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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10 Facts About the Brain

Here are some amazing brain facts from The Nature of Things with David Suzuki:

  1. Your brain contains 100 billion neurons: about 16 times the number of people on earth.
  2. 95% of your decisions take part in the subconscious mind.
  3. The language and consciousness part of the brain (neocortex) accounts for 76% of the brain’s mass.
  4. Your gut, or “second brain,” contains 100,000 neurons.
  5. Your brain keeps developing until your late 40’s.
  6. Our IQ’s have dropped over 13 points since the Victorian era. 🙁
  7. Women have more grey matter and a larger hippocampus (involved in emotional processing) than men.
  8. The brain consumes 20% of the body’s energy production.
  9. The brain is capable of re-wiring, re-engineering itself.
  10. Neuroplasticity is the science behind the “wires that wire together, fire together.”

With the notion that the brain is not fixed; that it can change itself, we can begin to really appreciate what our brains do for us in terms of not only our physical being, but our psychological lives as well. All the more reason to holistically take care of ourselves on a daily basis; it’ll do the brain good!

To listen to an interesting video on “The Brain that Changes Itself/Part 1/The Nature of Things” with David Suzuki and featuring Norman Doidgehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFJYUzsXCSE

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The Science Behind a Hug

It’s really all about touch. We are inevitably a relationship species and because of that we seek out connection with others. As a way to bond with others, we use touch. The science behind that comes from a hormone called Oxytocin; often referred to as the “hormone of love,” it triggers nurturing and loving feelings and helps to promote trust. In a study conducted by Dr. Kathleen Light, she discovered that “warm touch” between couples (which included a 20 second hug) increased Oxytocin in both males and females. In a separate study, she was able to connect warm contact to a positive effect on blood pressure and heart rate. An important aside worth mentioning is that she states that the quality of the relationship made a big difference to the lasting effects of the hug. Even more reason to keep our relationships healthy and our hugs in good supply. 😊

To read the study: https://nihrecord.nih.gov/newsletters/2006/02_24_2006/story03.htm

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Interesting Truths About the Brain

Information from this post comes from Dr. Nicole LePera on Instagram. Neuroplasticity and brain science are constantly discovering new truths about the brain; here are 6 truths highlighted by Dr. LePera:

  1. The brain is made up of 60% fat.
  2. The brain is not fixed, it’s neuroplastic. The brain changes throughout a person’s lifetime.
  3. Atrophy (brain shrinkage) is present in depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  4. The brain is in constant communication with the gut.
  5. When attention is focused, the brain emits energy waves at 10 to 100 cycles per minute.
  6. The brain and heart communicate through the vagus nerve.

When we are armed with the knowledge that our brains have the ability to change with experience, we can give ourselves permission to begin challenging the core beliefs that appear to be rigid. When we are armed with the knowledge that our brains are connected to our ‘feeling’ organs such as our gut and our heart, we can lean into relying on our emotions as a trustworthy guide.

By living an engaged and purposeful life, we care for our brain. We create space for it to be an important element in living with improved emotional wellness. 🙂

Tomorrow’s post will feature ways to strengthen our brain!

To learn more about Dr. Nicole LePera, visit her website at: https://yourholisticpsychologist.com/about-me/

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The Role of Serotonin in Our Gut

Serotonin is the hormone that is responsible for stabilizing our mood. It produces feelings of well-being and happiness, and helps to regulate sleep and digestion. And 90% of its receptors are located in the gut. Because of this fact, serotonin plays a vital role between your brain and your gut health. As a result, researchers have begun examining inflammation and its link to the symptoms of depression.

In order to naturally boost serotonin, and thereby reducing inflammation, we can:

  • Eat foods rich in Tryptophan. An amino acid, tryptophan tends to be found in foods that are rich in protein. Chicken, eggs, cheese, fish, tofu, turkey, pumpkin seeds, avocados and chocolate are some examples of food rich in tryptophan.
  • Exercise regularly. When we get moving, we increase the amount of serotonin that is fired in the brain.
  • Manage stress levels. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on our hormones; creating balance with a focus on self-care will help manage stress levels, allowing serotonin to do its job.
  • Get a massage. Research has shown a link between regular massage therapy and increased serotonin levels.

By incorporating some of these natural ways to boost serotonin, we are supporting a healthy mind body connection by taking good care of our gut. Sounds like a good plan to me. 🙂

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Why Crying is Good For Us

When we have a good cry, we generally feel better. In an article entitled “8 Benefits of Crying: Why it’s good to shed a few tears” by Lana Burgess and featured on MedicalNewsToday, we get a backing up with science as to why crying is good for us. A few points that resonated:

  • It creates a soothing effect. “Crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which helps people relax.” Hello comfort system 🙂
  • Crying is primarily an attachment behaviour. When we cry, we also get soothed by others as they are drawn by compassion; this also helps to strengthen connection.
  • Crying is a mood booster. “Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins.” This is great news for not only lifting our spirits, but for relieving pain as well.

Although we have often been taught that crying is a sign of weakness, we can begin to recognize and appreciate the therapeutic role of shedding tears. Shared tears can also lend ourselves to greater experiences of bonding as we often feel comforted when others share our pain. And crying in therapy is nothing we ever need to apologize for – as a client recently said to me “If you’re peeling the onion, you can expect to cry.”

