Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress (100+ New Stress out Hacks 2019)
In this world of rat race where every single human being has to struggle each day for survival is not spared from stress and anxiety. These are two common companions of people from which they want to get rid of immediately. This blog explains 100+ New Stress out Hacks for Manage Anxiety and Stress in 2019.
But, most of them fail to do so and therefore the consumption of tobacco or alcohol increases vehemently. Some of them also get different diseases like blood pressure, diabetes and others.
Anxiety and stress are very dangerous to health.
They are basically like a slow poison that kill humans from the within. If the mental health of the people is ruined, then it would be very difficult to maintain the physical health.
Our mind and physique are both linked with each other. Thus, when anyone these two get affected, the other one is also meant to suffer. That is why it is said to be fit both physically and mentally.
Before discussing the solution to this problem, it is important to know why such stress or anxiety often happens. Have a look at the reasons.
Dissatisfaction in professional life: - Studies say this is one of the prime reasons for stress and anxiety. Most of the people are some way or the other dissatisfied with the job and thus they often get stressed out with it.
Too much of work pressure: - This is also another reason for getting stressed out. When you feel that the work you are doing in your office is very much pressurizing and it is also difficult for you to finish it alone, automatically you will be stressed out.
Depressed about something: - Heartbreak or depression is also another reason for stressed out and anxiety. If you are not happy mentally, then obviously you cannot feel good or happy about anything. Sadness is also a reason for this.
Marital issues: - Married couple often get anxious and stresses out with their daily lives quarrel. This is such a prime reason that every couple faces. Sometimes, this often leads to divorce and that causes more stress to them.
Chronic disease: - If any person is affected with any kind of illness and undergoes treatment that can also be a reason for stress and anxiety. In this case, the situation can worsen as these two can affect the mind and the treatment may not work.
Academic Pressure: - You can get stressed out with your academic papers by thinking you would not be able to meet the deadline. You may try to reach a good online assignment help service provider, but, it can happen that you still get stressed out.
Let us know how these factors can affect your body and mind. If you also face these symptoms, you need to do something for the solution as soon as possible.
A frequent headache: This is the first symptom of getting stressed out is that there can be a frequent headache. Especially, at the day end, it can happen and your sleep can get affected.
Muscle and back pain: This is the first sign of anxiety. When you have that disorder, you will get this symptom beforehand. You can feel that there is muscle pain in your shoulder and back. Sometimes your waist can also give you pain.
Insomnia: Even if your schedule is busy and you work hard and get tired, you would not be able to sleep due to the stress and anxiety. This can also become a chronic disease.
Getting nervous: If you are stressed out, it may happen that you are likely to get nervous in simple and little issues. Even if your mind knows that you can overcome it easily, but the brain refuses to work properly at that time.
Over annoyance in small issues: When you are stressed out, you often get annoyed with simple things. This happens when stress overpowers you and your behavior gets out of control.
Social isolation: If you get over stressed about anything you may get a fear of social gatherings. You start thinking that you have to face several questions about your life, profession etc for which you choose to stay aloof. But, this is also a very harmful thing.
Reduced work efficiency: Too much stress can also lead to poor performance in your professional sector. This can only escalate the problem and can never bring you a solution.
Increased consumption of tobacco and alcohol: If you drink and smoke too much, this also may show you a sign that you are stressed out. You may not realize in the first hand but this can affect your body and mind dangerously.
Digestion issues: When your mind is not happy, it is likely to affect the whole system. Therefore, you can also face problems of indigestion. Mind and physique are both interrelated to each other. So, mental unhappiness can lead to physical disorders.
There can be several reasons for stress and anxiety. Every single person is a victim of these two. Most of them struggle to come out of it but fail. Therefore, there are certain tips that you can undertake to release the same.
Tricks to release stress and anxiety
For releasing stress, there can be three steps. First, you need to release the stress from your Mind. So, here are certain tips for the same.
Try to understand the perspective:- It is very much important to make your mind understand that every situation and incident is not controllable. Therefore, when you face such a situation where you can get stressed out, you have to make your mind feel that this is out of your control. Thus, this will help your mind to become stress-free.
Maintain your attitude with positivity:- Always think positive because when you think negative it can affect your mind more. Thus, being positive is the mantra of releasing stress and anxiety from your mind.
Do not over think about anything:- One of the reasons that your mind get affected is the over thinking of a situation. You need to understand that overthinking does not help but makes you more stressed out. Let the situation be and wait for the next before you think.
Let go of the fear:- Out of fear to your mind can get stressed out. When you fear about losing or not achieving something, you can get stressed out. It is very much important to relieve your mind from any kind of burden. Once you do that, you can be stress-free.
Now comes the body! When you get stressed out from your mind and brain, your body is the first thing that gets affected. Therefore, you have to think about how to keep your body alert to it. Some of the helpful tips are given below.
BODY Tricks to release stress and anxiety:
This is the first thing that you should consider doing whenever you feel stressed out. This will help you to bring a level of concentration in your mind and also boost positive energy.
Once you do this, you will know how helpful it is to make your mind relaxed. When your mind is happy, automatically the body will also react the same. You need to know that body and mind is interlinked with each other. So, meditation is the best way to release stress.
Get enough sleep:
When you are stressed out, it may often become problematic for you to sleep. But, when you get enough sleep, your body gets relaxed with it. You do not have to think about the things that are making you stressed out. So, when you are really anxious about anything, try to relax your body with proper sleep.
Your diet is also very important when your body is stressed out. This is because the digestive system may not work properly at this time. So, if you intake any rich calorie food or spicy food, your body may get affected and you may fall ill. It is suggested to eat healthy food like salad, soup etc to keep your boy fit.
Cut alcohol and tobacco consumption:
When you are stressed out, you may think that consuming alcohol or tobacco is the best stress buster. But, if you consume it for long, your body can get affected internally. Therefore, you should cut down from consuming more. You can do it occasionally for enjoyment, but be making it a habit is dangerous.
You can also do free hand exercises in your home to release stress and keep your body healthy. So, when you are stressed out, do as much exercise as you can as this will generate happy hormones in your body and will release stress for sure.
These are basic things that you can do to improve the condition of your body and mind. However, there are also other ways that you can undertake and make it a habit so that stress and anxiety could not touch you.
Another process to keep stress and anxiety out of your daily lives
We all struggle for the survival every single day. So, stress and anxiety are something that we can never let go. But, if we make certain habits in our daily life, then at least we can avoid getting affected.
Write a diary every day: - Most of us get more stressed out because we do not get enough space to express our frustration and other feelings. It may also happen that you do not want to share it with anyone. In that case, you can write your own diary. You don’t have to be a writer for the same. What you can do is, you can write whatever in your mind.
Listen to your favorite music: - We often forget about our likings and disliking with our work pressure. So, to make yourself relaxed in your everyday life, try to listen to the songs that can heal your soul. This is the best practice that you can acquire to be stress-free.
Spend time with your loved ones:- This is the best medicine to release stress. Your friends, family, and other loved ones are the pills that can make you stress-free. After coming back from your work, try to spend more time with them. This will make you instantly happy.
Laugh More: - It is very much important to release your happy hormones and get refreshed. Laughing is the best medicine that you can undertake and make your life easy. To make it a habit you can try watching comedy shows and movies or read comics.
