Welcome to Week 2!

This week, we're focusing on our brain's health! Perhaps no other organ in our body is as important to our health as our brain. Our brain is our hearth health. Our brains make every decision. Our brains choose whether we eat healthy, whether we go for a walk, how we cope with stress and whether we're going to get in bed and go to sleep. Our brain determines our success at work and our relationships with people and ourselves. If we want to be healthy, we want to keep our brains healthy! Dr. Daniel Amen, author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life and the founder of the Amen Clinic , has said "if you really want to elevate your performance, the first thing to do is start caring about your brain." 

And, in terms of living long AND healthy, a recent report states that "up to one-third of the world’s dementia cases could be prevented by addressing factors such as education, hypertension, diet, hearing loss and depression over the course of a person’s lifetime".

While everything we do in reboot is focused on keeping us and our brains healthy and happy, we're going to focus on it a bit more today! And, yes, this is a pretty big topic so we'll just choose 3 challenges that will help to boost our brains.

Don't forget it's time to check-in. Drop me a line to check-in or set up one of our live check-ins. Let me know if you have any questions. Have a a great day! I'll see you tomorrow!



Boost your cerebellum, boost your health!

Challenge #1: Complete your daily 30 minutes of cardio, exercise of the day and maintain a daily 5 item gratitude list.

This probably sounds funny! What's the cerebellum and why do I want to boost it?

The cerebellum is the part of our brain that helps us with balance, coordination, learning, vision and plays a role in thinking. Believe it or not, brain imaging has actually shown that the quality of our thoughts can actually impact the function of our cerebellum.

Dr. Amen describes a study in which they compared the effects of negative thoughts versus thoughts of gratitude on brain function. Negative thoughts are described as thoughts focusing on what you dislike about your life or what you are of afraid of in life. Through brain scans, they were able to observe that positive thinking and feelings of gratitude enhanced function. However, negative thinking caused decreases in the activity in the cerebellum and temporal lobes, especially the left temporal lobe. When the cerebellum activity is low, it's harder for us to process information quickly, we're less coordinated, and more likely to fall. The impact is also felt in the temporal lobes like the hippocampus which are responsible for mood, memory and temper control problems (Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, p. 257 - 258)

So, how do we boost the cerebellum? There are different ways. One is to think quality thoughts. Begin to reframe things from negative to positive. For instance, instead of telling yourself, "I'm so lazy and unorganized. I didn't complete my challenge again today". Reframe this into a more positive thought, "I missed it today. But, let me look at why and complete it tomorrow".

Other ways to boost the cerebellum are through exercise and activities.

Throughout the week, begin to notice and reframe your thoughts. We're concentrating on 3 challenges this week. But, throughout the week, also be mindful of what thoughts are in your head. Notice when you need to reframe them into more positive ones.

Here are the 3 daily cerebellum boosters:

1) Cardio exercise. We're continuing with our 30 minute activity per day. In terms of brain health, physical activity is like miracle-grow for our brains by helping to increase the flow of oxygen to it.

2) Exercise of the day will focus on balance and coordination. The stronger we are, the stronger our brains are so we are going to concentrate on building our strength with weights and using our body weight. Any activities you can do that incorporate decision making will also help build the cerebellum. Activities like ping-pong or tennis are great. 

3) Think good thoughts. Our thoughts matter and, more importantly, you actually don't have to believe every thought that you have. You can change your thoughts from negative to positive. It takes practice but you can do it. We can explore ways to do this when we talk on your phone call if you need help. The practice of the daily gratitude journal will help you do this. Simply write down 5 items each day that you are grateful for today.

Remember, each day is a new opportunity to practice all of these skills - exercise, balance and quality thoughts. 

Challenge #1 is to get 30 minutes of activity each day, complete your exercise of the day and complete your 5 item daily gratitude journal.

Quality Sleep = Better Brain Health

Challenge 2: Aim to sleep for 7 - 8 hours.

