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8 Simple Ways To Stimulate Your Brain Power

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It’s the part of our body that we most often use, yet it’s also the one that we love to neglect and take for granted. As the main processing unit for pretty well everything that we do, you’d think that we’d all be looking for every way possible to take care of it. Yet the majority of us give little to no attention to it, and instead spend a great deal of our free time engaged in things -such as TV -that deteriorate it. (Find out more HERE)

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I cannot however completely typecast all of us into this brain-negligence category, as the rise in use of brain training programs -such as Lumosity -shows that some of us do have an interest in staying “mentally sharp.”

While recently setting goals for myself for 2015, one keyword that I felt inclined to highlight was intelligence. Once an intellectually sharp student, I now feel like at least some of the knowledge I’ve gained in experience and understanding of the world has taken the place previously occupied by things such as memory or calculative abilities.

In hopes of restoring or training my brain to make space for it all, I present you with 8 simple ways that we can all stimulate our brain daily:

1. Working Out

A study conducted at the University of Texas in Dallas found that working out as part of an exercise regimen helps aging adults to improve their memory and brain health. The study found that exercisers showed an increase in blood flow to the hippocampus, the region of the brain most directly affected by Alzheimer’s disease.(1) If you don’t enjoy going to the gym, find a creative way or a partner that can motivate you to exercise regularly.

2. Get Enough Sleep

This may seem like common sense, yet we live in a world where many of us depend on temporary stimulants (coffee, energy drinks) rather than rework our schedules to incorporate enough shut eye. It’s during sleep that our body and mind regenerates itself, making it critical that you receive an adequate amount nightly if you want to stay mentally sharp.

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Related CE Articles
How Cumulative Sleep Debt Is Impacting Your Brain Functioning & Alertness
This Is What Can Happen When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

3. Read Rather Than Watch

Neuroscientists recently conducted a study at Emory University which looked at the brain benefits of reading fiction. Researchers found that becoming engaged in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves functionality.(2) Reading encourages us to imagine the fictional reality being presented to us in words, rather than passively having it all given to us.

Related CE Article
Great News Bookworms: Regular Reading Is A Very Healthy Thing To Do

4. Stop Depending On Your Smartphone

As the name suggests, smartphone’s certainly can give us the answer to nearly everything, but that doesn’t mean that we have to turn to them for everything. Need to get somewhere? Challenge yourself to memorize the directions, and as you travel, work on building a spatial recognition of where you are. Need to calculate something? Try figuring it out either in your head or on some good old fashioned paper, remind yourself of how exactly long division even works.

5. Memorize The Unnecessary

I recently had a comical conversation with an old friend of mine where we compared how many of our friend’s home phone numbers we still remembered from our elementary school days. The good old days where if I wanted to call my friend, I’d have to dial his home phone number and ask whoever answered “Hi, can I please speak to _____?” Just because we don’t need to memorize these things anymore, doesn’t mean we can’t challenge ourselves to. Start by picking things where memorization may come in handy -such as your credit card number or the phone numbers of your closest friends -and expand into anything else you feel that you are ready to be challenged by.

6. Check Your Diet

Despite being on average only 2% of our body weight, our brains take in more than 20% of our daily energy intake -meaning the food choices you make have a substantial impact on your brain functionality.(3) As always look to make healthy choices within your regular diet. Certain foods such as leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, avocados, and berries have all been linked to brain health.

Related CE Article
New Study Says You Can Train Your Brain To Prefer Healthy Foods
9 Of The Best Foods To Make A Part Of Your Diet

7. Listen To & Play Music

Research from the University of Kansas Medical Center showed that having musical training and listening to or playing music can help keep the brain healthy as it ages.(4) If listening to music, connect to how it makes you feel, and find the genres or artists that stimulate your creativity and improve your mood. If playing an instrument, don’t let the skill go out of practice. Find ways to incorporate playing music into your regular life, regardless of your talent level.