Engage yourself in other works:- You need to know that apart from your professional life and it works, you also have some other works in your household. If you really feel anxious and stressful after a tiring day, you can also take part in your household chores. This will help you from over thinking and also release stress as well.
Plan ahead:- You can also plan for your future and the way you want to save a life. This will help you to get rid of the daily stress because you will be able to think of something productive as well.
Eat your favorite dish:- Food is the best stress buster we all know. If you are a foodie, this can help you to release stress as well. If your day is too tiring and stressful, try to have your favorite flavor ice cream or chicken pasta. You will notice that you are happy instantly.
Spending time alone:- This is also helpful to release stress. When you are alone home watching your favorite Web series in Netflix, you can release your stress instantly. This is because, when you do the same, you are engaged in something you love.
Light aromatic candles:-Sweet smells can also be a way for stress busting. So, light aromatic candles inside your room so that you can feel better. A proper aroma can be very stressed releasing. Try out and see the result.
Read books:- This is also very helpful to divert your mind. Your favorite book can achieve every single bit of your concentration. So, if you read a book when you are mentally stressed out, that can be very helpful. It can give you mental happiness.
Thus, apply all these tips and tricks to make you feel better every day. Remember, fighting, stress anxiety and depression are your battles and you have to win it by hook or by crook. So, go for it.
Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them—every day begin the task anew.—Saint Francis de Sales
Depression is more than having an occasional “off day” when things just aren’t going your way. It’s a pervasive mood that ranges from a mild case of the blues to a black cloud that follows you around. Depression can affect every aspect of your life, from the way you feel to the thoughts you think, how you sleep, what you eat, and how you interact with others.
Depression harms the vital energy of the body, which can translate into physical symptoms such as paleness, slumped shoulders, sunken chest, weak arms, and a head that juts forward as if reflecting feelings of heaviness.
Many of us have experienced bouts of depression as a reaction to a traumatic event such as the loss of a loved one, work changes, an unsatisfactory move, or unwanted changes.
You may also suffer from malaise if you’re stuck and don’t know how to move forward. However, this type of depression is considered a normal reaction and exogenous, meaning due to external factors.
If you can’t pinpoint the cause of your depression, it may be due to chemical imbalances in necessary neurotransmitters. Low levels of key amino acids such as phenylalanine, tyrosine, and dopamine can cause depression.
That’s because these amino acids are precursors to mood-regulating neurotransmitters called monoamines, such as serotonin, melatonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
Depression runs in families, so if your mother or father suffers from this condition, you may too. Other factors include hypothyroidism, which means your body isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, and conditions such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and Lyme disease.
Certain drugs can make you more prone to depression, such as progesterone, estrogen, cortisone, barbiturates, amphetamines, and L-dopa. Depression can be aggravated by food allergies and sensitivities that cause cerebral inflammation. Depressed people often have digestive disorders, including constipation.
To be diagnosed with depression, one must have at least four of the following symptoms for more than two weeks.
Lack of confidence or low self-esteem
Lack of interest in ordinary activities
Withdrawal from social activities
Fatigue or lethargy
Irritability or anger
Difficulty making decisions
Overuse of drugs or alcohol
Crying easily or inability to cry
Changes in eating patterns
Excessive weight loss or gain
Missing work, school, etc.
No interest in surroundings, pleasure, or sex
Inability to get out of bed, oversleeping
Feeling of numbness
Once you have your diagnosis, you can begin to put your life back in balance.
It’s important to keep in mind that these symptoms can indicate other disorders or health conditions, so you’ll need to be evaluated by your own healthcare practitioner.
If you are feeling seriously depressed, even suicidal, see your doctor immediately or go to your local emergency room. Ask for the help of friends and family members. You don’t need to do this alone.
For those who have mild to moderate depression, these nutritional and holistic therapies can begin to help put your life back into balance. In fact, Harvard researchers found that more than half of people who have depression and anxiety use alternative medicine to get well.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, depression results from a stagnant condition of the liver. Anger is said to be the result of liver energy rising, and depression is more of an inward sensation in which anger is turned against oneself. How does the liver become stagnant? Stuffing emotions without expressing them don’t help.
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Because nutrition affects the structure and function of the brain, it makes sense that healing depression means eating differently. The best diet for depression is to consume small, frequent complex carbohydrate meals that keep blood sugar levels at an even keel.
Lean meat, chicken, eggs, fish, tempeh, and tofu all provide protein, which helps to keep blood sugar stable, and are rich in B vitamins that balance your mood by improving neurotransmitter function. According to a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, older adults who were deficient in their Bs had a higher risk of depression.
Complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, buckwheat, teff, amaranth, spelled, barley, brown rice, black rice, oatmeal, and millet are digested more slowly, which keeps you off the blood sugar roller coaster.
Complex carbs also increase the levels of serotonin, the happy hormone, in your brain. Oatmeal also possesses many healthful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, including carotenoids, tocols (vitamin E), flavonoids, and polyphenols.
Eat nutritious veggies such as artichokes, burdock root, and carrots. Drink vegetable juice combinations of carrot, celery, watercress, and spinach. Dilute juices with 50 percent water to refrain from overstimulating the pancreas. Use healthful condiments such as onions and scallions as well as ginger, basil, and oregano for flavor.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and so do all types of berries and citrus fruits. Eating two ripe bananas a day is said to help the production of both serotonin and norepinephrine.
Nourish the body with green leafy vegetables such as kale or collards as well as wild greens like dandelion greens, lamb’s-quarter, and malva, which are rich in chlorophyll and help transport oxygen into the body. Include mineral-rich sea vegetables such as kelp, dulse, or wakame to nourish the thyroid and boost a sluggish metabolism.
Cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are all high in magnesium, which helps the body produce more serotonin, the happiness hormone, and improves energy. Nuts also are protein-rich and help to keep blood sugar stable. Try them as a healthy snack.
Not getting enough B complex can lead to irritability and mental sluggishness. Folic acid also influences your mood. Low levels of folic acid can also determine whether or not talk therapy or prescription drug therapy is useful. This nutrient even improves how well antidepressants work and helps to minimize side effects.
Research in the Journal of Psychopharmacology showed that people who were deficient in B12 and folic acid were more likely to be depressed. Take B12 (50 to 100 mg) and 400 micrograms of folic acid each day to support nerve function.
Calcium and magnesium are essential for nerve and muscle function. Taking 1,000 mg of chelate or citrate calcium and 500 mg of magnesium can help improve your outlook.
Foods that are sour and bitter help move liver stagnation. Adding the juice of a half lemon to a glass of water helps to stimulate the flow of bile and improve digestion.
Herbs offer a safe and healthful alternative to prescription medications without side effects. However, if you are on medication, do not stop taking it abruptly or add herbal remedies without getting your doctor’s approval.
Using both at the same time may have unpredictable results. Some herbs that help improve depression follow. Use one cup of tea, one dropperful of tincture, or two capsules, three times daily.
Dandelion root: Improves liver function by stimulating bile production.
Eleuthero: Helps you better cope with stress. It relieves depression, fatigue, insomnia, and stress.
Improves circulation and helps the brain utilize oxygen better, which can help elevate mood and memory. Increases cellular glucose uptake and improves neural transmission. Helps preserve omega-3 fatty acid levels to improve mood.
Kava kava: Good for easing mild depression and anxiety.
Lavender: Its uplifting aroma helps alleviate fear, anxiety, exhaustion, and depression.
