Sunday, August 01, 2010
A recent blog by PUDLECRAZY got me thinking about an article I'd read on new research in neuroplasticity: our brains have huge potential to to grow and change, even as adults.
If you are interested in reading the whole article, here's the link.
We worry about Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline as if it were inevitable. Well, maybe it's not.
The physicial fitness movement is important: almost all of us here at SP believe that to be true (even when it's tough to roll out of bed at 5 a.m. and head to the gym, we know it's a good thing!)
But: brain fitness is important too.
Brain fitness isn't just about sudoku or repetitive drills. Because it's not just memory (cognitive retrieval of facts and information) which can be protected as we age through brain fitnesss.
The new research indicates that well into middle age and even later, we can actually develop new neuron pathways. We can use brain fitness -- trying on new thought pathways -- to physically enlarge whole sections of our brain, selectively. Just like we can increase bicep muscle mass through bicep curls. And cardio capacity through running.
Amazing! Changing up our thinking is as effective for brain fitness as changing up our strength training or adding cardio intervals is for physical fitness.
(When I went back to school in my forties and pursued three quick degrees in a whole new discipline there were lots of days my head hurt: but yup, I probably did learn how to think in some weird new ways! My brain definitely felt "fitter" at the end than at the beginning!! No noticeable swelling of the head, either . . . )
Way more valuable than mere intellecual prowess, this new brain research even suggests that we can deliberately train our brains to become more compassionate. And we can actually use brain fitness to change and expand the structures of our brains in ways that make us experience greater happiness.
The release of endorphins through physical fitness often lifts mood: but neuroplasticity research indicates that brain training offers more than that temporary effect. The parts of the brain that signal happiness get bigger and stronger the more we use them.
For me this suggests that even though we cannot always choose what happens to us, we can often choose our attitudes in response to what happens to us. Wilfully choosing a positive attitude isn't only simple-minded Pollyannaism, then: not if choosing a positive attitude can change our very brains to offer such huge long term benefits.
Because deciding to be happy often enough, deliberately enough and stubbornly enough seems to actually increase the brain's very capacity to experience happiness.
Spanx might be a temporary fix for flabby abs when I decide at the last minute to slide into a too-tight cocktail dress for one festive evening-- but Spanx can't provide anything permanent. And Spanx are not the optimal choice if I also plan to walk, breathe and enjoy myself!! A whole whack of crunches and planks plus some nutrition tracking would have been a much better solution.
Real physical exercise, real physical fitness.
Ditto real happiness exercise, real happiness brain fitness?
What a happy thought!!
Sunday, July 25, 2010
A recent comment on WALKINGANNIE's Spark Page, following up on my "Ambrose the hero hound" blog:
"I often think to myself that there tend to be coffee people and tea people; dog people and cat people; book people and movie/TV people: and I'm primarily in the first category for each of these dichotomies!!"
What do you think?
And -- are there any more "great divides" you'd add in?
Clothes/Home Decor? (for me, it would be clothes quite definitely).
And yes: I DO have dear friends who are tea/cat/movies/home decor types: yes I do!!
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Really love ANNASBF's "Official Best Dog Ever" blog: here is the link, the wonderful story of her giant schnauzer rescue dog who rescued her and her two little girls from some pretty bad guys:
I love dogs, have had dogs pretty much my whole life, and have to say that Charlie my current golden retriever is the very most loved of all my very loved dogs.
But in the "hero hound" category, there was Ambrose, my basset: a lovely boy, but not a very bright boy. Except on one memorable occasion.
My daughter was brand new, amost six weeks premature, very tiny, and had us up around the clock, me post Caesarean-section. It was a pretty tough time.
My husband groggily ironed a golf shirt and was heading out to play his first post-baby game, pretty much sleep walking.
Baby daughter was finally napping and I crawled back into bed myself. But Ambrose would not let me sleep. He kept scratching at my bedroom door, howling insistently, and refused to be silenced. Finally I rolled out of bed, and Ambrose beckoned my very clearly to follow him down to the basement laundry room.
Yes, the iron had been left plugged in -- there were flames shooting out of the ironing board cover -- and the ironing board itself had melted right through.
I was there just in the nick of time.
Ambrose, the hero hound.
About a year later, our house was badly damaged in a tornado, with our baby daughter's bedroom window exploding in giant glass shards over her bed. I rescued her just in time, took her down to the basement. And then, yes, I returned upstairs and risked my life again to rescue Ambrose without a second thought. He had earned it after all.
Ambrose was five when we had our first child but he had been advocating babies for all of those five years. When we were out for a walk and he spotted a toddler, he would drag us strenuously across the street with his white-tipped tail wagging joyously. And turn around to gaze up at us meaningfully with his mournful wrunkled face as if to ask , "When?"
And he really did love both our children, and was infinitely patient with them. He tolerated our baby son trying to ride on his back. One memorable day, I found Ambrose sleeping peacefully on the back door mat wearing four tiny rainboots on his four freckled basset paws. On him, they were pretty much hip-waders.
Bassets are photogenic dogs: it's their dramatic long ears (which bassets can fling about most expressively). But unlike golden retrievers, who are infinitely companionable and affectionate, bassets are dogs whose brains are mostly devoted to processing stimuli from their noses: they are absolutely obsessive about smells of all descriptions.
Nevertheless, Ambrose was an exceptionally sweet basset who probably saved the lives of my daughter and myself that long-ago day. And all of us do remember him with the greatest affection.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The number of calories -- and the quantity of fat and sugar -- in a number of popular cold summer beverages is pretty shocking, at least according to a recent article in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Gotta admit, I don't have these things often but the numbers really suprised me.
Here's the link if you're interested in getting all of the gruesome details:
Who would have thought that a McDonald’s Triple Thick Vanilla Milkshake has 1100 calories: as much saturated fat as three McDonald’s cheeseburgers and 140 grams (35 teaspoons worth) of sugar!!
The Cold Stone Creamery Oh Fudge Milkshake (“Gotta Have It” size, 24 oz. would not be a better choice: 1920 calories, 69 grams saturated fat, 750 milligrams sodium, 200 grams sugar. That's more than a day's worth of calories for most of us plus 3.5 days' worth of fat and the sugar equivalent of 40 Fudgee-O cookies. Yikes!!
The article goes on to list a number of other options including Canada's fave Tim Horton's items and various smoothies that clearly won't do much to smooth my hips and thighs . . . but as for me, it looks like I'm gonna be sticking with my usual hot coffee. Yup, that would be my "only remaining sin": black coffee -- way too many cups a day, probably, but still.
And maybe an occasional skim milk latte with Splenda! Sigh. Not glamorous, not summery but -- about what I can handle.
Can do either of these over icecubes if it gets really really hot, I suppose.
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