Monday, January 30, 2012

February: I Intend to Stimulate My Brain

In January I focused on being positive and erasing negativity. As I move into February, I will be adding to my year of intentional thinking by seeking to stimulate my brain. As I did last month, I will begin my day with this intention and have it follow me throughout the day.

I am purposefully seeking to stimulate my brain because mental stimulation improves brain function. Perhaps you work crossword or Sudoku puzzles. Whether these have become a fun daily habit or your own type of puzzle meditation, you are stimulating your brain. I, on the other hand, do not work puzzles on a regular basis. So, from time to time, I like to force my brain to memorize something. Yes, just for the heck of it.

As we get older, or as we add more to our to-do lists, we may find our ability to recall something a bit more challenging. I call it “brain drain.” I’ve had this particular affliction off and on all my life. So at this point, I know it is not just about getting older or lack of hormones. While I make an effort to free up my to-do list and allow space in my brain, I find I still lack the recall I would like to have, and would appreciate recollection in a timelier manner.

A few years back, while studying for an exam, I realized the more I tried to memorize, the easier my recall was. After the exam, I began memorizing poems, songs, prayers, you name it and I would memorize it. It’s been awhile since I’ve done this and February seems like a good time to shake up those brain cells a bit. After all, the brain should be exercised like the rest of your body⎯it’s a use it or lose it proposition.

I’ll start February off with Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. I think we all know a line or two from this famous prayer but I am determined to memorize it. Next up⎯the Gettysburg Address or the chronological order of the United States presidents, and perhaps a few French words or phrases thrown in. Why, why not? In January I focused on being positive. I'll carry the positive into February by positively stimulating my brain cells. I want to restore my faith in my brain, I want to stop “brain drain.” I don’t know about you, but I would rather use my brain than lose it.

God grant me the serenity...
Four score and seven years ago...
to accept the things I cannot change...

Okay, I have a bit of work to do. How about you⎯what would be fun for you to memorize to stimulate those tired brain cells?

Brain Cells photo courtesy of GE Healthcare

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Think I Love You Mr. Edison

I am just coming out of a rather wild weather week. What the initial snowstorms didn’t bring to a halt, the ice and subsequent snowstorms did. We were out of power for the better part of four days. We have a generator that allows us to run our pellet stove (heat, yay!), well (water, yay!), refrigerator (no rotting food, yay!), microwave (hot food and beverages, yay!) and various outlets in specific rooms in the house. I should note here that the generator does not run the power sucking water heater (no hot showers, ugh!).

With nighttime temperatures dropping to 23°F and daytime not rising above 26°F, keeping the house somewhat warm was the priority. Eating became the next issue. I had plenty of food in the house, but needed to come up with creative cooking avenues since I did not have a cooktop or oven at my disposal. I know from past experience that eating good food helps lift the spirits⎯this was certainly a time to lift spirits. So, I must say, we didn’t settle for quickie meals. We had yummy comfort food and appreciated every last bite. The days were filled with snow shoveling, generator refueling, pellet stove loading, preparing meals and cleaning up afterwards. Each day seemed to progress quickly as everything we did seemed to take more time and effort.

I have a renewed appreciation for electricity and all the people who have lived without it. I would like to send the universe a big thank you for Mr. Thomas Edison and his electrical pioneers. I think I love you!

All in all we kept our spirits up. We discussed the priorities and needs of each day and made sure we held onto our patience and humor. I think we all take for granted lights going on with the flip of a switch and the fact we can get hot water on demand. But, moreover, we take for granted the abundance in our lives. Just think about all the things you are able to go about doing each day and the past and present invisible people who touch your life⎯perhaps it is time to send the universe a big thank you for the abundance in your life.

Working Replica of Thomas Edison Carbon Filament Lamp (as first developed in the 1880's) photo courtesy of Vinovin

Monday, January 23, 2012

First Snow

I am younger each year at the first snow. When I see it, suddenly, in the air, all little and white and moving; then I am in love again and very young and I believe everything.”
Anne Sexton

With the first snowfall of the season, Anne Sexton's quote came to mind. A few years back while I was shoveling snow, I noticed a pattern from the shovel and an idea took shape. Prior to this foray, I had only made the three snowball types of characters. One never knows where inspiration may come from. It is up to you to act on it before it melts away.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Failure is NOT an Option!

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"
Robert H. Schuller

I was recently poking around a gift shop and saw this wonderful Schuller quote on a plaque. It made me stop, smile, think a moment, and then make a note of it because I immediately began writing an article in my head. This happens to me all of the time these days. The more I write, the more my head is busy tapping out strands of thought. This sensation did not happen until I started writing on a regular basis a few years ago. So what turned on this new writing phenomenon? Me!

I began to write in response to what I was feeling when my health began to take a nosedive. I realized I could not, would not fail if I wrote about what I knew and what I was learning about life and the circumstances that seem to get thrown at me along the way. Since I began writing, I think I am a happier person. I seem to be filling a need I wasn’t aware of. So when I saw this little Shuller plaque, yes I smiled because it was a knowing smile.

What’s stopping you?

Do you feel as if you are on idle or stagnating? Perhaps answering this question would help you move on with your life.

Are you afraid of failure, or are you actually afraid of succeeding? If you succeeded, just what would that mean? Are you afraid of leaving what you know is comfortable and safe?

