Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

SEEDS of a Healthy Brain; Work of Dr. John Arden – Post 4

In our series of SEEDS – what Dr. John Arden writes are the ways that we can nurture our brain, we explore the fourth seed which is: Diet.

We are all pretty versed these days in what it means to eat healthy; avoiding trans fats, fast foods and sugar while loading up on fresh vegetables and fruits. It means less processed foods, and balanced amounts of whole grains, dairy and protein. Sometimes, the lesson we need to learn is moderation and portion control.

In any case, when we focus on providing our brains with a healthy diet, it helps to calm the nervous system while increasing our brain clarity, concentration and ability to focus. A healthy diet also helps to regulate mood (we all know what it feels like to be ‘hangry’) as well as sleep.

Dr. Arden notes:

“We are what we eat, and the cornucopia of chemicals that operate our brain with doesn’t come out of nowhere; they’re not immaculately conceived. Our body makes these brain chemicals based on the foods that we eat or do not eat. Every one of these neurotransmitters has a precursor amino acid, and if you want to starve your brain of these chemicals, you can have a bad diet, or skip breakfast, or eat simple carbohydrates, or fried foods, or whatever—but you’re going to end up rendering your brain incapable of learning and incapable of having positive thought. So diet is absolutely fundamental.”

To read up on Canada’s Food Guide:

To visit Dr. John Arden’s website:

The quote by Dr. Arden in this post was found in the following article:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Vince Lee on Unsplash

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SEEDS of a Healthy Brain; Work of Dr. John Arden – Post 3

Moving right along in our series by Dr. John Arden, we explore the third seed of how to nurture a healthy brain: Education. Dr. Arden states:

“Every brain has 100 billion brain cells. Each cell is connected to 10,000 other brain cells. And those connections get more plentiful, and more robust, as we learn more things.” 

This really isn’t about education (although taking a course in higher learning never hurts) but rather about challenging the neural pathways in our brains.

“Am I reading enough? Am I engaged in learning?” are questions we can ask ourselves. Crosswords, Suduko, word games all count. Reading both fiction and non-fiction creates learning opportunities. Jigsaw puzzles are also a great way to engage the brain.

It is about being curious – from everything from learning a new skill to following directions on a recipe. It is a conscious, deliberate process that we can partake in as a way to keep our brains active.

To visit Dr. John Arden’s website:

Information for the post was partially found in the following article by Shane Cochrane:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

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SEEDS of a Healthy Brain; Work of Dr. John Arden – Post 2

Yesterday we began a series on the work of Dr. John Arden who writes about the SEEDS of a healthy brain. Today we look at Exercise as the second seed that we can cultivate to best support our brain function as we age. This is what Dr. Arden says about exercise:

“Up until about 11,000 years ago, all humans were hunter-gatherers and moved about 10 miles a day. Today, it’s extraordinarily rare for any of us to move 10 miles a day. But we have the same bodies, and our bodies have evolved to move. Unfortunately, we’re not doing that right now. But exercise – and I’m talking about aerobic exercise, meaning get your heart rate up and sweating a little – is one of the best antidepressants we have. It’s as good as any antidepressant medication and psychotherapy combined.”

WOW! That really is a powerful statement. He goes on to note that exercise will help to calm our nervous system by increasing serotonin, dopamine and GABA (our happy hormones); as well, it actually promotes the growth of new brain cells. In addition, exercise increases our brain’s ability to be alert and to pay attention. And those are just the brain side effects. We know of course that exercise increases our cardiovascular and physical strength as well as our flexibility and endurance.

Bottom line? Get moving! Walking, jogging, a team sport, hiking, canoeing, tread-milling, workout videos – whatever gets your mojo going, commit to even 10 minutes a day. Your brain will thank you 🙂

To visit Dr. John Arden’s website:

Information for this post was partially found in this article by Shane Cochrane:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Gervyn Louis on Unsplash

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SEEDS of a Healthy Brain; Work of Dr. John Arden – Post 1

Today will start a 5 post series on the work of Dr. John Arden; his study of neuropsychology has led him to creating what he calls the SEEDS of a healthy brain. Combining neuroscience and psychotherapy, Dr. Arden proposes that there are 5 factors that keep the brain healthy. In “Re-wire Your Brain” he states:

“If you plant seeds and cultivate them on a regular basis, then, as you get older, your brain will last longer. You’ll have less stress and better memory capacity.”

