YOUR BRAIN ON NEUROACTIVE STEROIDS…. Does it Improve Brain Function?

BRAIN RESEARCH
So what is a neuroactive steroid and what does it have to do with our brain? According to the research at Queensland Brain Institute, one neuroactive steroid is Vitamin D and is active in brain development.

Amazingly, our brain needs its share of Vitamin D to function properly. New evidence indicates that if Vitamin D is deficient in our system it has been linked with abnormalities in the brain. Increasingly, Vitamin D deficiency is being associated with a number of psychiatric conditions such as autistic spectrum, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and cognitive decline.

W. Robert J. Przybelski, a research scientist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health said, “We also know vitamin D activates and deactivates enzymes in the brain and the cerebrospinal fluid that are involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth.” In addition, animal and laboratory studies suggest vitamin D protects neurons and reduces inflammation. There are vitamin D receptors throughout the central nervous system so it is important that there is available vitamin D for those receptors.

HOW MUCH VITAMIN D DO WE NEED?
So how much is enough vitamin D for our body? Experts say 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily—about the amount your body will synthesize from 15 to 30 minutes of sun exposure two to three times a week—is the ideal range for almost all healthy adults. Keep in mind, however, of your skin color, where you live, and how much skin you have exposed to the sun as all of these factors affect how much vitamin D you can produce.

THE BRAIN AND OUR SKIN HEALTH

The big push to prevent skin cancer from too much sun may have come with unintended consequences. The “sunshine vitamin” is synthesized in our skin when we are exposed to direct sunlight, but sun block impedes this process. This could impair brain function because of a deficiency of vitamin D.

Unfortunately, due to decades of professional and media misinformation, the typical American believes they should avoid the midday sun and need to use sunscreen before, and several times during, sun exposure, but research indicates this is wrong.

Let me give you a “prescription” for beneficial use of vitamin D. First some conditions to consider:
While sun exposure is your best source for vitamin D, it’s important to understand that not all sun exposure will allow for vitamin D production. The only wavelength that makes your body produce vitamin D is Ultra Violet B light rays, when they hit exposed skin. It is the Ultra Violet A rays that cause damage to your skin and is a cause of skin cancer.

The Ultra Violet B light rays from the sun must pass through the atmosphere to reach you. This does not occur in the winter for many of us in the U.S. The sun’s rays are also impeded during a fair amount of the year for people living in temperate climates as well.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES TO OPTIMIZE YOUR VITAMIN D BENEFITS
These are Guidelines for Safe and Effective Sun Exposure

The time of day when the sun position is above 50 degrees from the horizon of where you live is the key. To determine sun position for maximum Vitamin D we need to use the following type table to calculate when to be in the sun.

1.The U.S.Navy has the Sun or Moon Altitude Azimuth Table http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/AltAz.php. This table will help you determine the times of day when the sun is above 50 degrees from the horizon in order to get the UVB rays.

2.To use the table simply specify the date, time interval, and location then click on the “Compute Table” button. Look at the altitude list down to the 50 range and those are the times that it is safe and beneficial to be exposed to the sun. This is translated to the date and time of places on the globe. It means, for example, that some people who live in Chicago the UVB rays are not potentially present until March 25, and by September 16th it is not possible to produce any vitamin D from the sun in Chicago. Please understand it is only theoretically possible to get UVB rays during those times. If it happens to be cloudy or raining, the clouds will also block the UVB rays.

3.There is also an App at iTunes which makes the process even easier. You can download a free app called “D Minder” which will make all the calculations for you. This app sets up information about you then it computes the amount of Vitamin D you are getting. It will even tell how long you should stay out in the sun and warn you when the time is up. How good is that? Here is the URL HYPERLINK “https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/d-minder/id518836420?mt=8” https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/d-minder/id518836420?mt=8

REMEMBER
Vitamin D isn’t a frequency of light; it is a vitamin that is produced in the skin upon contact with Ultra Violet B radiation. If you are behind glass or cloudy weather blocks the UVB, then your skin will not be able to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D alone is not enough for people to perform better. There is a complex of vitamins and proteins and other substances needed for the brain, but Vitamin D is one of the important ones.

 

Patt Lind-Kyle

4 Tips for Controlling the Voice Inside Your Head

In case you haven’t noticed, you have a conversation going on inside your head all the time. It never stops. Have you ever checked out this constant self-talk? How do you think it decides to say what it says to you? How much of this streaming chatter is important or even true?

You may have even noticed that it can take opposite sides in a dialogue, especially when you are trying to go to sleep. I think the most disturbing thing about this interior voice(s) is that the conversation tends to be critical and judgmental of others and especially of your self.

I used to be very critical of seeing people talking to themselves on the street or in their cars. I thought they were a bit crazy carrying on a verbal conversation with themselves. But the truth is I have the same busy intense conversation going on inside of me. I just don’t openly show it.

My Crazy Conversation

This type of crazy conversation really showed it self when I was on long silent meditation retreat. It seemed that thoughts came out of nowhere and took on a quality that said, “I am not OK. I am not capable of doing this retreat. I am frightened to be by myself,” and on and on.