Related CE Article
7 Ways Music Benefits Your Health

8. Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Coincidentally, so do new neural pathways. Routines can be great for keeping yourself organized or to ensure you make enough time daily to take care of your brain -amongst other things. But don’t forget to expand your life and your mind by trying something new. It could be as simple and small as trying a new route to get home, or it could be as expansive as trying something you’ve always been terrified of. Give your brain the opportunity to forge new connections to go alongside the ones that you are also helping it maintain.

Sources:

(1) http://www.brainhealth.utdallas.edu/blog_page/study-finds-aerobic-exercise-improves-memory-brain-function-and-physical-fi
(2) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201401/reading-fiction-improves-brain-connectivity-and-function
(3) http://www.brainfacts.org/about-neuroscience/ask-an-expert/articles/2012/how-does-the-brain-use-food-as-energy/
(4) http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2011/04/25/music-training-may-help-keep-aging-brain-healthy

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Health

Try This DIY Foot Reflexology Before Bed For The Best Sleep Ever

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A DIY foot reflexology technique that promises to help you have a good nights sleep.

  • Reflect On:

    Are you sleeping as well as you want to be sleeping? If not, try out this quick technique to see if you can improve your sleep.

A good night’s sleep? Do you even remember what that feels like?

When my partner and I agreed to move into a newly remodelled loft condo in the historic Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Victoria, we were thrilled by a few interior features: double bathroom sinks, heated tile floors, west-facing (hello sunsets!) and massive floor-to-ceiling windows that were original to the condo’s historic structure.

But while we were busy celebrating our brag-worthy new pad (we might have danced, once or thrice..), there was a nasty secret waiting to reveal itself – those god-forsaken windows.

Being historic, the gigantuous glass panes were nowhere near soundproof, and to make matters worse, we happened to be 4 stories above the busiest road in Victoria, as well as the busiest bus stop *bangs head on desk.* Of course, we found out the hard way, awakening every morning at 7:30am to the abrupt sounds of monster trucks revving, hydraulic squeals, and other obnoxious, penetrating traffic clatter. Even tightly jammed ear plugs proved futile against the noise.

Long story short, quality sleep is few and far between for me these days, so when I came across a Mind Body Green article titled “DIY Foot Reflexology For Your Best Sleep Ever by world-renowned Holistic Reflexologist Laura Norman, I was ecstatic, to say the least.

For all of you insomniacs, light sleepers (me), stress cases, caffeine addicts, and overthinkers out there, here is something you can try before bed tonight, outlined by Laura Norman, to help you get a more rejuvenated night’s sleep. Enjoy!

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DIY Foot Reflexology By Laura Norman

“By stimulating reflex points on your feet, hands, face and ears, reflexology subtly impacts the whole body, affecting the organs and glands. A simple reflexology routine that works on just the feet can help you or a loved one to drift off to sleep naturally. There are nearly 15,000 nerves in your feet alone, one of many reasons that foot reflexology is so calming, soothing and effective.

reflexology

Reflexologists use a map of the feet where all the organs, glands, and corresponding parts of the body are laid out. The toes reflect the head. The ridge beneath the toes on the top part of the ball of the foot is a natural shoulder or neck line. The ball of the foot reflects the chest. The arch mirrors the digestive organs, and the heel and ankles contain reflexes for the reproductive system. The inside curve of each foot (where we find the spinal reflex) corresponds to the actual curves of the spine.

Using the chart above, here’s a 15-minute routine in four easy steps that you can incorporate into your bedtime ritual:

1. Relax the feet, one at a time, with simple relaxation techniques: pressing and squeezing, lightly slapping, or gently kneading — whatever feels good. Finish by pressing and holding your thumb on the solar plexus point of each foot for 5-10 seconds each.

