Posts tagged ‘wellness’

Learn To Listen To What Your Body Is Saying

I enjoy reading articles that recommend I get a massage…

Our bodies hold all of the information we need to function at our best, but too often we ignore their messages and plow ahead with what our minds tell us. Because most of us are taught from an early age to focus on external demands, we frequently ignore what our bodies are saying.

More often than not we treat the physical symptoms rather than looking for the internal cause of pain, depression, and weight gain. We take another extra-strength aspirin, rather than investigating what’s causing our head to ache. We use caffeine or sugar to give us a lift when we feel tired, rather than listening to our body’s message about needing rest. A look at our pets may be all we need to see the value of naps.

Our bodies communicate thousands of little messages to us every day. For instance, is your mouth pinched and tight? Are your shoulders up around your ears? Do you feel a knot in your stomach as you promise to do something? Your body is telling you that you are tense, stressed, and over-extended.

As a society, we notoriously put deadlines ahead of the protests of aching bones or inadequately nourished bellies. Your body is a sophisticated, intelligent machine, but too often we fail to understand them because we don’t value them as highly as we should.

So, what do you do to give your body an equal say in how you use it?

Start with the breath

Breathing consciously is a major part of body awareness. Allow your thoughts to come and go in the background while breathing in and out. As you inhale and exhale, think the words “In. Out. In. Out.”  Lovingly make a note to yourself how and where you are failing to breathe. Many of us breathe only in our chests when we should be allowing the breath to expand down into our abdomens. Perhaps you are denying life by taking in shallow breaths, and your body is asking you to stop and breathe more deeply. Practice this daily for five minutes to start, and soon it will be easy for you.

Allow yourself quiet time

Sit for ten minutes each day, or even five if that is more manageable. This will give you a chance to listen to your body. Begin by sitting while breathing and become the conscious observer of your thoughts. This would be a great practice, especially in the middle of a busy day. This time can also involve taking a walk or a nap or soaking in a hot tub.

Get a massage

This is not an extravagant indulgence; it wakes up the whole nervous system and helps you tune in. Massage is proven
to alleviate stress and help circulation and muscle recovery.

Use your journal to dialogue with your body

Ask your body how it’s feeling, what it wants, what’s going on. Give that sore wrist, or stiff lower back, a voice and let it tell you what its message is.

Eat when hungry, sleep when tired

Take a week and really pay attention to your body’s most basic needs. Do your real rhythms for eating and sleeping conform to the habits you’ve established? If they don’t, ask for help changing them.

Do a body inventory to relax

Start with your toes and work upwards. Scan your body from the inside, tensing each part slightly, then relaxing it to release residual tension. Tense your feet first, then your calves, and so forth, until you reach your face. Relax your entire body.

If your body suggests rolling down a grassy hillside, taking flight on a playground swing, or skipping down a winding path—why resist? It knows what it needs.

If you want to truly be happy and healthy—begin listening to your body. Body awareness is part of a healthy lifestyle, just as much as eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly. Its impulses hold the key to your well-being.

Via Positively Positive

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Musical therapy is making breakthroughs

Over the summer I participated in a workshop held for art and music therapists. It was there that I knew for sure that I could only work within the realm of passive therapy. I would be useless otherwise, since I cried at every story that was told that day – it was heart wrenching, yet beautiful what these special individuals are able to offer to others in pain.

Technology enables people with severe physical and mental disabilities to communicate and enjoy a more enriching life.

By Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic

January 22, 2012

There is a great deal of music in the world, and no one knows exactly why. But it does have its ready uses. The music business can make you rich and famous. The pianist Christopher O’Riley admitted in The Times last week what a lot of classical musicians won’t: He learned the piano, at least in part, to attract the attention of girls.