This constant inner chatter led to anxiety and panic. There was really no outward problem except this chattering confusion and disturbance in my mind. So I asked my self, “Why do these incessant, meaningless, unnecessary words even exist in me?” Let me use an illustration to answer that question.

Imagine a teakettle that heats up and when it gets to a boiling point the kettle starts to whistle. What creates the whistle is a build up of kinetic energy. When it gets to a boiling point it releases the energy in the form of steam that creates the whistle.

Your thoughts during the day build energy from anxiety, fear, doubt, confusion, desire, judgment, etc. and then they release this energy as mixture of thoughts that flood your mind. The whistle of the chatter is hard to stop.

Neuroscience: The Wandering Mind

Neuroscience research says that negative thoughts and patterns are from a network region of the brain called the default mode network (DMN). The network is automatically engaged when the mind is left to wander without focus or intention.

Also, when the mind is not in an attentive mode underlying physiological processes in the brain begin to take place that are unrelated to any particular thought or sequence of thoughts. In this regard it has been hypothesized that the default mode network is relevant to disorders including Alzheimer’s, Autism and Schizophrenia.

It is important to learn how to quiet the constant mind chatter and minimize the default mode network taking over our thought process.

Here are some tips to keep your mind from wandering, and for finding inner quiet

• Talking to others about what is going on in your interior thought life releases the tension created by all the chatter. (Like letting steam off in the kettle.) However, current brain research also indicates that there is a 30 second rule in brain receptivity that a person can only listen to what you are saying for about 30 seconds and then the working memory can not retain any more information. So, when sharing your thoughts with another remember to take pauses every 30 seconds or so, so that people can actually retain what you are saying to them.

• Set aside a daily time for meditation and for relaxing the body and the mind. This stopping to be quiet can reduce the intensity of the thoughts and begins to create a calm mind. Using my book and CDs is a good place to learn how to do this.

• Make it a practice to ask your self to have the disturbing thoughts released. Simply say to your brain (remember the mind tells the brain what to do), “I let go of this thought. Please release this thought.” As strange as it sounds it will work with a little effort and intention. It is amazing how when thoughts are given full attention on them they will just leave as quickly as they appeared.

• Focus on being mindful of what is going on around you and in you. This means focusing attention on the present moment of whatever you are doing. Be conscious where you are placing your attention and when you notice your mind has wandered bring it back to what you are doing such as washing the dishes, walking the dogs, reading the paper or doing email.

Taking control of your thoughts

You can become more conscious of your chattering voice inside your head. And, you can have control over it. Your inner thought voice is like a roommate that constantly keeps talking at you and won’t shut up. You don’t have to let it control your life. You can say “no” to it. Remember, you are the manager of your mind.

 

The True Secret that can change your life

Happy Holidays to all of you!

For all of us this is usually an intense time of year. I am always fascinated by the effects of this intensity on me and those around me. I am especially interested in what happens to our brain-mind with all the rush and busyness.

The busier our life, the busier and more chaotic becomes our mind. If we do not take moments out to daily quiet our mind, the intensity builds and our mind speeds up and goes even faster and becomes even more intense. Because of this busyness you may notice that you feel more anxious, have trouble focusing, and have difficulty sleeping which may lead to one more glass of wine to calm you down. You may also notice that you become more negative and reactive about situations and people as the mental default system in the brain takes over your mind. (The mental default system is a network of brain regions that is active when the individual is not focused on the outside world. It is like a wandering mind.)

Our brain-mind is amazing. The default network can be activated and we can have the most traumatic and negative events happening in our life and at the same time we can have the wisest and most appreciative experiences when we are centered and calm. How do these two opposites function in us? What researchers tell is that the human brain-mind records these two events in the same area of the brain. But whether you access the positive or negative state depends which quality of mind you choose. This is the true secret that can change our life. The only thing that can change the brain and rewire it is what we choose. Obviously, we want to choose the positive thoughts. That choice for the positive takes a clear mind. It is the choice not to have the wandering default mind that leads us down a negative path. A clear mind is one that is aware when we have many negative thoughts. One practical way to cut through the negative default system is to focus on gratitude and appreciation. Interrupt the negative pattern by saying, “I am thankful for . . . my health, my friends, the blue sky, etc.” – focus gratitude on whatever is happening right now where you are. The positive choice of gratitude will bring us into a state of peace and tranquility.

At this time of year, as there are blessings of merriment, joy and peace for our family, friends, and the world, remember to choose your self.  Take a moment to quiet your self, bring in the beauty of nature and spend time by yourself having a cup a tea and just appreciating all that you are. This self-reflection will bring tranquility to your mind.

So, have a very peace filled and tranquil holiday with yourself and all your loved ones.

Patt

In 2012 I will be giving a workshop on the West Coast in the San Francisco Bay Area February 24, 25, and 26.

On the East Coast I will be giving another workshop at the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge MA on March 25,26,27,28th. See my website for more information on this four day workshop.