Traditionally used for melancholy, depression, anxiety, and coping with difficult life situations. The famous Arabian physician Avicenna said of this herb, “It causeth the mind and heart to be merry.” It acts upon the autonomic nervous system, protecting the brain from excessive external stimuli.
Helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. One variety of licorice has been found to have an MAO-inhibiting effect 450 times stronger than the drugs used.
Motherwort: Traditionally used for anxiety, depression, exhaustion, gloom, and overworry.
Oatstraw: Rich in nerve-nourishing nutrients. It aids convalescence, debility, drug addiction, exhaustion, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress.
Rhodiola: Good for improving mild to moderate depression.
Many natural practices such as yoga, homeopathy, aromatherapy, and flower essences can help to alleviate a blue mood or mild depression.
Homeopathic Remedies for the Blues
Homeopathy is the practice of like treating like. You’ll find the name of the homeopathic remedy in bold and after that a description of the condition it treats. Find the condition or state of mind that is the closest to the one you are experiencing and try that homeopathic cure. Remember:
These remedies are not a substitute for care from your doctor or therapist if you are moderate to severely depressed. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
Arsenicum album: If you are fussy or obsessively worried about the past, your mind is never at rest, and you toss and turn when sleeping, this may be for you. Also appropriate if you are overanxious, fearful and restless, agitated, depressed, and want everything to be just right.
Aurum metallicum: You feel devalued, sullen, and brooding. For depression following business failure or personal loss.
Capsicum: You dwell in the past; feel homesick, irritable, or depressed; or want to be somewhere else. An overly emotional person, you may feel threatened by new life situations.
Causticum: For depression due to the death of a parent or friend. You feel negative and anxious. You cry over small things and feel gloominess or anxious foreboding that something is about to happen.
Gelsemium: Paralyzed with grief following a loss, you may tremble but can’t cry. For mild depression following illness such as the flu.
Ignatia: For acute loss such as that of a child, parent, friend, or pet. Use for grieving, sighing, sobbing, and unpredictable behavior.
Lachesis: Use for depression from suppressed emotions and during transitions such as menopause. For depression that is worse in the mornings.
Natrum muriaticum (common salt): Use when tearful, emotional, or irritable yet practical. You do not want sympathy and desire to be left alone. For chronic grief from having suffered great unresolved emotional pain. You are easily hurt and hold on to grudges and the past. You may appear cool and aloof in order to avoid sharing sorrow. You are similar to an Ignatia person but may have suffered repeated losses.
Natrum sulphuricum: For depression following head injuries.
Nitricum acid: For when you feel anxious and depressed or are sensitive to noise and touch.
Pulsatilla: Depression alternates with a mild, easygoing manner. You are brokenhearted, weep openly, and seek sympathy.
Sepia: Lacking joy, you feel despairing and irritable. You may cry frequently but with no desire to work or change. This gets worse as the day progresses. You are averse to family and friends. Sepia helps postpartum blues and menstrual-related depression.
Silicea: Capable of working, you may feel numb in your fingers, toes, and back. You are easily fatigued and cry easily. You are melancholy, with difficulty concentrating.
The Power of Flower Essences
Flower remedies help to heal emotional imbalances, such as a blue mood or mild depression. Flower remedies can be taken with herbs, homeopathy, and medications and are safe for people of all ages. Try:
Agrimony: For those who hide their depression with a cheerful facade as well as with drug and alcohol use.
Blackberry: Benefits of depression resulting from the loss of a loved one.
Borage: Makes you feel happier. Helps uplift a heavy-feeling heart.
Crabapple: For feelings of uncleanness.
Gentian: Helps with discouragement from set-backs, hopelessness, or despair; for those who are easily discouraged.
Gorse: For hopelessness, despair, despondency, or feelings of inevitable trouble.
Hornbeam: For when you’re blue, gloomy, or mentally fatigued.
Mustard: For sudden depression with no known cause. Depression may also suddenly lift.
Star of Bethlehem: For trauma, grief, and loss.
Sweet chestnut: For anguish, bereavement, hopelessness, and despair. Feels like you have reached your limits of endurance.
Essential oils that can help lift one’s spirits include basil, bergamot, chamomile, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, coriander, grapefruit, lavender, jasmine, marjoram, orange, patchouli, peppermint, rose, rose geranium, rosemary, rosewood, sandalwood, spruce, tangerine, thyme, ylang-ylang, and wintergreen.
Put the essential oil or oils in a diffuser and fill your bedroom or office with a soothing scent. Put a few drops on your pillows so you inhale the scent as you go to sleep. Shower with an aromatherapy soap. If you’re feeling brave, end your shower with cold water to feel invigorated!
Emotional Freedom Techniques
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a psychotherapeutic practice that can help to relieve depression. The practitioner taps on energy meridian point to release negative emotions from the body’s energy field and bring the body back into balance. Visit Gold Standard EFT Tapping Therapy for more information.
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Acupuncture is a promising treatment for depression in women, who are more prone to this condition. University of Arizona researchers studied 38 women with mild to moderate depression and found that, after 12 sessions, 70 percent of women experienced at least a 50 percent reduction in symptoms, which is comparable to the success rate of psychotherapy and medication.
Try these acupressure points either as part of a message or by themselves. Apply pressure three times for ten seconds each, several times daily.
1. Press the point 11⁄2 inches (3.5 cm) below the navel.
2. Press right below and on the inside corner of the fingernail of the middle finger.
3. Press directly below the inside corner of the nail of the pinkie finger.
4. Place four fingers into the hollow at the base of the skull. Pushing firmly, massage slowly in a circular motion for three minutes.
5. Apply pressure between the first, second, and third thoracic vertebrae.
Getting a massage once a week is more than a luxury; it improves circulation and removes blockages in the body. Try a whole-body massage, preferably using one of the essential oils mentioned above. If you’re feeling blue, ask the practitioner to pay special attention to the back of your neck, ears, face, chest, shoulders, legs, and feet.
Exercise wakes up the body and stimulates endorphin production, which can mean a happier you. Researchers at the University of Toronto found that moderate exercise can even prevent depression from occurring.
The study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2013 reviewed more than twenty-six years of research findings and discovered that even low levels of physical activity, such as walking and gardening, for twenty to thirty minutes a day can ward off depression in all age groups.
Exercise also boosts your intake of oxygen, an important nutrient so your brain feels alert, happy, and calm. Smoking, shallow breathing, poor posture, and lack of fresh air all contribute to the brain lacking oxygen. Doing yoga and tai chi and walking outside are all ways to take more oxygen into your system.
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Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine and McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, found that practicing yoga produced increased GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels, which can help ease depression. The effect was similar to treatment with antidepressants. Yoga poses for depression include cobra, camel, headstand, and shoulder stand.
Keep Your Hands Busy, Too
It’s been said that “Art is toxic discharge.” Sew, knit, clean, work with wood, sketch, garden, paint. Not only will it help alleviate depression, but it will bolster your self-esteem.
It’s time to put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. Writing about the way you feel can change your perspective and make you feel better. Label what it is you’ve lost (job, promotion, lover, etc.) rather than “everything.” Make a list.
Look at the problems as tests and learning experiences. Give your problems a more friendly term. For example, let life’s difficulties become learning experiences.
Choose ten activities to accomplish every day (even if it is as simple as getting dressed and making the bed). Write down what you did each day that was productive.
