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Middle age is often referred to as a period of crisis, the beginning of a long downhill slide toward decrepitude and death. But neurological studies are proving this widely held belief to be false. The Mature Mind, by Dr. Gene Cohen, director of the Center on Aging, Health, and Humanities at George Washington University takes a positive view of aging, a process in which the brain is continually reshaped by lifelong learning and opportunities for growth.
Like a fine wine, the human brain gets better with age. Dr. Cohen says the current view of aging is outmoded. "There is no denying the problems that are associated with aging," he says, "but what has been denied and trivialized is the potential (of the human brain), and unless you have a focus on potential, you can't ultimately have a true health promotion and prevention focus." In The Mature Mind, Dr. Cohen challenges the myths of the aging brain. For one, he says the older brain is more resilient, adaptable, and capable than a younger brain. He adds that, contrary to popular belief, the brain grows new brain cells and reshapes itself in response to experience and learning.
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"You need to think of brain cells as trees and their projections as branches. They are called dendrites," he says. "Each brain cell involved in higher intellectual functioning has the capacity to sprout hundreds or even thousands of branches, every single cell. And, as we challenge the brain, our brain cells sprout new dendrites, like a tree sprouting new branches. So, that's how you keep your brain vital."
The Mature Mind describes four overlapping phases of brain development during the second half of life, beginning around age 40 with what is called midlife evaluation. "It's really a time of quest, exploring where you are and where you are going," says Dr. Cohen. "That has very productive and constructive outcomes. It's not until middle age that we, for the first time, begin to have more of a confluence or congruence of our left and right brain working together. This allows the heart and the mind in many ways to work more closely together. And that coming together allows us to see things in different ways and to explore things differently. And that is starting to happen in middle age, which helps that middle life re-evaluation process."
What follows, in roughly 20-year periods, Dr. Cohen contends, are mental phases called liberation, summing up, an encore, in which we open to new freedom to speak our minds, review our lives to find meaning, and reaffirm our beliefs in the face of loss and adversity. These phases correspond to changes in the brain and are confirmed by thousands of personal interviews conducted over 30 years by Dr. Cohen, a psychologist, and gerontologist. He says it is never too late to boost your brainpower. But, he says, like physical exercise, you have to work at it to make a difference.
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"With mental exercise, you want to feel like you are sweating, mentally. And that could be a hobby, taking (studying) a new language, a new course, anything that you feel that you are working hard at word games, reading, and writing," he says. "Each? episode or session? or practice, you discover your skills are growing. And a sense of mastery is also associated with positive health outcomes."
The best brain-exercising activities, according to a major NIH leisure activity study in 2003, are dancing, board games, playing musical instruments, crossword puzzles, and reading. Dr. Cohen says mastery of such hobbies, when combined with social engagement, has been linked to better physical and mental health among older adults. "Biologists have found that we get a bit of an immune system boost with good social relationships. We produce more cells that ward off infection or cancer," he says. Dr. Cohen says the best news about the aging brain is that we all have control over its well-being and that through simple, enjoyable activities we can nurture the extraordinary power of our mature minds. (IANS/JC)
By Dr. Vihan Sanyal
Most teenagers use social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram these days. It keeps a person connected to friends across the globe and gives them a window into the lives of people they are connected with.
Multiple studies have shown that teenagers who use social media excessively do so because they are either bored, need an escape from their immediate physical environment, are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, are lonely, have few real-time friends or need to feel appreciated and validated.
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Using social media in moderation isn't bad. In fact, it can help boost serotonin and other feel-good chemicals in the brain and can help uplift a person's mood. Most people take a selfie of themselves and post it on social media, and feel good about themselves when people like their post and comment on it. It becomes a problem when this becomes a habit. Many people feel compelled to post photos of themselves multiple times a day and then keep checking their accounts for the number of likes they have received.
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Let's now go a little deeper and see the signs a person, a parent, or a loved one can look for to differentiate between social media usage and addiction. We can safely say a person is addicted to social media when we can spot some of the following:
- If a person is thinking about and talking about social media most of the time.
- If they have formed a ritual of using social media multiple times a day
- If they are using social media instead of attending to other important things in their life.
- If they are procrastinating on other important tasks and using social media instead.