To read the article cited above: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319631#benefits-of-crying

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Self-Control and the Concept of Delayed Gratification

When something appealing is presented to us, do we tend to jump right in with both feet, or do we weigh the options so as to determine best outcome? The Stanford Marshmallow experiment was a (late 1960’s) study in which children were placed in a room with a marshmallow and told that if they could wait for a short while before eating it, they will get an extra snack as a reward.

Watching this 4 minute YouTube video is a replication of the same experiment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo4WF3cSd9Q

It is very interesting to see which children will patiently wait, cute to see how many will lick it or nibble it, and how many will go ahead and eat it.

Essentially, this experiment was about self-control and our ability to wait for something versus a need to be instantly gratified. Self-control is really about being able to regulate our emotions, thoughts and behaviours. If we have a good sense of self-regulation, we tend to be able to not only use our rational brain to weigh in on our decisions, we also have faith that waiting will bring a just reward.

It would seem then, that being conscientious of the bigger picture is something we can lean into when the “treat” is right in front of us. 🙂

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What is the Vagus Nerve and Why is it Important?

In an article entitled “Science Confirms That the Vagus Nerve Is Key to Well-being” by Markham Heid and featured on elemental, we read about the vagus nerve and its importance to our overall emotional health. Paraphrased: “The vagus nerve is one of twelve cranial nerves, (picture it leaving the brain, like a set of roots, connecting to our heart, our guts, our immune system and many other organs) with it being the nerve that governs the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps control the body’s relaxation responses. In simple terms, heightened vagal activity counteracts the stress response.”

So what does this mean exactly? Here are the highlights:

  • “The sympathetic nervous system is fight or flight, while the parasympathetic nervous system is more chill out,” says Stephen Silberstein, MD, a professor of neurology and director of the Headache Center at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals.”
  • “Silberstein says that heightened vagal activity slows heart rate and also switches off inflammation, in part by triggering the release of immune system calming chemicals.”
  • “Pick almost any common medical condition that’s made worse by stress or inflammation — everything from arthritis to inflammatory bowel disease — and there’s research showing that vagus nerve stimulation can help treat it or relieve its symptoms.”
  • “More and more, we’re learning how critical vagal activity is to attention and mood,” says Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.”

The article goes on to talk about how we can heighten our vagal activity; including massage, yoga, physical touch, meditation, deep breathing – essentially any activity that helps to elicit our relaxation response will increase vagal activity; thereby reducing stress and the inflammation that tends to come along with it. 🙂

To read the full article: https://elemental.medium.com/science-confirms-that-the-vagus-nerve-is-key-to-well-being-c23fab90e211

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An Owl or a Lark?

We all know about the importance of sleep; approximately 70% of us will have what is called a normal sleep pattern based on our internal clock, known as our circadian rhythm.

There are times however, when our circadian rhythm works at a different pace and we can either have a delayed sleep phase, in which we are falling asleep 3 or 4 hours delayed (night owl) or an advanced sleep phase, which is characteristic of waking up 3 or 4 hours earlier than the norm (morning lark.)

Sleep Habits, is a website that features many articles on sleep. Paul Jordan, author of “Morningness Eveningness Questionnaire – Are you a Night Owl or a Morning Lark?” has this to say about the importance of knowing your sleep pattern:

“Knowing whether you’re a night owl, morning lark or neither can be worked towards your advantage. Night owls are more productive during the night, where as morning larks are more productive during the morning. By scheduling high intensity tasks at your peak times you can effectively get more done. If you have flexible work commitments you may find it useful to either shift your sleep timing forwards or backwards to best take advantage of your most productive times.” 

Knowing where we land in terms of our own typical sleep pattern can allow us to make adjustments; allowing us to optimize our best sleep and as a consequence, feel refreshed and productive.

If you would like to take the quiz, follow the link: https://sleephabits.net/morningness-eveningness-questionnaire

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Music Works its Magic on Our Mental Health

Putting on my ‘dance music’ play list is a must when I clean the house; ‘Jazz’ when I am cooking in the kitchen, and ‘Good Mood Music’ when on a road trip. We can all attest to the powerful effect that music has on us – it can uplift us when we are feeling blue, it can accompany us through our daily tasks, it has the ability to relax us.

In a recent article entitled “Music takes 13 minutes to ‘release sadness’ and 9 to make you happy, according to new study” by Helena Asprou and featured on Classic fm, we read about a study that was conducted at the British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST), in which participants noted that the use of music helped them to relax, to feel happier, to process sad feelings and to concentrate. I quote:

“The best music for relaxation had a slow tempo, simple melody and no lyrics, with an optimum listening time of 13 minutes – and many benefits were reported, including ‘decreased muscle tension, negative thoughts disappearing, feeling peaceful and contented and being able to sleep better. Meanwhile, only nine minutes of music (mostly songs with a driving rhythm, fast tempo and positive lyrical content) is required to make people feel uplifted. An impressive 89 percent had improved energy levels, 65 percent laughed more and others felt more in control of their lives or able to ‘take on anything’ – an encouraging result for medical professionals looking for new ways to treat patients with mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.”

We most likely can all confirm that we have experience with music that echoes this study’s results. This article is a lovely reminder that in order to allow music to work its magic on our emotional health, we have to consciously use it; making sure our playlists are full and we have built them into our daily routine. 🙂

To read the full article (they include a lovely summarized chart): https://www.classicfm.com/music-news/music-to-release-sadness-and-feel-happier-study/

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