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5 Ways To Rewire Your Brain For Meaningful Life Changes

By Dr. Hilary Stokes     November 26, 2013

Neuroscientists have discovered the strategy for rewiring the brain. Contrary to popular approaches, this strategy involves more than just positive thinking or working hard.

In fact, there are five pathways that must be activated in order to create new neural networks in the brain. Let’s explore a few principles from brain science in order to better understand how to successfully activate these pathways.

First, the act of thinking sets into motion a chemical reaction in the brain that can be likened to plugging in a string of lights. As you think about something—be it positive or stressful—you turn on a string of lights related to that topic.

Second, the more you think, feel and act the same way, the faster the lights turn on and the brighter they glow. Thus, the string of lights related to driving a car at 45 years old is much brighter and faster than the string you had at 16 years old.

Finally, we have trillions of brain cells, resulting in thousands (if not millions) of strings of lights correlating with our habits in all areas of our life. Donald Hebb’s landmark discovery in 1949, “neurons that fire together wire together,” best explains the process of wiring and strengthening brain pathways. The key is to activate as many of these pathways as possible given they work synergistically. One pathway alone is not enough to successfully rewire your brain. However, when you repeatedly align your beliefs, feelings, vision, and actions you will experience lasting changes in your brain.


1. Identify the beliefs that support your intention.

Seeing is not required for believing. In fact, you have to first believe it is possible if you expect to truly see it manifest in your life.

Solution: Examine your current beliefs about a desired goal. Identify those beliefs that align with the possibility of achieving your intention.

2. Embrace your positive emotions.

Emotion is the fuel, the juice or the power behind accomplishing your intention. Without emotion a thought is neutral, it has no real power. In other words, it is not enough to repeat positive affirmations if you are not feeling anything.

Solution: What emotions align with accomplishing your goal? Why is your intention meaningful to you? Spend time feeling these feelings as you focus on your intention. 

How To Get What You Want Out Of The New Year

3. Visualize.

The brain can’t tell the difference between something real or imagined. When you mentally rehearse your new habits, you strengthen your ability to create them in your life.


Solution: Identify images that align with accomplishing your goal and spend time visualizing them daily.

4. Take actions that support your intention.

Your actions have to match what you say you want and vice versa. You can’t think and feel one way and act another. In other words, you won’t rewire your brain if you eat donuts while repeating affirmations of being healthy and fit. Similarly, you won’t rewire your brain if you go to the gym but complain about how much you can’t stand working out.

Solution: Identify the actions that align with your thoughts and emotions.

5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Change requires practicing a new habit. It follows the principle, “use it or lose it.”

Solution: Consciously practice thinking, feeling, visualizing and acting in alignment with your desired intention. When you do this you will stop the unconscious habit of recycling the past and activate your ability to rewire your brain in the present moment.

source: www.mindbodygreen.com

 


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It’s never too late to get fit, study on ‘healthy aging’ finds

Relaxnews  Tuesday, November 26, 2013

PARIS (AFP) – People who start exercise even late in life can reap the benefit in good health, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said on Monday.

Researchers tracked the health of nearly 3,500 Britons whose average age was 64, for more than eight years.

People who had a record of sustained and regular exercise – meaning vigorous activity at least once a week – boosted the likelihood of “healthy ageing” sevenfold compared to a lifestyle of persistent inactivity.

The gain among newcomers to exercise was roughly triple.

“Significant health benefits were… seen among participants who became physically active relatively late in life,” the paper said.

“Healthy aging” was rated by an absence of major diseases and disabilities, good mental health – the lack of depression or cognitive decline – and the ability to maintain social connections.

Around a fifth of the volunteers fell into this category at the eight-year followup mark.

source: www.ctvnews.ca


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Eat Nuts, Live Longer?

Study linked a daily handful of any nut to 20 percent reduction in death risk over 30 years

WebMD News from HealthDay     By Serena Gordon     HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 20, 2013 (HealthDay News) – If you like nuts – and it doesn’t seem to matter what kind is your personal favourite – you might be cutting your risk of early death by eating a handful of them every day.

New research found that people who ate a 1-ounce serving of nuts each day showed a 20 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause over three decades, compared to those who didn’t eat the tasty snacks.

“We looked at nut consumption in approximately 119,000 Americans over the past 30 years,” said study senior author Dr. Charles Fuchs, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “People who were regular nut consumers had a significant reduction in [death from all causes].”

