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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Stepping along ancient cobbled stones, your senses flood with differing shades of ochre-painted houses and rainbows of flowers pouring from clay pots outside each doorway.  Winding your way to the town center you anticipate the scrumptious meal and delicious wine that awaits you. You are captivated by this community full of work, play, art and life at its fullest.  It’s hard to imagine that in the darkness of the middle ages, the world’s most visionary planners built towns like this one to promote health, happiness and productivity. As you stroll through the arched passageways of this beautiful Italian village you confirm their wisdom, as healthy and happy are exactly how you feel.

Whether this adventure is on your bucket list or conjures up an actual memory, you no doubt have experienced the amazing power of travel to literally light up your brain.  Neuroscience research is revealing how profoundly health-giving travel can be, both in the moment and for years to come.  And surprisingly, how you feel when you travel is a simple barometer for whether it is having a beneficial impact on your brain.  The more you love what you are doing, the more you light up your brain.

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Because the brain is a ‘use it or lose it’ proposition, cognitive function is highly dependent on whether we engage in a variety of interesting, fun, challenging activities that protect our brains from decline and disease.   Travel enables us to do just that.  Given that adult lives are often full of stress and everyday demands, travel becomes the perfect antidote.   It provides a welcome change from routine, new places and people to spark our curiosity, and we can take time out to rest and relax.  These positive experiences create powerful biological responses:

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  1. Feeling good releases chemical neurotransmitters that result in lower heart rate, higher heart rate variability, lower stress hormones, better sleep, and lower risk for heart attacks and strokes.
  1. Travel by its very nature taps a wide range of challenges and experiences. When we explore a variety of activities, particularly if different from everyday life, new brain cells are built and all sorts of new connections occur between brain “networks”. These help us learn to speak a new language, play a new game, enjoy different foods, or figure out which train to catch.  Drawing upon multiple and varied networks can even improve our senses, sharpen our thinking, improve decision-making, and enhance memory and resiliency.
  1. Through travel we have the opportunity to craft and enjoy activities and experiences that we love. But it’s important to go beyond the familiar.  The deeper, richer, more emotionally meaningful the experience, the greater positive impact it has on your health and wellbeing.  Activities that broaden or challenge our perspectives, that engage us with others in important ways, that drive empathy and caring – these are the gold nuggets waiting for discovery during our travels.  If you are loving what you are doing you can be assured your brain is enjoying the rewards.

Perhaps the most potent health benefit from travel occurs after you get home! Travel is the gift that keeps on giving, because the brain prioritizes positive, meaningful experiences when choosing what to remember – and the more emotional, the more powerful is our memory of it.  These memories last longer and trigger memories of other similar experiences.  So we can relive our wonderful travel adventures over and over again with the same boost of feel good neurotransmitters. In fact, these biological boosts are so powerful they can overcome future stress and even reverse depression.

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The combination of loving what you’re doing, exploring a variety of activities and deeply meaningful experiences while tapping multiple brain networks – these all add up to a virtual health bonanza in every travel adventure.  Building a rich store of happy memories is a sign of both a well-lived life and a resilient brain.

So, before you take your next vacation do your brain a huge favor:

  • Think carefully about your next travel adventure
  • Choose places you love or are excited to go to
  • Plan and anticipate with excitement and joy
  • Find a balance between new, different and challenging activities, and those that create peace and restful relaxation
  • Be curious, playful, caring
  • Make real connections with your environment and its people
  • Build empathy with others through acts of caring and service
  • Most of all, love what you do and look for the joy in every moment
  • Then when you get home, sit back and enjoy the memories as often as possible
  • Repeat

Featured photo credit: JeniFoto via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on December 13, 2018

12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

Christmas is approaching fast, and lots of people not only tend to ruin their usual diets, but they also gain a few extra pounds. Based on studies, the majority of people tend to gain additional weight during the holiday season that starts at the Thanksgiving Day and ends with the New Year celebrations. Excessive eating is claimed to be the main cause for the additional weight gain, but it is also due to lack of physical activity and exercise.

A lot of individuals out there tend to set aside their fitness routines during the holidays since they believe that they do not have enough time to perform their workouts. And because they feel guilty after the holiday season, most of the gyms and fitness centers are packed with fresh members. Always bear in mind that you can still enjoy the holidays and stay fit at the same time. If you want to stay fit during the holiday season, especially during Christmas and the New Year’s Eve, here are some useful tips that might help you:

1. Eat Before Heading Out

First, it is best that you eat something before heading out to visits, trips or family dinners. By doing so, you will no longer be tempted to eat a lot or overindulge yourself since you have already eaten. Skipping on meals is not a good idea either, because you will only be forced to eat more later.

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2. Select The Treats

Make sure to select the treats that you eat in a wise manner. You should choose something that you can only enjoy during the holiday season and not something that is readily available all the time.

3. Avoid Skipping Meals

Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast! Even though it can be tempting to skip on certain meals, believing that it will make up for the treats you consumed in the previous day, don’t do it because it will only lead to counterproductive results.

4. Drink With Moderation

It is best to regulate your drinking since alcohol, coke or other juices will only add more calories to the ones you already eaten!

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5. Be Active

You should still perform your fitness routine whenever possible and if you can’t do that, simply walk more, park your car some distance away from the store or just use the stairs!

6. Get Out Of The House

Make the holidays a family affair and plan outdoor activities where everyone is involved. Even a snowball fight in the backyard will burn a lot of calories and will keep the children entertained.

7. Don’t Skip Your Strength Workouts

Always remember to perform your strength training in order to maintain that muscle mass you worked hard to get. You might be tempted to use lightweights and just do some cardio, but you can burn just as many calories by lifting weights. And with all of those extra stakes you had on the holiday meals, you might even gain some extra muscle. And this is much better than gaining some extra fat.

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8. Set Realistic Goals

You should set realistic exercise objectives. Aim for at least half an hour per day and you will be very happy when you will achieve that. If you plan one hour or more and not achieve it, you will only end up disappointed.

9. Enjoy Yourself

Also make sure to set realistic diet plans! Trying to restrain yourself totally from some foods will only make you eat more. Feel free to enjoy the treats that you really love, but in small portions.

10. Drink A Lot Of Water

This can satiate your appetite as well as keep you hydrated at all times. And it will also prevent a possible hangover if you overdo it with alcohol.

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11. Eat Less And More Often

Distribute your meals evenly throughout the day, and do not eat everything at once.  Instead of having 2 enormous meals, have 5 small ones.  Eat your dinner earlier and have a nice walk before going to bed.

12. Prioritize Your Workouts

Try to do them early in the morning while everyone else is still sleeping. This way you will also avoid remarks like “Oh, come on! It’s Christmas…”

So there you go! Twelve simple tips that will help you avoid gaining weight during the winter holidays, but will also allow you to enjoy yourself and have a great time with your loved ones.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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