Archive for July, 2009

De-Stressing Your Brain: A Meditation Primer

This gorgeous "Zen" image by gryhnd on Stock.XchngIn my first post on meditation this week, I promised a follow up with recommended  resources, common types of meditation and what to expect in a beginning meditation practice. That may be a bit of an ambitious agenda for one post, but let’s get started and see how much ground we can cover!

Since meditation has many different forms, it isn’t easy to pin down into a simple definition.  But for our purposes of reducing stress and training the brain to be stronger and healthier,  I’ll define it as a disciplined practice of relaxed yet focused awareness.  One of my teachers referred to the state as “effortless concentration” and I found that the concept described it perfectly!

Types of Meditation

Buddhist Meditations are probably the best known forms of meditation in the US.   Qualified instruction is readily available in most parts of the country, and there are some excellent CD’s and even online courses available.   There are many different practices within Bhuddhist traditions, but the basics focus on developing a disciplined, mindful state of awareness,  compassion and empathy towards yourself and others.  They often use neutral concepts like your  breath, a set of beads, a series of chanted words, or even the motion of walking as a focus point.  The non-denominational, neutral focus makes these meditations are appropriate for everyone, regardless of their spiritual orientation.

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July 30, 2009 at 5:42 pm Leave a comment

Meditation: Breathe, and De-Stress Your Brain

Image from Nepal - by nicolatte on Stock.XchngMeditation is a pretty amazing tool for brain health. It’s great for reducing and  reversing the harmful effects of stress on the brain, and it’s even been shown to increase brain size. (How seriously cool is that?)  Meditation is inexpensive, simple, and can be done by anyone, anywhere, without any special props.

So why aren’t more people doing it?
Well…

Some people are a wee bit afraid of meditation.

It’s true. And honestly, I don’t  blame them!
Not that meditation itself is scary (because it isn’t) but some of the louder proponents of meditation make  it sound  all exotic and New Agey, as if it’s always part of some foreign religion or cult.

They associate it with out of body experiences, contacting spirit guides, or other sometimes really wacky ideas (one popular group promotes that you can meditate your way to levitation!) – these sorts of things concern those of us who are more mainstream and conventional, and make us question the sanity of the “meditators”.

But that sense of exotic, spiritual “strangeness” doesn’t come from basic meditation techniques, but rather from how  the particular practices are shaped, and the intent behind them.

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July 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

5 Common Myths about Age & Your Brain

Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.  Myth.  Yes, really! Sometimes I’m surprised by just how stubborn we can be about our mis-understandings of the human brain.

Below are five of the most common myths about age and the brain, along with how discoveries in neuroscience have put them in the same category as tales of Big Foot and Nessie!

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July 23, 2009 at 5:46 pm Leave a comment

Journal Your Way To A Better Memory

image Writing a journal is an obvious  way of capturing memories so they aren’t forgotten,  but did you know that keeping a journal or diary might improve your memory itself?

The very act of writing down your daily experiences helps to transfer them from short term to long term memory – and each time you go back over the material,  and recall the experience, you strengthen the pathways that help you to access those memories.

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July 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm Leave a comment

The Power of Knowing: Genetic Tests For Alzheimer’s Risks

If you could take a blood test to find out how likely you are to develop DNA Image from U.S. Department of Energy Genome Programs  http://genomics.energy.gov Alzheimer’s, would you take it?

Would the benefits of knowing  help you to prepare for the possibility, or would it stress and perhaps depress you?

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July 16, 2009 at 2:41 pm Leave a comment

Language Skills And Alzheimer’s: More From The Nun Study

image Our favorite nuns, the School Sisters of Notre Dame,  have been all over the news again lately, this time because of a study recently released by Johns Hopkins.

First, a little background…

In 1996,  research on the Sisters revealed that those  nuns who had more complex language skills in their 20’s had lower rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as they aged.   By analyzing essays the nuns had written when they joined the convent, researcher’s analyzed their early comfort and ability with language.   Comparing those language scores based on their youth with their cognitive function as aging adults revealed  something interesting: the nuns with higher language scores as young adults had a a lower risk of Alzheimer’s as they aged. (more…)

July 14, 2009 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

Staying Hydrated: Are You Getting Enough H2O?

Staying Hydrated for Brain Health:  Image by brokenarts on Stock.XchngIt’s a scorcher of a summer here in my home state of Texas, with triple digit  temperatures being common so far this year.   And when heat hits, hydration becomes more of  an issue for brain function.

The brain is made up of more than 65% water, and when we get even slightly dehydrated, cognitive function suffers.   The brain cells actually lose volume, and the signals don’t travel as well through the neurons, affecting our attention, focus, short term memory, and other functions.  Headaches are common, and the reduction in brain volume increases the risk of concussion should we have the bad luck to take a tumble while less than adequately hydrated.

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July 9, 2009 at 10:33 am 1 comment

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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