain. The calculator is an external device that appears to have a secondary and reinforcing purpose to what the brain has already learned.

From a brain health perspective, we as a society will be better off when we use our brains first and rely on technological devices (invented by the human brain) in secondary roles. The former involves stimulation of the cortex that will develop brain reserve. A reliance on technologies such as a calculator will cause the brain to use the subcortex which is more rote, passive and procedural in its processing.

By using our cortex in complex pursuits we will always be on a path to brain health (brain fitness, brain games). Reliance on passive behaviors such as using a calculator will put us on a path to rote processing with less health benefit.

So… tonight I will remind my sons to use their brain first to solve the math homework as I have a personal interest in their learning and in their brain health!

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Brain Health in our Home

couch.jpgBrain health can occur wherever brains exist! The home is a setting that is often neglected regarding brain health. Ask yourself the question….is my home a setting for brain health?

Turning to Dr. Nussbaum’s brain health lifestyle we know there are five factors or slices of the brain health pie. These include (1) socialization, (2) physical activity, (3) mental stimulation, (4) nutrition, and (5) spirituality. You can apply the activities within each of these brain health slices in your home and a brain health residence will be born.

Consider the following brain health for the home tips:

1. Increase the number of social events in your home. This includes meetings, parties, and simply having friends or family over. Remember brain health is a lifespan issue so all age groups need a little attention and love (Socialization).

2. Increase the number of meals that include fish (salmon, herring, sardines), unsalted nuts including walnuts, fruits and vegetables. Eat at least one meal a day when the family and friends sit down and spend quality time together. Eating with utensils also promotes healthier food consumption and less caloric intake (Nutrition).

3. Get the family on a regular exercise program that includes daily walks, some form of aerobic exercise, dance, gardening and even knitting. You want to promote physical activity and increased cardiovascular activity (Physical Activity).

4. Have everyone in the family engage in mental exercise on a daily basis. This should involve something that is novel and complex (not passive and rote). Play a family board game, complete a Fit Brains game online, write a short story, talk and debate world affairs and even take a trip as a family to a new area of your region (Mental Stimulation).

5. Make sure the family is getting plenty of sleep, take time to slow down and simply have time to be rather than to complete some task. Relaxation procedures, meditation, prayer and yoga can help slow the world down. Give yourself 30 minutes a day to do what you want. Remove some of the stress from your life (Spirituality).

These are some simple tips for turning your own home into a brain health residence!

Try the Fit Brains brain games.

Activity and Breast Cancer Survival

pinkribbon.jpgWhile it might seem odd to write about breast cancer on a site dedicated to brain health, there are two compelling reasons to do so: First, many of us have a loved one who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and second, activity is one of the major components of the brain health lifestyle.
A recent study conducted at the Yale School of Medicine indicates women who stay active after being diagnosed with breast cancer have a better chance of surviving the disease. This includes those who take up exercise for the first time after diagnosis and even if the women just do a little exercise. This study reinforces many other studies that link exercise to reduction in risk of breast cancer.
Women who got the equivalent of two to three hours of brisk walking each week in the year before they were diagnosed with breast cancer were 31 percent less likely to die of the disease than women who were sedentary before the diagnosis. Further, two years after diagnosis, women who did any recreational activities at all had nearly 65% lower risk of dying then women who were inactive at that point. Women who got at least two hours of brisk walking in weekly reduced their risk of death by 67%. Perhaps most glaring is the study’s finding that women who decreased their physical activity after diagnosis were actually four times more likely to die of breast cancer than those who remained sedentary.

In all, exercise is an important lifestyle behavior for women undergoing breast cancer treatment.

Try the Fit Brains brain games.