Plastic is a substance capable of being molded. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus-2012) This definition as it refers to our human brains includes the consistent reprocessing and re-pattering of events when one’s brain can create new neural pathways and thereby follow new responses to old triggers (The Guardian – July23, 2015).
When our brains change, our abilities change. Dr. Micheal Merzenich and Dr. Norman Doidge of Brain HQ, condenses this information into a simple statement – “the brain can change itself.” Through their research, both doctors have determined that the gray matter in our brains can shrink or thicken; neural connections can be forged, refined weakened and severed.
CNN.com (May 5,2011) reported this amazing issues when they related the story of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords. She had been shot in the head by a bullet during a political campaign. She made remarkable progress by forming new brain cells called neurons. The feat was accomplished by repeated rehabilitation to relearn basic tasks. A traumatic brain injury patient may be able to form new brain connections that allow him or her to talk and walk again.
Although part of the brain may be damaged, functions of the missing parts are taken over by reconnection pathways to other, healthy functioning neuros. This forms new circuits to resume the lost function. Albeit, this process may be slow, it is possible to regain the original ability.
Research also shows that the opposite of plasticity is true. If an available brain function isn’t used, it may shrivel and disappear. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent relates that when it comes to basic functions it truly is a “use it or lose it” idea. That’s why rehabilitation to relearn how to walk and speak is so important. Dr. Gupta says, “the more you improve in the early time period, the more you’ll improve in the long run.” Since our brain is plastic, we should make it our best friend and nudge our neurons into functioning circuits that help improve us every day.
Maybe where a person lives determines their health status. Maybe where a person lives influences the factors that cause disease? In the book “Social Determinates of Health – A Comparative Approach” Alan Davidson states “the extent to which something poses a risk to us depends on our level of susceptibility or our resilience.” Maybe our health depends on the combination of where we live and the choices that we make.
Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h) FAAN in her article in American Nurse Today (Vol.13, #2) cites the Black Commission which outlines Britain’s National Health Service that found social conditions are important to the health of the population and your level of education relates closely to your disease risk.” If these facts are true, then where we live and what we chose to do with the information that we have does make an impact on our health.
The idea of social determinates focuses on the interrelated conditions and factors that influence the health of a total population over the course of a lifetime. In a greater viewpoint, it is the context in which people live their lives – the availability of everyday social, economic, educational and health resources that are available to the average person, that determines the health of a population.
Could it be that social parity is more influential than individual health habits? Or do the healthy choices that individuals make each day determine the overall health of the neighborhood in which they live? Whatever the answer is, it’s obvious that the context in which a person lives exerts a great influence on their overall health status and possibly their individual life expectancy. Healthy or unhealthy, statistics show that we all have a choice.
The month of March is a good time to check-in to see how New Year’s Resolutions are progressing. Everyone has had a few weeks to work out some kinks in their firmness and dedication. There has been time to refine a schedule and determine a routine so that we all should now be fairly well set into a regular cycle of activity.
So, how are things going? Obviously, there have been a few bumps and detours along the path with maybe a couple of starts and stops. However, the focus is still clear and our mental persuasion keeps reminding us that we remain true to our decisions.
Possibly, some of us have really not done anything. But, I’m sure that it’s only a couple of us and we are still totally committed to refreshing our commitment to those ever-precious goals that will enrich our lives and encourage the betterment of the community. That staunch focus helps us to renew our commitment that made us decide on the New Year’s Resolutions in the first place.
Some of us decided to increase our exercise by walking or running on a daily basis. Others are going to ride our bikes in the open air to expose ourselves to nature and clear skies. A few have signed up for yoga and stretching classes but we haven’t always been able to attend on a regular basis. Only a couple chose to train for an upcoming marathon and that workout is going fairly well – although most of the training is a little too strenuous.
It seems like things are going really well. Our goals are being met and we’re feeling healthy, calm and centered.
