Good Standing and a Positive Stance
For some, Summer is a time of rest, relaxation and vacation. Unfortunately, for teens and young adults, these months are often wrought with the anxiety of life ahead: starting college, searching for a job…It is important to address the major role our bodies play in how we weather times of stress and uncertainty.
We’ve always known that there is a connection between the physical and the emotional. We know how hard it is not to get grumpy when we aren’t feeling our best. Being laid up with a cold or fighting a headache can spoil anyone’s mood.
Now there is a mounting body of scientific research suggesting this connection is much stronger than simply reacting to discomfort or pain. It appears that, to some extent, our emotional states are actually determined by the position of our bodies. In her book, Emotional Contagion, researcher Elaine Hatfield compiles evidence that our physical states are interpreted by our brains to create the emotions we feel. In her view, it is our bodies, rather than our minds, that react to situations, and this physical response tells the brain what we feel.
A beautiful girl in a Goan market whose regal affect matches her glowing smile (India)
Amy Cuddy introduced this concept to millions in her extremely popular TED talk on “power posing.” Her research shows that people like you better when you are more confident – and you can make yourself more confident by standing tall and throwing your hands high in the air. This almost instantly increases your feelings of power (testosterone) and lowers your stress levels (cortisol). In other words, just moving your body in a certain way for a few minutes causes measurable differences in your hormone levels.
This teacher in Otovalo, Ecuador does not compromise his form in order to please the children, and they are not the least bit put off by this!
Another group of researchers found that bipolar patients felt significantly less depressed when they stood erect with their heads up, smiled and breathed deeply. In fact, this position eliminated the need for medication as long as they maintained it.
Rates of depression are often lower in developing countries than in the west. One has to ponder whether we have more to learn.
When dealing with the stresses of young adult life, posture probably isn’t the primary source of anxiety and depression. However, upright posture may be a successful coping mechanism for stress, as researchers at the University of Auckland recently demonstrated by subjecting participants to stressful tasks. Those that had been coached to sit up straight were “enthusiastic, excited, and strong,” while those who had been instructed to slump were “more fearful, hostile, nervous, quiet…and sluggish” while completing the same tasks.
Actors use posture to portray a variety of mind states. More than many, they understand the value of the body in establishing character – both mental and physical.
This field of research deserves the attention it has received in the press lately. While human emotions are complicated and should be approached holistically, posture may be the easiest variable to control, and the fastest step toward a more balanced life—literally! After all, any of life’s hurdles are more easily cleared when our bodies are functioning at their fullest capacity.
A pain in the neck?
A new study published in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine demonstrates what has been known all along by Alexander Technique teachers: that improving the way we go about our daily activities can relieve a pain in the neck.
Two out of three of us will suffer with neck pain at some point in our lives (source: Patient UK) and most cases involve ‘nonspecific pain’, caused by poor postural and movement habits or minor sprains rather than serious underlying disease or injury.
Symptoms – including restricted movement of the neck and pain that may spread from either the neck or shoulder to the base of the skull or down the arm – may begin to improve after a few days and be gone within a few weeks. However, sometimes the symptoms persist, become chronic and are more difficult to get rid of.
Chronic neck pain, which is defined as persisting beyond three months, is generally treated with pain killers and physiotherapy.
However, a study funded by Arthritis Research UK, and managed by a large research team based at the University of York, found that participants who attended one-to-one Alexander Technique lessons had, on average, nearly a third less pain and incapacity at the end of the trial than was reported before lessons began. This group also had significantly less pain than did a group that had received usual GP-led care alone throughout the study.
A total of 517 people with chronic neck pain took part in the trial. To qualify, all had been diagnosed with and experienced nonspecific neck pain for at least three months. The average duration was six years, so most had lived with neck pain much longer. Participants were randomised to one of three groups that offered:
20 one-to-one Alexander Technique lessons during a period of five months (along with continuing usual care) or
12 acupuncture sessions with equivalent overall length of time to the 20 Alexander lessons (along with continuing usual care) or
Continuing usual care alone.
The ‘usual care’ offered to all patients included any NHS tests and treatment that became necessary as well as out-of-pocket costs, such as for non-prescription medication.