As I write this, a sparkling new recording of Tod Machover’s “Sparkler,” an infectious overture for orchestra and live electronics, is playing on my stereo and making itself useful. The CD, “but not simpler…,” is drowning out trucks on a nearby home construction site whose backup beeps are loud enough to wake the dead a mile away. “Sparkler” is more effectively fueling my fingers as I type than was my morning double cappuccino. The music is lifting my spirits and making writing almost fun. Even so, I’m not getting the greatest, if least explicable, pleasure “Sparkler” can provide. That’s obtained by giving the score undivided attention.

Machover, an intriguing futurologist as well as an inventive composer, runs the departments in hyper-instruments (acoustical instruments given spiffy electronic features) and opera of the future at MIT’s ultra-high-tech Media Lab. Last week, he was at UC Santa Barbara to speak on “Music, Mind and Health: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Well-being through Active Sound,” one of four lectures he’s given recently at the university’s Sage Center for the Study of the Mind.

Music, Machover said, touches on just about every aspect of cognition. There are theories that music exists to exercise the mind and to help coordinate its separate functions. Music lovers intuitively know what researchers have verified, that music modulates our moods, helps us move, stimulates our language skills, strengthens our memories and can wondrously bring about emotional responses without their bothersome consequences.

The practical applications of music for healing are irresistible. Cutting-edge music therapy can help Parkinson’s patients walk, enables the autistic to rehearse their emotions and provides opportunities for stroke victims to regain speech and motor movement. Music is usually the last thing Alzheimer’s sufferers recognize. It is our final way to communicate with them, and now it seems music can play a significant role in forestalling Alzheimer’s.

This is terrific news. I’m also looking forward to the optimistic day when we will be reimbursed for the price of symphony and opera tickets by BlueCross BlueShield.

But that’s not all. In an inspiring feedback loop, Machover and his MIT minions, which include some of the nation’s most forward-looking graduate students, are applying their musical gadgets to therapy. The process of making remarkable restorative advances is changing how they think about and make music. And that could affect how the rest of us might think about and make music in the not-so-distant future.

It all began with Hyperscore, a program Machover developed to enable children to compose by drawing and painting on a monitor. A sophisticated computer program translates their artwork into a musical score.

Machover’s team took Hyperscore to Tewksbury Hospital outside of Boston, which serves patients with severe physical and mental disabilities, including the homeless. The residents, many of whom were physically unable to communicate or were otherwise uncommunicative, discovered their inner composer. Through Hyperscore they found they could express themselves in a way that bypassed language.

A few patients with hopeless prognoses and no meaningful life had significant enough changes in their pathology that they could actually think about at least partial recovery. Some found a decrease in auditory and visual hallucinations. There were behavior changes in many that allowed for socialization.

Dan Ellsey became the model patient. Born with cerebral palsy and unable to speak, he was forced to communicate with a clumsy headset that pointed to letters to spell out words. He had little control of his body movements. He was in his early 30s, had never been more than five miles from where he was born and seemed doomed to spend a cocooned life in the hospital.

The Media Lab scientists designed a more refined headset for Ellsey that not only inspired him to compose (he turned out to have interesting musical ideas) but even allowed him to perform by controlling tempo, loudness and articulation. He blossomed, and Ellsey, while still a severely affected cerebral palsy patient, has become an active participant in the Hyperscore program, performing, making CDs and teaching other patients. He was a star at the 2008 TED conference.

What this work with music therapy has shown Machover and other researchers is the potential for what he has dubbed “personal” music. This will be a music tailored to an individual’s needs, be it medicinal or simply a matter of taste.

A noted MIT neurologist, Pawan Sinha, for instance, is learning how to analyze brain waves to determine what you are hearing when listening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Machover imagines making a piece of music that is your brain listening to the symphony and then creating a Beethoven Fifth jukebox consisting of pieces based on different people’s way of listening to Beethoven. The jukebox might then serves as “an automatic empathy system.”

Traditionally what a composer has done, Machover explains, is to create a piece that will reach the largest number of people. But as our knowledge of how music affects our bodies and minds grows, the opportunity will arise when a piece of music can be designed specifically for your life experiences, needs and moods. A piece can even be made to change over time as you change.