Now possibly, just possibly, if there are just a few of us who have slipped just a little bit and not been able to meet each and every landmark that we set for ourselves, do not despair. It’s only March. There’s plenty of time to renew, refresh and reuse. You can check-in with yourself and check-out your progress – go forth…
The comedian Eddie Izzard once said, “CAESAR – did he ever think that he would end up as a salad?” Well, did any of us when we graduated from high school ever believe that we would change from the youthful, energetic, hopeful teenager that we were on that fateful day of our high school graduation? Probably not.
However, William H. McRaven, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, said “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
The message is – if you want to change things, you better start today because the clock may be ticking.
I recently read an article about a women shopping in retail stores for clothes that fit. This woman is a “real woman” who possesses all the curves and crevices that women possess. I’m not talking about an overly large woman or an obese female just an average woman in today’s society.
open Baltic sea at the sunset
You guessed it. Most of the retail stores possess a wide variety of the latest chic attire posed in the most alluring positions. However, the majority of sizes range from “0” through “10.” These clothes are gorgeous and alluring – the jeans attractive, the blouses feminine and the dresses appealing to the feminine form. The color for this spring seems to be coral and blue with a trim of black and white. In the right combination, this presents a very crisp and clean combination.
The search for the “proper” fit lead this woman into sizes that rose above size 10. This is where the shopping trip gets interesting. Believe it or not, the average American woman – or any woman – wears a size larger than 10. Sorry, I digress for a moment. Anyway, these “larger than life,” woman do buy clothes and they probably earn their own money with which they buy these clothes. So, we have a dilemma – where do women find chic, professional clothes that fit well if they wear larger than a size “10?”
I suggest that “we” as a society are too focused on the size of the garment and may want to concentrate on the “fit.” Do we feel good in the dress when we wear it? Do we like the way it looks from the back when we look in the mirror? Do the pants make us look fat? Does the zipper bulge when we struggle to fasten the dress? Do the buttons pop off of the waistband?
Next time you go shopping in a retail store, don’t look at the size marked on the tag hanging from the sleeve of the garment. This will be a very great temptation for you. It will go against every thing you have ever been taught since childhood. You will be fighting every fiber in your body and brain to counteract years of social conditioning. Possibly, you will even break out in a sweat. Your hands may tremble and you may feel weak. I say resist, resist, resist. Simply pick the garment that “fits” you and the one that make you feel comfortable. This is a challenge that you can handle and one that fits nicely into a very healthy life style – both physically and mentally.
We all kept our New Year’s resolutions. Well, that statement hopefully got someone’s attention. Wouldn’t it be great if we could answer in the affirmative? Just think of it… One month ago we all put energy and thought into devising a plan that would help us make our lives better. Was it more exercise? Was it a better diet? Possibly we were going to be kinder to people? Or maybe, just maybe, we were going to make more money and go on that fabulous trip we were always talking about.
So, a month later where are we? Closer to our goals – I hope. Good intentions swirl around us as we faithfully resolve to keep and stand-by our resolutions. We begin the new year with resolution and determination. Gusto is oozing from every pore of our body. We are superhuman for a week or so and then, something happens. We, for whatever reason, lose just a tiny bit of our resolve and a little bit of our gusto and so maybe we don’t exercise as much, or eat as well, or make as much money. It’s o.k., we’ll do better tomorrow.
Well, tomorrow comes and we don’t feel so good about yesterday. We didn’t do so good. So we have a small spike in resolving and today we are better. We feel better. We do o.k. today. Since we did o.k. today, we can slack off a little tomorrow. The “spiking” on good and bad in our resolve goes up and down for the next few weeks and we find ourselves at the end of January of the new year.
So, what have we learned? We have learned that if we truly make the decision to change at the start of the year – a true decision, we don’t have to keep making the decision every day. It’s easy, make a true decision once and you don’t have to keep making “false” decisions every day. Try it and see what you think.
Soon, I may not need my car keys. Now you may think that I have made a healthy new year’s commitment to begin a walking routine which includes increasing my physical ambulation. Well, I have but the focus of this article is a little different.
When new cars are sold these days they don’t come with a car key. The buyer is presented with a car “bob.” It resembles a child-size deck of cards embedded with an imprint of the dealership. Having the “bob” within a close vicinity of the car and pressing a button inside the car ensures ignition. So, the traditional car key is disappearing.