The Alexander Technique lessons enabled participants to make beneficial long-term changes to the way they carried out their everyday activities such as working at a computer, walking, sitting or standing. At the end of the trial, one year after lessons began, they were still on average enjoying the same level of pain reduction that they did at the end of the lessons about seven months before. The results also showed a significant increase in people’s knowledge and ability to manage their own condition following Alexander lessons, and that this increase was associated with a greater reduction in pain and incapacity.
Lessons in the Alexander Technique are designed to help people become more aware of (and discover how to reduce) any harmful postural and mental habits that often contribute to pain, tension and stress. People can be inspired and enabled to rediscover their natural co-ordination and balance and realise the possibility of healthier ways of living, provided they resolve to apply the Technique in their daily lives.
Alexander Technique teacher and member of the research team, Julia Woodman, commented: “An habitual forward position of the neck can be reduced by the frequent practice of lying semi-supine (lying on your back with your knees up, feet on floor and head supported, for example by some books), while applying attention to your whole self as recommended by your teacher, and continuing this awareness when moving to get up and when up and about.”
Dr Hugh MacPherson from the University’s Department of Health Sciences and Principal Investigator for the study added: “Our trial demonstrates the benefits of empowering people to make positive changes in their daily lives to overcome or reduce their neck pain.”
The Alexander Technique is a self-empowering, self-care method that leads to improved muscle tone and general coordination. Its teaching is centred on avoidance of unnecessary mental and physical tension in everyday activities through increasing calm attention to yourself and your surroundings, with priority being given to poise of the head and the whole spine. Learning and applying the Technique can ease chronic back pain and may also be helpful for reducing unwanted general muscle tension and stiffness, breathing or vocal problems, anxiety and various stress-related conditions.
Further information about the Alexander Technique and how to find your nearest teacher can be found at www.alexandertechnique.co.uk.
It took 4 million years of evolution to perfect the human foot. But we’re wrecking it with every step we take. Click link below to read full article.
|Walking is easy. It’s so easy that no one ever has to teach you how to do it. It’s so easy, in fact, that we often pair it with other easy activities—talking, chewing gum—and suggest that if you can’t do both simultaneously, you’re some sort of insensate clod. So you probably think you’ve got this walking thing pretty much nailed. As you stroll around the city, worrying about the economy, or the environment, or your next month’s rent, you might assume that the one thing you don’t need to worry about is the way in which you’re strolling around the city.|
Well, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you: You walk wrong.
Look, it’s not your fault. It’s your shoes. Shoes are bad. I don’t just mean stiletto heels, or cowboy boots, or tottering espadrilles, or any of the other fairly obvious foot-torture devices into which we wincingly jam our feet. I mean all shoes. Shoes hurt your feet. They change how you walk. In fact, your feet—your poor, tender, abused, ignored, maligned, misunderstood feet—are getting trounced in a war that’s been raging for roughly a thousand years: the battle of shoes versus feet.
10 Proven Ways To Grow Your Brain: Neurogenesis And Neuroplasticity
Scientists once thought the brain stopped developing after the first few years of life. But new research has shown that the brain can form new neural pathways and create neurons even in adulthood (Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis).
Exercise for 30 minutes per day or meditation stimulates the production of new synapses; eating foods rich in flavonoids (cocoa and blueberries) and antioxidants (green tea) also helps with brain growth. In addition to these, here are ten proven ways to promote neurogenesis and neuroplasticity in your brain:
[Download free infographic below]
1. Intermittent Fasting
Calorie-restriction/fasting increases synaptic plasticity, promotes neuron growth, decreases risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and improves cognitive function according to the Society for Neuroscience.
Popular methods include: fasting one day per week, for an entire 24-hour period; a 16-hour fast — having your last meal at 8pm and breaking your fast at lunch (12pm) the next day; the “5-2” model — five days of regular eating and two days (non-consecutive) of calorie-restricted eating in a week (between 400-600 calories).
Traveling promotes neurogenesis by exposing your brain to new, novel, and complex environments. Paul Nussbaum, a neuropsychologist from the University of Pittsburgh explains, “Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites.”