- If they get frustrated and throw anger tantrums if they are unable to use social media
- If there is a fear of missing out on "life" if they don't stay connected on social media
- If social media usage has affected their studies.
- If they keep checking their social media accounts during conversations.
- If a person avoids social events to be on social media.
- If they lie about the time they spend on social media
- If they have not been able to reduce the time they spend on social media.
Multiple studies have shown that teenagers who use social media excessively do so because they are either bored, need an escape from their immediate physical environment, are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, are lonely, have few real-time friends or need to feel appreciated and validated.Unsplash
A Few Tips For Parents
The following things parents have found to be effective in teenage social media addiction:
- Discuss the teenager's use of social media in a non-hostile and loving manner. Keep reminding them that you are coming from a place of concern for their well-being.
- Help them to plan their day and follow the set schedule.
- Set a "no mobile phone" policy at different times of the day/night. No cell phones during meal times, while watching TV, during family time and at bedtime.
- Set tasks that require a person to be busy offline.
- Enroll them in a new hobby.
- Use less of social media yourself to set an example for your teens'.
- Seek help early from a mental health professional.
The use of social media has also resulted in many teenagers globally being subjected to name-calling, harassment, embarrassment, humiliation, stalking, threats and becoming victims of fraud through social media. It has led to a spike in teenage mental health issues and even death.
If a teenager is subjected to any form of online bullying, it can leave a lasting negative impact that can stay with the individual for years to come. The power of social media, in my opinion, is not fully comprehended by many. In school, a person may be subjected to an incident of bullying or harassment, which is usually restricted to a small group of people. Negative or derogative comments about a person posted on social media reach a wider and global audience. It is also permanent, and can be seen by all. This can really damage an individual's self-esteem and level of confidence.
There is also a correlation between excessive social media usage and mental disorders like anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, ADHD, paranoia, delusions, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm. It is very important for users to keep a check on the amount of time they spend on social media. They need to recognise the signs of social media addiction and take the necessary steps quickly to ensure they do not become addicted to social media.
The use of social media has also resulted in many teenagers globally being subjected to name-calling, harassment, embarrassment, humiliation, stalking, threats and becoming victims of fraud through social media. It has led to a spike in teenage mental health issues and even death.Unsplash
How Much Time Should Someone Spend On Social Media
Studies have found that thirty minutes of social media usage helps give a boost to a person's mood, while using social media for more than two hours a day can increase the risk of developing depressive symptoms. One needs to strike a balance and use social media tools effectively. When social media platforms are used responsibly, then they become a source of enjoyment and fulfilment. They can help a person feel good about themselves, help them stay socially connected with friends globally, connect with other like-minded people, share ideas and thoughts, and stay informed of current affairs. They are also made aware of social events and have the opportunity to demonstrate their talents and skills.
What Can You Do If You Are Addicted To Social Media?
There are many effective modalities in psychotherapy that can help young adults break free from the excessive use of social media. Here are some effective tools professionals use to help people:
Counselling: Mental health counselling allows a person to explore their inner feelings and emotions in a safe and non-judgemental environment. It promotes awareness and helps a person come up with alternative options to deal with the situation.
CBT: CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT helps a person to recognise unhelpful thoughts and the errors they are making in their thinking. A trained CBT professional help clients recognise such thoughts and help them to correct the errors they may be making in thinking. This helps to correct the behaviour and results in better moods and feelings.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is another very effective way to help build awareness and reduce hyperactivity and restlessness. Mindfulness helps people become more grounded and cantered and recognise their feelings and emotions. Many underlying emotions are allowed to surface and be released.
It is important to connect with a mental health professional who can help in this area and help a person live a fuller and more meaningful life. Social media use and abuse has increased during the pandemic, and many are struggling to reduce time spent on social media. Sometimes it's not something a person may be able to achieve by themselves. External professional help may be required.
Keywords : social media, teenager, impact, mental health, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, addiction, bullying, anxiety, sleeping disorders, harassment, paranoia, delusion.
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N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe
Ayurveda, as mentioned, is the science of life. It is not just a set of general suggestions but a way of living life. It consists of set practices and lifestyle habits that work to make one healthy, both physically and mentally. Additionally, the herbs and medicines as prescribed in Ayurveda, are wholly natural and retain the ability to cure most diseases without any side effects.