Getting Help for SAD
In the winter, when days get shorter, less light can lead to depression, oversleeping, and fatigue, symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). These natural therapies can help:
Get a full-spectrum light box. It will give you a dose of sunshine for your pineal gland, which stimulates serotonin and melatonin production and vitamin D.
Use a natural alarm clock. A dawn simulator works on any lamp and simulates the early hours of the a.m. by slowly getting brighter over time.
Keep your blood sugar stable by eating foods that contain proteins, complex carbohydrates, whole grains (which also contain vitamins B6 and B12, which are important for brain health), and nuts, vegetables (which have folic acid), and fruits that are not dried or in juice form, as they are too sweet.
Try tryptophan. It helps your body make serotonin, the feel-good hormone.
Take your vitamin d. The sun helps the body make vitamin D, but in the winter, you’ll need to take a supplement. Take 400 mg.
Blissful sleep is that recharging, rejuvenating repose in which about one-third of our lives are spent. When we rest, our bone marrow and lymph nodes produce substances that aid the immune system, and much of the body’s repair work is done. Yet for many, sleep can be elusive, leaving them exhausted and lacking clarity the next day. The best way to improve insomnia is to change the cause.
Reasons Why You Can’t Sleep
What you do, think, eat, and drink can determine whether or not you get the sleep you need. Caffeinated foods and beverages such as coffee, black tea, chocolate, and cola drinks, even when consumed early in the day, can affect normal night sleep patterns.
Alcohol consumption can interfere with deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, and smokers can take longer to fall asleep than nonsmokers.
Many prescription medications contribute to insomnia, including antibiotics, cold remedies, decongestants, steroids, appetite suppressants, contraceptives, and thyroid pills.
Allergies, pain, anxiety, and depression can all interfere with sleep. But sleeping pills can inhibit calcium absorption, are often habit-forming, can prevent dreaming, and thus should not be the first resort for sleeping problems.
W Foods such as turkey, tuna, whole grain crackers or bread, nut butter, bananas, grapefruits, avocados, dates, and figs all contain tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes the production of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that induces sleep. Try eating a tryptophan-rich snack an hour before bedtime.
Foods that can actually disrupt sleep because they contain the amino acid tyramine, which discourages the production of serotonin, include cheese, spinach, sauerkraut, ham, sausage, bacon, and chocolate, too, which also contains caffeine. Many of the foods in the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers also interfere with sleep.
Eating too much sugar will give you a temporary lift, but your blood sugar will dip twenty minutes later. You’ll feel drowsy at first, but the sugar will actually trigger a hypoglycemic episode (when your blood sugar drops) a few hours later and wake you up.
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Insomnia can be caused by hormonal influences, like when you have bloating from premenstrual syndrome (PMS). So it’s important to avoid extra salt, skip caffeine, and take extra calcium.
You can also discuss estrogen replacement therapy with herbal phytoestrogen, soy menopausal supplements, or plant-based conjugated estrogens with your holistic doctor. For a bedtime snack, try a soy smoothie. Soy is a plant estrogen source, and milk contains sleep-inducing tryptophan, so it’s a good combo.
Herbal remedies such as valerian can help you drift off to dreamland, naturally. Unlike potent pharmaceuticals, natural sleep cures are usually not habit forming and don’t leave you feeling groggy. Here are the ones to try:
Chamomile’s antispasmodic properties help you unwind from tension.
Hops contain lupulin, a strong yet safe, reliable sedative. Hops can also be made into a sleep sachet in which a 5- by 5-inch (13- by 13-cm) cloth is stuffed with dried hops, stitched up, and placed in your pillowcase. The aroma from hops helps lull you to sleep. Both King George II and Abraham Lincoln are said to have slept with hops pillows. Make a new sachet twice a year.
Passionflower slows the breakdown of serotonin and norepinephrine, helping you to move into a more peaceful state of consciousness.
Skullcap contains scutellarin, which transforms into scutellarein in the body and stimulates the brain to produce calming endorphins.
Valerian calms sleep disorders that result from anxiety.
All of the above herbs can be taken by themselves or in combination. Natural food stores and pharmacies will carry herbal sleeping blends in tea, tincture, or capsule form. I like tincture or capsules.
If you wake up during the night, place an ounce of water by the bed so that you can squeeze a dropperful of herbal tincture into it. This practice will help you get back to sleep and is simpler than having to get up and make tea, possibly consuming enough liquids that you awaken from the urge to urinate.
A calcium and magnesium supplement can be helpful when taken before bed, as it has a muscle-relaxing, calming effect. The body also best absorbs calcium when at rest.
B vitamins such as B3 (niacin) and B6 help produce the body’s natural sleep chemicals—tryptophan and serotonin. Take them forty-five minutes before you go to bed; otherwise, they can overstimulate the body’s deep sleep cycle (REM) and disrupt sleep.
Holistic Therapies for a More Restful Sleep
Essential oils that can aid sleep when placed in the bath or on the pillowcase include chamomile, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, nutmeg, rose, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang.
A warm bath before bed can be a sleeping aid. After the tub has filled, add seven drops of calming essential oil of chamomile or lavender for its relaxing effects. Another technique is to put two or three drops of chamomile or lavender oil on the pillowcase, so you inhale its calming scent when you need to sleep.
Research shows that inadequate vasodilation, the opening of blood vessels to increase blood flow, may cause sleep problems. That’s because when we lie down, the body lowers its core temperature and redistributes heat to the periphery. To remedy this problem, just tuck a hot water bottle near your feet or slip on a pair of cozy socks to help you snooze.
Get Enough Sun Exposure
Sunlight is the most powerful regulator of our biological clock, influencing when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert. So a lack of light exposure can result in difficulty sleeping. If you have trouble falling asleep, spend some time outside in the early morning sunlight, even on cloudy days. Seniors, on the other hand, need light in the late afternoon.
Try taking a walk for forty-five minutes or just sit, as long as your eyes are bathed in bright light. If sunlight isn’t available, consider a light box or light visor.
Exercise can improve the quality of your sleep. In a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1997, Stanford researchers placed sedentary men and women with sleep problems on a program of moderate exercise. After sixteen weeks, the exercises were getting to sleep twice as fast and sleeping for more than forty minutes longer each night.
Although exercise can aid sleep, some studies suggest that exercising too close to bedtime does just the opposite. This is because exercise has an alerting effect and raises body temperature.
But if you exercise five or six hours before you go to bed, and your temperature has had time to drop, you’ll find you sleep easier. Also, avoid eating at least three hours before bedtime, as food can stimulate rather than sedate.
Establish a Sleep Routine
You’ll sleep better if you set a regular bed and awakening time and do your best to stick with it. Make the hour to two hours before you go to bed a wind-down period from the day’s activities and stresses. Watch television or read in a room other than your bedroom. Try holistic practices such as taking a hot bath or have a massage before going to sleep.
Make Your Bedroom Allergy Free
Allergies can interfere with sleep and contribute to stuffy noses and headaches in the morning. To minimize allergens wash bedding in hot water (130°F or 54°C) every week to kill dust mites, the microscopic organisms that feed off flakes of dead skin.
A dehumidifier, a high-efficiency particulate air filter, and zippered, allergen-proof covers on your bedding and blankets can all help you sleep easier.
Good to Know!
Electromagnetic pollution too close to the body can stimulate the nervous system and weaken the immune system. So avoid having clocks, stereos, and electric blankets as your nighttime companions within 6 feet (1.8 m) of your bed.
