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Health Hacking

Every once in a while the stars and my cycle and who-knows-what-else align and I feel like I have it all together.  For a few hours anyway.  Then T goes down for a nap like the amicable Dr. Jekyll and wakes up like the maniacal Mr. Hyde and I am left to question my togetherness, life choices, and sheer existence.

The concept of biohacking has simultaneously intrigued and frustrated me for years now.  Though I am not totally on board with all of it (and not for lack of trying, just ask J about the l-theanine incident of 2018….) I would love to figure out a way to live life a la Bradley Copper in Limitless (damn you l-theanine supplements and your false promises of calm focus….).

In my own experience and in observing those I work with, furiously trying to control the body does not usually end well.  It’s a jungle in there, not a computer system.  Like any ecosphere, the body seems to respond better to supportive cultivation rather than forceful coercion.

As American Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron says “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that.”

The following are some health “hacks” you can do whether you have it all together, are falling apart, or your son takes on the personality of a villain in a classic book.  They may not reboot your computer system, but they will support your ecosystem:

-Water:  Drink water first thing in the morning before your feet hit the floor.  Keep it by your bedside and chug, sip, or savor with lemon.  However you consume it, your lubricated muscles and joints will thank you.

-Feed:  Vary your fruits and veggies.  Switch up the ingredients in your to-go salad, grab a different piece of produce at the grocery store, or grow your own in your backyard.  Variety of fruits and veggies, more than any other factor, has been shown to improve the gut microbiome.

-Grow:  Novelty ignites neuroplasticity.  Drive a different route to work, listen to a new song (bonus points for dancing to it), or embark on a trip to foreign lands.  New experiences help keep the brain supple.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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And he looks so innocent…..
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Write a New Story

T loves a good story.  We read 2 books together every evening plus a “short one” (which sometimes turns into several “short ones” depending on how much resolve I have and how late it is…).  It always amazes me how he remembers every line.  If I miss an “and” or a “the” he calls me out.  I guess it’s true what they say: for better or for worse, kids are like sponges.

According to UNICEF,  “Early childhood years from birth through age 8 are formative in terms of intelligence, personality and social behavior. The first two years are particularly crucial”.  Just a little pressure on us parents of young children, eh?

As adults, many of us still harbor some hard-wired beliefs regarding our personal capabilities.  Juvenile sponge-like brains tend to soak up external opinions like truth, even when they may be far from.  The good news is, if your own juvenile sponge-like brain soaked up some less-than-ideal beliefs about your capabilities, you are not doomed for life.  Once thought to be pretty concrete, we now know the brain is more like plastic; changeable throughout the course of ones life.  Remember neuroplasticity?

Like T’s favorite book “Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner”, the stories we’ve been telling ourselves may not always be true.  Just as a dinosaur would probably not cozy up to the dinner table with a family of four humans, you may not be completely clumsy or slow or weak or (insert inaccurate belief) here.  The stories we tell ourselves are not always true.

If some jerky gym teacher didn’t appreciate your sweet kickball skills and you’ve avoided ball sports ever since, it might be time to join a social kickball league.  If your acrobat aunt labeled you as inflexible as the tin man, show her what’s what and sign up for some aerial yoga.  One of the fun things about being a grownup is that we are allowed to decide when and how to move our grownup bodies.  This is one thing I love about working with a mature population: nobody’s mama is forcing them to be there (at least not that I am aware of….).

The tricky thing is, old stories tend to be more sticky.  If you’ve spent 30, or 40, or 50 years of your life telling yourself one thing, questioning that belief can be a little bit of a mind (insert inappropriate four letter word that T will never say here…oh wait, he already said it…now remembering why we pulled him out of that daycare…).

Rearranging the brain is not impossible, but it is certainly not easy.  For more specific info on inviting a bit of neuroplasticity into your life, you can look back through my Mindfulness Monday series.  For an even simpler hack, next time you doubt your capabilities, follow up with the question of “Is this true?”.  You might be pleasantly surprised at your answer.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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So young, so impressionable….the one on the right that is.  Dee’s brain is inexplicably hardwired with the confidence of an alpha-dog-rockstar…..
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Fit and Focused

There are numerous reasons to insert more movement into our daily lives.  While many of these reasons relate to improved physical capacity, exercise has become increasingly linked to better cognitive function.  Is it time to put the whole “meathead” idea to rest?