“This is an observational study, so it’s not absolute in terms of proof,” Fuchs said. “But prior studies suggest health benefits like a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and lower cholesterol, among other health outcomes.”

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, a nonprofit institute that represents nine different nut industries.

The findings were published in the Nov. 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Nuts are nutrient-dense foods, according to background information included in the study. They contain unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Previous research has linked nut consumption to a lower risk of heart disease, as well as improvements in risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol, according to the study.

The researchers looked at how nut consumption might affect all causes of death, as well as whether nuts were linked to death risk from specific conditions, such as heart disease.

The study included more than 76,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 42,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Anyone with a history of heart disease, stroke or cancer was excluded from the study.

nuts

Nut consumption was verified at the start of the study, and then every two to four years during the study. During about 30 years of follow-up, more than 16,000 women and more than 11,000 men died.

When the researchers compared people who ate nuts to people who never ate nuts, they found a 7 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause during the 30-year study. People who consumed more nuts had an even lower risk of dying. Those who had nuts once a week had an 11 percent lower risk of death, while people who had two to four servings of nuts a week saw their risk drop by 13 percent. Those who consumed the most nuts — at least seven 1-ounce servings weekly — reduced their overall death risk by 20 percent, according to the study.

Eating more nuts also was linked to a lower risk of death due to cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.

The study uncovered an association between eating nuts and living longer, but it didn’t prove cause-and-effect.

Fuchs said a 1-ounce serving was equal to about 16 to 24 almonds, 16 to 18 cashews or 30 to 35 peanuts.

People who ate nuts tended to be healthier overall, according to the study. They were leaner, had lower rates of obesity, had lower cholesterol, had less high blood sugar, had smaller waist circumferences, ate more fruits and vegetables, and exercised more than people who ate fewer or no nuts.

Fuchs and his team controlled the data to account for these factors.

One expert said what people who are eating nuts aren’t eating instead is also important.

“This study adds to the research that nuts are part of an overall healthful diet, especially if people are choosing to have nuts instead of chips or candy,” said Alice Bender, associate director for nutrition programs with the American Institute for Cancer Research.

“Nuts provide quality protein, fiber, good fats [and] B vitamins,” she said. “Nuts are a whole package of health, and they’ve shown some cancer-protective qualities.”

“But nuts aren’t a magic bullet,” she said. “They’re just one part of all the wonderful foods we have. It’s important to eat foods that are minimally processed.”

“The best thing to do is to substitute nuts for other foods that may be crunchy or sweet,” Bender said. “Replace some of those foods that don’t contribute much to our diets with nuts. You’ll be replacing empty calories with a whole food.”

source: www.webmd.com


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15 Healthy Practices You Already Know (But Should Go Ahead & Start Doing)

BY EMILY KOCH   NOVEMBER 5, 2013

Here are 15 things you already know that you should really just go ahead and start practicing now, because the older version of yourself will be eternally grateful if you do. For that matter, everyone will be glad you did.

1. Move your body.

You can’t underestimate the power of experiencing the strength of your physical body in healthy ways. Find healthy movement that you enjoy and try to participate in it at least 60 minutes daily. You’re establishing rhythms that will support you throughout your life, so get moving!

2. Eat more plants.

Your body craves nourishment in every calorie. Why do you think you can’t stop eating that junk food!? Save yourself the trouble of discovering your metabolism can no longer handle all the crap you eat, and fill your plate with greens and veggies.

3. Get your rest

You need it. Turn off the television and smartphone and light up a candle. Take a bath or some deep breaths. Starting the rhythm of peaceful quietude at the end of your day is something that will change your entire state of being. Trust me, if the older version of you with two young kids and a full time career can figure out how to make it happen, so can you. And doing it now will help her a lot.

4. Drink water

There are three main ways for toxins to leave your body: through urine, poop, and sweat. Drinking lots of water helps them on their way (and if you didn’t pick up on it yet, plants and moving daily will too). In addition having a hydrated body is a happy body, so fill up that water glass and throw away the soda.

5. Wear sunscreen

You’ll like the crow’s feet you have from all the smiles, but the scars from the “suspicious moles” removed? Not so much. Save yourself the trouble and slop on that sunscreen.

