Dancing: How It Can Help Our Brain

In an article entitled “Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain” by Frontiers and featured on Medical Xpress, we read about a study out of Germany that looked at the benefits of exercise in the elderly to determine what type of effect it can have on the brain:

“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,” says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany. “In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”

Rehfeld goes on to explain that by constantly changing the dance routines and introducing different genres of dance, the seniors in the study were constantly engaged in a learning process.

We know that music it itself can greatly affect our mood and can be an important element in our emotional health; just putting on music while I am cleaning the house always makes the task that much more enjoyable. Now I have a reason to put some swing in my step!

Bottom line? Find some time to dance 🙂

To read the full article: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-08-reverse-aging-brain.html

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@omarlopez1


Interesting Facts About Walking

We all know that walking is good for us. In an article entitled “The benefits of walking and how to get the most out of it” by RJ Skinner and featured on CBC Life, Skinner includes some interesting facts about what is considered our most natural form of exercise:

  • “Regular walking has been shown to fight genetic weight gain, curb cravings, ease joint pain and strengthen your immunity.” I especially liked hearing that “walking can help tame your sweet tooth; even a 15 minute walk can help to alleviate sugar cravings.”
  • A 2015 study found that going from a sedentary lifestyle to taking 10,000 steps per day could lower your risk of mortality by 46 per cent.”
  • “Walking can be used as part of a greater regimen as it can work well with other forms of exercise such as strength training or flexibility type exercise programs.”

What I appreciate most about this article is the focus on the simplicity of walking. We don’t need a lot of equipment, it is a four season activity, and it feels natural to our body. Walking in nature is also good for our peace of mind, reducing our overall stress levels and increasing our feeling of calm. “One step at a time,” literally 🙂

To read the full article: https://www.cbc.ca/life/wellness/the-benefits-of-walking-and-how-to-get-the-most-out-of-it-1.5145418

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Important Facts About the Teenage Brain

I recently read a meme that made me laugh: The book we really needed was “What to Expect 17 Years After Expecting.”

The teenage years can be some of our most challenging as parents, but also some of our most rewarding. In an article entitled “The teenage brain: Seven things parents should know about adolescent behaviour” featured on Women’s Hour, BBC Radio, we can read about some of the characteristics that affect our teenagers. A few that I appreciated:

  • “The teenage brain undergoes a huge transition. Contrary to what was believed for many, many decades, the teenage brain in fact undergoes really substantial amounts of development, both in terms of its structure and its function throughout childhood, throughout adolescence and it only stabilizes around the mid-20s.” This can certainly explain how I saw much maturity from my oldest daughter by the age of 21.
  • “There is a biological reason why teenagers find it hard to get up. Essentially, their circadian rhythm is changing. We know that melatonin, which in humans is the hormone that makes us feel sleepy at night, is produced in the brain about two hours later during the teenage years, than during childhood or adulthood.” Gee, so I guess they aren’t just lazy 😉
  • “Long term health risks don’t scare teenagers. When we are worrying about the kinds of risks that adolescents take, research shows that focusing on the long-term health risks, or the long-term legal risks of decisions, does not work as well as focusing on the social consequences of those risky decisions. This is because the social world is really paramount to teenagers. They care very much what their friends think.” 

Knowing some of these facts can help to temper the frustration we sometimes feel when our teenagers are making impulsive choices or pushing back as a way to gather their independence. We are much better served to be flexible in our attitude towards what is proving to be a very important time in our children’s lives –  I still would have appreciated that book though 🙂

To read the full article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/29h0HQPw8L8xJmyNh1Ss7Qb/the-teenage-brain-seven-things-parents-should-know-about-adolescent-behaviour

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@gaellemarcel


Merry Christmas

From my home to yours, I wish you the blessings of the season. May you find warmth and cozy in your day;

whether it be filled with the sounds of a full house

or the solitude of a quiet one. May this time between the ending of one year and the start of another, be a time of quiet reflection,

peaceful thoughts and grateful acknowledgment; not only for the things that you have, but also for the things you let go.

God Bless you and your loved ones. 

Forever grateful, 


Five Fun Facts About Laughter

Consciously keeping laughter as part of our daily routine is a great self-care strategy! Here are five fun facts about the importance of keeping yourself amused:

  • Laughter is contagious. People are 30 times more likely to laugh when in the company of others.
  • Laughter has bonding qualities; when couples tackle stressful situations with humour, they are more likely to report higher levels of satisfaction with their relationship.
  • The average person laughs around 13 times per day; spontaneous laughter bringing about more instances of belly laughs.
  • Whole-hearted laughter boosts our immune system, working against harmful illness.
  • In an average day, children tend to laugh 3 times more than adults.

What do these facts tell us about the importance of laughter? They all tend to focus on the importance of working towards adopting a carefree attitude to our daily stresses; using laughter as a way to counter some of the challenges we may face in our busy lives.