Make Your Bedroom a Peaceful Sanctuary
Keep your bedroom space serene and avoid using it as a place to do homework, pay bills, conduct business, or carry out arguments. Avoid excess mental activity right before bed, such as action-packed TV or page-turning novels. Sex, however, can be a pleasurable prelude to sleep.
Dim the Lights
Remember that light is a stimulant. If much light shines brightly through your windows at night, consider getting heavier curtains. If you awake during the night and need to go to the bathroom, avoid turning on bright lights, as this will make you even more awake and inhibits melatonin production needed for sleep.
Instead, use a small, red night-light to guide your way. If needed, use earplugs or eye masks to help shut the world out for a while.
Quiet Your Mind
If you have too much on your mind, like plans for the days ahead, things to do, and people to call, write it all down and then let it all go. This makes it easier to relax, rather than needing to lie awake and review your to-do list. If you are troubled about something, try to talk about your feelings with someone you trust.
Focus on Your Breath
When you are ready to go to bed, focus on the in and out of your breath to soothe yourself to sleep. Couple breathing with some sort of visualization. For example, with one breath relax your toes, with the next breath your feet, then your ankles. Moving slowly up your body should help you slumber.
By the time you reach your waist, you might very well be asleep! Or try counting backward from a high number such as 400, slowly, one number for each breath.
If You Just Can’t Sleep
If you can’t sleep for more than half an hour, don’t fight it. Instead, get up and practice a quiet activity in a dimly lit room that won’t rev you up, like reading (no thrillers!), knitting, or listening to calming music until you feel sleepy, and then return to bed.
If you have trouble sleeping, try not to focus on this fact during the day. Just get up in the morning, go through your day, and get into bed at your regular time. Try the strategies you’ve found here and you will sleep more easily!
Natural Secrets for Sweet Dreams
Dreams are a way of clearing the subconscious and may give us insight into what lies deep in our psyche. It is amazing how in a few seconds we traverse years of experience in these “fantasies of the night.” At the very least, dreams can be an opportunity for adventure and entertainment. Dreams usually last from a few moments to more than forty minutes.
Herbs for Sweet Dreams
A dream pillow with an aroma can help access the deep parts of the mind and make dreams more vivid. Make a 4- by 4-inch (10- by 10-cm) sachet filled with dried lavender, lemon balm, and rosemary.
Adding a few pinches of ground orris root, if you can get it, will help the fragrance last longer. Place the sachet in your pillowcase when you go to bed. Make a new pillow or refill the original every six months.
Kava kava is said to induce epic-length dreams worth remembering. Damiana can be smoked or taken as a bedtime tea for vivid dreams. Because damiana is also an aphrodisiac, dreams may be of an erotic nature.
Saint-John’s-wort is recommended in Europe to promote lucid dreams and help dispel nightmares. Burning jasmine incense before bed may help transport you to the Land of Dreams.
Try sleeping with your head facing north to be in tune with the planetary force fields. The amethyst is regarded as the stone for dreaming. Place some around the head of your bed.
Taking vitamin B6 (150 mg) and 15 mg zinc before you go to sleep can help dream recall.
The flower essences aspen, rock rose, and Rescue Remedy all help to calm panic and prevent nightmares. Using the color violet in color therapy helps calm the spirit.
Set Your Intention before You Go to Sleep
Before you go to sleep, remind yourself that you wish to remember your dreams. You can also set an intention (“my dreams will reveal wisdom”) or ask for guidance on a particular issue.
Keep asking. Your final thoughts of the day will often have an influence on your life. It may be helpful to read something spiritually uplifting before bed to put yourself into a state of exploring consciousness.
Natural Practices for Remembering Sweet Dreams
The best time for dream memories is when you first wake up, but if you begin the day with an adrenaline rush produced by a shrill alarm clock, you’ll have little chance of remembering them.
Instead, try slowly waking up to soft music or a Zen Alarm Clock so that you have time for reflection. It is also possible to mentally program yourself to wake up a few minutes before the alarm ever goes off.
Once you are awake, try lying still with your eyes still closed. Let the images of your dreams drift into consciousness.
Keep writing implements by the bed to record those flashes of recall. Every morning, write down something about your dreams. If you lack any recall, write, “Nothing remembered.” The important point is to get in the habit of writing something daily. Or use a tape recorder or your smartphone to record your memories.
If you can remember a feeling, but not the actual dream, try to think of what situation could bring up that feeling. It may facilitate remembering. Telling your dream to a friend may give you a bit more insight.
Avoid eating before bedtime, as food fuels energy in most cases. Avoid eating sweets after dinner. Excess rich and spicy or oily foods, as well as food allergies, can provoke nightmares. So can a toxic liver.
A folk remedy to aid dream recall is to place a glass of water by the bed. Drink half the glass before going to sleep and the other half when you awaken.
Journal Topic: Look up some of the symbols you dream about, even if it is just a brief remembrance of color, person, mood, or image on a website such as Your Online Source For Dream Interpretations (which also has a free app for smartphones) or www. Dream Interpretation, Dream Analysis, Dream Dictionary and jot down some notes. Enjoy the journey!
Dealing with Nightmares
Nightmares can be disturbing, but they get your attention, and you may want to explore what their significance is. For example:
Dreaming of drowning or suffocating may indicate the lungs are overactive and need to be calmed.
Dreams of crying may be an indication of lung deficiency.
Dreams of failure, such as being unable to complete a task, may mean excess spleen/ pancreas energy.
Dreams of being rejected by loved ones may indicate a spleen/pancreas deficiency.
If the heart system is excessive, dreams of fire, explosives, and heat may occur. A person with a deficient heart may have dreams in which they are unable to talk or scream.
Kidney excess may manifest as dreams of water and snakes. If the kidneys are depleted, the dreams are more fearful, such as being pursued by snakes or swept away by water. Liver excess can result in dreams of impatience, anger, and danger. Liver deficiency may bring dreams of indecision, doom, gloom, and even death.
Herbal Help for Bad Dreams
Banish nightmares with herbal teas and sachets. The ones to use include basil, chamomile, dill seed, rosemary, and wood betony. These herbs can also be hung as sprigs over the bed.
Watching TV before bed can affect your dreams. Watch what you watch! Rather than watching TV in the evenings, you might want to take a walk instead. May all your best dreams come true!
boost brain power
No matter how closely you examine the water, glucose, and electrolyte salts in the human brain, you can’t find the point where these molecules became conscious.
If you can’t remember where you left your keys, or your checkbook or your phone, you’re not alone.
Nutritional deficiencies; eating the wrong foods and the free-radical damage and inflammation that result; aging; and even conditions such as hypothyroidism and Lyme disease can affect our ability to think clearly and remember important things and can sometimes lead to chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The good news? You can improve the way your brain functions by choosing a better diet for your brain, along with helpful herbs, supplements, and other natural remedies.
Your brain is composed of about 100 billion neurons, which accounts for almost half of all your nerve cells. Neurons are nerve cells that consist of a cell body (containing the nucleus), a long fiber called an axon, and dendrites, which form a tree, like a network of branching neurons.
Neurons never touch and have small gaps between them called synapses. No two neurons or brains are exactly alike, each having its own unique shape.
When stimulated, the neurons release chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that jump across the synapse to the next neuron. Some thirty brain chemicals regulate the transmission of signals across the synapses. The best known are acetyl-choline, epinephrine, and serotonin; they are all made from amino acids.