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"
When you first pose this question, don’t expect an answer to come immediately⎯just keep asking. If an answer does come immediately⎯get moving!

 “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"
Once you ask this question, it doesn’t mean you can’t change course, start over, or continue to ask the question again and again. It's not like you are only allowed to ask this question once in a lifetime. There are no life-question police roaming around.

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"
I feel this question is ultimately very powerful. It should become one of those life questions we roll over in our minds from time to time. Failure in NOT an option here! So start filling a need you may not be aware of and turn on a new phenomenon for YOU! In a year full of intentionwhat’s stopping YOU? Consider starting small and with the momentum you gain, keep going, and remember...

"Shoot for the moon,
even if you miss you’ll land among the stars."
Les Brown

First steps photo courtesy of Eddi van W.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It’s a Freaking Family Reunion

Do you sometimes wonder who the heck the person looking back at you in the mirror is? As I get older I know I do. In a flash I see a grandma and an aunt here, and there’s my mom or is that my sister there, and why is my uncle looking back at me? I really did not see those similarities years before, but more recently I seem to be having a freaking family reunion every time I look in the mirror. Is this part of what we all call the aging process? And where the heck did that darn wrinkle come from because I know it wasn't there yesterday, and it doesn't remind me of anyone from my family!

If you think that the aging process is out of your control, think again. *George Vaillant, M.D., in his book, Aging Well, points out the usual suspects one would presume to find when listing factors involved in aging, but also includes some interesting predictors we might want to consider.

Controllable predictors:
  • Non-smoker
  • Not abusing alcohol
  • Regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Stable marriage
  • Pursuing education
  • Maintaining adaptive defenses or coping strategies
Also critical:
  • Network of intimate friends and healing relationships
  • Knowing how to play and have fun
  • Subjective good health (you may have an illness or potentially debilitating condition, but you don’t allow it to get to you)
“As we get older, maintenance becomes more important than genes.”*

Uncontrollable factors that do NOT affect healthy aging:
  • Ancestral longevity
  • Parental social class
  • Childhood temperament
  • Family cohesion
  • Cholesterol levels/High Blood Pressure/Diabetes (working with your doctor and taking your medication properly make these manageable)
  • Stress
“Aging happy and well, instead of sad and sick, is at least under some personal control.”*

So back to the family reunion in the mirror⎯I'm going to smile at all those wonderful people who seemed to have recently moved into my face. I haven’t turned into one of those dried apple-face dolls yet and neither have any of those other people staring back at me. As I look at the controllable and critical predictors above, I see I can do something about the aging process. I want to insure that as I go forward in this life, I continue to be happy and well⎯because after all, isn't that what really matters!

And as far as those wrinkles go, don’t forget what my mom told me when I was a teenager⎯moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Yes, mom, I’ve been moisturizing my entire body since then, and thank you by the way!
*George Vaillant, MD professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medial School and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development
Mirror Mirror on the wall photo courtesy of Cali4beach

Monday, January 2, 2012

January: I Intend to Be Positive

Negativity = a bad, unwelcome, or unpleasant quality, characteristic, or aspect of a situation or person

I am starting my year of intentional thinking on a positive note and erasing negative thought. That being said, each morning I am going to remind myself of the following, I intend to be positive. The first moments of waking thought can have quite an impact on us and may set the mood for rest of the day, thus this intention gets the ball rolling.

Just how is this statement of intent going to erase my negative thinking? For the past 6 years I have focused on intention on a regular basis. This awareness has helped me understand my thinking in a way I have not experienced previously. Stating the intention first thing in the morning will help me become aware of my negative thinking throughout the day, and give me a chance to change how I react or respond. It really is quite interesting. I will find myself grumbling about something or other and before you know it I will catch myself thinking, "Wait a minute, negative thought⎯need to change right this moment!" Just bringing awareness to the thought gives me a chance to understand why I am thinking or feeling negative and then gives me the opportunity to do something about it. This mindfulness seems to  happen the more I continue to bring awareness to any negative thought⎯no matter how insignificant.

I will focus on the general intention, but I plan on being aware of anytime I might think or say the word⎯hate. I hate vacuuming. Actually, I don’t care to do it but I don’t hate it. I hate the negative “news” we get bombarded with. Essentially, I don’t care to hear about it over and over. I am not a hateful person and I personally despise the word hate, but it seems to surprise me from time to time, and surface in my thoughts or come flying out of my mouth.


I must not forget those silly little words we all use to refer to ourselves⎯oh you dummy, you did it again. Note the negativity towards self. If you find yourself feeding negative thoughts back to your brain, erase them this month and follow me as we carry the positive forward the rest of the year.

Photo courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Year of Intentional Thinking

Intention = Determined to do
You don’t need to fuss with resolutions this year; instead, follow me with a year of intentional thinking. Each month I will suggest a new objective, but it will be up to you to plant the seed. By the time we arrive at the end of the year, we will have improved our lives twelve times over. As you know I pick a word/theme each year, and as you may have guessed, intention is my word for this year. It will be your word too if you choose to travel this path with me.

If what you are doing in your life isn’t quite working for you, join It Is What It Is as we explore creating a better self one-month, one seed at a time. May this year be a purpose driven year for us all, and bring you intentional happiness and health.
Photo courtesy of Scott Cresswell