2. On the bottom of each foot, “walk” your thumb up from the base of the heel to each toe (imagine your thumb is a caterpillar inching its way up your foot), then press these reflex points with the outer edge of your thumb or tip of your forefinger:

  • Head/brain (top of each toe) promotes clarity and positive thinking.
  • Pituitary or master gland (center of big toe) stimulates/balances hormone secretions of all other glands.
  • Pineal gland (outer side of big toe) secretes melatonin which controls our circadian rhythm/sleep cycle.
  • Thyroid (base of big toe) balances metabolism.
  • Neck/shoulders (ridge of toes) releases tension.
  • Chest/lungs (ball of foot) calms breathing.
  • Solar plexus/diaphragm (under ball of foot in the center) encourages profound relaxation and peacefulness.

If you have other particular areas of your body that are stressed, you can press the corresponding reflex area or point.

3. Apply the relaxation techniques again, and finish with another thumb press on the solar plexus point on both feet.

4. End with “breeze strokes” — lightly running your fingertips down the tops, bottoms, and sides of each foot in a feathery motion, barely touching the skin. Repeat this several times. It is very soothing to the nerves.

Reflexology transports you into a state of deep relaxation where you are open to suggestions you give yourself. This is a good time for a pre-sleep affirmation such as, A kind and forgiving world sings me to a peaceful sleep.

Also count your blessings and appreciate all of the good times in your day. Envision how you would like your next day to be.

Your bedtime ritual can include a nurturing exchange of reflexology mini-sessions with your partner. You can even use these same techniques to help your child go to sleep more easily. Sweet dreams!


Give Laura’s practice a try and let us know how it worked for you in the comment section below!

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Awareness

AMA Says Mature 12-Year-Olds Can Consent to Vaccination Without Parents

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At the recently concluded annual meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA) in Chicago, AMA delegates adopted a doozy of a new policy. The powerful trade group agreed to develop model legislation that pressures state legislatures into allowing minors to “override refusenik parents on vaccination.”

In 2000, the Supreme Court reasserted the fundamental right of parents to oversee the care, custody and control of their children, a right recognized by states until children reach age 18. Where vaccines are concerned, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act—passed in 1986—legally requires health care providers to distribute vaccine information materials to the parent or legal guardian of any child to whom the provider intends to administer a vaccine “prior to the administration of such vaccine” [emphasis added].

Does it trouble the AMA that its pronouncement goes against legal precedent as well as social custom? Apparently unconcerned about “chipping away at parental rights,” AMA representatives are gung-ho about the organization’s new policy position. Not only do they want minors as young as 12 to be able to consent to vaccination regardless of their parents’ “flawed beliefs”—while still expecting parents to pay for the vaccines—they also believe that doctors should be the ones declaring a child “mature enough” to consent to vaccination. A question that anyone familiar with the AMA’s history should be asking is, why would we trust the AMA to make such vital decisions in parents’ stead?

… one-fourth of the AMA’s total revenues were CPT-related [the medical services coding system]—representing double what the organization received from membership dues. This gigantic conflict of interest, according to the Forbeseditorialist, makes the AMA more a tool of Washington’s interests than those of doctors.

Outsized influence

The AMA’s membership has been plummeting in recent decades. A 2011 analysis of its membership “woes” estimated that the Association captures just 15% of practicing doctors, down from 75% in the early 1950s. The AMA’s membership challenges do not mean that the organization lacks clout, however. In fact, the AMA has a variety of potent tools at its disposal to ensure that it “remain[s] relevant at the national level.” These include a political action committee and a vast lobbying war chest (with upwards of $20 million spent in 2018), all of which translates into outsized influence over both health care policy and public perceptions.

A 2016 report on Capitol Hill lobbyists rated the AMA one of the top “movers and shakers” in Washington, ranking among the “select few [that] have shown an ability to get things done.” A former AMA president modestly admitted as much, stating that “What the AMA does, and does best, is in the advocacy arena.” An analysis of the top 20 health care lobbyists found that the AMA ranked the highest in terms of “all-time spending” and ranked number five in spending “among all lobbyists, regardless of industry.”

