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Posts from the ‘brain health’ Category

From the past to the future

We all come from our past and we are all going to our future. The small while in between is our present where memories and dreams meet. That is also the short, sparkling moment when the art is born, poem is written and story told.

Our creative potential is huge and very often extremely neglected. It is quite often that people leave their artistic intentions to the moment when house will be paid off, kids have gone to study, garden is planted, retirement has started, recovery has happened and so on. It is supposed that only these things that cost a lot of money or pay a lot of money are worth doing and everything else can wait.

How many of you have advised your kids and your spouses or parents to pick a pencil or brush and pursue something simple and rewarding like drawing or sketching? Even if you have, how many of you have helped them with suitable and supportive environment for creativity to blossom? Kitchen table isn’t the place when the best art is done. In order to return to drawing and painting, art requires a specifically designed space. Basement is a bad choice if there is no daylight. Drawing and painting needs daylight, bright and undisturbed, just as we do.

I have seen the statistics for the recent years: the potential of keeping memory flexible and brain active is not in favor of most people, especially these over 50.

While everybody knows all the risk factors for absolutely any disease which there only exists: overweight and obesity, heart and blood vessel damage, high blood pressure, diabetes (these are all body stressors), lack of exercise or any movement, bad, highly chemical or modified food, especially if it has been already processed, artificial food, food with added or removed ingredients, GMO sources of food, contaminated water and air, alcohol and drug use, smoking either tobacco or cannabis because of toxins that occur in burning process, abnormal stress levels with zero coping ability, long-term stress without a rescue plan and social isolation and self-removal from any social activities and mental states that involve huge anxiety, severe depression and severe, systemic disorders, very few people ever pay any attention to the brain fitness and brain cell exercising. Meditation is fine, but it is supposed to make one rather stress-free than activate the brain to the impossibly high activity level. We are talking about an active brain involvement, the state when we would say: the brain is steaming.

If you are doing everything right, but you rather think it is better not to worry about learning and studying or scientific research after you are out of school, you are so wrong. Only very active brain which is used to  tackle challenges and make thousands of decisions, as well as resolve problems is able to create new brain cells, at any age actually.

In one of my previous articles I wrote about the trial that compared physical exercise group, group which did crosswords and similar brain games, and the group that started doing drawing, although, students did not even seem to like or be interesting in drawing from reality. The drawing group excelled and outdid both other groups in all target indicators.

Why is that? It is because when we look at some object and try to recreate it with all dimensions on a flat paper or canvas we use all of the brain. We use all kinds of mechanisms and synaptic pathways to get the job done. While it is something meditative and pleasurable, it is also very challenging and a very active process. If you do it in a group, you add socializing to this activity.

Healthy brain

We all come from the past and we are all heading to the future. This is done much better by maintaining our cognitive abilities, memory and brain flexibility. The one thing that means a lot more than all the money and power on the Earth is our brain. Losing our brain, we lose everything. Therefore, let us do something useful and keep it flexible, sharp and well-performing. You do not know how to get started? Please find all kinds of advice on my art website which is solely devoted to art, creativity and learning drawing, sketching and painting: http://inesepogagallery.com/

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How to feel good and survive the dullness of depressing winter days

Do you have your favorite recipe for surviving dark, cold, nasty winter days?

I’ve seen and heard from a lot of people recently who are in cold and bad winter weather areas that they don’t feel well. Sneezing, coughing and aching is nothing new in winters when we change rapidly from minus 20 and move up to plus 7 degrees within a few days. What do you do not to stress out your body and yourself even more?

Most people assume stress comes from outside: too much work, too many interruptions, inability to do any task properly because of so many obstacles and disturbances, emptying and exhausting relationships, impact from energetically draining people with bad attitude around us, failure to implement our plans and goals and so on. In fact, most stresses come from inside the body, hence, we have so many adaptive mechanisms and so many systems that try to regulate the processes inside the body and mind in order to bring us back in balance.

This is certainly a period when we should nurture ourselves. Be easy and loving towards ourselves. Be patient and take one step at a time. My personal favorite tools for surviving winter come from my grandmother, my mom uses the same things, I continue using these simple remedies, and my daughter doesn’t mind them either.