You don’t need to travel across the world to reap these benefits either; taking a weekend road trip to a different city gives your brain the same stimulation.
3. Use Mnemonic Devices
Memory training promotes connectivity in your brain’s prefrontal parietal network and can slow memory loss with age. Mnemonic devices are a form of memory training that combines visualization, imagery, spatial navigation, and rhythm and melody.
A popular technique is known as the Method of Loci (MoL). Explained by Scientific American: It involves visualizing a familiar route — through a building, your home, or your way to work — and placing items to be remembered at attention-grabbing spots along the way. The more bizarre you make these images, the better you will recall them later. By simply retracing your steps, like a fishing line, you will “pull up” items to the surface. Along with objects, numbers, and names, this method has helped people with depression store happy memories that they can retrieve in times of stress.
Begin using mnemonic techniques and engage in memory training; start working on remembering names, scriptures, or poems. Here are some mnemonic techniques to get you started.
4. Learn an Instrument
Brain scans on musicians show heightened connectivity between brain regions. Neuroscientists explain that playing a musical instrument is an intense, multi-sensory experience. The association of motor actions with specific sounds and visual patterns leads to the formation of new neural networks.
If you’ve always wanted to learn an instrument, consider brain growth as a motivator to get you started.
5. Non-Dominant Hand Exercises
Using your non-dominant hand to do simple tasks such as brushing your teeth, texting, or stirring your coffee/tea can help you form new neural pathways. These cognitive exercises, also known as “neurobics,” strengthen connectivity between your brain cells. “It’s like having more cell towers in your brain to send messages along. The more cell towers you have, the fewer missed calls,” explains Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, chief of biological psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.
Studies have also shown that non-dominant hand activities improves your emotional health and impulse control. Switch hands with simple tasks to give you brain a workout.
6. Read Fiction
A study conducted over 19 consecutive days by Emory University showed increased and ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after they all read the same novel. Researcher Gregory Berns, noted, “Even though the participants were not actually reading the novel while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity.”
Enhanced brain activity was observed in the region that controls physical sensations and movement systems. Berns explains that reading a novel “can transport you into the body of the protagonist.” This ability to shift into another mental state is a crucial skill for mastering the complex social relationships. Add some novels to your reading list for these extra brain benefits.
7. Expand your Vocabulary
Learning new words activates the brain’s visual and auditory processes (seeing and hearing a word) and memory processing. A small vocabulary is linked with poor cognitive efficiency in children, while an expansive vocabulary is an indicator of student success.
8. Create Artwork
In a journal article titled, “How Art Changes Your Brain,” participants in a 10-week art course (a two hour session, one day per week) showed enhanced connectivity of the brain at a resting state known as the “default mode network” (DMN). The DMN influences mental processes such as introspection, memory, and empathy. Engaging in art also strengthens the neural pathway that controls attention and focus.
Whether it’s creating mosaics, jewelry, pottery, painting, or drawing, the combination of motor and cognitive processing will promote better brain connectivity. Join a local art class; just once a week will help your brain grow.
9. Hit the Dance Floor
Not many of us would think of dancing as a “decision-making process,” but that’s the reason why it’s healthy for your brain. Especially free-style dancing and forms that don’t retrace memorized paths. Researchers compared the effectiveness of cognitive activities in warding off Alzheimer’s and dementia and found that dancing had the greatest effect (76% risk reduction); higher than doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week (47%) and reading (35%).
Dancing increases neural connectivity because it forces you to integrate several brain functions at once —kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional. If you’re dancing with a partner, learning both “Lead” and “Follow” roles will increase your cognitive stimulation.
Studies from NYU showed that sleep helps learning retention with the growth of dendritic spines, the tiny protrusions that connect brain cells and facilitates the passage of information across synapses.
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you’re struggling to get a consistently good sleep, try creating a nightly ritual; going to bed at the same time; drinking some sleep-inducing tea; or making your room as dark as possible.
What is Mind-Body Intelligence?
The latest research and articles in neuro-science, technology and quantum physics proves there is a powerful connection between your mind, body, emotions, beliefs and energy fields. Together, they create a superhighway of inter-connected information and energetic networks.
As Aristotle said, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” Rather than treating the mind and body as separate entities.
