June is National “Great Outdoors” Month

Studies have shown that taking a stroll in a natural space can boost your mood more than walking near traffic or in very urban areas. So make time to take a family walk through a park or a forest to lift your spirits – and raise your heart rate. Breathe in the fresh air. Anything goes, from a simple walk in a park or on a nearby beach to a full-on days- long hiking trip.

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Mountain meditation in the Gifford Pinchot Forest

June is Brain Health Awareness Month

Lifestyle has a profound impact on your brain health. What you eat and drink, how much you exercise, how well you sleep, the way you socialize, and how you manage stress are all critically important to your brain health.

Reduce Stress / Practice Gratitude

It’s not uncommon to feel disorganized and forgetful when you’re under a lot of stress. But over the long term, stress may actually change your brain in ways that affect your memory.

Stress affects not only memory and many other brain functions, like mood and anxiety, but also promotes inflammation, which adversely affects heart health, says Jill Goldstein, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Harvard Medical School. See full article here. Thus, stress has been associated with multiple chronic diseases of the brain and heart. In addition, it can affect men and women differently, she says.

From Harvard Health:

Protect yourself from damaging stress

To better cope with stress, consider how you might minimize factors that make it worse. Here are some tips that can help you better manage stress and hopefully prevent some of the damaging effects it could have on your brain.

  • Establish some control over your situation. If stress isn’t predictable, focus on controlling the things that are. “Having a routine is good for development and health,” says Dr. Kerry Ressler, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Predictability combats stress.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Stress can result in sleep difficulties, and the resulting lack of sleep can make stress worse. “Sleep deprivation makes parts of the brain that handle higher-order functions work less well,” says Dr. Ressler. Having healthy sleep habits can help. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding caffeine after noon, and creating a relaxing sleep environment.
  • Get organized. Using strategies to help manage your workload can also reduce stress. For example, each day, create a concrete list of tasks you need to accomplish. This way, your duties won’t seem overwhelming. Making a list also gives you a clear end point so you know when you are done. “Laying tasks out like this helps reduce the feeling that the brain is being bombarded,” he says. It can also help you predict when you are likely to be stressed.
  • Get help if you need it. Reaching out can help you become more resilient and better able to manage stress, which may ultimately protect your brain health. Earlier intervention may reduce disability caused by stress-related complications later on.
  • Change your attitude toward stress. “A life without stress is not only impossible, but also would likely be pretty uninteresting — in fact, a certain degree of stress is helpful for growth,” says Dr. Ressler. So, rather than striving for no stress, strive for healthier responses to stress.

The regions associated with gratitude are part of the neural networks that light up when we socialize and experience pleasure. These regions are also heavily connected to the parts of the brain that control basic emotion regulation, such as heart rate, and are associated with stress relief and thus pain reduction. Feeling grateful and recognizing help from others creates a more relaxed body state and allows the subsequent benefits of lowered stress to wash over us.

From Mindfulness.org and Harvard Health

Let’s Talk about Light (Therapy)

LED light therapy during a Fascia Facial

The direct, intentional application of photon energy (light) initiates beneficial physiologic effects on living tissue by a process called photobiomodulation. Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT), previously called low-level laser (or light) therapy (LLLT) in the literature, has been known for over 40 years for its ability to promote tissue repair, decrease inflammation and produce pain relieving analgesia using a low-power light source, either laser or LED.

The most common clinical applications for PBMT are: on injured sites to promote healing, remodeling, and/or to reduce inflammation; on nerves to induce analgesia (numbing pain relief); on lymph nodes in order to reduce edema and inflammation, and on muscle trigger points (a single one or as many as 15 points) to promote muscle relaxation and to reduce tenderness.

Visit my “Some of m\My Favorite Things” webpage to learn more.

References 
  • Chung, H., et al., The nuts, and bolts of low-level laser (light) therapy. Ann Biomed Eng, 2012. 40(2): p. 516-33.
  • de Freitas, L.F. and M.R. Hamblin, Proposed Mechanisms of Photobiomodulation or Low-Level Light Therapy. IEEE J Sel Top