San Francisco Bay Area Workshop Description:
As life gets more frantic, demanding and chaotic it impacts us at a deeper level than we realize.  Our challenge is to stop and center our self in order to find an inner mental program that will keep us content and healthy. It is this stopping and looking within that is the intent of this workshop.
In the workshop we will focus on a deep indulging of our self to be more inner and learn to navigate and recharge our life.  We will do this through inner practices that will train the mind and rewire the brain.

Specifically in this workshop you will learn how to:
·      Use the brain frequencies to awaken our consciousness by identifying the voice in our head and what it is really saying to you.
·      Learn skills to increase your energy by managing your mind and opening your heart.
·      Identify the four basic things you cannot change but want to change and how that can reduce stress.
·      Find and remove the fundamental obstacle that has determined the course of your life so that you can discover your true purpose in life.

To get more information about attending this workshop contact Anne Griswold in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her number is 408-887-8404. Her email is: anneg9989@aol.com.

Patt Lind-Kyle Prepare to Die - Awakening process

Women: Are you proud to be overwhelmed?

Patt was recently mentioned in this article in Women’s Health at MSNBC.com – check it out to find some great tips on how to manage stress from Patt and other experts in her field:

When you think about it, stress is a mysterious thing: You can’t see it or touch it, but you definitely know it’s there. And its enigmatic nature just might be preventing us from fully realizing the damage stress can do to our minds, bodies, and spirits. Read more…

Is stress an addiction of the brain?

Is stress an addiction of the brain? by Patt Lind-Kyle, MA

Lately, I have become fascinated with the notion that stress is a habit. Stress is addictive as we become dependent on it and we feel lost when it goes away. We find some quiet and peace in our lives and then quickly turn on a violent movie, talk on the phone, text or email someone or watch the news or feel pressured in some demanding circumstance. Do we like stress that much? Is our intention to have more mental or emotional strain? Buddha calls this addiction suffering and we call it stress. He also said, “What I teach is that there is suffering and there is an end to suffering.”

To really know how to end this addiction to stress is impossible if we hold tight to the physical and emotional tension and pain without even realizing it. More importantly we do not know how to identify stress in order to reduce or change our sources of the stress. Thus, our stressful reactions in our brain–mind, and body can create a negative loop that keeps repeating itself. There are two ways the brain responds to our reactions. One is via the nervous system (electrical system) and two is via the endocrine system (our chemical system). Every reaction such as a thought, emotion, perception and sensation are all run by this electro-chemical system.

As we wear our habits like gloves they are what and who we are and they become our electro-chemical addiction. We have an arsenal of neuro-chemicals in our brain and body such as dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA, and serotonin. These chemicals in the neuronal pathways have been reinforced by our repetitive behavior, which keeps us “addicted” to the same habitual pattern. For example, Peter has a regular routine, which reinforces his sense of orderliness. He gets up meditates, makes his coffee, reads the paper, has his exercise routine, showers etc. This pattern of chemical and electrical impulses gives Peter great comfort and familiarity. This pleasurable situation of routine triggers Peter’s brain to produce the chemical neurotransmitter dopamine that activates the brain’s reward center of pleasure.

One summer Peter’s sister stayed with him for a month. She and her family took over the house with her kids toys spread everywhere and with new activities, making the baby’s food and lots of screams and chatter. What happened to Peter’s brain electro-chemical system when the sense of his order is “messed up?” At first Peter’s reaction to the change triggered the brain to release emergency chemicals to prepare for the defense of his orderly system. The evolutionary flight and fight chemical of cortisol and adrenaline quickly flowed into his blood stream triggering the emotional responses of fear, anger and anxiety. These addictive substances kept him locked into automatic emotional behaviors. These behaviors kept him asleep to what was actually happening to him.

Fortunately, Peter woke up in time. He was present to and aware of what was going on inside of himself. He knew he had to make a more healthy choice of responses and chose to break the stressful addictive automatic pattern. Peter had practiced self-reflection through daily meditation and the use of his EFT training to break the negative pattern of automatic thoughts. Both of these practices relax the mind-brain, and body which in turn switches off the cortisol/adrenaline response. When Peter entered into the relaxation of these practices dopamine was released and the brain produced an inner feeling of well being.

Our brain is begging us for a chance to recover from our addiction to stress. Training our mind is a way to release our automatic repeating stress patterns. The practice of mind training and Emotional Freedom Technique (http://www.eftuniverse.com/) is a major contributor to the brain’s evolutionary process. It is a way to shift our inner world from conflicted addiction devastation within ourselves to compassion for our self and others.

Patt Lind-Kyle holds an MA in East/West Psychology and a BS in Biological Sciences. She is a therapist, consultant and author. She is also a co-founder of Lind & Kyle Consultants, an executive development company that applies neuro-monitoring tools for stress management, health, and peak performance. Her research, writing, and teaching in the mind/brain field center on using an EEG brainwave monitoring system to help individuals maximize their brain-mind potentials.