6. Brush and floss.

Your teeth (and gums) reflect your overall health, so take care of them! You probably have the brushing down, but get that flossing going too, every time! See your dentist every six months, and brush and floss after every meal! If you’re feeling extra adventurous, do some oil pulling too!

7. Make connections (in person!) with nature and people.

Life is amazing and beautiful, but you have to look up from your phone to see it. Please connect with nature and people in real life rather than through your technology. And when you are with them, keep your technology away. The filling of the heart and mind you’ll experience will surprise you.

8. Accept that it’s OK to be bummed, but keep it in perspective.

Life can be very hard, and suffering can be overwhelming. So give yourself a break if you’re bummed by something that feels trivial compared to the suffering in our world. It doesn’t take away from your knowledge of how fortunate you are. If you’re overwhelmed by the larger picture, get smaller. Focus on those in your family or community you can impact daily in positive ways through your attitude and presence. Even though you can’t see it yet, it’s changing the world for the better. 

mirror mirror

9. Be you.

Make the best of your unique gifts and appreciate your opportunity on this earth. You are worthy of any good that comes your way. Embrace it, embrace yourself, and shine on. Life is not a competition, so just bring your best, most sincere self forward and experience the joy in being you.

10. Be kind.

When I say be kind, I don’t mean sugary fake sweetness. Be sincerely kind. When interacting with others, focus a whole lot more about how people feel in your presence than how they feel about you personally.

11. Remember that your beauty comes from the inside.

The most beautiful people are those who nourish and support their inner self, and care sincerely about others. Please take good care of your body; you want it to be a long-term home for you. Investing your energy in coming from a place of love and nourishment for your body will do more for you than any beauty cream or regimen!

12. Nurture your relationships.

Your friends will be there through all of your life. Pick ones who uplift your spirit, bring out the best in you, want the best for you, and ones with whom you can be vulnerable. Once you have them, make time for them! Get together at least once every month, or chat on the phone if they’re far away. Do not let time, distance, the love of your life, and the little loves to follow squeeze out the important time with them. They’re an important part of you, and will continue to be as you grow and change.

13. Be smart about your money!

Have a budget based on your income and expenses and stick to it. For “non-essentials” like meals out, or more things or experiences, set a budget if available and use cash for the expenditures.

14. Envision the life you want and go after it with passion.

The best way to get there? Hard work, thoughtfulness, patience and reflection. With each goal, ask yourself, “Does this decision help me get there?” If yes, go for it; if no, pass.

15. Give thanks.

Find the things you’re grateful for and give thanks; daily, if possible, in every breath when needed.

Bonus: Remember it’s never too late to change.

You can change. So if you’re reading this in your 30s wishing could actually give this to yourself in your 20s, picture your 50-year-old self saying the same thing to you now and get started! You’re worth it, you’re worthy of it, and you can do it! But you already knew these things anyway, so…

       Thanks and love you,

                     Your Older Self 


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Just Say No: When It Makes Sense Not to Take Your Medicine

By Alexandra Sifferlin    Oct. 16, 2013
  
It sounds like something a quack would support, but it’s true. There’s growing evidence that lifestyle changes such as eating a healthier diet and exercising more may be enough to prevent and even treat conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer.

The latest comes from a review of studies, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, that analyzed the effects of a combination of behaviors that reduced the rate of Type 2 diabetes among those at high risk of developing the disease. Making over their diets and boosting their amount of daily exercise, as well as quitting smoking and managing their stress were enough to help the participants, all of whom had high blood-sugar levels that precede diabetes, lower their glucose and avoid getting diagnosed with the disease.

And it’s not the first study to hint at the power of the pharmaceutical-free approach. A study published this month in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention reported that brisk walking cut postmenopausal women’s breast-cancer risk by 14% compared with those who didn’t walk. Women who exercised more vigorously enjoyed a 25% drop in risk of developing the disease. Another report in the journal Lancet Oncology found that a plant-based diet, stress management and other lifestyle changes contributed to longer-lived cells among men with prostate cancer. Those results echoed previous work that documented that the same lifestyle-based changes contributed to fewer recurrent tumors among men who had been treated for prostate cancer.

Taken together, the data has more doctors putting away their prescription pads when they see certain patients. The pill-free route isn’t for everyone, however, so it’s important for physicians and patients to understand when it’s appropriate and when it isn’t.

