Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain

Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is---his good, pleasing and perfect will."   
Romans 12:2
The business world is abuzz with mindfulness. But perhaps you haven’t heard that the hype is backed by hard science. Recent research provides strong evidence that practicing non-judgmental, present-moment awareness (a.k.a. mindfulness) changes the brain, and it does so in ways that anyone working in today’s complex business environment, and certainly every leader, should know about.
My friend, Dr. Daniel Amen contributed to this research in 2011 with a study on participants who completed an eight-week mindfulness program. We observed significant increases in the density of their gray matter. In the years since, other neuroscience laboratories from around the world have also investigated ways in which meditation, one key way to practice mindfulness, changes the brain. This year, a team of scientists from the University of British Columbia and the Chemnitz University of Technology were able to pool data from more than 20 studies to determine which areas of the brain are consistently affected. They identified at least eight different regions. Here we will focus on two that we believe to be of particular interest to business professionals.
The first is the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a structure located deep inside the forehead, behind the brain’s frontal lobe. The ACC is associated with self-regulation, meaning the ability to purposefully direct attention and behavior, suppress inappropriate knee-jerk responses, and switch strategies flexibly. People with damage to the ACC show impulsivity and unchecked aggression, and those with impaired connections between this and other brain regions perform poorly on tests of mental flexibility: they hold onto ineffective problem-solving strategies rather than adapting their behavior. Meditators, on the other hand, demonstrate superior performance on tests of self-regulation, resisting distractions and making correct answers more often than non-meditators. They also show more activity in the ACC than non-meditators. In addition to self-regulation, the ACC is associated with learning from past experience to support optimal decision-making. Scientists point out that the ACC may be particularly important in the face of uncertain and fast-changing conditions.

Source: Tang et al.
(Source: Tang et al.)
Source: Fox et al.
(Source: Fox et al.)

The second brain region we want to highlight is the hippocampus, a region that showed increased amounts of gray matter in the brains of our 2011 mindfulness program participants. This seahorse-shaped area is buried inside the temple on each side of the brain and is part of the limbic system, a set of inner structures associated with emotion and memory. It is covered in receptors for the stress hormone cortisol, and studies have shown that it can be damaged by chronic stress, contributing to a harmful spiral in the body. Indeed, people with stress-related disorders like depresssion and PTSD tend to have a smaller hippocampus. All of this points to the importance of this brain area in resilience—another key skill in the current high-demand business world.
Hölzel et al.
(Source: Hölzel et al.)

These findings are just the beginning of the story. Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self. While more research is needed to document these changes over time and to understand underlying mechanisms, the converging evidence is compelling.

Mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have” for executives. It’s a “must-have”:  a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress. It can be integrated into one’s religious or spiritual life, or practiced as a form of secular mental training.  When we take a seat, take a breath, and commit to being mindful, particularly when we gather with others who are doing the same, we have the potential to be changed.   source

(Thank you Dr. Daniel Amen.  I posted this from something he wrote about)

To contact me:  Donna@DonnaSchuller.com
If you need help with drug or alcohol addiction SchullerHelp.org

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

January 1st "Do Over"

Good news!  It's Spring, it was just Easter, and now it's time to get going on those goals you hoped to achieve this year.  January 1st was almost four months ago but we still have over 8 months left in 2017.  It's never too late to start feeling better, being more productive, showing more love, or just being a better version of YOU.   "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"

Go get your list of 2017 goals and start really pondering them.  Check-off the ones you've succeeded at and tweak or eliminate those that no longer suit the purpose for you life.  It's okay to change your goals.  It's not okay to not have any or to just give them up.  If you haven't written them down at all that's okay too.  Get a pad of paper right now and start recalling what you wanted to accomplish in 2017.   Be specific.  You can do anything you put your mind to.  (and, yes, get a pad of paper and write.  You can transfer them to a  word document later.  Your brain processes things differently if you use actually, physically write as opposed to type)

If you'd like to read another of my posts on Goal Setting here.

If you need any help with goal-setting contact me and I will help you. 

To contact me via email: Donna@DonnaSchuller.com

Need help with drug or alcohol addiction?  Go to SchullerHelp.org


Monday, April 10, 2017

Easter Baskets "on A Dime"

The most important thing you can do for your children and grandchildren this season is 1) to teach them the reason for Easter and Passover 2) To spend quality time with them 3) To pray for them and with them.  

Our son, Pastor Bobby at Gma and Gpa Schuller's Annual Easter Egg Hunt,  circa '86 or '87
 Now that we've got those things out let's talk about having some holiday fun! One of the traditions we've carried-on from my husband's parents is to host an annual Easter Egg Hunt for our grandchildren.  So far, we've only three that are old enough to enjoy this fun event but that's changing every year.   We now have five grandchildren and one more on the way.  By next year our count will be at least six!   Sadly, our daughter, Angie's daughter is in Dallas so she can't participate in our family fun day.  Hopefully some some year!

Here's an important thing I've learned about children.  They do not care how much money you spend on Easter stuff (or anything for that matter)  They do care about how much thought and time you put into it, especially the time you spend with them.  (I've talked about putting your phones away more than once so I want go there right now)   Below is a photo of Haven, taken last year as we dyed Easter Eggs together.  I pick her up at 3pm today so we can carry-on this fun tradition as well.

Bobby's oldest, daughter, Haven.  2016 

 I'm a nutritionist so I don't go for giving my grandchildren candy.  Never.  We adutls are the ones who put it in their minds that candy is an important part of Easter Baskets.   I know from personal experience that it isn't.  If you put in things that last longer like little books, stuffed animals,  and fun games and toys, they don't even ask about the candy.   Here's what I do.   Instead of buying the largest, fanciest baskets I go to Dollar Store or 99 Cent Store and I buy the baskets that cost... you guessed it...a dollar!  At the same time I go through the store and find all kinds of fun things, including some great books, and I fill the basket for each child for about $10 each.  Sometimes I do if for even less if I pick big items such as balls and larger books!

Cohen, Haven, Christian.  All from one of the "Dollar Stores!" 

I have a huge role of cellophane wrap that I also found at one of the "dollar stores" several years ago.  It's amazing how long it lasts!   I also identify each of the children's baskets by using recycled cards that I cut and title with each name.  Hole punch and a bit of thin ribbon (also recycled) and there you go! (notice the pink for Haven and the darker colored basket for the boys)   These baskets were from two years ago so Haven was 5, Cohen was 3, and Christian was only 1. All of the baskets contain age-appropriate items and they were (almost) all loved and played with immediately.   I also include the re-cycled,  brightly colored plastic Easter Eggs that we use for the egg hunt.  We put quarters and a dollar bill or two in those.  If you throw yours away each year then I suggest you buy them again at one of the dollar stores..  (why not...they are almost the same everywhere)  Make sure that children do not put the eggs in their mouths because these are not BPA/chemical-free.  I'm pretty sure most of them aren't, even if you pay more at the grocery store. 

Opening Baskets and checking things out!

 And if you are fortunate enough to have a friend who's chickens lay real colored eggs, you can make a learning experience about life out of the day too!

Real, non-dyed eggs from my friend, Julie Ann Ulcikas!

To contact me:  Donna@DonnaSchuller.com

If you are struggling with addiction and need help go to: SchullerHelp.org