Ayush Agrawal, Founder and Director of Rasayanam shares some prominent herbs that are renowned for their use in matters of health and wellness are discussed as follows-
Ashwagandha - Ashwagandha, by reducing the cortisol levels, helps control anxiety and stress. Its use is significant in calming the body and psyche of an individual and also helps in regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Ashwagandha is also popularly consumed as a vigor and strength supplement. Further, it aids muscle mass gain and boosts energy levels in people from all age brackets.
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Triphala - This over 1000-year-old remedy constitutes three principal ingredients of Amla, Bibhitaki, and Haritaki which are some of the most famous medicinal plants native to the country. Known for its anti-inflammatory and laxative properties, Triphala is also considered particularly helpful in preventing dental diseases and cavities as well as digestive problems. The many medicinal properties of this herb are what make it so well accepted and preached throughout the country.
Brahmi - Brahmi is primarily used for its significant impact on the brain and its functioning. It is said to improve the brain's retention and memory power as well as its spatial learning abilities. Brahmi is commonly utilized to treat and control symptoms of anxiety, stress, and ADHD. Additionally, it is also consumed to reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure levels.
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Cumin - This wonder spice is best known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels and thereby aids weight loss. The rich antioxidant content of cumin acts to protect the skin against free radicals which in turn helps to prevent skin and heart-related diseases.
Different spices and herbs displayed on a tableUnsplash
Turmeric - Turmeric is a famously utilized Indian spice that is best known for its medicinal properties. A prime active ingredient found in turmeric is curcumin. As per the ancient Ayurvedic wisdom, curcumin works to balance the three doshas of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha in the human body. Further, it also brings relief to joint and muscle pain and tightness. Another typical usage of turmeric is to heal wounds and bruises. Lastly, it is used to prevent and alleviate symptoms of colds and sore throats.
Cardamom - Cardamom has been traditionally consumed as a mouth freshener and a remedy for dental problems. It fights off the mouth bacteria and leaves the person consuming it with a minty breath. This magic spice is also popular throughout India for its many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which help in lowering blood pressure levels and preventing chronic diseases such as cancer.
Bitter melon - With its rich Vitamin C content, bitter melon is considered helpful in healing wounds, preventing diseases, and assisting bone formation. It is also believed to regulate the secretion of insulin in humans and thereby aid the balancing of blood sugar levels. Lastly, bitter melon may carry weight loss properties.
Safed Musli - It is a refreshing, regenerating health tonic that is consumed in India for its several beneficial properties. Safed muesli is believed to boost immunity levels, control symptoms of chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes, and aid weight loss and muscle gain in individuals. Speculations have also been made with regard to the benefits of this useful herb in sexual health.
Valerian root - The Valerian roots are believed to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress. This they do by increasing the GABA levels in a person's body. GABA is a pacifying chemical produced in humans, and as its level increases, a person's mind becomes calmer. The roots are also packed with antioxidants that relax the body and mind and facilitate quality sleep. The valerian roots are a proven help to people who suffer from problems such as overwhelming stress, worry, or insomnia.
Herbs and spices are not only packed with medicinal benefits but are also delicious in taste and come with virtually no side effects. This quality of these items makes them extremely valuable in today's day where a large number of people suffer from some disease or the other.
Keywords : herbs, spices, health, Ayurveda, science, lifestyle, cure, disease, healthy, physically, mentally, Ashwagandha, Triphala, Brahmi, Cumin, Turmeric, Cardamom, Bitter Melon, Safed Musli, Valerian root, boost, immunity.
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By Shraddha Iyer
With everyone's hectic schedules, we don't even notice how quickly a day passes and our health suffers as a result. How do you incorporate yoga into your daily routine with such a hectic schedule, and what can you practice?
For all the workaholics out there, here are some simple and efficient yogic techniques to get in shape. It only takes 15 minutes, and you don't even have to leave the house. These asanas can be done from where you are sitting and during short work breaks.
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Sukha Purvaka Pranayama
This pranayama is effortless breathing that focuses on breathing deeply into each section of the lungs, as the name says. There is a strong emphasis on both internal and exterior breath retention.
- Simply breathe in for 4 to 6 counts, filling the lungs up.
- Hold the breath, ideally for the same count, or it can be as long as you can.
