Friday, April 29, 2016

Brain and Conflict – 5

Brains with a bent in the Maintaining division don't particularly enjoy conflict and usually are slow to engage in conflict situations. They may choose to be involved when they are trying to maintain the status quo or if they become strongly opinionated about something, especially if they believe the conflict will result in fairer practices. For example, they may vote to ‘strike’ when workers and management disagree, perceiving this as a tool to resolve the conflict. When involved in a conflict situation, they are likely to invoke rules and regulations or legislation in an attempt to resolve the issues. If the conflict doesn’t resolve quickly and easily, they may just dig in their heels and wait, hoping that if enough time goes by they can get the outcome they desire. They can learn to negotiate and to reach consensus through compromise, understanding that compromise works for the group but rarely works well for each individual brain. There are times when compromise beats continued conflict. More to come.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Brain and Conflict – 4

Brains with a bent in the Prioritizing division are often the most comfortable with conflict and indeed may initiate it. They tend to view conflict as a necessary part of negotiations in life (professional as well as personal), to attain their goals and to be successful. If also extroverted, they may perceive conflict as stimulating, competitive, and challenging fun. However, their approach to conflict may be perceived by others as argumentative, non-sympathetic or non-empathetic, and more concerned with the bottom line or being in charge or winning. They may appear to run rough-shod over harmonizing concerns and be oblivious to feelings of others. Being diagonal from the Harmonizing division, they may miss how uncomfortable individuals with a brain bent in one of the right hemisphere divisions can be with conflict. They can learn to pay attention and develop skills of empathizing and collaboration, if they choose to do so. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Brain and Conflict – 3

You may recall that the neocortex or 3rd brain layer is divided by a natural fissure into two cerebral hemispheres, a right and a left; each of which is further divided in two by a natural fissure. This results in four cerebral divisions. Since some individuals find right-left distinctions stressful, metaphorically picture that 3rd layer as the face of an analogue clock that is divided into quadrants, each with its own name that reflects a key characteristic. Each brain is thought to have a bent in one of those four divisions. All things being equal, if the brain is functioning primarily from its bent, it will tend to approach conflict in its own unique way. It’s much more complicated than that, of course, but remembering a simple analogy can help you analyze what is going on and give you options for how to approach the conflict. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Brain and Conflict – 2

Understanding something of how differing brains approach conflict, can help you recognize when you and another brain are on the same page having a friendly discussion that will likely result in compromise if not consensus, versus being in an entirely different book if not on a separate planet altogether. Conflict styles can differ based on the brain bent of the individuals involved. The brain can be described as three functional layers: the reptilian or 1st brain layer; the mammalian or 2nd brain layer; and the neocortex (cerebrum) or 3rd brain layer. [Picture your left wrist as the reptilian layer; your clenched left fist as the mammalian layer; and your right hand placed over your left fist as the neocortex.] When involved in the stress of conflict, the brain may downshift and focus its energy and attention to the 1st brain layer and access the fight-flight stress response; or become derailed with intense emotions arising in the 2nd brain layer. Conscious thought and rational discussion requires use of the neocortex or 3rd brain layer. More tomorrow.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Brain and Conflict

Conflict happens everywhere and at some level it will always be part of life on this planet. Naturally, part of a conflict is often defining what conflict means, which naturally differs for differing brains. The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines conflict as: strong disagreement between people that results in often angry argument; a difference in ideas, feelings, or perception that prevents agreement; or a struggle for something such as power, control, property, etc. And conflict is expensive in any number of ways. For example:  In the home it contributes to stress, illness and disease, violence, addictions, divorce, and even murder. In schools and churches it decreases spirituality, burns out teachers and clergy, and triggers misunderstandings that can split entire organizations. In the workplace, US State News 8-19-06 reported that managers spend eighteen percent of their time managing employee conflicts (up from nine percent in 1996).