Brains will sprout new connections between cells to meet demands as long as our environmental challenges or stimulates them. Whenever you learn new things, more links are added between neurons. The saying “use it or you lose it” applies to mind and body!
The more you know, the more you can know these encourage the production of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins in the body, resulting in free-radical damage to the brain and leading to conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, and depression.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t get the antioxidants we need to combat oxidative damage. Research shows that most of us get half of our veggies by eating nutrient-poor potatoes, iceberg lettuce, and canned tomatoes.
Foods that are said to best enhance mental alertness are green leafy vegetables (rich in chlorophyll, which helps the body better utilize oxygen), coffee, flax, walnuts, cauliflower, blueberries (high in antioxidants), and cold saltwater fatty fish like salmon, cod, sardines, herring, and mackerel; are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fats are essential because your body can’t make them—instead, you have to get them through food or supplements.
Why Your Brain Loves Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are important because the brain is made up of 60 percent fat. Neurons are also made up of fats and neurological tissue, or what we would call white or gray matter.
DHA, the most abundant fat in the brain, and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) in omega-3 fatty acids improve the health of the cells of your central nervous system and provide structural support, so neurons can communicate. Breast milk contains DHA, which is why it’s recommended that babies are breastfed if at all possible.
The specific foods and the nutrients here can make a difference in brain health by improving mental function, clarity, and memory:
Your brain is fueled by glucose converted by insulin into energy. If you don’t have enough glucose, your brain just doesn’t function as well. Coconut oil can help.
That’s because the ketones in the body that help convert fat into energy (as opposed to glucose) come from medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil. In fact, coconut oil contains a whopping 66 percent MCTs. Start with 1 teaspoon a day with food and gradually build up to 1 tablespoon (14 g) daily for maximum benefit.
It contains phytochemicals (from the Greek word meaning “plant”) called catechins, potent antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory properties that prevent damage to nerve cells that is characteristic of such conditions as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Nuts: Neuroscientists at the University of Illinois-Chicago found that nuts, in particular, almonds, prevent mental decline as we age. Almonds contain good fatty acids like those in olive oil, with plenty of monounsaturated fat. Almonds contain 10 IU of the antioxidant vitamin E per ounce and are also good sources of nutrients such as magnesium, copper, calcium, and riboflavin.
Purple and red foods:
When you eat blueberries, dark cherries, pomegranates, black grapes, and beets, you tap the power of anthocyanins, strong antioxidants that protect blood vessels, and enhance communication between nerve cells.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the phytochemicals such as anthocyanins in blueberries may enhance signaling between nerve cells. Blueberries may also make nerve cell receptors more effective when binding with the brain’s chemical messengers.
Dark green veggies contain magnesium that lowers levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a blood marker of inflammation. Their antioxidant properties help protect the central nervous system from the damage caused by oxidation. They also improve memory.
This treat is high in antioxidants. Choose organic dark chocolate because it is free from pesticides. It is also lower in sugar, which promotes inflammation in the body.
These work as an antioxidant to protect the fats that make up the walls of our cells. Studies show that black sesame seeds popular in Japan are even more effective than white sesame seeds in protecting cells against free-radical damage.
A study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry shows that this natural, anti-inflammatory yellow powder found in curry could be an effective enhancer of an enzyme that protects the brain against oxidative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. You can also take it as a supplement.
Mother Nature’s News
An apple a day may help protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, according to a study in the Journal of Food Science (2004).
Apples naturally contain phytonutrients such as quercetin, an antioxidant that helps prevent cell and tissue damage from oxidation. Other good sources of quercetin include berries, plums, and onions.
The Anatomy of the Brain
The three portions of the brain are the instinctual (reptilian), limbic (mammalian or emotional), and neocortex (rational thought). The brain stem is the most primitive portion of the brain, evolving even before mammals. It is sometimes referred to as the reptilian brain, lower brain, hindbrain, or R complex.
The brain stem is actually an extension of the spinal cord. The medulla oblongata is the lower half of the brain stem and supports life in many ways, including heart rate, breathing, circulation, and digestion.
These herbs have stood the test of time in helping improve brain function and have been used by various cultures throughout history to improve mental capacities. You can benefit from them today:
Ashwagandha supports the nervous system and in Ayurvedic medicine is considered a medharasayan remedy, a promoter of memory and learning.
Bacopa increases attention span and improves behavior, memory, learning, and motor coordination. It enhances learning new tasks and aids in the retention of newly learned material.
Eleuthero is nourishing to the pituitary and adrenal glands. It helps the body’s ability to deal with stress. Studies done in the former Soviet Union show that this herb helps to improve job accuracy. It improves memory by improving circulation. It is an adaptogen and a chi tonic.
Gotu kola has been used in India as a cerebral and endocrine tonic. Containing calcium, pangamic acid, and phosphorus as well as the amino acid glutamine, this well-renowned herb has been used to treat amnesia, dementia, fatigue, and senility. It has a revitalizing effect on the brain cells and nerves.
The Anatomy of the Brain: The Cerebrum
The cerebrum, which makes up about 85 percent of the brain’s mass, is divided into two halves or hemispheres. Each hemisphere contains cellular networks that receive, store, and retrieve information. The cortex is the brain portion responsible for language, memory, and abstract thought.
The hippocampus coordinates information from the cortex to form links (associations) between various sensory representations. The cerebellum (also known as midbrain) houses posture, balance, and movement. The amygdala triggers either aggression or docility depending on the situation and the hippocampus forms and stores new memories.
The Left Brain
The left brain is more analytical, logical, verbal, temporal, and sequential. The left brain controls language, speech, facts, numbers, dates, spelling, linear and logical thinking, reasoning, and analysis; it processes information one step at a time.
The Right Brain
The right side of the brain works more with fantasy, feeling, imagination, and intuition. It’s more artistic, holistic, intuitive, musical, and pictorial, and you easily see patterns and relationships and understand metaphor (the difference between what is said and what is meant).
The right brain corresponds more to spatial functions such as imagination and intuition, as well as the ability to “see the big picture” and process several kinds of information at once. One way to improve right-brain activity is to think in pictures.
Do you work more with your right or left brain?
Ginkgo helps improve the brain’s ability to utilize oxygen and glucose by improving peripheral blood flow. Ginkgo has been found to improve nerve signal transmission and activate ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an organic compound that aids metabolic reactions. Ginkgo helps protect nerve cells from free-radical damage.
Ginkgo is currently one of the most prescribed herbs in Europe and is recommended in treating dementia, memory loss, and senility and promoting recovery from stroke.
It is an antioxidant and cerebral tonic.
Huperzine, a compound found in club moss, increases brain levels of the chemical acetylcholine and enhances memory, focus, and concentration. It has been shown to improve the cognitive factor in Alzheimer’s patients.
Reishi mushrooms help promote mental clarity and peacefulness.
Alpha brain waves are associated with meditation, relaxation, and detached awareness. Without alpha, you wouldn’t remember your dreams. Beta waves correspond to the functions of daily life, when the environment stimulates us, like awakened states, alertness, logical thinking, and problem-solving.
Delta and gamma waves are associated with inspiration and spirituality. Theta waves are associated with the unconscious mind and the states we encounter in dreaming and meditation.