Additionally, the driverless car is slowly appearing on the scene. Technology ensures that an automobile can drive, stop, slow, accelerate, swerve, and avoid an accident without the “hands-on” assistance of a human being. This ever-present, increasing technology may well eliminate the need for a driver as well. So goes the driver as went the key.
This brings questions to mind. Will we need a drivers license? Will teenagers no longer take drivers education courses? Will we no longer use our drivers license for identification? Will a teenager no longer endure the “rite-of-passage” of enduring the driving test at the DMV? Will we no longer need the DMV?
Looking at the array of car keys hanging on hooks at my back door, I wonder if they will slowly disappear along with me as a driver of my own car.
As I begin the new year I have become more conscious of personal interactions. Not only mine but the exchanges that I witness around me. Interacting with the public requires flexibility in attitude and demeanor. Maybe I’m “from the old school” but manners and considerations still hold a high place in my every day life. So, as I deal with other on a daily basis and extend appropriate courtesy to them, I expect that others will return the favor.
More often than not I am found wanting in this expectation. Today’s society is faster, bolder, filled with technology and dominated by younger novices. These newbies on the population scene appear to be unaware of the time-honored social manners with which I grew up – i.e. hold the door open for a lady, walk on the right side of a hallway, say “excuse me” if you walk into someone, don’t take it if it’s not yours, it’s not polite to cuss, etc.
I’m not sure when the change occurred but I sense that it was about five years ago. I say this because that is when I first noticed it. That when I remember this phrase being used: “it’s nothing personal, it’s just the way we do business.” It was a reply I received when I wanted to exchange a defective item that I purchased and my request was refused. The phrase has increasingly crept into our lexicon ever since. Politeness disappears the more often this phrase is used.
I offer this idea as an observation. Maybe you have a different reality. It’s nothing personal, it’s just my point of view.
I’m not sure
As we all know, when a new year begins the positive parts of our brain looks toward possibilities – things that we can achieve. Just the idea that we can set our sights on a different path often gives us energy which motivates us to change our daily routines.
In researching the data, I have found that this thinking of change can actually help us to make the physical change. The chemical reaction of thinking about a change can produce the change. We have all heard about the idea that “we are what we think.” Well, medical research is proving that to be true.
There are small “caps” on the end of our chromosomes called “telomeres” which are influenced by our daily lives and environment. Think of these caps as the hard tips on the end of your show strings. These caps can be of different lengths in each person – some too long, some too short. Even though there is a recognized “correct” length for potential good health, each cap is still influenced by what we decide to do in our daily lives.
When we decide to maintain a good exercise routine, eat a healthy diet, breath fresh air, think positive thoughts, adopt good sleeping habits and develop a supportive social network, we are in charge of the influences that we input into these “caps” which send messages to the chromosomes.
This may be the most positive decision you make as you start the new year. Maybe you want to live to be 100 years old, maybe not. But, if you do, it may be nice to be healthy while you do it…
Being grateful for even small acts of kindness may seem to be an insignificant gesture. Saying, “thank-you” or “hello” to another person for a little show of kindness or respect may initially appear to be worth very little. Especially in a world that functions on money and greed.
When a person is the recipient of this small act in their busy day it often gives that person a moment of pause. It may be: a smile, a hand shake, a kind gesture, holding open a heavy door, allowing that person to enter through the doorway first, paying “in advance” for that person’s cup of coffee or offering to help them complete a project in the office that will help them to get home earlier. These actions take only a few moments but may well change the other person’s life.
The receiver of the kind gesture may be in the middle of a bad day. They may have just experienced an encounter with a very rude supervisor, they may have learned that their medical condition has changed for the worse, maybe their pet just passed away…
You have no way of knowing what that person is experiencing. They may be on the verge of learning something that will devastate their life. So, when you extend yourself, even for a few moments, to help your fellow man, it will probably enrich their life or help them to face a very challenging situation.
We as humans have multiple opportunities to interact with other’s on a daily basis. When you are faced with this situation, make the issue a positive one and say “hello” to your fellow man. It may well change their life and they may then be able to handle their challenging situations. They in-turn may pass on their appreciation to others in their life.