It makes sense, for example, that prescription medications shouldn’t be a first-line treatment for people who are on the verge of developing a condition but can still prevent it — like the participants in the latest diabetes study. Preventing disease is always preferable to treating it, since once symptoms develop, they can cause more complications and additional health issues that require even more drug-based therapies to control. And diabetes is a good example of a disease that can be avoided, with weight management, proper diet and exercise, as the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program, a multicenter trial involving 3,234 people with prediabetes, proved in 2002. In that study, those who changed their diet and exercise habits lost more weight and had a lower rate of developing diabetes than those who took the glucose-controlling medication metformin.

With America’s growing obesity epidemic showing no signs of turning around, understanding how to prevent weight-related chronic disease, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, is even more critical, especially among children, says Dr. David Katz. Katz is the director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and author of the new book Disease Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well. “If you think about the issues that prevail today, they are related to eating too much of all the wrong foods, getting far too little physical activity, toxins we’ve invented like tobacco, inadequate sleep and strained social bonds,” he says.

Treating these ailments with prescription medications can address the symptoms but does nothing to change the forces that drive these diseases. And in some cases, the drugs may cause even more problems, in the form of side effects.


So why aren’t the simpler strategies — exercise and diet changes — as entrenched as the prescription medications? Katz blames muddled messaging. “Unfortunately there has been a lot of bad advice. It has come from people trying to sell products, as well as sound bites and media spin.”

And even good advice, from doctors and public-health officials with good intentions, is often oversimplified to the point where it’s no longer helpful. “Take the ‘just cut fat’ recommendation. What the scientists actually meant was eat more naturally low-fat foods like vegetables. And, frankly, if we had done that, the advice would have been fine. But we didn’t do that, instead we ate low-fat cookies got fatter and sicker,” says Katz. “Essentially what we have done with each attempt to dumb this down is create an opportunity to spin out a whole new set of products that exploit the message.”

And until recently, there hasn’t been much attention paid to what may be driving unhealthy eating — like stress. In the study of men who lowered their risk of recurrent prostate tumors, stress management was part of the lifestyle-based regimen that helped them to keep cancer at bay. Finding a way to address and relieve stress can be an important part of preventing many chronic diseases, says Dr. Dean Ornish, director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who led that study.

According to Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports-medicine physician at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery and author of the upcoming book The Exercise Cure, exercise could be one effective way of coping with stress. And it doesn’t hurt that physical activity also controls symptoms related to heart disease and other metabolic and psychological conditions.

“In my office, I see people from the medical community who are athletic. I see running psychiatrists, running neurologists, running oncologists, cardiologists,” says Metzl. “So I started asking the doctors, What role does exercise play in your treatment of headaches, your treatment of asthma, your treatment of cancer? I found that everyone uses exercise in the care of their patients for both prevention and treatment.”

Granted, Metzl’s patient population may be biased since the doctors he sees already believe in the benefits of physical activity, but he believes more physicians are starting to prescribe exercise as the research to support its benefits continues to grow. “There are studies on exercise and cancer prevention, fatigue, and new neuron formation in the hippocampus,” he says. “There is a nugget for every part of the body from erectile dysfunction, to cancer, to dementia. People are comfortable with the benefits of exercise for obesity or heart disease, but if you look at dementia or anxiety and the data on the role of exercise as prevention and even treatment, it’s amazing how much there is. I think we are seeing a movement toward connecting the dots.”

Doing so will require more than a few enlightened doctors and some scientific data, however. The U.S. health care system is designed to react to disease and treat it once symptoms set in — the reimbursement structure is founded on doctors diagnosing problems and treating them, for example, most often with medications. “The focus of our system is embedded in disease treatment. People make a lot of money off the way it was built, so we give lip service to prevention. But exercise is free.”

At Lincoln Medical Center and Harlem Hospital in New York City, doctors are starting to focus more on prevention by making diet changes a priority for patients — before they find themselves diagnosed with a disease like diabetes or heart trouble. The hospitals have launched the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription, a four-month pilot program, which allows patients with prescriptions — written by their doctors — to get coupons for fresh produce at farmers’ markets and the city’s green carts.

It’s not that prescription medicines aren’t doing their job, or that they don’t have a place in modern medicine. They do, and they are effective in containing disease once they emerge. But if it’s possible to avoid disease altogether, and if patients can do it without expensive medications that can cause complications, why wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t you?