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The lobbying firms that the AMA hires are often the same as those used by the pharmaceutical industry. The AMA Foundation’s roster of high-level Corporate Roundtable members consists almost entirely of pharmaceutical industry members—including the four companies that manufacture all childhood vaccines in the U.S. (Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Sanofi). Drug company advertising also dominates the pages of the AMA’s flagship journal JAMA, even though many are “the very same drugs that are…killing tens of thousands of Americans each year, according to senior drug safety researchers at the FDA.” Nor does the AMA hesitate to provide a “seal of approval” for products and drugs—earning sizeable advertising fees—“despite the fact that the organization has no capacity to test such drugs.”

In 2011, Forbes pointed out that the AMA reaps huge financial rewards through its Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) medical services coding system, used by health care providers, payers, and facilities across the U.S. Given the CPT system’s importance to large public programs such as Medicare, the system essentially amounts to a “government-granted monopoly” and AMA “windfall.” In 2010, one-fourth of the AMA’s total revenues were CPT-related—representing double what the organization received from membership dues. This “gigantic conflict of interest,” according to the Forbes editorialist, makes the AMA “more a tool of Washington’s interests than those of doctors.”

The AMA also has a sordid history of racketeering. Economist Milton Friedman wrote some years ago of the AMA’s concerted attacks on chiropractors and osteopathic physicians, and in a 1987 antitrust lawsuit brought by chiropractors, the judge agreed that the AMA had conspired “to contain and eliminate a profession that was licensed in all fifty states.” The judge also decried the Association’s “long history of illegal behavior.” In the early 2000s, the courts again found the AMA (along with managed care companies) guilty of racketeering through manipulation of the AMA’s coding software.

Did the zealous school nurse who recently administered a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to an 11-year-old boy without parental consent—while telling the mother that all he got was an ice pack—follow “legal, ethical, and professional guidelines”?

Undermining parents

Efforts to circumvent parents’ involvement in their children’s health care have been underway for quite some time, notably in the reproductive health arena. For services related to contraception and sexually transmitted infections, health providers are only too happy to shout down parental objections, arguing that young people’s need for confidential medical services is “more important” than parents’ right to be informed of their child’s condition.

Now, researchers are laying down the train tracks to make the same case for vaccines. In 2014, top-tier adolescent health experts described parental consent as a “barrier to vaccination” and called for “strategies that increase the ability of unaccompanied minors…to receive vaccines within the context of legal, ethical, and professional guidelines.” Did the zealous school nurse who recently administered a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to an 11-year-old boy without parental consent—while telling the mother that all he got was an ice pack—follow “legal, ethical, and professional guidelines”?

AMA critics argue that the organization has spearheaded a push for a “totalitarian medical pharmaceutical police state” almost since its inception in the mid-1850s. While such rhetoric is strong, it seems clear that on vaccine issues, the AMA is only too willing to stake out a draconian policy position. After the AMA announced its intent to ignore parents’ wishes, one conservative writer underscored the contradictions: “So while individuals need to be 21 years old before they are allowed to drink, and 18 years old before they are allowed to purchase cigarettes and elect a president, children at any age can make a decision to partake in vaccinations, regardless of the associated risks, of which there are enough to warrant the need for a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.” Legislators tempted to jump on the AMA’s bandwagon might want to think twice before throwing parental rights under the bus in such a cavalier manner.

Sign up for free news and updates from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Children’s Health Defense. CHD is planning many strategies, including legal, in an effort to defend the health of our children and obtain justice for those already injured. Your support is essential to CHD’s successful mission.

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In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

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Lifestyle

Sleep Debt: Can We Compensate For Sleep Deprivation On Weekends?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A recently study reveals the link between sleeping in on weekends and lowered mortality risk, yet another study shows that night owls have a 10% higher mortality risk than morning people, emphasizing that this is a public health issue.

  • Reflect On:

    Is our obsession with “sleep compensation” just an unhealthy way to try to overcome the reality of socially imposed timing? Is consistency and rhythm more important than the number of hours we sleep?