(dimethylaminoethanol) is chemically similar to choline and helps to make and maintain neurotransmitter function, improves memory, and elevates mood.
Lecithin is used in Europe to treat senility. It helps in fat metabolism. Lecithin accounts for about 30 percent of the dry weight of the brain. When buying lecithin, look for brands that contain at least 30 percent phosphatidylcholine. Both choline and lecithin have been found to be helpful in Parkinson’s disease.
Human breast milk is much higher in lecithin than cow’s milk. The other important component in lecithin is inositol, which co-functions with choline as a fat metabolizer and brain enhancer. Vitamin B12 can help in the synthesis of RNA.
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid that has exhibited the ability to improve memory and cognitive capabilities. It helps maintain the integrity of brain tissue and the fluidity of cellular membranes, thus benefiting neuron transmission. It naturally occurs in brain cells, and amounts tend to decrease as aging occurs.
Vitamin E helps protect the brain from free-radical damage and in turn delays the onset of dementia. Researchers for the Okinawa Program in Japan studied vitamin E levels in Okinawan elders and found that their blood level of vitamin E was 30 percent higher than that of Americans.
Elders there naturally eat super-foods such as sweet potatoes and foods that are high in vitamin E like nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, vegetable oils, avocados, wheat germ, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables. If you don’t get enough vitamin E from your diet, supplements can help.
Note: If you take blood-thinning medication, it’s very important to check with your doctor before taking any vitamin E supplementation.
A lack of vitamin C can lead to hypersensitivity, fatigue, and depression. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, protecting delicate nerve cells. Vitamin C can be found in fruits (especially citrus) and vegetables, including green and red peppers, tomatoes, and green, leafy varieties like spinach and collard greens. Note: Vitamins C and E work synergistically to protect against dementia.
Calcium and magnesium are needed for proper brain function. Boron helps to promote mental alertness. Iron helps to make neurotransmitters and DNA. Without magnesium, we may be more prone to confusion, lethargy, and depression.
Potassium is needed to maintain normal levels of neurotransmitters. During pregnancy, zinc ensures proper fetal brain growth. There is a considerable amount of zinc in the brain.
Beta-carotene and vitamin A help carry more oxygen to the brain and help prevent fatigue. Research in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry showed that low levels of vitamin D affect brain function.
Increasing the amount of this nutrient in the body either through sun exposure or supplementation can help keep you mentally fit as you age.
The Peripheral and Sympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system stems from the brain’s base, helps in the assimilation of nutrients, contributes to the ability to relax, and is necessary for repair and restoration of the body. The yin component of the nervous system, it governs the internal functions necessary for life support, including breathing and glandular, heart, and digestive activity.
The sympathetic nervous system governs the vital organs, originating from the spinal column. The master branch is known as the pneumogastric nerve, or “abdominal brain,” and governs breathing and digestion. The sympathetic nervous system helps discharge previously accumulated energy, burns fuel for work, and aids defense and flight from danger.
It responds to emergencies by shutting down non-essential bodily functions at that time. It also regulates stress hormones, sensory response, and heart rate. It is the more yang component of the nervous system and governs the vital organs.
Why Your Brain Needs Amino Acids
Amino acid therapy can improve your mental capacity to enjoy the world. L-glutamine readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and becomes glutamic acid. It serves as brain fuel and as a protective agent. L-methionine nourishes brain cells and aids choline’s ability to promote thinking. L-phenylalanine works as a neurotransmitter.
It gets converted into norepinephrine and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that promote mental alertness. L-taurine is an anti-oxidant, an electronic regulator for nerve cells, and a chemical transmitter for the brain.
L-tyrosine stimulates the production of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, promoting alertness and awareness; it is even mood enhancing and motivating. Low levels of dopamine can contribute to depression, autism, schizophrenia, and hyperactivity. N-acetyl-cysteine is an antioxidant that helps to make glutathione.
It improves cognitive function and stabilizes neurological deterioration. Coenzyme Q10 also functions as an antioxidant and decreases from our brains as we age. Consider octacosanol for short-term use such as brain damage occurring from head injury, stroke, or shock.
An amino acid, vitamin-like compound, it improves memory by stabilizing membranes, boosting energy production, and making nerve transmission more effective. It stimulates acetylcholine production and absorption by the brain.
Research conducted at RMG Biosciences of Baltimore showed that extracts of ginger (Zingiber officinale) and galangal (Alpinia galanga), a member of the ginger family, helped inhibit the manufacture of inflammatory brain chemicals, and in turn slowed down the progression of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Natural Practices to Boost Brain Function
Exercise increases the body’s intake of oxygen and speeds up nerve impulses between brain cells. Studies also show that one hour of exercise five times a week will help prevent degenerative
Because your gut is your second brain— you even have neurons in your gut that produce feel-good neurotransmitters like sero-tonin—it’s important to keep it healthy. But eating a lot of processed foods and sugar will destroy healthy microflora and breed bad bacteria and yeast. Taking a probiotic supplement can help.
Exercise also encourages nerve cells to produce proteins such as a neurotrophic factor that improves brain health and cognitive function like learning. Research in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2012 showed that exercise improves the function of mitochondria that produce energy, and in turn brain power.
Mother Nature’s News
Research in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 shows that keeping your brain active by doing crossword puzzles, reading books or newspapers, writing for pleasure, or playing board games or cards with friends can help prevent dementia and boost mental functioning.
Choose something that you enjoy so you stick with it. If you love to dance, put on your favorite tunes. If you love the snow, try cross-country skiing. If you love the water, swim. Take a walk and watch the world go by. Aim for thirty minutes of exercise three to four times a week. You’ll notice the difference!
Because your nasal cavities are very close to the brain, you can use aromas to easily stimulate mental alertness. Try using the aromas of basil, bay, eucalyptus, jasmine, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, lime, peppermint, and rosemary to boost brain power. The smell of vanilla is being investigated for its ability to help people recall childhood memories.
Cineole, which is especially high in basil, ginger, orange, peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary, has been found to increase blood flow to the brain. Smell the same essential oil, like rosemary (Greek scholars put garlands of rosemary around their heads and necks to help them learn), when studying and then use it again when taking a test or having to perform.
Aromatherapy can be as simple as putting a few drops of essential oil on a tissue and inhaling it, putting a few drops on a pillow, or using it as subtle perfume. Or you can use a diffuser to disperse the aroma into the room.
A good place to massage to enhance mental alertness is the SI-13 acupuncture point, which is found by reaching your right hand over the left shoulder and, with the middle finger, pressing into the pointy edge of the shoulder blade on the upper back. Repeat on another side. This increases blood flow to the brain stem.
Learning about the Limbic System
The limbic system, located on the top of the brain stem, is associated with prolonged emotional responses such as hunger and thirst. Along with the hypothalamus it is associated with human sexual behavior, heat regulation, and the emotions of fear, anger, and motivation.
The limbic system is sometimes referred to as the “smell brain,” as it is directly connected to taste and smell receptors, which is how aromatherapy works!
Brigitte’s Advice for Building Better Brains
Choose things to do that appeal to you or areas you know you need to focus on and take action to build brain power starting today.
1. Expand your experiences. Traveling to school or work by new routes inspires different thoughts as various visions flash by.
2. Avoid being stuck in a rut. Visit new places. Try new foods. Vary the places where you travel for vacation.
3. Hang out with intelligent people. Converse with interesting people. Have a conversation with someone who has different views than you do.
