The common phrase “the game is 95% mental” is well known, but hardly respected at least as measured by the amount of time one works on the mental side of any sport. For those professional and amateur athletes who perform at the highest levels, the common thread to their excellence is the mastery of the mental part of their work or game.
I watched the Masters’ Golf Tournament and took away a deep appreciation again of the significance of the mental part of the game. Indeed, the mental part of the game can completely alter a highly proficient mechanical or physical part of the game. Consider the major leaguer who falls into a slump, a professional golfer who cannot hit a three foot putt, and the professional basketball player who cannot drain the fifteen foot foul shot. This is despite the fact that these professionals are the best on the planet and can achieve success at these tasks 98% of the time.
The Masters’ typically begins on Sunday and the last nine holes. This is the time when the mental aspect of the game really becomes paramount, though clearly the mental part of the golf game is always important. Perhaps it is the nearing of the end of the tournament, the amount of fame derived from winning this major tournament, or the fear of failure that cause the execution of the swing or putt to drift. Truly, the ability to put all of these and other mental distractions to the side and mentally focus on the execution of what the professional has done thousands of times represents the road to success and victory.
That the greatest athletes on the planet can be so affected, negatively and positively, by the mental energy and focus of the game is impressive. The human brain’s ability to harness and focus this energy, to not get distracted, to remain confident in the execution of the mechanics, and to see success will always be in the winner’s circle no matter what profession we are discussing.
Hit em straight!
…read more about brain health & fitness
Spring is a great time of the year as the winter season ends and new life emerges all around. For those of us who live in the winter belt it is quite refreshing to see the blue sky, the sunshine and absorb our vitamin D!
Spring is also a time for introspection and for beginning new behaviors to promote our own health. Brain health is such an important area and one that everyone can begin to focus with the new season. Perhaps with the advent of spring you can try the following to get started on your brain health lifestyle:
1. Walk daily at least 30 minutes or 10,000 steps (purchase a pedometer to help keep count).
2. Increase your intake of fish, fruits and vegetables.
3. Tell someone you are sorry or forgive another where there may be some conflict.
4. Engage in two tasks that are novel and complex.
5. Reduce your stress by giving yourself free time this spring season.
6. Try to do one group activity a week.
These are not too difficult and they will help to promote your general health and brain health for the 2009 year.
Spirituality has many meanings and it may mean something different to different people. I am referring to spirituality as one means of turning inward to a peaceful existence and to remove oneself from the hurried society that is modern life. Prayer/worship, meditation, and relaxation procedures are just three examples of spirituality.
Early research on the human brain exposed to life threatening stressors indicates there is similar damage to the hippocampus as is known to exist in animals. Also, humans with chronic anxiety have memory problems again supporting the negative effect of stress and uncontrolled anxiety on brain function.
Research and surveys have reported the following positive effects of spirituality on health:
- An enhanced immune system, the system that helps you defend against colds, flu, and other illnesses.
Reports of longer, happier and healthier lives.
- As part of the daily routine while in the hospital relates to an earlier discharge.
- According to a past Parade Magazine Survey, 95% of the physicians in the U.S. believe spirituality is important to the well-being of their patients.
to learn more about more about Spirituality and Brain Health
When I present my keynote address on Brain Health I try to provide the audience with a glimpse of how complicated and miraculous the human brain really is. I typically make a statement that one day the human brain will be able to fix the maladies of the human body and that one day the human brain will communicate with other brains without opening the mouth.
While this may sound a bit science fiction I believe it to be true. A recent report provides yet more support for where our planet is heading. The automaker Honda has been funding research and development into the ability of the human brain via thoughts to relay commands to a robot that will alter the function of the car. If one wants the air conditioner turned on he or she can complete this by simply thinking the wish and the brain signals will trigger a robot mechanism to make the command happen.
In the near or distant future we will be able to conduct our basic daily functions from mental energies that will enable a much more efficient use of time and energy. It represents a true technological advancement based from the brain. Ultimately, this use of energy will be from brain to brain.