Whether you realise it or not, you have an incredible body that can heal itself, a phenomenal brain and a vast and powerful unconscious mind. Pioneering scientists like Dr Candace Pert, Dr Bruce Lipton and Dr David Hamilton have helped to revolutionise our understanding of the link between our minds, bodies and energy systems.
Your body is made up of between 50-70 trillion cells and every cell has approximately 100,000 chemical reactions every second. Why? They are continually responding to new information, your environment and energetic fields. This MindBody Intelligence means you are changing and adapting ALL the time!
Your body will speak to you. It does this every minute of every moment of your life. Learning the art of listening to your body is of no lesser importance as it is to learn to listen to others. Some signals are loud and easy, like the feeling of eating too much food. Although if you have been doing this for years you will be numb to the sensation. Other signals are very subtle and require focused attention and intention.
Movement is unique to everyone. Some people are runners, some people would be wrong to run. This first step is a process of experimentation and exploration. Your particular type of movement will bring you joy and energy. It could be yoga, martial arts, dance, walking, swimming, skipping, gymnastics, strength work…
Candace Pert made a breakthrough discovery that changed the way scientists understand the mind-body connection. She found the opiate receptor, the mechanism by which a class of chemicals (peptides) alters the mind and body. Her research led her to an understanding of the way emotions function as a regulatory system in the body. Since that discovery she’s been focused on developing an AIDS treatment using peptides, first at the University of Georgetown Medical Center, and now as scientific director of RAPID Pharmaceuticals (see www.candacepert.com for more).
Because of her work on emotions, Dr. Pert was featured in the film, What the Bleep Do We Know, and frequently speaks on the role of emotions in the mind-body. Pert’s work helped shift the paradigm from “emotions as neuroscience” to “emotions as biology.” In her new book, Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d, she’s taking the science of feeling a step further to present “emotions as physics.”
As a companion to the article below, an audio interview with Dr. Pert is available:
Emotions, Pert explains, are not simply chemicals in the brain. They are electrochemical signals that affect the chemistry and electricity of every cell in the body. The body’s electrical state is modulated by emotions, changing the world within the body. In turn, Pert finds emotional states affect the world outside the body.
“I’ve always kind of known that the energy you emanate from within attracts the situations and people that you need,” Pert explains. “I’ve always known that but wasn’t quite walking my talk. You would have thought I could have figured this out by now. But it’s really only in the last few months since the book came out that I’ve been able to really live this.”
I asked Pert to explain how emotions have such a powerful effect. “We’re not just little hunks of meat. We’re vibrating like a tuning fork — we send out a vibration to other people. We broadcast and receive. Thus the emotions orchestrate the interactions among all our organs and systems to control that.”
As Pert explained in her earlier book, Molecules of Emotion, neurotransmitters called peptides carry emotional messages. “As our feelings change, this mixture of peptides travels throughout your body and your brain. And they’re literally changing the chemistry of every cell in your body.”
This is all mainstream science, but it doesn’t explain how one person’s emotions can affect another person and the larger world. “You’re still thinking about this as chemistry,” Pert chides. “Of course it is chemistry, but it’s also physics and vibrations.” Neurotransmitters are chemicals, but they carry an electrical charge. The electrical signals in our brains and bodies affect the way cells interact and function.
“You have receptors on every cell in your body. They actually are little mini electrical pumps.” When the receptor is activated by a matching “molecule of emotion” the receptor passes a charge into the cell changing the cell’s electrical frequency as well as its chemistry.
Pert says that just as our individual cells carry an electrical charge, so does the body as a whole. Like an electromagnet generating a field, Pert says that people have a positive charge above their heads and a negative charge below. “So we’re actually sending out various electrical signals – vibrations.”
“We’re all familiar with one kind of vibration: When we talk, we send a vibration through the air that someone else perceives as sound. As I explain in the book, we’re also sending out other kinds of vibrations. It’s a basic law of physics that when you are close to an energy source it has a greater effect and that diminishes as you move further away. But when you are far away there is no effect.”
“It’s not something you can say in 25 words or less. It is a whole new paradigm shift that basically leads you to realize you’re not alone. You are connected to everybody else. Your emotions are key. And you are leaving a wake, changing the world around you in a huge way.”