Friday, April 22, 2016

Singing and Your Immune System, 2

According to the abstract, in all participant groups, singing was associated with significant reductions in negative affect and increases in positive affect, plus significant increases in cytokines (substances involved in immune defenses), and reductions in cortisol levels. This study provides preliminary evidence that singing improves mood state and modulates components of the immune system. One of the researchers, Ian Lewis, has been quoted as saying: We’ve long heard anecdotal evidence that singing in a choir makes people feel good, but this is the first time it’s been demonstrated that the immune system can be affected by singing. ‘But there is no choir where I live,’ you say. How about a virtual choir? Get a recording of your favorite choir singing music you love and sing along. Remember, virtual rehearsal triggers the brain in much the same way as does actual rehearsal. If you can do both, so much the better!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Singing and Your Immune System

In the 19th and 20th centuries (and earlier), it was traditional for many communities, schools, and churches to have established choirs. Gradually, this trend faded away into the nostalgia of ‘what used to be.’ Recent studies have shown that singing in a choir not only can have a range of positive social, emotional, and psychological benefits, but biological effects too. In one study looking at the impact of singing on individuals diagnosed with cancer, lead researcher Daisy Fancourt et al carried out a multicentre single-arm preliminary study to assess the impact of singing on mood, stress, and immune response in three populations affected by cancer. The study participants, also participants in five choirs across South Wales, took part in one hour of group singing. Before and after singing, visual analogue mood scales, stress scales, and saliva samples (testing for cortisol, beta-endorphin, oxytocin, and ten cytokines) were taken. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Past Present, Future - 2

If I become aware that my brain is ruminating about the past, I quickly ascertain whether I have a learned any lesson related to that past event. If yes, my favorite saying is:  ‘Arlene, is what it is. You learned a lesson. Let it go.’ If not, then I say: 'Arlene, identify the lesson that you need to learn through that event.' On the other hand, if my brain appears to be worrying about something in the future, I recognize that as a shade of fear. In that case, I will immediately select something for which I am grateful. ‘Arlene, you are making good choices today that give you positive outcomes. Today I am grateful for __________.’ Sometimes I need to say it several times but often just once does it. When the brain realizes that you are serious and are taking responsibilities for your thoughts, it gets in gear to help you evaluate the future concern, brainstorm options, and accomplish what you want to have happen, or decide to let it go as unrealistic. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Past Present Future (PPF)

Some people tend to live in the completed past; others in the anticipated future. Some learn to live in the present and utilize aspects of the past and the future in ways that gives them positive outcomes. Generally, regret and rumination are about the past; while worry and anxiety are typically about the future. Neither are productive or healthy. Learning to live in the present moment and enjoy what is happening right now is both an art and a science. When you combine that with a sense of lessons learned from the past and an awareness of how your choices today will impact your future can be both productive and healthy. I’ve learned to be increase my consciousness of the thoughts and self-talk running through my brain at any given moment. Once in a while I will catch myself ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. And I use different strategies to address those.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Autism Spectrum

At the end of March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their every-two-year estimate of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) prevalence in the United States for the year 2010 among children aged eight. For 2010, the overall prevalence of ASD among the 11 sites surveyed was 14.7 per 1,000 (1 in 68) children aged 8 years. Of interest and also concern is that this number is not falling. Also of concern is that while ASD can often be diagnosed by the age of 2 years (and the earlier the better), many children are diagnosed much later than that. According to Scott B. Badesch, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America, “If you or someone you love has autism and needs assistance, our call center, Autism Source™ is available. Call 1-800-3Autism.”