Cold or heat: our body systems have to take on any stresses. That can cause mood fluctuations and add to discomfort, especially if we are already having some condition. Brain chemicals sound complicated and so they are, however, there are nice extremely uncomplicated things which can help them return to balance. Once the digestive and immune system are properly taken care of, headaches and heart aches disappear, anxiety and nervousness evaporates, blood pressure and blood glucose levels normalize, and having no inflammation is the best thing that can happen to us. Inflammation within the body causes most of our troubles.

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Tea will not only warm up, but also provide with numerous health benefits.

Rose hip tea for toning ourselves in the morning: it is a strong antioxidant, rich in vitamin C, helps digestive and immune system and decreases inflammations in the body, it helps fighting all diseases caused by inflammation, and almost anything can be related to inflammation. I know an older man who would never miss his morning dose of rose hip tea. He said it was really boosting his energy and activating his defense mechanism to take on any difficult tasks he has to face that day.

Chamomile tea for calming, warming and healing: relieve your stress, anxiety. Enjoy a cup and it will also reduce pain and any kind of stomach disorder, as well as take care of good sleep and your immune system.

Mint is always handy for keeping us in good shape because it improves digestion, reduces pain, eliminates inflammation, relaxes the body and mind and boosts the immune system.

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Did you know that you can test any tea putting it in cold water to see if it is really natural? If putting tea in cold water results in color which could be only achieved with very hot water, it is clear: coloring agents are added.

Do people with strong immune system also get colds or only those ones who have some underlying conditions?  If you are mainly healthy and still young, such cold periods should be shorter and affect you less. Cold is not flu, but it is caused by multiple viruses, especially rhinovirus. We all know how to treat colds, but when cold is persistent and doesn’t go away with over-the-counter remedies; we have to see the doctor in order to avoid all kinds of complications.

SAD? Seasonal affective disorder, I mean? We can become sad, sluggish and start feeling drained, definitely. It often seems that alcohol could be just the right cure from this sadness, upset and depressed mood, but, in fact, alcohol is a bad company for winter time, especially when one is heading outdoors. Feeling hot is very misleading because we get such sensation due to widening blood vessels. We do not feel how cold the air in reality is, and that can have serious sequences. Secondly, alcohol makes depression, anxiety and stress worse. For a moment one can be uplifted and flying in clouds, not that much later and the next morning when all bad experiences return with double force. We are already fragile in frequently changing weather conditions due to lack of fresh air and outdoor activities. Why to add more stress to our sensitive self?

You will have heard most likely about vitamin D supplements. The sunshine vitamin. Much less daylight can affect us, no doubt about that, however, if you are a person who always believes more is better, remember that we still need to be tested for vitamin D levels in order to know how much and if to take it. Overdoing a lot with vitamin D will cause kidney failure. We have nowadays all kinds of things added to regular foods, so take into account in how many combinations you’re already getting it supplemented.

We cannot go wrong with vitamin C since it is very difficult to actually consume it in levels that we could talk about overdose. The only important thing is that artificial vitamins and other substances will not be absorbed in the same way as the ones from natural sources. That means, naturally occurring amino acids and vitamins are much more effective because your body cells recognize them and know how to use. The absorption level usually varies and depends on plenty of other nutritional components; however, absorption level of an artificial supplement is never 100%.

We are drinking less water when it is cold, and when temperatures are so low it is very easy to overlook dehydration. Also, if your home or work place isn’t that cozy and warm it is extremely tough to make one consume some half a liter of water in the morning. People who are not diabetics can try hot water with honey and lemon. Diabetics should still stick to water. One bottle of water before anything else on empty stomach makes huge difference.

The other very useful, healthy and nutritious way of helping ourselves is replacing heavy dinners or big lunches with soup. Like all Latvians, I love soups, as well. Normal Latvian family can have a soup dinner a few times a week. We make soups from everything what is available, but very often beet soup, fresh cabbage borscht (definitely our family’s favorite!). We make beet soup with any type of meat. We love all kinds of vegetable soups, melted cheese soup with paprika, Latvian style meatball soup, obviously chicken soup, pea soup, smoked salmon soup, sauerkraut soup, bean soup with smoked ribs, many kinds of sweet fruit and dumpling soups … The list is endless since it is possible to cook a very warming and delicious soup using just basic vegetables, bones and meat. Soup is an extract of vitamins, nutrients and minerals. Everybody can adjust it to their taste and preferences. Soup heals, warms up and recharges. Plus, it’s not going to give your stomach digestive issues.

