Sunday, December 18, 2016

Brain training sounds good, but it does not work!

According to the Georgia Tech Attention and Working Memory Lab, brain training tested in a well-controlled study provides no benefit to improving brain function and/or memory retention. Although disappointing, it helps to understand the two types of memory function and how we can cope with declining memory.

One is what is called “crystallized intelligence”, which is all the knowledge you have learned in school, job, or languages you speak.

The other is “fluid intelligence”, which is the biological side of intelligence. This will be your actions when you have not learned what to do and your ability to solve complex problems you have never faced using complex reasoning.

Unfortunately, “fluid intelligence” is heritable and biological and grows until around age 22 and then evens out until around age 40 and then drops like a rock. The theory is the myelin sheaths surrounding our neurons in the pre-frontal cortex start to deteriorate releasing chemicals to affect the surrounding neurons, which is also an underlying theory for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Crystallized intelligence” continues for the rest of your life and even at age 75 your vocabulary will be as high as it ever was, maybe higher.

But the real problem is as we age we lose our ability to focus or attempt attention control. This multitasking world is a myth. Not only have you lost most of your “Fluid intelligence”, but your ability to focus is diminished. Since “Fluid intelligence” is most correlated with short term memory control and has diminished so much, no one can multi-task or divide your attention effectively or efficiently. You can only handle one task at a time. No one has enough “fluid intelligence” that they can text and drive at the same time.

What do we do? Simple, aerobic exercise. Not weight lifting or calisthenics, but aerobic exercise. A 30-minute brisk walk daily will do the trick. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain and there is also a gene called a “brain derived neurotropic factor” that leads to the formation of new blood cells.

So don’t think you are smarter and getting more accomplished by multi-tasking, you are just shifting your brief attention span around and more than likely screwing something up vs. concentrating on one task at a time and getting it right!

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Monday, December 12, 2016

The Season of giving “time” to the lonely

Studies have shown that nearly 25% of the US population consider themselves “lonely”. Contrary to what we would normally expect, loneliness covers all age groups where no age bracket is immune from feeling lonely.

Loneliness produces unpleasant and distressing feelings where severe and prolonged exposure can affect one’s mental state leading to depression or suicide. It normally occurs when your social network is deficient in either quality or quantity. It is a very subjective experience where you can be “alone without feeling lonely” or can be “alone in a crowd”

Your feelings can range from being anxious, unhappy, hostile, bored, empty, and restless. There are basically three main clusters of lonely people:

1-You feel isolated, different, unloved, inadequate, or friendless.

2-You have negative feelings of depression, sadness, anger, and paranoia.

3-You avoid social contacts and work long hours.

It is strange that the elevated loneliness levels were among the youngest and oldest adults. Late life can be explained by lower income levels, functional limitations and lower level of singles available. Universally, the quantity of relationships (social engagement, # friends, and contact frequency) was a major factor in all age groups.

So if the US has roughly 321 million people, then 25% would be 80 million “lonely” people. Maybe we should make adjustments for the under 10 years old group, but believe it or not, they can experience loneliness and isolation. Just look at the world refugee crisis now.

This Holiday Season would be a great time for all of us who have the means to give ourselves to helping the lonely with our time and concern. It would be a most welcome gift and one day we would appreciate the efforts when we are feeling lonely.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Happiness = Giving

During this holiday season make yourself happy by giving to the less fortunate which is a researched and proven fact.

In the journal Science, social psychologist Liz Dunn demonstrates that people's sense of happiness is greater when they spend relatively more on others than on themselves. In one survey of over 600 U.S. citizens, the research found that spending money on others predicted greater happiness whereas spending money on oneself did not, no matter what the income levels. In other words, even those with little money reported greater happiness when their spending on others, relative to the self, was greater.

Dunn conducted another study which gave College students an envelope containing money and told them that they either (1) had to spend the money on themselves before 5 p.m. that day or (2) had to spend the money on someone else before 5 p.m. Those who gifted for others were happier than those who gifted for themselves.

"Happiness does not come from material things, but rather from a deep, genuine concern for others' happiness" -Dalai Lama

The economy is getting better, unemployment is down, and people are increasing their financial resources, so there should be more wealth and opportunity to give. Find a great cause that you like and start the process of giving. It will be a great feeling and put a smile on other’s faces.

Who ever said money can’t buy happiness?
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