Not necessarily.  Those who exercise actually do have meatier heads or, more specifically, brains.  Exercise increases the number of brain cells in the hippocampus, known as the memory center of the brain.  Those who are more physically oriented may actually, whether conscious of it or not,  continually increase their cognitive capacity.

Though multitasking does not always behoove us, it might make sense to double up in the case of the hippocampus.  If exercise spurs the brain to create new cells and learning new things helps them become permanent additions, wouldn’t it be interesting to try both at the same time?

The following are a few ideas to gain some mass (in your hippocampus, that is…..):

-Build Your Brain With Balance:  Stability is preferable in many areas (relationships, finances, the foundation of the house you live in…) but you may want to get off-kilter with your exercise.  Choose forms that challenge your balance in a safe way to maximize benefit and minimize risk.  Yoga and Tai Chi are great options, but even standing on one foot while brushing your teeth could do.  Bonus: you may even increase spatial cognition.

-Be a Dancing Hippo(campus):  What better exercise is there than dance to help you work up a sweat and use your memory?  Freestyle is fun, but to get the more brain-boosting benefits try a class that keeps you focused on picking up new choreography.  Might as well cop moves like Justin Timberlake and get a mind like Einstein….

-Age Gracefully with Agility:  My clients know my love for speed ladder drills all too well.  Though they work wonders on a tennis game, agility exercises can up your mental game as well.  Anyone who had ever seen a border collie get distracted while running through an agility course knows these exercises require extreme focus.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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T focused….or practicing Zoolander’s “Blue Steel”…

 

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Feeling Good, Frugally

There is a misconception surrounding the wellness world that true health is only for the elite.  Sure, you could spend a significant amount of your income on fancy workout clothing and juice cleanses, but in my experience it isn’t necessary.  Sometimes the best remedies are the simplest.

Last week we took off to Florida to visit family and get some vitamin D.  While staying in the Palm Beach area, we treated ourselves to some local vegan fare.  From algae to activated charcoal, crazy stuff started making its way into my smoothies.  At first I was delighted to try some new things, but after a few days it began to get old.  I love goji berries and maca powder as much as the next girl, but there is something to be said for getting back to basics.

On our last day there, we decided to take T out to lunch at a place that was decidedly not for kids.  Just as I was getting comfortable with my collard wrap and ostensibly blending in with the West Palm locals, he proceeded to knock his alkaline water off the very white table and onto the pristine bamboo floor.  His organic and local green smoothie soon followed.  As I mopped up both with sustainably sourced paper napkins, I knew the jig was up.  It’s impossible to fake swanky whilst crawling around under a table mopping up green goo.

Though I would never resist if forced aboard a private plane and whisked off to yoga camp, I recognize that simple day to day habits are the true foundation of health .  The following are three ways to indulge your senses without breaking the bank (or even spending a penny!):

-Go Wild: Spending time outdoors is a much needed but often overlooked health habit.  Motivation for a walk through the woods may come more readily in springtime, but with benefits like lower anxiety and increased immunity it may be worthwhile to don that parka and embrace a winter wonderland.

-Wake Up and Stretch the Body: In this post I touched on the benefits of yin style yoga, but any movement will do.  As we sleep, “fuzz” grows between the sliding surfaces of muscles which makes us feel stiff.  Movement, particularly stretching, is a great way to alleviate stiffness and keep fuzz from accumulating.

-Stop and Sniff the Oil: Ever inhale a particular smell and get sent back in time?  Our sense of smell is linked more closely with memory than any other sense.  Inhaling essential oils can generate a potent brain response.  If you are really strapped for cash, simmering a cinnamon stick in water on the stove or inhaling the steam of your favorite herbal tea will do.  Find a scent you like to inspire when you need a pick-me-up.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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T prefers surf and sand to a high class juice bar any day….