Forming New Trails

images-3.jpeg

When you embark on a journey of learning something new whether it's learning how to perform a push-up, meditate, or play the violin, just the act of trying makes a big impact. 

That awkwardness, hesitation, and shakiness you may encounter when trying something new is truly your body upgrading itself. As we interact with the world through our senses we take in information and form new neural pathways.

In the beginning it can be like walking through a dense forest, but as we continue to trek the path consistently a trail begins to form.

It gets easier as specific neurons are used over and over again and they begin to lay down a thick covering called myelin.

Think of myelin like pouring down concrete on that path. Now you have a road. Traffic flows freely. Nerve transmission gets faster and before you know it you have gone from a bumpy road to smooth cruising. 

The more you learn and practice the more neural networks light up! This is why my motto is "shine bright!" Through practice, you are shining from the inside out and radiating life itself. 

Here's something to ponder about: 

"The human nervous system is thought to consist of 10 (to the 11th power) neurons, about the same number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy. No two neurons are identical." - Smart Moves by Carla Hannaford, Ph.D. 
 

milky-way-2.adapt.945.1.jpg

Learning, not just using our minds, but by using our bodies is key for intelligence and a dynamic life. And, if you really want to be next level, put your heart into it. Backing your practice with positive emotion will keep you coming back for more.

Focus is Your Golden Ticket

Just doing an action is not the same as embodying the action.   

"Neural connections can be altered and grown only if there is full attention, focused interest on what we do."
 (Merzenich, Taub and Greenough. Neural Plasticity)

Therefore, it's not just WHAT you do. It's HOW you do it. 

My bottom line is you have the ability to wire and re-wire yourself based on what you practice. Keep moving and challenging yourself. Be mindful throughout the process. Starting and trying is the most important thing. 

 

Mindfulness Changes Your Brain

Just as physical exercise can make your body stronger and more mobile, MRI studies suggest meditation may make your brain stronger, more resilient, and promote longevity. 

Studies have shown that a regular meditation practice may increase cortical thickness and slow age-related thinning of the frontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with problem solving. 

MRI Studies Report Thickening in 4 Regions of the Brain: 

  • Posterior cingulate: mind wandering + self relevance

  • Left hippocampus: learning, cognition, memory, emotional regulation

  • Temporo parietal junction TPJ: empathy, compassion, perspective

  • Pons (area of brain stem): production of regulatory neurotransmitters

Reduction in size of: 

Amygdala: fight or flight- fear, stress, anxiety

Writing as a Meditation Practice

A Daily Writing Practice
Benefits: May reduce stress, promote productivity and problem solving capabilities, and enhance creativity. 

1. Write three pages longhand in a journal or set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Don't think, just write whatever is on your mind. 
2. When you've written three pages or when time is up, stop, take a few deep breaths, and underline anything that stands out to you that may be useful. 
3. Take note of how you feel after writing.
4. Repeat daily. 

See the full article , 10 Ways Journaling Will Transform Your Life, I wrote for Livestrong.com HERE

 

Sleep Well

 

Here are a few warning signs you may not be getting enough sleep:

You feel tired all the time

This one seems like it would be a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people talk themselves into thinking that it’s normal to feel tired, worn down, and drained all the time. It’s as if it’s part of being an adult in the working world. Here’s the catch though, there’s a big difference between being an adult in the working world and going through the motions haphazardly and having energy, vitality, and creativity for life itself. More consistent restful sleep can make a huge difference.

You have cravings for sweets, carbs, and tend to overeat

The two primary hormones that control appetite are leptin and ghrelin.  Leptin tells us that we are “full,” and signals us to put the fork down and stop eating.  Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone,” it sends a message to our brain that tells us we are hungry and need to eat for energy. Lack of sleep can alter these hormones causing a decrease in leptin and increase in ghrelin.  A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine discovered that sleep restriction was associated with an 18% decrease in leptin and 28% increase in ghrelin in 12 healthy male subjects.  Hunger and appetite for high calorie dense foods containing high amounts of carbohydrates increased 33-45%.  