Friday, April 15, 2016

Sleep Spindles, 5

The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) that houses your biological clock, also governs your body temperature, hormone secretion, urine production, and changes in blood pressure. This complex system is also automatically linked with the rhythms of light and dark, day and night. A nearly immediate effect of going to bed after midnight is that it throws off your natural circadian rhythms, governed by your SCN, and this may lead to insomnia. As well as having a harder time falling asleep, you also will likely have trouble staying asleep. Not following circadian rhythms may result in a decrease in activities that tend to occur during Non-REM sleep. These include repair and regrowth of body tissues, building bone and muscle, strengthening the immune system, regulating affective brain function and emotional experience, memory activities, and an ability to learn. My mother used to say, “The two hours of sleep I get before midnight are the best two hours of the night.” She may have had something there . . .

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sleep Spindles, 4

Routine changes in your behavioral, mental, and physical functions that occur over the course of a day are regulated by your 'biological clock.' This tiny area of the brain, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), is about the size of a grain of rice and shaped a little like a pine cone. It contains about 20,000 neurons. When light enters your eye, it activates neurons in the retina that convert photons (light particles) to electrical signals. These signals travel along the optic nerve to the SCN which in turn stimulates several brain regions, including the pineal gland. The pineal gland responds by switching off production of the hormone melatonin, and this makes you feel more awake. After darkness falls, your biological clock or suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) signals your pineal gland again and your body's level of melatonin increases, making you feel drowsy. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sleep Spindles, 3

According to Matthew P. Walker, PhD, director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the earlier in the night one goes to sleep, the greater the propensity for deep Non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and the later in the morning, the greater the propensity for REM sleep. Therefore, someone who sleeps from 9p.m. to 5a.m. (8 hours total) will have a different overall composition of sleep—biased towards more Non-REM—than someone who sleeps from 3a.m. to 11a.m. (also 8 hours total), who is likely to experience more REM. Going to bed too late, then, will deprive you of some of the restorative functions that non-REM sleep normally provides. Given that going to bed later at night may reduce the amount of Non-REM sleep, and that sleep spindles only occur during Non-REM sleep, how does this dove-tail with circadian rhythm? More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sleep Spindles, 2

To recap, sleep spindles are waves of brain activity during sleep as seen on an electroencephalogram (EEG). They begin appearing in sleep around the first six to eight weeks of life, after which they remain with the sleeper for life. These spindles are most evident during stage 2 sleep. Matthew Walker and his research team at the University of California Berkley found that sleep spindles are associated with the refreshment of the brain’s ability to learn. The greater the number of sleep spindles produced during sleep, the more that participants were refreshed to perform a learning task. Sleep spindles involve activation in the areas of the thalamus, anterior cingulate and insular cortices, and the superior temporal gyri. The brain areas most involved were the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex—both of these areas are critical for learning.Furthermore, some very important brain activities are carried out when sleep spindles are occurring, whether during nighttime sleep or daytime naps. Herein lies the rub for many people, especially if their circadian rhythm is altered.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sleep Spindles

As you may know, there is REM (rapid eye movement) and Non-REM sleep. Typically you begin with NonREM sleep, which has been described as having three stages. In Stage 1 you can be easily awakened. During Stage 2 of, EEG recordings tend to show characteristic sleep spindles; brief bursts of rapid activity in the brain that appear something like the shape of an ‘eye’ as they quickly increase in amplitude and then also quickly decay. Since stage 2 sleep comprises roughly half of a person's sleep, spindles make up a major part of one’s sleep pattern. Sleep spindles are unique to Non-REM sleep. The most spindle activity occurs at the beginning and the end of Non-REM sleep periods. Interestingly enough, studies are showing that some very important brain activities occur when sleep spindles are occurring. Stage 3 of non-REM sleep involves very deep sleep. You are likely to experience some disorientation if you get awakened when in Stage 3. About 90 minutes after you fall asleep you will go into a period of REM sleep, followed by another cycle of Non-REM sleep, and so on. More tomorrow.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Choose Gratitude