Patt is the author of the new book Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain: Applying the Exciting New Science of Brain Synchrony for Creativity, Peace and Presence. (Energy Psychology Press, 2009) She also has created a companion set of practice CDs that accompany the book by the same title. Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain won the Independent Publishers gold medal award in the Health/Wellness category for 2010. She has written a chapter in Audacious Aging: “Building Community from the Inside Out” (Elite Books, 2009), and is also the author of When Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up (SwanRaven, 1994, BookSurge, 2008).

Face it, Embrace it, Erase it and Emotional Freedom Technique: Two tools for Healing and Rewiring our Emotions

Emotions cannot be permanent.  That’s why they are called “emotions” the word comes from “motion,” movement.  They move, hence, they are “emotions.” From one to another you continually change. – Osho

When I returned from a three-month silent meditation retreat my stepson said to me “Where did all your anger go?”  First of all, I was amazed he recognized my emotional change and secondly, I began to question what happens to the mind/ brain when stressful emotional reactions are regulated in some way and then seem to disappear. This question has motivated my passion and research for the past ten years.

Brain research studies have shown that people who meditate generally do not react to life situations as readily as when compared with those who do not meditate. These studies have shown in practicing meditators that neuronal connections are activated in positive rather than emotionally fearful or negative areas of the brain. Neuro-scientists call the brain’s ability to change in this way neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity enables our brains to be flexible and produces these changes in the brain through having novel experiences and a practice of repetition. Most of us do not do long retreats or stay in silence for months on end, but we are searching for “tips” to reduce stress and gain emotional balance in our lives.  I have found two “tips” that can easily release old emotional patterns and literally rewire the brain. The first tip is a technique called “Fact it, Embrace it, Erase it “(FEE) that I developed in my therapy practice. The second tip is called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) that is used by many health professionals. These two techniques move hand-in-hand to remove old negative emotional patterns and provides a combined methodology to create new and positive patterns that both heal and rewire the brain.

One of my clients, Julie, was constantly driven by fear, anger and hurt. She remembered being judged, and ridiculed unmercifully by her father. These fear, hurt and anger responses were “hard wired” into her neuronal emotional memory bank to be repeated over and over again in response to life situations. She had struggled for years through many forms of therapy with poor results to heal this deep pattern. When she came to me she did not want to live in this emotional turmoil anymore.  Our strategy was to change the neuronal pathways that kept these emotional patterns going through the rewiring technique I call, Face it, Embrace it and Erase it. To face her situation I had her repeat her story about her relationship with her father and embrace it until her sensory body responses, mental images and thought pattern had reduced the emotional charge. This reduction of emotional response happened after several repetitions of her story feeling state. I had her use a scale of 1 to 10 to gauge her emotions after each repetition. As she repeated each time the feelings and sensations in her body the emotional charge became less and less and finally was no longer connected to the story. Usually a person will say the emotional reaction to the story is at 0 to 3 on the scale. Then, using a visualization meditation that is part of the technique, she found a new story that she discovered in order to establish new neuronal pathways. At this point I taught Julie the EFT method. The EFT technique uses repeated tapping on specific areas of the body while repeating new affirming thoughts. The pattern of tapping that EFT uses reinforces new neuronal pathways and is key to the rewiring process of the brain.

To face, embrace and then erase old memory patterns is a beginning step of the brain to unwire these neuronal patterns and become wired into new neuronal pathways. To create a new story provides a new novel pattern for the brain to connect to and amplify through repetition. Changing the function and structure of the brain circuitry takes both practice and repetition time.  I gave Julie a twenty-one day practice of “ tapping in” her new sensory feelings while imagining and repeating to herself the new story we had crafted together for her life.

All of us have these negative repeating emotional patterns that create stress and unhappiness that we want and need to clear emotionally. Neuro-scientist say, “The mind is what the brain does.” It is our mind through our intentions and what we put our attention on that can help us be more aware and receptive to making emotional changes for a healthier and happier life. These two tools together, FEE and EFT, provide a positive and practical method to heal our minds and rewire our brains.

(Read the complete description of the FEE technique in my book, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain and go to EFT Universe for the EFT process.)

Patt Lind-Kyle holds an MA in East/West Psychology and a BS in Biological Sciences. She is a therapist, consultant and author. She is also a co-founder of Lind & Kyle Consultants, an executive development company that applies neuro-monitoring tools for stress management, health, and peak performance. Her research, writing, and teaching in the mind/brain field center on using an EEG brainwave monitoring system to help individuals maximize their brain-mind potentials.

Patt is the author of the new book Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain: Applying the Exciting New Science of Brain Synchrony for Creativity, Peace and Happiness. (Energy Psychology Press, 2009) She also has created a companion set of practice CDs that accompany the book by the same title. Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain won the Independent Publishers gold medal award in the Health/Wellness category for 2010. She has written a chapter in Audacious Aging: “Building Community from the Inside Out” (Elite Books, 2009), and is also the author of When Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up (SwanRaven, 1994, BookSurge, 2008).