Photo credit:https://unsplash.com/@omarlopez1



The Benefits of Laughter

In an article entitled, “Give Your Body a Boost — With Laughter” and featured on WedMD, author R. Morgan Griffin writes about the physiological benefits of laughter:

  • We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.
  • When laughing, blood vessels expand and contract more easily.
  • Using humour may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells.
  • A study of people with diabetes demonstrated that laughter lowered blood sugar levels.

Griffin goes on to say that the science of laughter is early in its stages, with more studies needed in order to back up its true effects.

Until then, perhaps we can rely on the way laughter makes us feel as our own proof that it does our body good. Laughter opens up the face, produces a warm and welcoming smile; we feel lighter, brighter, connected to others and more relaxed. Sounds like a great prescription to me 🙂

To read the full article: https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter#1

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Just Ask Your Gut

There is mounting evidence that our gut is like a second brain. Now, this brain cannot think or express an opinion, but it can influence your mood and well being. Here are some interesting facts about your gut:

  • Serotonin (the hormone most often associated with happiness) is actually produced in your gastrointestinal tract.
  • There are close to 100 million neurons lining our digestive tract, creating an ecosystem that sends signals to our brain about our mood.
  • 90% of the cells responsible for our psychological stress response are found in our gut; explaining the feeling of nausea when anxious.
  • The second brain may be able to mediate the body’s immune response.
  • There is a higher percentage of people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and functional bowel issues who also present with depression and anxiety.

Although research is continuing to uncover the deeper connection between our brain and our gastrointestinal system, this part is clear: a healthier gut leads to a healthier mind. Now that is something to get cleaned up about 🙂

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The Power of Nature

The benefits of walking are without question; not just from a health perspective but also a psychological one. A study, conducted by Stanford University entitled “Stanford Researchers find Mental Health Prescription: Nature,” addresses the increasing trend of urbanization (we have reached the 50% mark for people living in urban areas) and along with this statistic, two accompanying trends: a decrease in the amount of exposure we get to nature and an overall increase in mental illness including anxiety and depression.

For the study, participants went for a walk either in a natural setting or on a busy street, both near Stanford U campus. Their brains were scanned before and after their walk; the participants walking in nature had decreased rumination (the looped cycle of negative thinking that often accompanies the onset of depression) whereas for the urban participants, there was no change.  “These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” said co-author Gretchen Daily. 

Although the article highlights the benefits of planning green space into urban settings, perhaps this study can also encourage those of us who live in small towns or rural areas to get outside. It would seem that the very act of being in nature soothes the mind and gives us the space to slow things down, bringing clarity to our thoughts and a feeling of weightlessness to our spirit.

To read the full article (there is a 2 min video): https://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/

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Cortisol: A Bad Rap

Cortisol, the hormone that courses through our system when under stress, is often given a bad rap. Known as the “stress hormone,” elevated cortisol levels have been linked to health issues as well as an increased risk for developing a mental illness. But what is it’s core function? Cortisol is secreted as part of the body’s stress response; a perceived or experienced threat will create a physiological response, eliciting a quickening of our pulse, a burst of adrenaline and the release of cortisol which helps to regulate our system.  Essentially, cortisol plays an important role in helping the body respond to stress. That is, acute stress; stress in the moment, periodic lapses of feeling overwhelmed (trying to get out the door in the morning), and moments when we immediately need to respond (a car veering into our lane).

It is chronic stress that elevates cortisol to levels that our system has difficulty with. Our bodies need to get back to the relaxation response that is necessary for the cortisol loop to best function. Reducing overall stress in our lives can be difficult, but necessary. In tomorrow’s post, we will look at ways to help reduce chronic stress and give cortisol its rightful place on the podium. 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@annadziubinska

Resources for ADHD

If your child was recently diagnosed with ADHD/ADD or you suspect that a diagnosis is on the horizon, let’s begin with information from Statistics Canada:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and is one of the most common mental health conditions in children.
  • Boys are three times more likely to develop ADHD than girls.
  • Symptoms of ADHD usually arise between the ages of three and five but are typically most prominent in the elementary school grades and often persist throughout adulthood. In fact, approximately 75% of cases will continue to have the diagnosis through adolescence, and over half of the cases continue into adulthood.
  • The most effective treatment for ADHD is currently considered to be a combination of medication with psychotherapy, behavioural therapy, and/or emotional counseling.

Two websites that you may find to be particularly helpful include:

  • The Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada which has a wide variety of topics and resources regarding everything from understanding ADHD, to assessment, best practice, useful tools and techniques, a podcast and so forth.
  • ADDitude – Inside the ADHD Brain is a website that includes just about everything you can think of when it comes to ADHD, including lots of great articles to read.

As with most things, knowledge is power. When we read up on the ins and outs of a topic, we are less likely to be led by fear and assumptions. Instead, we feel validated, supported, and can move with confidence in the decisions we are making for our children. 🙂

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