- Exhale for 4 to 6 counts, holding the breath out for the same time or as long as you can.
- This completes one round.
- You can start with 10 rounds and increase the repetition with practice.
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This pranayama is excellent for increasing the lung capacity, hence improving the oxygen level in the body along with the multitude of benefits it can give to mental and physical health. As a result, focus at work is improved benefit for all the workaholics, isn't it?
These asanas can be done from where you are sitting and during short work breaks.Unsplash
The Eagle Stance, also known as Chair Garudasana, is a balancing pose. You will feel a stretch in your shoulders, upper back, and thighs as you perform this sitting in your office chair. This stretch will relax your body and is a great way to unwind after a long day at work.
- Sit at the edge of the chair with your feet on the floor.
- Breath in to bend your elbows and open your arms.
- As you exhale, bring the right knee over the left.
- Send the right toe at the back of the calf muscles. Simultaneously, bring the left elbow under the right and single - or double rap the palms.
- Stay in this pose for 3 to 5 deep breaths.
- You can repeat it on the other side.
This pose is excellent for stretching the posterior chain of the body along with the triceps.
It is great to increase focus and release anxiety.
The Sanskrit words Pawan means air, Mukta means free, and asana means posture, therefore Chair Pawanmuktasana (Gas Releasing Pose) is derived from them. This position is beneficial to your digestive system, thus it relieves the discomfort that we typically have after our lunch break, which disrupts our work.
- Sit at the edge of the chair with your spine elongated and your feet on the floor.
- Breathe in and bend the right knee and hug the right shin as you exhale, reducing the distance between the abdomen and thigh.
- Stay here for 3 to 5 breaths and with every exhalation, keep elongating the spine and pressing the thigh towards the abdomen.
- Repeat the same on the other leg. You can practise this 3 to 5 times and increase the repetitions with practice.
This asana improves and regulates digestion and helps release excess air in the digestive system.
It also helps strengthen the core muscles and aids weight loss.
You now have great yogic practices at your disposal to keep you healthy on the fly. These are easy to do and may be done anywhere and at any time. Unsplash
Chair Vakrasana, also known as the Half Twisted Pose, is a practice that most of us have been practising unconsciously because it feels so good. Back discomfort is relieved and side fat is reduced as you twist on both sides. If you work for long hours, this is a perfect asana to do every 2-3 hours.
- Sit at the edge of the chair with your feet on the floor, knee and ankle in line with each other.
- Breathe in, raise your hands up and, as you exhale, twist to the right with the right hand on the head of the chair and the left hand on the outside of the right thigh.
- Use the resistance of your hands to press the right shoulder back to bring the shoulders into one line.
- Stay in this pose for 3 to 5 breaths and with every inhalation, lengthen the spine and twist deeper with every exhalation.
- Repeat the same on both sides. You can repeat this asana 3 to 5 times and slowly increase the repetition with practice.
This pose is like a boon to your spine, it helps keep the spinal column healthy and supple.
This also helps improve digestion, and keeps the internal organs healthy.
Chair Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bending Pose) is a stretch that targets your back and hamstrings while stretching your complete body. When you're in this position, both your mind and body feel at ease. Your body's blood circulation relaxes you and offers you the energy to return to work with a clear head. You won't have to worry about belly fat because it focuses on the core.
- While sitting at the edge of the chair, straighten the legs as much as possible and keep the heels on the floor.
- Breathe in to raise your arms up, breath out to hinge from the hip while keeping the back straight and fold forward as much as possible. If this is too difficult one can also simply fold forward with bent knees.
- Stay here for 3 to 5 breaths and try to deepen the fold with every exhalation.
- Repeat this 3 times and with practice increase the reps.
This pose helps stretch the back muscles and improves the function of the digestive system.
It is perfect to release anxiety and brings you to a very calm state of mind.
Alternatively, you can utilise our SARVA app. Many soundtracks for relaxation and guided meditation are available on our app and can be accessed anytime, anywhere. You now have great yogic practices at your disposal to keep you healthy on the fly. These are easy to do and may be done anywhere and at any time. Don't let your hectic schedule keep you from being healthy; instead, apply these tips and take the first step now.
Keywords : Steps, benefits, yoga, workaholic, sitting, chair, breathing, stress, anxiety, asana, strengthen, pranayam, hectic.
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