The Alzheimer’s Association just released a report indicating an estimated 5.1 million Americans over age 65 now have AD. The cases of this progressive dementia are expected to rise to 7.7 million by 2030 and to an even more overwhelming 11-16 million by 2050. This is of course presuming a medical breakthrough for stopping the disease does not occur by then.
Health care costs for those suffering AD and other forms of dementia are nearly three times higher than costs for older adults not affected with dementia. Nearly every 70 seconds someone new in the US develops AD which destroys a person’s cognitive and functional abilities.
At present, nearly 2.7 million Americans over age 85 have the disease. However, it is estimated that with the first wave of baby boomers reaching 85 in 2031 3.5 million will have AD. It is presently the sixth leading cause of death for citizens of the US and the fifth leading cause in those over age 85. Indeed, death attributed to AD has increased by 47% between 2000 and 2006.
This is an enormous social issue as we must secure more funding for the treatment and care of those with AD. Lifestyle factors must be taken more seriously and financial and other incentives should be used to promote proactive brain health lifestyles. At present, the United States is not prepared to manage the disease given the demographic shift.
..more about Brain Nutrition/Lifestyle
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found people with a high family risk of developing depression had less matter on the right side of their brains. The finding was similar to that found in brains with Alzheimer’s disease according to the researchers.
Brain scans revealed a 28% thinning in the right cortex in people who had a family history of depression compared with people who did not. Findings were based on scans of 131 people aged 6 to 54 with and without a family history of depression.
The thinning on the right side of the brain was only related to a family predisposition to depression. People who were actually depressed also had thinning on the left side of the cortex.
The authors suggest that having a thinner cortex may increase the risk of depression by disrupting a person’s ability to decode and recall social and emotional cues from other people. Subjects who had a thinner right cortex did less well on tests of memory and attention.
Findings suggest that a thinning right cortex relates to a predisposition to depression and to cognitive impairment.
You probably don’t think about a diary as evidence for how healthy your brain might be. This is especially true if the diary is kept when one is in his or her teens. Interestingly, however, it turns out that the type of writing we do in our teens or early life may actually predict neuropathologic markers in our brains many decades later!
The Nun Study (see David Snowden) reported that young women prior to taking their vows to become nuns kept diaries. The content of these diaries were rated for grammar complexity and idea density defined as the number of ideas in each sentence. Results indicated that the number of ideas in each sentence at the age of 22 or so correlated with the number of neurofibrillary tangles (marker of Alzheimer’s disease) in the brain at autopsy some 50 or 60 years later.
This is another study in a long line of research indicating early life environments are critical to shaping our brains for health well into late life
The Spring brings a new life to nature and even a chance for everyone to begin a fresh new start in lifestyle. Here are a few tips to maintaining a positive mood for the Spring:
1. Increase your daily time outside.
2. Increase your fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines) intake.
3. Be consistent and persistent with exercise.
4. Give yourself 30 minutes a day.
5. Think a positive thought for each experience.
Old age may begin much earlier than thought if you believe age is defined by mental functions. According to new research conducted at the University of Virginia and published in the Neurobiology of Aging many cognitive functions demonstrate peak performance at age 22. By age 27 some cognitive functioning begins to decline while others such as memory decline around 37.
This study was conducted using standardized cognitive tests on 2,000 men and women aged 18-60 years of age and covered nearly seven years. Participants were in good health and well educated.
Aging involves multiple factors and change does not infer disorder. These results, however, further support the idea of a proactive brain health lifestyle that includes cognitive work outs (see fitbrains.com) that begin in childhood.
The world economic situation is fertile ground for anxiety, some realistic and other perpetuated from misinformation and personal agendas. According to the National Sleep Foundation, One-third of Americans are losing sleep over the state of the U.S. economy and other personal financial concerns. The poll suggests that inadequate sleep is associated with unhealthy lifestyles and negatively impacts health and safety.
The Brain Fitness Blog has reported on this in the past and we believe 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.
Fit Brains brain games.