You feel stressed and frazzled and get sick often

Lack of sleep increases the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function and makes you feel anxious and jittery. It’s like your body is running at top speed internally, and it may help you meet that deadline, but soon enough you crash and burn, and the aftermath isn’t pretty. 

You workout, but can’t seem to gain lean muscle

Restful sleep resets hormones. One of these key hormones is  human growth hormone, which helps build fat burning lean muscle mass, assists in energy and metabolism, and rebuilds cells and tissues for a youthful appearance.

You eat well and workout, but can’t seem to lose weight

Studies show that lack of sleep decreases the body’s ability to use calories, negatively impacts glucose metabolism (body’s ability to use sugars for energy instead of storing it as fat), and throws key hormones that assist weight loss like cortisol, growth hormone, leptin, and ghrelin out of whack.

You can’t seem to focus

One study found that 17 hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05%.  This is equivalent to about 2 glasses of wine.  The blood alcohol concentration for drivers is 0.08%. This means that sleep deprivation nearly leaves you legally drunk; better not get pulled over!

So, if you can relate to any of the above, here a few tips to sleep well from sleep researcher Dr. Michael Breus’ new book The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan. I had the pleasure of attending his sleep seminar a while back and loved these helpful tips.

TIPS TO SLEEP WELL

1. Create a sleep schedule

Your body runs on circadian rhythms. The more consistent you can be to get your body in a regular flow the better! Aim to wake up and go to bed at approximately the same time each night. (Yes, even on weekends).

2. Eliminate caffeine by 2PM

It takes 6-8 hours for caffeine to evacuate your system. Caffeine can interfere with REM sleep, that’s the mentally restoring sleep that helps you think clearly.

3. No alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime

According to Dr. Breus, alcohol leads to fragmented sleep and the closer you drink alcohol before bedtime the more disturbed your sleep will be.

4. Stop exercising within 4 hours of bedtime

Exercise is a positive stress, but it’s also a stimulant. In order to wind down and signal to your body it’s time to rest your core body temperature lowers. Aim to workout earlier and do more restorative exercises like stretching and foam rolling or meditating before bed.

5. Get outside in the morning

Sunshine in the peak hours of the morning helps regulate the sleep hormone melatonin and resets your biological clock.

TIPS FOR CREATING A ZEN SLEEPING (HABIT)AT

It’s not just about how many hours you sleep; it’s about how WELL you sleep.
— KG
  • Unplug: Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed. Studies have shown that artificial light from electronics impairs melatonin production and sleep cycles.

  • Clear the clutter: Our external environment can play a huge role in our ability to slow down the mind. Make your sleeping environment cozy and ideal, free of clutter.

  • Eat & Drink Smart: Aim for decaffeinated beverages like chamomile tea or warm lemon and ginger water. Eat tryptophan-rich foods. Foods like raw nuts, eggs, and turkey help to produce serotonin aiding in the relaxation response.

  • Supplement Accordingly: Magnesium is an essential mineral that aids in muscle function, nerve impulse, and relaxation. Supplementing with magnesium can help you release tension and relax. One of my favorite magnesium supplements is CALM.

  • RELAX: Wind down, breathe, and slow down the mind by reading, journaling, or meditating.

  • Turn EVERY light off: Melatonin, a hormone that is part of the natural entrainment of sleep/wake cycle aka circadian rhythms, is triggered by darkness. Try to sleep in pitch black and use a sleep mask if necessary.

  • Firm mattress and a single pillow: Some of those chronic aches and pains like the pain in your neck or hip may be due to tossing and turning in your sleep and your sleep position. Personally, I find that I sleep my very best when camping and sleeping on a thin sleeping pad so I started recreating this experience in my home. 

    •  I regularly sleep on the floor and spring up in the morning feeling revitalized. It's not for everyone, but it works for me and it may work for you to, especially if you have low back pain.

IMG_1253.JPG