The 5 SEEDS are social interaction, exercise, education, diet and sleep.

Today we will look more closely at the first seed, Social Interaction. “We know now that those who are lonely or socially isolated get dementia symptoms sooner than people who have robust social support,” Arden says.

When we actively create a support circle through our families, friends, neighbours or church community, we increase our sense of connection thereby calming our nervous system by increasing oxytocin (the feel good hormome) and decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone.) We also sees increases in energy level and attention, as well as the ability to problem solve. Not to mention having more fun.

By tapping into the brain’s natural ability to connect with others, Arden posits that social interaction is an important factor in creating a healthy brain. Call a friend, join a team sport, plan vacations with loved ones, build your time to include family and friends – it will do your brain good 🙂

To visit Dr. John Arden’s website:

Information for this post was partially found in the following article by Shane Cochrane:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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Self-Reflection Question: 1

I often speak about self-reflection and the importance of being open and curious about ourselves; how we process the world, our core beliefs, how our past informs us, our accountability when it comes to our choices and our behaviours. I have decided to post self-reflection questions, not only as a way to get us thinking, but also as a way to potentially generate conversations with our loved ones. The entries won’t be posted as a series, but rather once in awhile, as self-reflection bridges.

“Am I employing a healthy perspective?”

Our perspective when it comes to processing is quite important as it is an internal practice. Our thoughts are internal, our feelings are internal; let’s face it, we spent a lot of our time ‘inside.’ Our internal dialogue tends to play an integral part on our overall perspective. If we tend to be too hard on ourselves, this will affect our self-esteem, confidence, and the ability to move ahead. Our core beliefs can also affect our perspective. If we see everything though the eyes of a schema that leans into failure, mistrust, self-sacrifice, and the like, it will affect how we view the world in a big picture way.

We are much better served to begin by identifying our overall perspective and see if it fits into a healthy category or an unhealthy one. A healthy perspective tends to be built on a secure sense of self. It tends to include:

  • the overall acceptance of our feelings without judgement.
  • the faith in our own agency, and the ability we have to make choices regardless of the circumstance/challenges that face us.
  • the knowledge that adversity builds resilience, as does gratitude and appreciation (of ourselves and others).
  • actively being curious as it works to temper fear.
  • our ability to be self-compassionate – to give ourselves the same wiggle room for success and failure as we would give our loved ones.
  • to lean into positive affirmations, especially when we can feel ourselves slipping down that slippery slope of negative bias.

Generally speaking, a healthy perspective feels rooted, grounded, it makes sense. It feels right.

Journal this question if it helps. Think about your automatic, immediate reaction to things as well as your overall, general way of thinking. And ask yourself, “Am I employing a healthy perspective?”

Photo credit: http://Photo by Genevieve Dallaire on Unsplash

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Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s; 5 Tips

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. A time when we can recognize and appreciate both those struggling to manage with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them. Because Alzheimer’s disease causes brain cells to degenerate, it slows down cognition; it will inevitably also cause behaviour changes in our loved ones. Here are some tips for caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s:

  • Keep things simple. Say  or do one thing at a time; very often what gets lost in dementia is the stringing together of sentences or tasks. You can also get them to help, “Let’s walk to the mailbox,” or “Why don’t you help me fold the socks.”
  • Give gentle reminders of their basic needs. People with Alzheimer’s often will forget to eat or drink; they have balance issues so require sturdy shoes and space to navigate. They will eventually need assistance with their hygiene and staying on task to shower or wash up.
  • Keep in mind that their behavioural changes are caused by their disease. This will require some patience as they may begin to show anger more easily, become fretful and repetitive, act in ways that indicate they feel depressed or sad. Arguing or trying to reason with someone who has dementia is often futile; you are better served to keep your own frustration in check – take a deep breath, count to 10, take a short break if necessary.
  • Focus on safety. Having Alzheimer’s will often make a person feel unsafe and vulnerable. Reassuring them that they are safe when they become agitated will help.
  • Try to incorporate what brings them comfort. Play their favourite music, bring back TV shows they watched in their childhood, play simple card games, etc.

Living with Alzheimer’s is a difficult and grief-filled road; for both those affected and their caregivers. Learning how to navigate both the cognitive and behavioural changes that accompany the illness will help in processing your own emotions as a caregiver.