Yup, I'm telling you to get some sleep. Our best self is a well-rested self. Not only do we tend to make our best decisions when we're well rested but we also tend to make our healthiest decisions. We tend to not crave sugar when we're well rested and our physical strength and stamina is better. Everything is connected. We've already had challenges that can help us sleep - boosting our activity and fruits and vegetables and reducing distractions.  

Why is sleep so important? 

Sleep is essential for our brain and bodies to repair and recover. While we sleep, our bodies repair our muscles and work to rid our bodies of stress and inflammatory chemicals like cortisol.

Sleep is especially important for our brain health. Sleep is the time that our brains clear away certain toxins that are associated with Alzheimer's Disease from it and gets ready for the next day and allows it to be at its peak for learning and memory. The better we sleep, the better we believe that our brains can clear away this waste. 

Sleep is also essential in maintaining our weight. Research has shown that we tend to pool weight gain in our abdominal region when we don't get enough sleep. And, the chemical that tells us that we need to eat more, Ghrelin, increases when we're sleep deprived. The chemical that tells us to stop eating, Leptin, decreases. This makes our sleep deprived bodies even more likely to gain weight.

Sleep also helps to boost our immune function and increase our ability to handle stress. This can also help us make healthier food choices and reduce stress-induced eating. Sleep is critical to our brain being able to cope with stress as well. See challenge #1 for why chronic stress is so tough on our brains.

Are you saying to yourself, "This sounds great, Laurie. But, how much is enough, how do I find the time and how can I make sure I fall and stay asleep?"

How much sleep? Our challenge this week is 7 - 8 hours of sleep per night. For people with young children or certain jobs, this can be downright impossible. If you're not able to do 7 - 8 hours, this challenge is to move your bedtime up by 15 minutes for 3 nights. Then, try for 30 minutes for 3 nights. Even that extra sleep will help.

There is a caveat. Dr. Constance Lyketsos, an expert in Alzheimer's, Dementia and other brain related disease at Johns Hopkins Medicine, points out that young children and young adults need more sleep when the brain is maturing. Then, there's a period in life when approximately 7 - 8 hours is good. But, as we age, some people can need less sleep. He recommends the best question to ask is when you wake up is "Do I feel rested? Do I feel restored?"  this will help you find your sweet spot. For the purposes of this challenge, we're shooting for the general recommendation of 7 - 8 hours.

One of the biggest keys to success for a quality night's sleep is a sleep routine. How would you put a toddler to bed? There's a bedtime routine. You'll want to establish your own routine.

1) Put on your jammies. Just like we tell a 3 year old to put on their jammies to signal it's bedtime, the same goes for adults. Put on something that signals to your mind that it's time for sleep.

2) Begin to dim the lights 1 hour before bed to begin to boost the production of sleep-inducing melatonin.

3) Read a happy bedtime story. Again, kids have the right idea. A happy story promotes happy thoughts. Upsetting conversations or news programs too close to bed can have the opposite effect. They actually increase stress hormones and can disrupt sleep.

4) Keep your bedroom cool.

5) Before you go to bed, think of 3 things your grateful for when you get into bed. Write them in a gratitude journal and help to knock out challenge #1. This way you'll think of happy thoughts before bed instead of your worries.

6) Avoid high-fat, caffeinated, sugary and spicy foods too close to bedtime. Also, while alcohol may help you fall asleep, it often disrupts our sleep as our body processes it.

7) Plan to stop using your computer, IPads, smart phones and video games 30 minutes to an hour before bed.The blue light that's emitted from them can actually suppress our production of melatonin and tell our bodies that it's time to wake up. If you wake up in the middle of the night, resist checking your phone. I know it's hard but give it a shot. If you have a nighttime setting on your phone or computer adjust it so it comes on automatically during certain hours.

8) Do a bedroom inventory. Are there bright blue lights coming from an alarm clock or the cable box? Try covering them up.

9) Watch out for bright lights in the bathroom. The place where we brush our teeth and wash up RIGHT before bed is also the place that typically has some super bright lights. Try getting ready for bed with just the light from the hallway, with a night light or from the light from your now dimly lit bedroom. 