We need to stay in exquisite listening mode.
To make a difficult task seem easier, smile.
Charles Garfield, the author of Peak Performance, once coached the Russian Olympic weight-lifting team. Garfield noticed that when team members lifted to exhaustion, they would invariably grimace at the painful effort. In an experiment, he encouraged the athletes to smile when they got to that point of exhaustion. This seemingly minor difference enabled them to add 2-3 more reps to their performance.
No matter the task, when you grimace or frown while doing it, you are sending your brain the message, “This is really difficult. I should stop.” The brain then responds by sending stress chemicals into your bloodstream. And this creates a vicious circle: the more stressed you are, the more difficult the task becomes.
Conversely, when you smile, your brain gets the message, “It’s not so bad. I can do this!”
Learning and training in stages
Learners or trainees tend to begin at stage 1 – ‘unconscious incompetence’.
They pass through stage 2 – ‘conscious incompetence’, then through stage 3 – ‘conscious competence’.
And ideally end at stage 4 – ‘unconscious competence’.
Perhaps the simplest illustration of importance of appreciating the need for staged learning is that teachers and trainers can wrongly assume trainees to be at stage 2, and focus effort towards achieving stage 3, when often trainees are still at stage 1. Here the trainer assumes the trainee is aware of the skill existence, nature, relevance, deficiency, and that there will be a benefit from acquiring the new skill. Whereas trainees at stage 1 – unconscious incompetence – have none of these things in place, and will not be able to address achieving conscious competence until they’ve become consciously and fully aware of their own incompetence. This is a fundamental reason for the failure of a lot of training and teaching.
If the awareness of skill and deficiency is low or non-existent – ie., the learner is at the unconscious incompetence stage – the trainee or learner will simply not see the need for learning. It’s essential to establish awareness of a weakness or training need (conscious incompetence) prior to attempting to impart or arrange training or skills necessary to move trainees from stage 2 to 3. People only respond to training when they are aware of their own need for it, and the personal benefit they will derive from achieving it.
conscious competence matrix
|conscious||3 – conscious competence
||2 – conscious incompetence
|unconscious||4 – unconscious competence
||1 – unconscious incompetence
The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you.
At the time of this personal discovery, I was pursuing a double-major in Computer Science and Psychology. Aside from these declared interest, I also had an affinity for (Eastern) Philosophy and Neuroscience. This led to semester course load comprising of two 300-level psychology courses, one 300-level philosophy course, and a graduate-level artificial intelligence course for both biology and computer science majors. This amalgamation of studies quickly tore my brain into a dozen directions, and when I put the pieces back together, I found myself resolute with rational reasons for optimism and for removing from my life the people who liked to complain.
1. “Synapses that fire together wire together.”
Beyond the absolutely incredible fact that your brain is always doing this, consistently shifting and morphing with every thought, even more exciting is the fact that the synapses you’ve most strongly bonded together (by thinking about more frequently) come to represent your default personality: your intelligence, skills, aptitudes, and most easily accessible thoughts(which are more-or-less the source of your conversation skills).
It was simple, every time a moment came my way and brought with it a chance for reactive thought, my two choices were simple, regardless of the flavor you put on them: Love or Fear; Acceptance or Regret; Drift or Desire; Optimism or Pessimism.
So if your mind hadn’t already exploded when you learned you could alter reality with your thoughts, you may want to get ready for it. Because guess what? It’s not just your thoughts that can alter your brain and shift those synapses; the thoughts of those around you can do it as well.
If there’s any ability that truly separates us from our primate ancestors, it’s that of imagination. It’s the root of all art and architecture, of the (fictional) stories that formed religions that now control the lives of billions—even to the point of war over which fairytale is the “right one.”
You see, the thing about all this negativity, of regretting, of attachment to desires, of pointless complaining about impermanent things that will always continue to pass in an existence where time moves forward—the thing is: it all causes stress. When your brain is firing off these synapses of anger, you’re weakening your immune system; you’re raising your blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and a plethora of other negative ailments–as psychologytoday points out below.
By Steven Parton, From CuriousApes.com