To learn more about Alzheimer’s:

To get help if you live in Renfrew County:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash

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How the Earth Can Ground Us

I love the cool nights we have been experiencing. Windows open, waking up to the sound of crickets, the cool air settled at your feet; by midday, the sun strong and ready to fill you with its warmth. It is  a reminder that the seasons are soon changing, to enjoy the still summery temperatures of end of August, before we begin to reach for a sweater when heading out the door.

The earth grounds us. Being in nature heals us. Experiencing the changes, the cyclical transformation of the seasons; to be able to enjoy and absorb the full colours and scents of each, that is tied to our spirit.

Victoria Erickson says this about nature;

“Don’t dismiss the elements. Water soothes and heals. Air refreshes and revives. Earth grounds and holds. Fire is a burning reminder of our own will and creative power. Breathe them in. Swallow their spells. There’s a certain sweet comfort in knowing that you belong to them all.” – Victoria Erickson

The earth grounds us. Using nature as one of our daily anchors allows us to also feel the inherent peace that it brings; good for the soul, soothing to the heart.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash

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Off to College and Coping with Empty Nest

If we have children, we will inevitably reach the day when they are heading off to college. The transition will most likely bring a mix of emotions, as the adolescent is stepping closer to independence and adulthood. Coming into that move-in weekend can bring some anticipatory anxiety, and as parents, our attention is often focused on the child’s emotions and getting them geared up and calmed down. We load up the mini-van, pack the Kraft Dinner and get pulled into the busy couple of days of getting them settled in.

And then we come home. Although Empty-Nest Syndrome is not a clinical disorder, it can be a very real experience for many parents. Characterized by feelings of sadness, depression, loneliness, loss and a re-ordering of one’s purpose, we can often struggle with the transition ourselves.  Here are some tips for dealing with our empty nest:

  • Mitigate the feelings through having regular contact with your child. Although we want to be able to shelter them from our own feelings (this is their time), it will help to be able to text, begin Face-timing, and have an overall sense that you are touching base.
  • Reach out to others for support. Talk to other friends who have been there, lean on your trusted co-workers, make sure to plan coffee dates if you are feeling the blues.
  • Self-care, self-care, self-care. Make sure that you are checking in with yourself and putting an effort into daily anchors.
  • Shift your focus. It is okay to begin to see your life in a different way. Be curious as to how you want to spend some of your opened-up schedule; with your partner, things that interest you, exercise, and so forth.
  • Seek professional advice. Talk to a therapist if you feel the struggle is reaching an overwhelming place.

Our children heading to college; an exciting time but also an emotional one. A time of important growth – both for them and for us. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Luke Brugger on Unsplash

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10 Life Lessons for Kids

The following advice comes from a “Raising Teens Today” meme that my partner shared on Facebook:

10 Lessons I Want to Instill in My Kids

If you make a mistake, apologize

If you’re thankful, show it.

If you’re confused, ask questions.

If you learn something. teach others.

If you’re stuck, ask for help.

If you’re wrong, fess up.

If you love someone, tell them.

If you trip, get back up.

If someone needs help, help them.

If you see wrong, take a stance.

What a lovely, yet simple, back-to-basics guide – not only for our children, but for ourselves as well. As this quote by David Bly best demonstrates “Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.”

Check out the Raising Teens Today website; lots of great articles and blog posts!

Photo credit: http://Photo by Patrick Buck on Unsplash

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An App for People on the Autism Spectrum

In a recent article entitled, “Autistic Teenager Creates App To Help People On the Spectrum” by Nicholas Fearn and featured on Forbes, we meet Ethan Shallcross, an eighteen year old software developer who has created an App for people on the autism spectrum. Created with his own experience in mind, he says:

“The app has been built with people on the autism spectrum in mind, and has influenced the design and functionality of the entire app. However, it is not just for people on the autism spectrum. People who have high anxiety, are frequently burnt out, or struggle with their mental health may also find it useful.”

The App, named Aumi (search for the one that has Ethan’s name associated with it), features a mood-tracking widget, an energy accounting tool to help prevent burnout, a planner, and a feature that creates profiles to make it easier for users to tell others about themselves in situations where they may struggle with communication.

What a wonderful resource for those struggling to manage levels of sensitivity. To read the full article:

Photo credit: http://Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

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