10) And, if you're having trouble falling asleep or going back to sleep, try a breathing technique of 4 - 5 - 4. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for 5 counts, and then exhale loudly with whooshing noise for 4 counts. Or, try something that researchers out of the University of Glasgow call Paradoxical Intention Therapy. This is where you tell yourself to try and stay awake without getting up or using the tv or computer. Often, you'll fall asleep quite quickly.

11) If you are not able to go back to sleep after 15 minutes, try getting up from bed so that your brain doesn't begin to associate bedtime as think time.

This was a lot of information. But, sleep is so critical to our health and our brain health that we want to devote some time to it.

Here's your Challenge #2: 

  • Read through this list and pick out the elements that you want to focus on this week. Write them down and create a pre-sleep checklist.
  • Aim to sleep 7 - 8 hours per night. Or, increase your bedtime by 15 minute increments. To make this challenge easier, if you have a fitbit or certain other trackers, you can actually track your sleep. 

Summer is a great time to start making changes to our sleep styles. Sweet Dreams!

Boost your antioxidants!

Challenge 3: Consume 3 - 5 servings of fruits AND 3 - 5 servings of veggies per day.

Remember last week when we concentrated on water-rich fruits and veggies, I promised you that we'd revisit antioxidants. Well, today's the day!

Remember from last week what antioxidants are? Antioxidants help to clear toxins and the results of oxidation out of our bodies. They fight against the damage that free radicals (the byproducts of our bodies using oxygen) can cause in our bodies. Antioxidants are what help to fight cancer, aging, arthritis, inflammation as well as the effects of stress, pollution and the sun on our bodies. They also help to prevent macular degeneration. And, antioxidants help to keep our brains healthy!

Fruits and vegetables are also nature's anti-aging products. They play a critical role in helping us feel and look fantastic. One reason why is that they contain antioxidants and, as we discussed last week, water.

Where can you find antioxidants? Remember, antioxidants are found in different foods like blueberries, spinach, tea, coffee, spices, red wine, and even dark chocolate (70% or more of cacao). We're going to concentrate on the fruits and veggies again this week because of the role that they also play in weight management.

What colors should you strive to eat each day?

Aim for the colors of the rainbow! Dark green, pale green, white, orange, yellow, red and purple are all awesome. With summer's arrival, there are so many beautiful and fresh local fruits and vegetables available. Remember, the sugar in fruit is not the same as added sugar because fruit is loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Enjoy!

What's an easy way to hit this goal?

  • Use the 50% rule. This is important. Whether you're home, at a restaurant or on the road, fill up 50 % of your plate with veggies or fruits at each meal.

  • Snacks. Pack cut up veggies for a snack or toss an apple or banana in your bag for a snack. Nature provided food that has perfect packaging for on the go snacking.

  • Fruit for dessert. Grab an orange, strawberries or blueberries for dessert. You can drizzle some dark chocolate on the strawberries for a delicious antioxidant filled dessert. Or, if you haven't tried a grilled peach, your life isn't complete. Use a grill or a grill pan on the stove. Slice a peach in half and drizzle a little honey on each cut-side half. Place it cut sized down on a medium-low flame for just a few minutes. So easy and so good! 

What's a serving of a fruit or veggie again? 

In general, a serving size for medium apple is about the size of a tennis ball. For canned, frozen or fresh fruit or vegetables, a 1/2 cup is typically a serving size. For leafy greens, approximately 3 cups raw or a 1/2 cup cooked. 

What colors should you strive to eat each day?

Aim for the colors of the rainbow! Dark green, pale green, white, orange, yellow, red and purple are all awesome. With summer's arrival, there are so many beautiful and fresh local fruits and vegetables available. Remember, the sugar in fruit is not the same as added sugar because fruit is loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Enjoy!

Challenge #3 this week is to eat 3 - 5 servings of fruit and 3 -5 servings of veggies each day. 

Good luck with your 3 Challenges! 

I'll see you tomorrow with your first exercise of the day!

All material provided here is for informational or educational purposes only. Please consult your physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition. Use or reproduction of text or photographs is prohibited without written permission from WellStyles Consulting®.