The lingering melody that remains in our heads has been given the term earworm. Earworms are simple, repetitious, melodic structures that wiggle their way into a person’s head and stay there. Psychologists compiled lists of the most popular earworms by interviewing over 3,000 individuals from 2010 to 2013. The results were published in “The Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts”. Scientists believe that before we had written language we communicated and passed information through song which is why certain repetitious melodies remain stuck. The study of earworms can help us understand how the brain networks perception, emotion, memory and spontaneous thought.
Whether we agree or not about global warming or threats to the environment, all of us need to step out and take a walk in nature. Getting away from it all and taking time to smell the trees (or roses whatever turns you on) can do so much for us both physically and psychologically. As far back as 2,500 years ago, it is recorded that Cyrus the Great built relaxation gardens in the busy capital of Persia. Being able to focus and avoid distractions is critical both to creativity and for solving problems. Modern life stresses make this process more and more difficult. Taking a break, and taking in the surroundings can restore our mental performance. Nature can improve creativity by as much as 50%. The stimuli of natural environments, trees, water, mountains etc. does not take any effort. The process disengages the brain and in turn restores its capacity to direct attention to a particular task. Forest walks can reduce stress hormones by as much as 16%. Caring for a simple, small garden can become a source of mindfulness meditation. Even just walking barefoot on grass can reconnect you with the world around us that we sometimes take for granted. Scientific studies have discovered that people living near a green space have reported less mental distress. This is across the board regardless of income, education and employment. In fact even just having a view of greenery from a person’s window, seems to encourage faster recovery from illness, better performance in school and less exhibition of violent behavior. Our connection to nature runs so deep that the idea that we are so co-dependent may be overlooked. We cannot exist without vegetation which provides us with glucose for energy and oxygen so we may breathe. On the other hand vegetation cannot exist without us. We provide carbon dioxide and at times water for them to thrive. It has not been determined if living near a green space is a stimulus because of the pleasing visual aspect or whether it just encourages people to get out and exercise more. There is an old South Korean proverb “Shin to buy ee” which means “ the Body and Soil are one”. Just get out there, shut down the electronics, take a 40 minute walk in nature and feel it for yourself.
Two electrical engineers J-C Chiao and Smith Rao of the University of Texas have developed a wind turbine that is half the size of a grain of rice. It is one of the attempts at making power outlets obsolete. It is made of a durable metal alloy and connected by tiny wires that would be integrated into an item such as a smart phone. This in turn would deliver a tiny burst of energy. Other such items in the development are solar powered fabrics and wind powered hats. The tiny turbines would make the solar backpacks a thing of the past.
An article in The American Journal of Epidemiology reported that sitting and too little exercise can speed aging by as much as eight years. A group of 1,481 women, average age 79, wore motion sensors for one week, after which a white blood cell count was taken. Those that were more sedentary with little exercise proved to have shorter telomeres. Telemeres are caps at the end of our DNA strands. The shorter and more frayed they are the more susceptible a person may be to to heart disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and shorter life expectancy.
Dogs can play an important part in social interactions when it comes to children with autism. Children with autism who have a pet in the home have stronger social skills. This according to a study done at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction. The presence of an animal in the home made children more comfortable about introducing themselves and responding when something was asked about their pet. This form of assertiveness is extremely difficult for children with autism. The smaller the animal is the stronger the connection seems to be whether it is a small dog, cat, rabbit even a reptile. Since every child with autism is such a special situation, certain animals may elicit a better response then others.
1) Try to Stick to Regular Meal and Snack Times-Your body will condition itself to expect food at a certain time. Grazing all day only encourages the need for a continuous supply of food.
2) Increase Fiber Intake-recommended daily fiber intake is between 20 and 28 grams a day. By increasing your intake of fiber by just 8 grams will have a tremendous impact on feeling full and satisfied.
3) Use Stronger Spices-It is easier to get your fill of a food that has a strong spice. There is a limit to how much enjoyment you can receive as opposed to a food that is milder or even on the bland side.
More then fifty studies have been done on the beneficial effects of beetroot juice. It has been shown to enhance blood vessel health, improve neuro-muscular efficiency and endurance, boost oxygen delivery and help control blood pressure. A new study conducted at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom has concluded that it can reduce recovery time following intense exercise. Results were published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. After Intense exercise of 100 drop jumps, 30 active males were given beetroot juice or a placebo. The group given the Beetroot juice proved to have less soreness and a faster recovery time.
Where do we get the rich red color that makes up some of the food we eat daily? Few people realize that it is derived from pulverized insects. Extract of the cochineal bug, a scaly insect, has been used for centuries as a colorant. It is what gives color to berry flavored yogurt, some juices, imitation crab meat and even lipstick. It was discarded in the 19th century when scientists started using synthetic substitutes. Its resurgence is the result of consumers demanding the use of “natural” ingredients. The FDA has given its seal of approval on the use of this colorant. In places like Ghana, Papua New Guinea, and Bali, termites, dragonflies and beetle larvae are a big part of their diet regiment. In the west, we have more of a psychological problem with the use of bugs in our food. But the up side is –no known side effects!
Processing speed, the measure of how our brains absorb and respond to information, seems to be especially hard hit as we age. The fraying of white matter, the specialized cells of the brain that communicate messages between neurons, are greatly affected after age 40. A study conducted at the University of Illinois and published in “the Frontiers of Aging Neuroscience” showed a difference in brain scans of older, healthy yet sedentary adults before and after they had incorporated dancing into their lifestyle. Participants were divided into three groups. One group was assigned brisk walking, another stretching and balance training and the final group intricate choreography in country dancing. After six months, the three groups were retested and the group that was assigned to learn new dancing techniques had a remarkable increase in the density of the white matter. It seems that the choreography, which involved fluid lines and squares along with continually changing partners was responsible for the increase in processing speed. New activities that include movement and socializing seem to be the key in retaining mental acuity.
What you see is what you get! We have heard that statement many times but what does it mean to be real. Do most of us try to fit in and adjust to present company? How many of us walk into a room and care what people are thinking? Do we realize what a strain caring about what people think can place on oneself both mentally and physically, just because we are trying to live up to a certain image or ideal. Some say to be real is to be authentic. But you can hear the word authentic being thrown around so much that we even see it written on a bag of potato chips. Is being real more about how your core self is reflected in what you say and do? Psychologists say that being real is accepting both your strengths and weaknesses and not feeling you have to hide them from the world around you. People who are real or genuine seem to feel better about themselves and often show great resilience when they are faced with challenges. Just because someone “tells it like it is” does not mean they are being real. It is not about being accusatory or shaming someone because one may feel they are being honest. Authentic is not about being obnoxious. True authenticity is more about how we feel deep inside and not how we feel about other people. Giving another person a chance to slowly expose their inner real self instead of prejudging them can lead to a long-lasting relationship. Taking a moment to breath and reflecting on what we are about to say and do can be a more fulfilling way of connecting with our inner self as well as with others. Kurt Vonnegut the famous author once said: “Practice any art–music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage- no matter how well or badly, not for money or fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what is inside you, to make your soul grow.”