Worry and anxiety can become chronic and turn into a life-long style of thinking. Unfortunately, they rarely help anything and can even diminish your brain's ability to brainstorm and problem solve effectively. Take charge and break that cycle. (Likely that’s one reason the Apostle Paul admonishes his readers to be ‘anxious for nothing’.) The moment you become aware of a fearful, worried, or anxious thought, quickly decide if you are in danger. If yes, take steps to keep yourself safe. If no, immediately think of something for which to be grateful and picture fear leaving the stage and joy coming to on stage to stand with you. Develop good stress-management techniques, take walks and exercise, breathe deeply, initiate the Quieting Reflex, take time to laugh and have fun. Choose gratitude, the antidote to fear, worry, and anxiety—and save your brain!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Your Brain Assistants, 2

When you experience a loss, sadness joins you on stage, giving you energy to process, recover, and heal from that loss. And fear leaves the ‘waiting room’ when there is a situation of danger (actual and real, or imaginary). Thus, if you allow your brain to be consumed often with thoughts of worry and anxiety, fear is the assistant out on stage with you and joy (along with anger and sadness) are pushed off stage into one of the waiting rooms. Fear can trigger the stress response and the release of adrenalin, cortisol, norepinephrine and other chemicals that can be helpful for short periods of time in a bona fide emergency, but that can be very unhelpful in the long term to both brain and body when there is no bona fide emergency. Worry and anxiety, forms of fear, are a type of stress and can be lethal to life and longevity. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Your Brain Assistants

Picture your brain stage in your mind's eye. There is a waiting room on each side of your ‘brain stage’ in which three of your four personal assistants can wait for their time on the stage with you--your four core emotions. Although you are on the stage of your brain every moment of your entire life, only one assistant at a time is on stage with you. Ideally, the specific assistant on stage at any one time is the one best suited to the task or situation at hand. Joy is the assistant you want with you most of the time—because it is the only emotion assistant that has no negative consequences when maintained over time. Should you personal boundaries get invaded, anger will bound onto the stage and send Joy back to the wings, staying on stage as long as you hang onto anger. As soon as you get the message anger is trying to give you and resolve the issue, anger retreats to the ‘waiting room’ and joy returns to the stage. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Your Brain's ‘Broadway Stage’

The emotion of fear is designed to alert you to situations of actual danger so you can do whatever possible to protect yourself and help keep those you love safe. (Sometimes that is possible and sometimes it isn’t.) Shakespeare has been quoted as saying that all the world is a stage and we are only players. In a sense, your brain is a stage and you are the major player. You are ‘on stage’ in your brain for as long as you live. Create a picture in your mind’s eye of the stage in your brain. Since money is no object when you are doing active mental picturing, you can make your ‘brain stage’ simple or elaborate, as you wish. Mine is constructed from Carrara marble, much like what I saw in Italy. Of course, there are also Corinthian pillars in 24-karat gold and so on. More tomorrow.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Antidote for Worry and Anxiety

Studies have shown that the emotion of fear and a perspective of gratitude cannot exist simultaneously in the brain, worry and anxiety simply being forms of fear. The person ‘fears’ something may happen that is unwanted or that something wanted may not happen. Either way, worry and anxiety do not increase the likelihood of success. They are more likely to ‘downshift’ the brain, focusing the brain’s considerable energy and attention toward lower brain areas, especially the stress responses (e.g., flight-flight) housed in the reptilian or first brain layer. Therefore, some are calling an attitude of gratitude an antidote for worry and anxiety. More tomorrow.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Worry, Anxiety, and Your Brain, 5

You cannot afford to get caught in the trap of worry and anxiety. In 1984, participants in the Swedish Adoption Twin Study of Aging completed an assessment related to their anxiety symptoms and then were followed for 28 years. The researchers determined that anxiety symptoms were associated with an increased risk of dementia Baseline anxiety score, independent of depressive symptoms, was significantly associated with incident dementia over follow-up. There was a 48% increased risk of becoming demented for those who had experienced high anxiety at any time compared with those who had not. Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, ‘I had a lot of trouble in my life; most of which never happened.’ And I doubt he was referring to any April Fool's joke! More in the next blog.