4. Play word games. Have in-depth discussions. Ask questions and get answers, even if you have to look them up yourself.
5. Sharpen your senses by really focusing. Notice as many details as possible. Experience the world using as many senses as possible.
6. Absentmindedness means that the mind was not present or focusing on the matters at hand. Ram Das was right: “Be here now.”
7. An ancient saying goes, “I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” When learning new things, do your best to do it yourself.
8. Practice good posture to better allow the flow of energy throughout the nervous system.
9. Read challenging literature that offers new insights. Try the classics. Enjoy a genre that you have never before read, such as autobiographies, science fiction, or history. Read a magazine with information that is contrary to your own beliefs.
10. Keep a pen or pencil handy. Always have something to write with. You never know when you are going to get a great idea.
11. Make a collage or vision board of what you want to bring into your life.
12. Play with toys. Collect children’s toys and get them out to share with your friends. Play!
13. Mozart’s music has been shown to improve IQ scores. Chopin, Ravel, and Schubert are said to enhance the stream of consciousness.
14. Use your nondominant hand to complete simple tasks such as brushing your teeth, buttoning clothes, and eating. This requires you to use the side of the brain opposite the one you normally use.
15. Use your feet to perform a task like putting clothes in the laundry hamper.
16. Color therapists say that the color yellow is cerebrally stimulating. Highlight important passages that you read in yellow, wear the color, and visualize breathing it in. Consider using yellow in lighting and décor in places where mental work is being done. Full-spectrum lighting elevates serotonin levels.
17. Quietly and closely observe nature. She abounds with beauty and intelligence even in minute detail that can inspire us in a positive way.
18. Free your mind! Write down details—phone numbers, things to do, and goals—to get them out of your head and into action. Keep an engagement calendar. Record flashes of brilliance and words of wisdom. Make lists into meaningful categories.
19. When taking classes, sit in different places to gain different perspectives and foster alertness.
20. When attending lectures, take notes on keywords and phrases.
21. When you want to remember something, repeat it aloud to yourself. Visualize it being imprinted upon your brain.
22. To help remember names, associate the name with a picture. Eileen has big blue eyes. Visualize Bob turning into a bobcat. Right after being introduced to someone, use his or her name. “It’s nice to meet you, Denise.” If you don’t quite catch how to say their name, ask them to spell it for you.
23. When learning something important, with your mind’s eye, see yourself registering the information and filing it. Then practice retrieving it and re-filing it.
24. Think positively. You’ll do better if you affirm that “I can pass this exam” rather than “I’ll never make it.”
25. Listen to self-help CDs, DVDs, and downloads. Engage your mind.
26. Avoid damaging substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, pollutants, artificial sweeteners, and MSG. Many medications have an adverse effect on the brain.
27. Try studying in the afternoon or right before you go to sleep to remember more. The ideal amount of time to study is thirty-five minutes. In the last five minutes, review what was studied for the first thirty. Take a break in between study sessions if you need to study longer than thirty-five minutes.
28. You may find that recording dreams gives you new insight. While dreaming, the brain generates chemicals and protein needed during awake time. People dream in color but usually remember dreams in black and white.
29. Spend time each day doing nothing. Give the overworked brain time to rest.
30. Learn about mudras (sacred hand gestures), mantras (sacred chanting), and yantra (pictures that help awaken the divine within). For example, chanting the mantra “om” aids opening of blockages in the spinal column as well as stimulating the pituitary and pineal glands.
31. Sleeping with a sachet of rosemary in the pillowcase may help you to recall dreams. Before going to sleep, tell yourself that you want to remember dreams. Upon awakening, give yourself a few minutes to reflect and write down the stream of dreams that occurred. Having a notepad and pencil by the bed may give you the opportunity to record other important thoughts as well.
32. Work in teams. Draw on the skills and ideas of friends and coworkers. Practice the art of brainstorming, where you record wild thoughts and ideas. This often leads to fruitful concepts.
33. Break chains of blockage and negative thought with diversion. Go for a walk. Call a friend. See a movie.
34. Creative people usually retain a childlike quality. My friend Timothy Leary, Ph.D., used to say, “Adulthood is a terminal disease.”
35. The art of visualization is one way of practicing mental gymnastics. Einstein supposedly came upon the theory of relativity while visualizing flying along at the speed of light.
36. Meditation is helpful to both calm and expands consciousness. Ideally meditate daily in the same place at the same times. In the morning soon after awakening and before eating are ideal.
Sitting on a mat or chair will prevent the inclination to fall asleep. Sit quietly with your hands resting on your lap or gently beside you. Breathe softly, in and out. Listen to your internal sounds; simply focus on your breath.
37. Prayer is when we talk to God. Meditation is when God talks back to us.
38. Play mentally challenging games such as chess or Scrabble. Do puzzles, crosswords, and word jumbles.
39. Makeup acronyms. To remember your license plate, create a sentence using words beginning with each of the letters. For example, MRU607 might be Musk Rat Universe 6 oh! 7 (bizarre and whimsical are okay). Exercises to improve memory are called mnemonics, where you make up interesting information to help you remember something.
For example, to remember the planets in their order of distance from the sun, take the first letter from each word: Mary’s Violet Eyes Make John Stay Up Nights.
40. Use rhyme associations: Thirty days hath September. Mnemonics are words formed from the first letter of each item. For example, if your grocery list says buy apples, bananas, and oranges, you might think of the word BOA.
41. Double a number for as long as you can (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64).
42. Experiment with devices that can help stimulate various states of consciousness. I have found the ones that use sound through headphones and light perceived through closed eyes and a special set of glasses to be amazing and versatile, providing states of mind from relaxation to high excitement. Many larger cities have places where you can try the machines in the store and even rent them.
43. Introverts tend to have their most creative time in the early mornings, while extroverts work better at night.
44. Learn two new vocabulary words a week. Use them in a discussion or email.
45. Learn a new fact daily (or use a daily calendar that has a tear-off sheet with daily lessons). Read an entry in an encyclopedia daily. It is easier to absorb information if it’s gathered gradually than all at once.
46. Memorize at least one great poem.
47. Take an ordinary object and think of ten other ways it could be used. A book might be a doorstop, a writing pad a tool to walk with erect posture, etc.
48. Keep learning things of value for your entire life. Learn new skills such as language, instruments, dance, martial arts, capoeira, or drawing. Take a class at a local community college. Join a book club.
49. Keep things organized. Get rid of clutter and distractions. Learn about feng shui.
50. Create art. Sketching, sewing knit one, pearl two opens up neural pathways and can create works of beauty.
51. Activate your other senses by getting dressed with your eyes closed. (Lay out your clothes the night before.) Enjoy a meal in the dark or in silence. Wear earplugs when walking to experience deeper levels of silence.
52. Listen to music while you are smelling essential oil.
53. Vary the order in which you do things. Shower in the morning instead of at night. Eat breakfast for dinner.
54. Envision a situation and ask, “What if?” Come up with an answer. What would blank do? Fill in the blank with Jesus? Peter Pan? Mae West? Black Elk?
55. Always have a calendar handy. Nowadays many people use phones, but I prefer having it all on paper.
56. Journal Topics:
Make a list of 100 things you would like to accomplish in your life.
Make a list of three skills you would like to master.
Make a list of five things you would like to teach your children.
57. Keep an open heart and an open mind. Be open to the possibilities. Remember: