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A Step Backward in Boosting Memory

 

The next time you can’t quite remember something, try walking backwards.

Not retracing your steps, but literally taking backward steps!

Multiple studies have shown that backward motion, imagining backward motion, or even watching a video simulating backward motion helped people remember past events compared to test subjects who walked forward or sat still.

No one really understands why (yet), but it may be that we simply associate moving backwards with the past, and it triggers a memory response.

Law enforcement may begin adding this technique to their interview protocol to help witnesses recall details of a crime. More research is being done to see if movement can help persons with specific memory challenges like dementia. 

But for now, we can all employ this simple technique to jog our memories. And you don’t have to jog! Just walk. Backwards!

Source: 

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/can-you-boost-your-memory-by-walking-backward?

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Your Bucket List, Revisited

 

Do you have a bucket list?

It’s fun to have things to look forward to! The planning and anticipation can help make life enjoyable.

Still, I think it’s possible to get so caught up in things we want, things we haven’t gotten to yet, that we might forget to reflect on all the wonderful things we’ve already done.

I was struck by a comic I saw, in a strip called “Between Friends.” One of the characters thought about some of the bucket list items she’d already accomplished. While we tend to focus on trips we’d like to take, or activities we’d like to try (skydiving anyone?), this character realized that even more important to her was finding her soul mate and life partner, and adopting the best daughter she could ever hope to have.

Wow. Those are pretty amazing bucket list items!

What a pleasure, to pause for a few moments and recount in all the “bucket list” items we’ve already enjoyed! The trips we’ve already taken that give us wonderful memories. The devoted friends we’ve made. The successful careers we’ve built. Any financial security we’ve been able to establish. The supportive family we created (either by birth or by other bonds). The lovely home(s) we’ve designed. The thrilling (or funny!) adventures we’ve taken. The devoted pets we’ve adopted. The hobbies we’ve delighted in and new skills we’ve amassed.

Looking forward is great, but sometimes looking back is very worthwhile! Think about all the things you’ve done to get to where you are today. My heart feels full when I think about it—I feel gratitude and love, and pride and happiness.

What bucket list items have you already accomplished? How does that make you feel?

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

The Importance of Self Care

 

I caught up with a friend over coffee this morning (something I HIGHLY recommend for soul nourishment!) and, knowing that I’ve been going through some challenges lately with my family and ex-family, she asked, “What have you been doing to take care of YOU?”

Here’s what I told her. Even as a busy self-employed person and advocate/caregiver for an adult child with a disability, I nurture myself with:

  1. Regular massage therapy, reflexology, and acupuncture. I’m lucky to have great relationships with colleagues in alternative care, and I enlist their help in staying healthy. Between 2 LMTs, 2 certified reflexologists, and a wonderful acupuncturist, I receive some kinds of bodywork almost every week. And I add chiropractic adjustments and sessions with a physical therapist when I need them to keep me going as well.
  2. Eating healthy. I now give myself permission to supplement what I have time to fix each week with a food service that delivers fresh plant-based meals and snacks to the house, all beautifully prepared and ready to eat. It costs a little more than making all my own meals, but it’s a huge time saver. And it’s very healthy. And at least I’m not throwing produce away because I can’t prepare and eat it all before it goes bad.
  3. Daily exercise. I got a dog. Six months ago I rescued an older lab mix who was so depressed and out of shape from being in the kennel for too long, that she couldn’t take long or brisk walks. I took her to obedience school where we had fun while learning and bonding. I gradually increased her walks and added run/walk/run intervals 2-3 times/week. Now she is healthy and happy and so full of energy we’re questioning if she’s really as old as we thought she was! She makes me laugh and makes me exercise and gives me tons of love and good protection.
  4. Classes for enrichment. Right now I’m taking a class at Flagler College called “World Geography.” It is “world geography,” but it explores the globe in a way that is of particular interest to people who like to travel: a little history, a little culture, a few travel tips. It’s easy, fun and interesting. Sometimes it’s good to open ourselves up to new experiences and challenges! I’ve also taken continuing education classes for my licenses, Spanish and American Sign Language, art workshops, writing seminars—there’s so much to choose from, it’s easy to be a lifelong learner.
  5. Creating art and crafts. When my younger son asked if he could move back home, I wanted to support his quest to save money and continue his education. It’s worked out well because he offers valuable emotional and logistical help as well. The only drawback was that I had to relinquish my craft studio. I moved all the supplies into my office and created a tiny workspace there. It’s a bit cramped, but actually, it’s great because I can work on projects little by little when I have gaps between client appointments. I don’t have as much time to work on this as I would like, but it’s a good example of doing the best you can with what you’ve got to work with.
  6. Rest. I have to remind myself sometimes that “a good day” is not necessarily defined by how much I accomplish. I need downtime, especially on weekends, and I honor that. Even if it means saying no to some social things that might be enjoyable in order to stay home on a nice day and look at a magazine out on my swing with a cup of tea or glass of wine. I simply can’t cram non-stop activities into every available moment. In that way, I’m kind of not as much fun as I used to be. But I am at peace.
  7. Cutting myself some slack. The house is a mess. Seriously, I would be pretty embarrassed if someone stopped by unannounced and saw how we really live. It’s not dirty, but it’s cluttered from multiple projects that seem to never end, and from being generally very, very lived in. There are lots of things I don’t do that I would like to. For example, one of my New Year goals was to meditate, journal and stretch each day, even for just 5 minutes each. I don’t do it, not even close to every day. 

But every day is a balancing act. As I contemplated the things I do to take care of myself to answer my friend’s question, I realized this was a pretty good list. As I do love to travel, I’m planning to see my sister in Phoenix in May, and finally visiting Italy in October (a bucket list item!). It’s good to have things to look forward to. I also discussed with my friend my vision and plans for growing the reflexology side of my business, and for helping my son achieve more independence and a better quality of life. We’re slowly chipping away at long-term goals while juggling work and some fun stuff and all the necessary chores and errands.

Do I feel overwhelmed some days—yes! Do I have trouble sleeping some nights—yes! But that’s all the more reason to take care of myself with the 7 things outlined here!!

What do you do to take care of YOU? Your list might be very different from mine, but I hope you do make self-care a priority.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Healing Is a Collaboration

 

I recently read the most marvelous quote: “When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘We,’ even ‘Illness’ becomes ‘Wellness.’” (It’s been attributed to different speakers, most often Malcolm X.)

It made me think of my own profession immediately. People sometimes ask if I think of myself as a “healer.” I don’t. 

I believe that our bodies know how to heal themselves. But sometimes they need a little help because we have more stressors in our modern world than our bodies can handle. And also because we’ve lost touch a little bit with our intuitiveness and somatic sense.

So professionals like me can help. I’m not a healer, but a facilitator. I hope to be part of the “we” in “wellness”!

As I like to tell people: “Your body is trying to tell you something; I’ll help you listen.”

In his book, “In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness,” Dr. Peter A. Levine describes how our typical western medical model of seeing a doctor for “treatment” just doesn’t work in the case of healing from trauma. 

Of course, there are times when it makes sense for a doctor to stand as the authority figure, holding all the knowledge and “treating” the patient.

But in the case of stress, (trauma, PTSD), this power differential and sterile separation between doctor and patient tend to disempower and marginalize the sufferer, adding to their sense of despair. “Missing,” Levine writes, “will be the crucial collaboration in containing, processing and integrating the patient’s horrible sensations, images, and emotions. The sufferer will remain starkly alone, holding the very horrors that have overwhelmed him and broken down his capacity to self-regulate and grow.”

I like to think that massage therapy and reflexology both involve a lot of collaboration. There’s definitely trust. And there’s definitely communication that happens, both spoken and unspoken. People ask me, “How did you know that that was a problem area for me?” “Your body tells me,” I answer. I can feel tension and “knots” and heat in tissues, and “congestion” in the hands and feet that indicate an area is stressed.

I’m not suggesting that I can help people resolve horrible sensations, images, and emotions. That is way out of my scope of practice. But, the healing power of touch is a fantastic way to get back in touch with our bodies, replace tissue memories of hurtful events with supportive touch, and begin to heal mind, body, and spirit. It can help us self-regulate, as we calm stressed-out systems and restore balance (homeostasis).

Levine writes, “Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence. It is possible to learn from mythology, from clinical observations, from neuroscience, from embracing the ‘living’ experiential body, and from the behavior of animals; and then, rather than brace against our instincts, embrace them.”

Hm, healing involving neuroscience AND instincts—sounds amazing! Bodyworkers like me endeavor to effect change in the “living, experiential body,” and hold space for clients dealing with challenges, without judgment. I learned in meditation to be unconditionally present with whatever comes up, and I try to bring this to each therapeutic session.

If you’d like to learn more, here are some resources for you:

http://www.dailygood.org/story/2231/in-an-unspoken-voice-the-changing-face-of-trauma-peter-levine/

https://theconnection.tv/the-proven-healing-power-of-touch/

https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug02/massage

https://www.himalayaninstitute.org/amrit-blog/vibrant-health/wired-touch-connecting-others/

http://pediatrics.med.miami.edu/touch-research

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Healthy Communication


 

It seems harder than ever to have a pleasant and meaningful conversation these days, especially with someone of an opposing viewpoint.

Since each of us is only half of the equation, there’s only so much we can do. But we CAN use some techniques—and encourage others to do the same—to improve communication. 

Here are five, based on compassion and mindfulness:

  1. Be fully present. This is not a good time for multitasking. Put devices away, put other conversations and issues out of your mind for now. Focus for a second on your weight on your feet, or sensations in your hands. Try to slow down the pace of your speech—choose your words carefully for clarity, and think about your tone and how you are coming across. Give this present engagement your full attention.
  2. Be a good listener. This is harder than it sounds! We usually start to think about how we’ll respond before the other person finishes, and we miss some of what’s being said. Try to listen with your complete attention. Make a quick mental note of your questions or responses, and then shift fully back into listening. (Even if you forget a question or response, that’s probably OK in the grand scheme of things!) We all want to be heard. Maybe a good extension of the Golden Rule would be: listen to others as you would have others listen to you!
  3. Seek to understand. Oren Jay Sofer, author of “Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication,” says that “The foundation for productive discussion and skillful negotiation is in the quality of connection and understanding we create. When our interactions are driven by an agenda, by getting our way, wanting to win, being right or making a point, we limit the possibilities for mutual understanding and creative outcomes.” Come to every conversation with curiosity, compassion, and respect.
  4. Focus on what matters. As we listen well and seek to understand the person we’re conversing with, we need to ask ourselves, “what really matters” about whatever the other person is saying. Why is it important? Sofer writes, “Listening with this kind of attention helps us get beyond surface positions to the underlying values in a situation, thereby creating more room for understanding, collaboration, and creative problem-solving.” How much more powerful and productive will our communication be if we can make a meaningful connection with someone—even someone we don’t seem to have anything in common with?
  5. Pause. Remember the sage advice about counting to ten? Rather than shooting back at our counterpart with rapid-fire points of our own, it can be very powerful to pause and think. Nod, ask the person to repeat themselves or repeat what you think they said in your own words. Then ask yourself, will what you’re about to say increase connection and understanding? If not…sometimes holding our tongue is the best response! We have to choose the right timing in order for speaking our truth to have the most impact.

Most of us learn communication skills in the most informal ways, often from people who aren’t skilled communicators themselves. We develop bad habits. But with practice, we can create healthy new habits!

Source: http://www.dailygood.org/story/2193/5-core-practices-for-more-meaningful-conversations-oren-jay-sofer/

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Reflexology Calms a Distressed Heart

A couple of weeks ago, I rushed my son to the emergency room with terrible abdominal pain and violent vomiting. He had some pain on his right side; thankfully a CAT scan confirmed that it was not his appendix. After a six-hour ordeal, the doctor decided it was either food poisoning or a viral “stomach bug.”

But my son was dehydrated, and they started him on IV fluids. (He was so dehydrated, they had trouble getting the catheter in a vein in his arm. So they used a small ultrasound machine to help locate a vein too far below the surface to see or palpate. That was pretty cool to watch!)

And maybe because he was dehydrated and frightened, his heart rate was too high. Even after resting for a few hours, his heart rate hovered between 105-110, even jumping to 114 for no apparent reason. The doctor said it had to be below 100 for him to be released.

They brought in an inflatable cover for the IV bag to squeeze it, to help get fluids in him faster. After another hour, his heart rate still would not budge below 105.

So I thought, here I am sitting right next to his left hand, and this is not the arm that has the IV in it. What would happen if I did reflexology on his hand? The heart reflex area is in the left hand—maybe I could support his heart through his hand reflex.

I asked his permission, and I started gently working on the heart reflex—press, release, press, release, nice alternating pressure, slow and rhythmic. 

In less than a minute, his heart rate dropped to 99. 

I left the heart reflex and did some “relaxation techniques” on his whole hand. His heart rate jumped back up to 105. I did some work on his central nervous system reflexes, thinking maybe that would be calming. No effect on the number. I went back to the heart reflex area—heart rate dropped to 99. 

I gently worked the whole surface of his hand just for good measure. Each time I went back to the heart reflex area, his heart rate would drop to 97-99. It was so consistent, that the nurse came in a few minutes later and started to disconnect the IV. “We’ve been watching your numbers from the other room,” she said. “Your heart rate has been under 100 for several minutes now, and the doctor says you’re good to go.”

She couldn’t see that I had been working on his hand, and I didn’t tell her. I was just happy that he got to come home to his own bed to recover. Which he did, with a few days of rest, broth and Jell-O and popsicles. 

Will reflexology provide such a dramatic, positive result in every situation? Probably not. Believe me, if my son had needed to have his appendix removed, we would have opted for surgery, not reflexology on the appendix reflex!! 

But reflexology IS—always—supportive of our health and helpful in getting our bodies to function optimally. And when you can see the evidence of that measured on hospital monitors, it’s very validating!

Category : Blog &Health &Reflexology

Happy Valentine’s Day!

“You yourself,

as much as anybody in the entire universe, 

deserve your love  and affection”

 – Buddha

 

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Making Exercise Fun!

 

Several people have told me recently that they find this wintery after-holiday time of year rather de-motivating. It seems especially when it comes to exercise, folks have gotten out of their routines and are having a hard time getting back to it.

Sound familiar? Or maybe you’re the kind of person who always finds exercise more of a chore than a joy. Here are some ideas for making exercise fun.

Take a hike. Walking is great exercise, and being outside is best. Go to one of our local parks and explore a trail. Walk with a friend and have a nice chat. You can load apps onto your phone like Runkeeper to find routes that others have mapped out in your area for specific distances. If you’re local, you could walk around downtown St. Augustine and/or Lincolnville and check out the historic markers along the way. (Google “self-guided walking tours” for ideas!)

Dance like no one is watching. Put on some of your favorite music, or find some new tunes on YouTube, and go wild! Be as traditional or as silly as you want to be. This is a great way to uplift your spirits as you burn some calories.

Try something new. If dancing doesn’t do it for you, look up instructional videos on YouTube—yoga, Tai Chi, kickboxing, etc. You can find almost anything of interest without leaving the comfort of home.
Play video games. If you know someone with a video game console, you can play active games like bowling, golfing, fencing, tennis, boxing, dancing, etc. It’s surprisingly fun to play virtually! If you don’t have access to a video game console, you can pick a used one up inexpensively at a pawn shop, flea market or online.

Be a kid again. When was the last time you jumped rope? Or played tag or duck-duck-goose? Or hopscotch? Get a little group together and recreate some of your favorite childhood games—what a hoot!
Join a club or take a class. Maybe trying something different will ignite new interest in being active. Join a sports league. Take a self-defense class. Sign up for a 5K and join a group that’s training for it. (Lots of people walk them, or do a slow pace of run-walk-run-walk intervals.

Tackle a household chore. Have you been putting off cleaning out the garage? Or organizing a closet or pantry? Put on some peppy music and get to it! Plan ahead for what your reward will be for getting it done. This can be a great motivator!

Don’t just sit there—stretch! If you like to watch some TV in the evening, get up out of your seat and do a few stretches as you’re relaxing. Some people even do a few more challenging moves during commercials (a couple of push-ups, or crunches, or a plank). As long as you don’t overdo it, having a nice stretch and some deep breathing might even help you sleep.

Just remember, exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery, and you don’t have to commit to hours and hours of activity to benefit from it. Every little bit helps improve fitness. Sneak in a little bit of movement, change your routine, and keep it fun!

If you can’t find a group that shares your interest but you want to connect to others, look on a website called MeetUp. If you still can’t find your tribe, you can start a new group and let others find you!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

How Your Bedroom Can Help You Sleep

 

Do you have trouble sleeping? Try these tips to get your best night’s sleep.

Keep your room dark. Darkness triggers our brains to produce melatonin, the hormone that signals our bodies to prepare for sleep. Unplug anything that emits light. Keep a flashlight next to your bed for late-night trips to the bathroom, rather than leaving a nightlight on overnight. Use dark curtains or blinds on your windows. But be sure to open them during the day—the sunlight will help stop the production of melatonin.

Keep your room cool. An hour or two before sleeping, our body temperature begins to drop—this actually helps us feel sleepy. Keeping our rooms cool can facilitate this and help us get our optimal sleep. A temperature in the 60s or low 70s is best.

Choose the right mattress. A chiropractor told me that a foam mattress is better than a spring mattress because our weight is supported all over, and not just where the springs are. But some people find a foam mattress too warm. A softer mattress conforms better to our shape, which might be best for someone who sleeps on their back and has significant curvature in their spine. If you sleep with a partner and there’s more than a 75-pound weight difference, you might be better off getting a mattress with adjustable firmness settings.

Choose the right pillow. This is a tough assignment! Generally speaking, we just want to support the natural curve in our neck. Back sleepers need to make sure the pillow is not so thick that their chins are pointed down toward the chest. Side sleepers need to make sure their heads are not tilted up toward the ceiling or down toward the mattress.

Set up a reading space. Ideally, our beds are used only for sleeping and being intimate. If you lie in bed awake, reading or watching videos, or tossing and turning, you’re training your brain that this is what beds are for. It’s far better to have a comfortable chair with a lamp where you could sit and read, meditate or listen to music. If you have trouble sleeping for more than 20 minutes during the night, move to the chair for a bit, and get back into bed when you feel drowsy.

Feng shui your space. Sometimes people improve their sleep just by rearranging the furniture. There are many feng shui principles you can apply to your bedroom—like using the right colors, having a solid headboard behind you, having a table on either side of the bed—to help the energy flow and improve the comfort of the room overall. There are whole books on the subject, but you can do a quick Google search to get you started.

Move electronics to another room. Everything that’s plugged in emits light that stimulates our nervous systems and interferes with melatonin production. If you don’t have a cell phone or tablet in the room with you, you won’t be tempted to check email or messages! Use an alarm clock instead of your phone. It will make a big difference in your day if you start with moments of calm instead of hitting your technology first thing.

Source: “How Your Bedroom Can Help You Sleep” by Marty Munson, “Better Homes & Gardens” Magazine, November 2018

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Quelling Winter Blues

 

If the shorter days and colder temps get you down, you’re not alone. SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—is a kind of depression that can occur when we don’t get enough sunlight.

Here are 10 strategies experts recommend to lift your spirits.

  1. Wake up to flowers. Put a vase of flowers where it’ll be the first thing you see in the morning—especially cheerful, bright hues like yellow, or whatever colors you associate with joy and energy.
  2. Do something fun. Laughter reduces stress and boosts the brain chemical serotonin. Watch funny videos. Or get out of the house and meet a friend who always cheers you up (you can look up jokes and tell them to each other). Go see a funny movie or live comedy show. Even forcing fake laughter can sometimes generate genuine laughter!
  3. Change your routine. Making small changes can yield surprisingly big results. If you don’t usually make your bed, just doing that one small task tells your subconscious that you are worth the effort! You know how good it feels to finally clean the garage or organize a closet. Plan a trip so you have something to look forward to.
  4. Exercise. Just 5 minutes of moderate exercise is enough to release the feel-good endorphins. Being outdoors is even better for clearing the mind and improving our mood. It’s nice here in Florida to get some sunshine while it’s not overly hot and humid! Try going for a walk with a friend if you want to add some socializing.
  5. Brighten up. Open the curtains and let sunshine into your home when you can. Wear brighter colors in accessories like scarves or fun socks. Buy a lime green pen, or a tangerine orange towel, or turquoise sticky notes. Seeing vivid colors can increase our feelings of vitality.
  6. Make a photo album. Positive memories can reduce depression! Sort through your photos and pick out happy ones. Put them in a book you can look through any time you feel down. (I’m no expert, but I would add that creating any kind of journal—writing, doodling, collecting pictures and little bits of art that make you happy—could lift one’s spirit. In fact, creating always makes me happy!)
  7. Use all your senses. This is part of mindfulness and really being aware in the moment. Notice “seasonal” sounds around you (the clacking of bare branches maybe), and things that you can only see or smell this time of year. I miss the hummingbirds, for example, but I delight in seeing other birds that only pass through here in January as they migrate. And soon the citrus will be ready to pick and enjoy—just think of peeling off that fresh rind and feeling/seeing/smelling the juice squirt out!
  8. Eat plants. Speaking of fresh produce, fruits and vegetables feed the “good” gut bacteria that helps regulate brain chemicals and mood. It’s so easy in the winter to justify eating comfort foods that are warm and heavy. But we have a better chance of avoiding the doldrums if we eat lighter and healthier.
  9. Pamper yourself. Carve out some “me time.” Read, take a bubble bath, watch a sappy movie, treat yourself to a pedicure (or a massage or reflexology session!), whip up a new recipe—do something you thoroughly enjoy. Do something that makes you happy at least once a week.
  10. Fake it til you make it. Research shows that people who walk as if they were sad actually start to feel sadder! Just walking with an upright posture and swinging our arms more can boost our mood. And, even if we don’t feel like it, forcing a smile with our eyes and our mouth can increase feelings of happiness. Before you know it, it won’t be a fake smile and our stress level will be reduced.

Sources: https://www.activebeat.com/diet-nutrition/10-lifestyle-methods-to-cope-with-seasonal-affective-disorder/

“Winter Mood Lifters to Try Today,” by Karyn Repinski, “Parade” Magazine, December 2, 2018

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth &Reflexology