The idea of “paying off sleep debt” that accumulates throughout the work week has thus far been widely dismissed as wishful thinking. The general consensus is that you either get enough sleep each night or you don’t – and cramming in a few extra hours on your days off, although it might feel good, can’t possibly fix the physiological damage caused by sleep deprivation.

But here’s some great news for all of us who’ve been hoping that the sleep debt we pile on could somehow be paid off on those blissful weekend mornings. A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Sleep Research suggests that we may be able to “catch up on sleep” after all, by sleeping in on our days off.

It’s not that straightforward, however.

A different take on sleep deprivation research

For this study, researchers gathered the data of more than 38,000 adults from Sweden, which was collected in a medical survey in 1997. The survey included two questions that were keys to this research: one about sleep duration during workdays/weeknights, and the other concerning sleep duration on days off.

And that’s exactly what makes this study stand out from the previous research concerning sleep deprivation and mortality risk. Previous studies focused on questions about the “usual” sleep duration of participants, while this one focuses specifically on the link between the “usual” sleep duration and the occurrence of sleeping in.

Using Sweden’s national death register, the research team followed up on the cohort for 13 years, controlling for the factors that can contribute to health or mortality risk (gender, smoking, BMI, etc.)

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They found that those who slept 5 hours or less per night had a 65% higher risk of death during the study period than those who slept 6-7 hours nightly. However, the participants with short weekday sleep who habitually slept in on weekends didn’t appear to have an increased mortality risk.

Now, these findings clearly lead to the assumption that we could compensate for lost sleep in some way, but it’s far from definitive proof. A weekend sleep-in may be able to mitigate the effects of weeklong exhaustion, but there’s certainly a limit, as many physiological changes induced by cumulative sleep debt can be long-term.

Perhaps a more important factor than the number of extra hours of sleep is consistency and the possibility of establishing well-timed cycles of regular sleep and sleeping in.

In the end, no matter how we put it, our search for recurring sleep compensation reflects a deeper issue.

Night owls in a morning lark’s world

Another study published in 2018 concludes that “night owls” have a 10% higher mortality risk than “larks,” AKA “morning people.” Drawing from data of nearly half a million participants, this study also stands out from the rest in the field as it is the first to focus on mortality risk.

The researchers took into account the expected health problems identified in night owls in previous studies (such as cardiovascular disease and metabolic dysfunction) and still found the increased mortality risk.  

The findings, although new, aren’t very shocking, considering the adjustment evening types make to adapt to the socially imposed timing of work and all other activities.

Kristen Knutson, the co-lead author of the study, puts it best, saying in a statement: “Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies. It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn’t match their external environment.”

The study further shows higher rates of diabetes, psychological disorders, and neurological disorders among people who stay up late. The researchers emphasize that this is a public health issue that we need to pay attention to, both in regards to making work schedules more flexible and researching the possibility of shifting owls’ body clocks.

Becoming a lark

The issue with relying on weekends to make up for lost sleep, despite the reported benefits, is that come Monday, things are bound to get really tough when that alarm rings. The study on weekend sleep examined mortality rates – not the optimal hours of extra sleep, or the difficulty of getting your circadian rhythm back on track. In short, it might sound like great news at first, but if you’re eager to overdo it with sleeping in every weekend, you’ll still be stuck in a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation.

This is difficult to embrace for night owls, myself included. But in the end, shifting your body clock to become more of a morning person is a better solution for so many reasons. And it’s easier than it sounds at first. With the rising popularity of natural sleeping aids such as CBD oil and techniques such as meditation, millions of people are finding a healthy alternative to dangerous sleep meds to help them start going to bed earlier, get quality sleep, and establish a consistent rhythm.

Don’t worry, you’re not doomed. Committing to going to bed early and keeping a consistent sleeping schedule is just the formation of a habit. It’s shifting your behavior which, with time, will adjust your internal body clock.

And remember: it’s easy to slip into old habits and binge-sleep on weekends, and then count sheep on Sunday night. Forming any good habit takes effort and discipline, which means you might have to go back to square one a few times before you get the hang of it.

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The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

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