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Winter is a time when we should be really taking good care of ourselves. I do not deny the importance of being physically active and engaging in physical exercises, but for lots of people the main part of surviving winter will be as basic as: how to keep ourselves healthy. Making a cup of herbal tea is so hilariously easy! Just do it; a few times a day and one more time before you go to sleep. Even these who do not feel well can manage that.

It is also important to have plenty of light whatever light one prefers: soft light, warm light, bright light for hobbies, candle light for soul and good thoughts; it doesn’t matter. We need a lot of light until the sun moves higher up in the sky.

Keeping memories alive and our brain fit

We know what happens to body parts not in use, for instance, during longer periods of immobilization: they degenerate and we have to work very hard to re-establish their flexibility and activity, and that involves all tissues and cells. That takes work, exercise and treatment. While wrinkles on somebody’s face or body shape clearly indicate person’s age and are visible at a first glance, the memory glitches and mild brain dysfunction are not. That’s why most people are obsessed with looking younger at any means, with diets, must have outfits and tools. That is an inevitable part of the visible and directly noticeable personality. Nobody is afraid to spend money on gym, sports equipment, hairdo, makeup, plastic surgeon and costly skin treatments. There’s so much money spent on useless food supplements which quite often harm the user without giving any of the benefits commercials promise. How come the most important part, the commandment and interaction managing center, the brain is so frequently left out of the scene of self-improvement?

Brain fitness 3

Keeping memories alive and watching the brain health is the most neglected aspect of our general health. Why?

Most likely, the main reason is nobody can see the aging of our brain or notice it right away. As it progresses, the person experiencing this badly affecting disorder is not even aware of it. This trouble becomes a serious issue when the memory loss is already large enough to affect the daily routine and any normal activities.

We simply should not allow that happen. Do we? Along with genetically inherited factors, mobile and digital devices do not demand us to use the memory and our brain. Everything is on the phone or laptop: directions, reminders, alarms, alerts and lists. We can send notes to ourselves and make endless to-do and other lists. How is that bad? It’s very simple: while we are watching screens or scrolling through them, our brain is half asleep. It’s crying for attention, but most people do not take this seriously until the brain turns itself off. The usage of our brain with well-known activities even with demanding, but familiar mental activities is very little. The brain requires daily exercise, daily workload and high level usage. That’s the only way to keep neurons alive and not to lose any connections which are called synapses. That’s the only way to develop new neurons at any age. The research in twins shows that genetic factors are by far not everything since one of twins develops dementia or Alzheimer’s while the other does not. That is a very strong indication in favor of epigenetic factors, like our daily activities, the work we do, the level of our involvement in challenging mental tasks.

Good food, absence of harmful chemicals, physical activity and proper care are essential elements of our well-being, but they make no sense when the brain stops functioning. They make zero sense without cognitive function and memory. The sad reality looks like this, however: once we are done with school and degrees, the active learning period ends, too. How many people who engage in intentional brain exercises on a daily basis when their job does not require that do you know? Let’s compare this number with people who care about their diet and physical activity. I can bet that there are very few who will say they know a lot of people who learn playing a new instrument, who do a research or learn a new language and who do visual arts for their brain exercises every day at an older age.

I would call the lack of brain exercising phenomenal in times when statistics reveal that the number of people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s is expected to double in countries like Canada and the USA by 2038. Besides, there is nothing complicated about it: book your drawing and painting class, language learning course, music class or do your research with visual illustrations right away. Do not delay because any hesitation is causing trouble.

Brain health

It’s proven by now through many controlled trials that the best brain life boosting activity is drawing and painting because:

it is something new every time;

it is challenging and requires obtaining new skills every single minute;

it is a skill one can build on while starting at an easy level;

it is rewarding and pleasurable activity;

it involves socializing when taking a class in a group;

it reduces stress, anxiety and nervousness;

it involves positive thinking and positive attitude towards reality.

Brain fitness 2

These elements of brain exercising are essential. Besides, doing an art class is easy, affordable and some class always takes place close by. Just a small note: drawing and painting with alcohol does not improve brain function because we get opposite effects: alcohol kills brain cells while visual art extends the life of neurons and number of their connections.

Taking care of the brain is essential. We shouldn’t put it off.

Preveting memory loss

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