Machover is already putting some of these ideas into action. At dinner after the talk, he told me he would be flying the next morning to Silicon Valley, where he would visit Google. He is writing a score for the Toronto Symphony that will have an interactive online component looking for Internet expertise. Wonderful as musical healing is, I expressed dismay about a brave, new world of personal music. Music has always been for me about discovery, about giving a listener new experiences, not reinforcing preferences or prejudices.

But Machover was a step ahead of me. He said that my personal music could be designed to provide all things that I never could have possibly expected. I felt better already.

Article found @ Los Angeles Times

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The Dirtiest Dozen

What’s the dirtiest thing you touch in the course of a normal day? If you’ve been to a gas station, the pump handle would probably top the list of the filthiest surface you encountered. A new survey from Kimberly-Clark found that 71 percent of gas pump handles tested in six U.S. cities were contaminated with bacteria and viruses capable of making us sick. You may want to pull on disposable latex gloves the next time you reach for the pump handle. Others among the dirtiest surfaces found to be crawling with germs: the handles on public mailboxes, escalator railings, ATM buttons, parking meters and kiosks, crosswalk buttons and buttons on vending machines in shopping malls. And that’s not all: at the office, your computer keys and mouse may not be as germ-laden as a gas pump handle, but if you don’t clean them, it’s likely nobody will. Other office hazards: door handles and elevator buttons. Moral of this story: wash your hands after you touch any of these surfaces.

Courtesy of Dr. Weil @  http://www.drweilblog.com

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Sitting and Cancer Risk

Even if you exercise a little every day, spending the rest of your time sitting may sabotage the positive effects of your morning run or evening walk. Findings from the emerging field of “sedentary behavior research” suggest that the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise may not be enough physical activity for continued good health. Data presented at the November meeting of the American Institute for Cancer Research indicate that sedentary living is linked to 49,000 cases of breast cancer and 43,000 cases of colon cancer in the U.S. and that regular exercise can reduce the risk of colon cancer by 35 percent and of breast cancer by 25 percent. Researchers also stressed the importance of enhancing a daily exercise routine by taking hourly breaks from your desk – one or two minutes per hour – even if you do nothing more strenuous than walk to the restroom or across the hall to talk to a co-worker. Other data presented at the meeting suggested that exercise can lower biomarkers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein. Inflammation continues to be investigated as a risk factor in cancer, and decreasing it as a mechanism by which exercise helps reduce cancer risk.

My take? We have good evidence that regular exercise can help protect against breast cancer, and it makes sense that risks of developing other types of cancer could be linked to lack of physical activity. Our bodies evolved in very demanding environments and are meant to be used. If not, they deteriorate faster than they should. Many of the illnesses that plague our society result from sedentary behaviors. Clearly the prevalence of heart and artery disease correlates as much with lack of aerobic exercise as it does with unhealthy diets. I’m not sure that a two-minute break every hour is the answer to spending all day seated at a desk, but I am in favor of anything that increases the motivation to get you up and moving regularly.

Courtesy of Dr. Weil @ http://www.drweilblog.com/

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8 Reasons to Meditate

Meditation is simply directed concentration, and involves learning to focus your awareness and direct it onto an object: your breath, a phrase or word repeated silently, a memorized inspirational passage or an image in the mind’s eye. The physical and psychological benefits of meditation are numerous and include:

  1. Helping lower blood pressure
  2. Decreasing heart and respiratory rates
  3. Increasing blood flow
  4. Enhancing immune function
  5. Reducing perception of pain
  6. Relieving chronic pain due to arthritis and other disorders
  7. Maintaining level mood
  8. Bringing awareness and mindfulness to everyday aspects of life

A simple form of meditation that can be practiced by anyone is to walk or sit quietly in a natural setting and allow your thoughts and sensations to occur, observing them without judgment.

Courtesy of Dr. Weil @ http://www.drweilblog.com/

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