Attention readers on or near the East Coast USA: Patt will be at Kripalu Center in MA for Yoga and Health for a 3-day workshop March 27-30th, 2011.  If you have read Patt’s book, this will be a great opportunity to integrate the information through personal practice.  Stay tuned to Patt’s Calendar for details or visit http://www.kripalu.org/

Remember the importance of a good, long YAWN

Remember the importance of a good, long YAWN

(this article is re-printed from Bottom Line’s Daily Health News)

3-SECOND ENERGY BOOST

Yawning is something we mostly stifle — after all, it’s embarrassing to yawn in the face of another as if to announce that you didn’t get enough sleep or, worse, that you’re bored. That’s a shame — because researchers have discovered that the humble yawn is a major contributor to mental alertness… keeps our brains properly cooled (literally)… and helps us to shift from one activity to another, even to adjust from one time zone to another. They recommend using yawning consciously as a tool to make life better. For example, yawn soon after awakening to rev up your brain for the day or at night to help calm yourself and promote sleep.

THE SCIENCE OF THE YAWN

Most people believe that we yawn to bring oxygen from the air into the body, but that’s wrong, says psychotherapist Patt Lind-Kyle, MA, the author of Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. She calls yawning an “exercise for the brain” based on the growing number of studies that have found that it facilitates mental efficiency. Yawning does its magic by literally forcing extra blood directly to the brain. When you yawn, your facial muscles broadly contract and then relax, and this action pushes oxygen-rich blood into the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the location of the “executive function” that covers planning, organization, decision-making, personality expression and many other crucial activities.

The yawn also sends blood to stimulate an area called the precuneus, which is involved in consciousness along with memory and motor coordination. As far as serving to cool the brain, a 2007 study at State University of New York-Albany found that performing difficult mental tasks, such as processing lots of information, actually increases brain temperature. Though we’re all familiar with the way ongoing mental labor can trigger yawning, it’s not because it is tiring. Again, the yawn sends blood to the brain to curtail its rising temperature, which is how it helps to maintain mental efficiency. Interestingly, both yawning and body thermoregulation seem to be controlled by the same area of the brain, the hypothalamus.

PUTTING YOUR YAWNS TO WORK

Okay, so now we know that yawning can increase our efficiency in a number of areas… how can we take better advantage of this? Just decide to yawn and then do it — and I mean do a real face-stretcher! I’ll tell you how in a moment, but first here are some situations in which Lind-Kyle suggests adding a yawn…

  • To stimulate better thinking. When you are preparing for an   exam, a presentation or an important conversation, you can enhance your performance by yawning several times first. During an exam, don’t be shy about yawning when you find yourself losing focus or starting to stumble in your thoughts — it will help.
  • To reduce jet lag and reset energy levels. At 20 weeks gestation, fetuses start to develop a wake/sleep pattern and as part of the process, they yawn… a lot. Lind-Kyle says that we can consciously use yawning to help reset our wake/sleep patterns, including when suffering jet lag. To start, yawn five times or so as soon as you get off the airplane. When you’ve experienced how well this refreshes you, Lind-Kyle says you may soon begin to do it intuitively — you’ll find yourself yawning whenever you feel yourself starting to drag. She says that yawning can be used in this manner to help you acclimate to high altitudes and to reset your energy level as you switch from one activity to another, such as from sleep to wakefulness.
  • To improve your mood… and, possibly even your relationships. Yawning is associated with increased levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter released from the hypothalamus that is associated with pleasure, motivation and sociability. Lind-Kyle says that when two people yawn together, it can help diminish tension in the relationship… and fortunately, yawning is highly contagious, so it’s easy for both of you to get in on the act. If nothing else, a shared yawning session should make for a few ice-breaking laughs.
  • For relaxation. Curiously, although yawning serves to stimulate the brain, a deep yawn and wide stretch also relax the body. Lind-Kyle, who leads meditation classes, always starts with a healthy yawn, which she says gets people relaxed quickly. She said that bringing on a few deep yawns at bedtime may help you get to sleep.

HOW TO BRING ON A YAWN

We think of yawns as automatic, but it’s surprisingly easy to make yourself yawn…

  • Focus thoughts on yawning. Yawns are not only contagious from person to person — even thinking about a yawn can help trigger one, says Lind-Kyle. Close your eyes and picture a yawn, or say the word “yawn” repeatedly to encourage one.
  • Fake a yawn… or two… or three until a real one sets in. Lind-Kyle says she generally gets a real yawn after one or two fakes, but however long it takes, stick with it — it will happen.
  • Consciously slow your breathing. The decreased oxygen may help trigger a yawn — flaring your nostrils as you breathe in may make this happen faster.
  • And finally, the best yawn is one you fully experience, Lind-Kyle says. So go all the way — open your mouth wide, scrunch your face fully, and take a deep, full breath. Just be ready to explain yourself if you’re in company!

Six Tips for your Brain in a Digital World

SIX TIPS FOR YOUR BRAIN IN A DIGITAL WORLD

All our minds seem to be whirling in an electronic dance like the whirling dervishes of years past. In airports people are talking on cell phones, answering emails, texting, computers open on their laps to Facebook and they are watching the overhead CNN report and doing this all at once.  The same thing occurs in schools, in offices, on the streets and in cars.  It doesn’t seem scary for us to talk on the phone or text while driving a car. In our homes the tech life of computer games and social networking are taking over the minds of our children as they live their life in electronic and virtual realities often not wanting to eat, go to school or relate to us as their parents (who may be doing the same things as the kids).

Our digital age is changing our culture, reshaping our minds and habituating our interests. This digitized world we live in is beginning to consume our time, our energy and our social life. It is like an overpowering compulsiveness that is taking over the world. I have read reports that our digitized life is yet another addiction that has become a world wide epidemic.  For most of us it certainly is a growing experience that we have a dedication to, obsession with, infatuation with, passion for, love of, and yes, enslavement to our gadgets.  Call it what you will it is a craving, a yearning, a desire, and a hunger for something in order to feel satisfied; in order to be happy. The neruoscientist Jonah Lehrer coined the term “information craving.”  Our digital compulsions and cravings are just another dopamine high. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that gives us the reward of pleasure. Dopamine changes our mood, our feelings and increases our energy. Like any addiction we get hooked on the stimulus of an electronic world and our dopamine brain wants more and more of it. The more we stimulate with these digital gadgets the more we deplete the dopamine and so the more we try to stimulate ourselves with them to get its high.

The Digital Environment and the Brain’s Social Network

This digital environment would not be a problem if our brain had a strong enough self-regulating system to adjust to this intense digital stimulation. The self-regulating circuits in our brain are the newest, most easily tired and overwhelmed areas of the brain. Self-regulation is in the prefrontal cortex of our forehead area.  The prefrontal cortex of the brain has only one neural circuit for our inhibiting process for self-regulating our behavior and this inhibitor becomes diminished when it is over used. In today’s digital environment the prefrontal cortex is not only over used, it easily becomes depleted of energy to function properly.

Virtual conventions via computer now bring people together from all over the world who have played computer games with each other for years. This is a birth of a new social network to connect people together digitally after only knowing each other’s Avatar name in cyber space. The brain also has its own social network with all its 40 quadrillion neural networks.  What is important about the brain’s social network is that it needs to have people socialize in person, face to face, not by email, texting, Skype or through other virtual means. The brain uses face-to-face social interactions and social connections as a positive reward to us that brings energy, balance and flow to our lives. This system of face-to-face connection with people is essential for our survival.  If the brain does not have in the flesh, face to face social connections you will increasingly feel lonely as it craves the connection to others. The brain needs the activation of our mirror neurons from other people to stimulate our brain activity. Not getting that mirroring connection from others it will substitute more and more digital substitutes like any addiction. To find this connection the brain will use similar circuitry to when we crave sugary foods, alcohol and other drugs.

The Multi Tasking Challenge of Our Digital Tech Life

Consider the young man, Josh. He is a freshman in college.  He is highly motivated to be a success in his college career.  With that in mind his family is paying for his education at a prestigious school. Going into his freshman year they bought him the school staple of digital gadgets. They got him a new HD TV, an iPhone, an iPod and a 27 inch iMac computer.  Digital tech life is normal for Josh and his schoolmates. Josh expects to have the latest and best digital gadgets. When I went to college I had a pen, paper and books in my backpack.  With all this digital gear we would expect Josh to be more effective and efficient at his studies. Like most students he multi tasks. He watches TV, works at his Mac writing a report, texts friends, checks email and Facebook and has earphones on listening to music on his iPod. All good, yes? Not really. A survey of students who multi tasked the most and the least were evaluated by University of Stanford professors Nass and Wagner. They found in their study that students who spent less time reading e-mail, surfing the net, talking on the phone and watching television performed best.  These students were much better at ignoring irrelevant information, organizing information into memory and were able to quickly swift from one thing to another. It is not a big jump to recognize that the same thing happens to all of us. Too much multi tasking jumbles us up and makes us tired and less effective in the same way as what the researchers found with students.

With the increase of this digital tech life shift neuroscientists have discovered the impact on our brain.  Neuroscientists have found that our brain automatically changes its structure and its function through repetitive thoughts and experiences. They call this process neuroplasticity. The brain can be molded and changed constantly by what we put our intention on. This is great for Josh who has the dream and intention of becoming a successful student and a success in life. However, as we delve deeper into the brain’s capacity to function effectively we find that it has some unexpected surprises.  The big surprise for Josh and for all of us in this fast paced digital world is that the brain can’t handle the multiple activity of watching TV, texting, talking on the phone and Googling on the computer while reading a book or Kindle all at the same time.