Alexandra Sifferlin

source: Time


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10 Words Everyone Should Live By

BY DR. LAWRENCE ROSEN   JULY 10, 2013

I’ve noticed a trend in wellness circles. Whether in my work with patients or in my yoga classes, I keep coming across the same words. On a given day, one might be the theme of a dharma talk or a TED Talk video someone mentioned to me. (Or, as was the case one strange morning, the same word was featured in both.) I am sure the universe is sending me messages, and the more I mention these to friends and colleagues, it seems like they’re hearing the same words.

Which of these words resonates with you? My guess is some will at different times, but they’re all good words to live by.

1. Presence: To be fully engaged in what you are doing right now. And right now. And right now. Mindfulness of the present moment is something we never fully attain 100% of the time, but it shouldn’t stop us from trying. Whatever tools you use to cultivate presence, make time to hone them. That is why we practice (not perfect) yoga and meditation. 

2. Vulnerability: The willingness to be let others see you as you are. Vulnerability is to admit, “I am human. I am not perfect. I struggle, just like you.” No one has described vulnerability more effectively than Brene Brown. She teaches us that vulnerability is NOT weakness; in fact, being vulnerable is the most courageous thing we can be. Only when we are vulnerable can we truly connect and be open to intimacy. 

3. Clarity: Transparency and lucidity of vision and thought. Not just an uber popular, kinda creepy song by Zedd. Clarity is that aha moment when everything is crystal clear and it all just makes sense. I find it comes to me when I’m not trying to achieve it, but allowing my mind to relax and focus. It’s one of those things that the harder you try to achieve it, the further away it may feel. 

4. Equanimity: The evenness of mind to stand steady in the face of stress or challenge. I didn’t really “get” equanimity until last weekend, when a very wise friend told me it could best be explained by the phrase, “It’s all good.” The next day, I was meditating on this phrase at the beginning of a particularly challenging beach yoga session. (I know, boo-hoo, poor me.) Still, it was hot, with no wind, black flies biting. The teacher began by saying, “I was reading something this morning about equanimity…” Aha.

5. Gratitude: An intentional appreciation of what and who you have. An acceptance and explicit acknowledgment of what life brings you. Not taking anything for granted. As psychologist Robert Emmons notes, “Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present.”

6. Creativity: The use of your imagination to produce something—a thought, an object, really anything. Creativity implies a childlike playfulness, having the courage to make mistakes and keep pushing on. We desperately need more creativity in education and in the workplace. Never forget: you were once a child and some part of you always should be.

7. Authenticity: Walking the walk. The real you. The most honest “way of being.” To be authentic is to accept your self as is and offer that self to the world. The challenge is to learn to be OK with who you are and then… just be.

8. Passion: An incredibly intense and compelling desire for something (or someone) that is barely containable. And I think that’s the key. Your passion should be so palpable that it’s going to burst out of your eyeballs… but it just quite doesn’t. That’s what separates a crime of passion from the kind that makes you invest your whole being in the pursuit of your dreams and inspires others to follow you.

9. Compassion: Love and acceptance for another as if they were you. To treat them as you would want to be treated. To walk a mile in their shoes.  To see through their eyes as if they are your own. Compassion for yourself is the first step in having compassion for others. 

10. Love: Do I really have to explain this one? OK, just one quote: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower


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Join a Choir, Sing Your Way to Happiness?

December 6, 2013 | By Health Editor

FRIDAY, Dec. 6, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Singing in a choir might be good for your mental health, a new study suggests.

British researchers conducted an online survey of nearly 400 people who either sang in a choir, sang alone or belonged to a sports team. All three activities were associated with greater levels of mental well-being, but the levels were higher among those who sang in a choir than those who sang alone.

The poll also revealed that choral singers regarded their choirs as more meaningful social groups compared to how athletes viewed their sports teams.

The study, presented Thursday at a meeting of the British Psychological Society in York, England, did not actually show a cause-and-effect link between singing in a choir and being happy, however.

“Research has already suggested that joining a choir could be a cost-effective way to improve people’s well-being,” study author Nick Stewart, of Oxford Brookes University, said in a society news release. “Yet we know surprisingly little about how the well-being effects of choral singing are brought about.”

“These findings suggest that the experience of using your voice to make music may be enhanced when you feel part of a cohesive social group,” he said. “Further research could look at how moving and breathing [in concert] with others might be responsible for creating a unique well-being effect.”

Research presented at meetings is typically viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

source: news.health.com