For Josh to be successful he needs to know how to use the brain’s hardware and the mind’s software. Knowing how our prefrontal cortex works will challenge his digital multi tasking. More importantly we all need to learn to control our digital addiction to multi tasking. The area in the prefrontal cortex of the brain (our forehead) is the newest evolutionary part of the brain that holds memory, creates our understanding, makes decisions, recalls information, inhibits our emotions and much more. It is a very small area and represents only 4 % of the brain. Since it is our emotional inhibiting system metabolically it needs oxygen, nutrients and glucose to make it work successfully and efficiently. When this part of our brain gets over loaded it begins to shut down. As this part of the brain gets tired and stressed we increasingly become inefficient and ineffective in whatever we are doing. The brain wants relaxation and rest from activity. It wants fresh air for oxygen, a good meal to bring up the glucose and exercise to release any toxins. The secret to success for this area of the brain is to prioritize and do one thing at a time! Here are some principles and tips to increase our effectiveness and reduce our digital addictions:

Six Tips to Support the Brain in Your Digital Life

Prioritize and do one thing at a time and group items together to follow an order of the day
The brain blossoms and is efficient, remembers and understands more clearly when there is no distraction. Too many things going on all at once creates fatigue in the brain very quickly. On the other hand the brain grows when you put focused attention on one thing at a time. If you are working at the computer turn all your other digital “stuff” off. The prefrontal cortex is organized to prioritize and operate in sequence with the least distractions. At the top of your priority list put the item that will take the most focus and concentration from you to get it done. Now. Let me add one radical priority. Not only don’t text and drive, don’t talk on the phone while driving. I know the argument. You talk to passengers if they drive with you. Research shows that there is a big difference between phone talking and live passenger talking in driving safety awareness. I want to take a step further and suggest that when driving alone turn off the radio. Focus on the awareness of the sensations of being in the car – hands on the steering wheel, aware of your body in the seat, etc. –  looking consciously at what is going on outside around you. Your brain will love this. Remember: one thing at a time of what is really the priority of what you are doing!

Do Critical important tasks in the morning like reports, planning, taxes, class reports, etc. and more repetitive, less thought focusing tasks like emails in the afternoon
Because of the sleep time re-energizing of the brain, mornings are the most productive activity time and this is when you schedule important mental work. The morning is the prefrontal cortex’s most effective activity time. This part of the brain grows tired by the afternoon and it loses energy, becomes easily distracted, falls into moods and becomes temperamental. The capacity of the prefrontal cortex is not large and it therefore can only handle no more that three items in the morning segment of time that you can be at work on.

Take a physical activity break every hour when you are working on the computer, phone or other digital gadgets
If you work at your computer to crunch numbers, Google for research, surf the net for airfare, text on your phone or scan Facebook set a timer for an hour stop what you are doing and get up and move around, do some stretching, take the dogs outside, smell the flowers and take in the natural world around you. Build into your schedule at least three times a week to exercise an hour or more. Walk, do yoga, run, work out at the club, do what you enjoy, but do it! When you are exercising don’t plug in your mp3 and listen to podcasts or music. Focus, concentrate on your body. Feel it, listen to it as this conscious focus on the body nourishes and energizes the brain. The brain needs this constant physical refreshment away from our digital environments.

Have daily social interaction and connection face to face with family and friends
The best diet for your brain would be to focus on fewer mental issues in a given day and increase the daily serving of social interaction with others and connection with the natural world. No phone calls, iChat or texting to connect with others all the time. Go to lunch, take a walk with a partner or friends, play ball with your kids, read stories to each other and talk about them. Come on, you know all the things that you miss doing with others. Just do it!

Consciously do some kind of relaxation, meditation or mental training everyday
In the morning before you get going with the day do at least 20 minutes of mental training, and another 20 minutes before you go to sleep. Use my Companion Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain CDs to guide you into relaxation and more inner mental awareness. Mental relaxation and inner silence grows the prefrontal cortex and increases your capacity to be creative and productive. There are loads of research to support this.

Do a digital fast one day a week.

My husband and I take Saturday as our digital fast day. We turn off our computers, the iPhones and don’t touch email or Facebook. I know, I know the emails pile up if you don’t look at them several times a day. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to deal with them after taking a day off. Instead of using our Kindle we will read a regular book. Instead of typing we will write with pen and paper. Making this change makes the brain more flexible and more able to do creative work. Fasting breaks the habituation patterns that we get into so easily. More importantly it will change your perception of what you are doing with people and situations around you.

It is time we all make an effort to understand the impact the new digital technologies have on us and on our brains. It is time to understand how to more effectively work with them and not have them control our lives. We need to continually train our minds in order to help us develop a calm, peaceful, and stable environment inside ourselves and with people around us.  If you make the effort to work with the brain, the brain will reward you with satisfaction, pleasure and happiness and these digital gadgets will become our servants instead of masters who enslave us.

New video: The importance of Attention

In this video from Patt’s recent presentation at the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City, Patt emphasizes the importance of attention by telling a powerful story.

How yawning can positively affect the brain and your life

BLOG #1: YAWNING
Hi Everyone,
Well, this is my first blog and it combines Mental tools and tips and Brain-Mind research. My intention is to get a blog to you each week and provide insights, inspiration, practical tools, tips and research on the brain-mind. I am absolutely fascinated by the brain-mind research and my understanding continues to grow since writing my book, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. Besides the brain-mind information I will also let you know about tele seminars, workshops in your area or appearances at conferences and public presentations that I will be doing. For example, all of you in the New Mexico area I will be doing a weekend workshop in Santa Fe February 26-27. You can contact Elisa Bongiovanni for more information. 505-988-8839. Do check regularly the website under “Patt’s Events” for what I am doing. So, now take three yawns and notice what happens in your body and your mind.
Many people believe that yawning in the presence of others is disrespectful.  Thus, we cover the yawn by placing our hand over our mouth.  In our society when you yawn it is thought of as a sign of boredom. But this simply is not true. Recently, extensive research about yawning has been studied. Here are some examples of the benefits of yawning from the research.
Sara felt the time crunch as she had lots of details to take care and not enough time to do them.  She had taken on the leadership role to organize a charity musical event for blind children.  She knew she had taken on too much but her determination kept her on track in these final moments. In the morning as Sara sat at her desk shifting through all the things to do she observed herself yawning. In fact, she yawned quite a few times.  She thought it strange as she had a good nights sleep. She wondered why she was yawning.  After several yawns she noticed a mental clarity, she was more relaxed and more alert which helped her be efficient with her time to finalize the details of the event.
Josh had been lying in bed in a coma for two weeks after his accident. His mother patiently came to the hospital to see him every day. This day as she came into his room she noticed him move and make some sounds.  And then suddenly Josh yawned several times even before he opened his eyes.  As he opened his eyes and spoke she was overjoyed and knew that he was back to our world and would be getting well.  Josh’s yawning continued over several days, she recalled. She kept wondering why he yawned as he came out of a coma.?
Janet and Ray had a disagreement that lasted all week.  Each time they came home from work they would rekindle the argument. Finally, after carrying the anger and tension around all week they were able to talk honestly about their concerns and feelings. After the clarity of their talk they felt closer.  As they sat back on the sofa Janet began to yawn and then Ray began to yawn as if it were “contagious.” They both laughed and felt so good to be relaxed and at ease with one another again.
These antidotes about yawning point to some interesting research about how yawing effects our brains. The researchers at the institute of Neurology in London found that yawning stimulates a unique neural activity in the area of the brain called the precuneus.  The precuneus plays a major role in being more conscious, self-reflection, aids in relaxation, alertness, and good memory. Thus, when the we take in a deep breath such as a yogic breath in meditation the precuneus is a stimulated, makes us more alert and that is why we feel sense of deeper self awareness.
Tip number one: Yawn as you meditate several times (particularly as you begin the session) because it brings a deep relaxation and reduces stress. You will notice as you yawn that you will have more mental efficiency. The benefit is that it promotes the maintenance of vigilance and alertness just as Sara yawned and needed her mind to be efficient in her time crunch.
Brain researcher Andrew Gallup at State University of New York at Albany says that yawning promotes and maintains mental efficiency by keeping brain temperature in homeostasis. Therefore, yawning helps cool down this part of the over active brain as it regulates the temperature and metabolism of the brain. His research found that yawning increases when people are engaged in difficult mental tasks. Yawning helps contract the facial muscles during a yawn which forces blood through cerebral blood vessels to the brain, which may function to increase alertness. Thus, yawning may reduce sleep as it reflects a mechanism that maintains attention. Yawning also increases when people are in a change from inactivity to activity and vice versa.
Tip number two: When you are focused intensely on a project and need to stay alert and conscious take a moment to yawn every 20 minutes or so, and then sit back and relax. Concentrated activity takes a lot of energy to stay conscious. Our yawns are primarily located ln the new evolutionary part of the brain called the prefrontal lobe. It is this part of the brain that easily gets stressed and fatigued.
I imagine Josh was resetting his brain with his yawns after awakening from his coma. This notion is supported from the research that Florenza Giganti has done at the University of Florence, Florence, Italy.  Yawning helps regulate the circadian rhythms of newborns and also people that come out of a coma or a late-night partygoer. Yawning resets the brain’s internal clock. Yawning appears to arouse a neuromuscular rewiring. As in a coma there is a disturbance in the brain stem. Yawning then may rewire the brain to create a harmonious progress in the brain stem.
Tip number three: Remember when you are traveling by plane and changing time zones yawn to reset your circadian rhythms. Yawning will help to reset your body from jet lag.
Janet and Ray began to feel more connected and less stressed and as they yawned they stimulated dopamine, which activates oxytocin the pleasure and relationship bonding chemicals. The more these chemicals are activated the frequency of yawning increases.  Yawning is also contagious as it triggers the mirror neurons that literally mirror another persons behavior or emotional state. People who are on antidepressents may experience yawning more often especially in the first three months of taking the SSR’s.  So as I say, “individuals that yawn together stay together.”
Tip number four: In stressful relationships situations simply stop the conversation and yawn together several times. If nothing else you may get a few laughs with each other. Remember, laughter is pretty close to yawning!
If you have any questions or comments about yawning lets have a dialogue.

BLOG #1: YAWNING

Hi Everyone,

Well, this is my first blog and it combines mental tools and tips and brain-mind research. My intention is to get a blog to you each week and provide insights, inspiration, practical tools, tips and research on the brain-mind. I am absolutely fascinated by the brain-mind research and my understanding continues to grow since writing my book, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. Besides the brain-mind information, I will also let you know about tele seminars, workshops in your area and/or appearances at conferences and public presentations that I will be doing.

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