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How to Slow Down

How to Slow Down
    Slow down, you're moving too fast...

    At this time of year you really need to slow down. With all of the hustle and bustle of a busy shopping season and the frenetic pace many take on to close all of their “open loops”, we lose sight of the fact that this is the time of year to take stock of where we were, where we are and where we want to be going forward.

    I was having coffee with a good friend and we talked about how this year we seem to be “busier” than we have in years’ past. It’s as if the amount of information and demands coming our way have increased so that everyone can close out the year with as much done as possible. I compare it to the time of year when the “taxman cometh” in that we’re trying to get as much bang for our earned dollar that we can before the calendar turns over to a new fiscal year.

    Basically, we’re trying to run on overdrive when all we have left is fumes in the tank.

    The end of the year doesn’t mean the end of life. We’re not approaching teh finish line – we’re approaching the end of a lap. We’ve got a lot more race to run, and we need to keep that in mind so that we don’t wind up wondering what it is we still have to do at a time of year when we should be taking time to just enjoy ourselves. It’s time to slow down…and here’s how you can do that:

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    Breathe.

    Even as I write this I can’t help but look at my to-do list out of the corner of my eye and notice how long it is. I can feel myself getting anxious, knowing I still have gifts to wrap, cards to send and work to do. So right now I’m going to take a pause and just breathe deeply, focusing only on my breath and being in that moment alone.

    I closed my eyes while taking several breaths. It felt good. Even after coming out of that moment or two, I feel focused on the task at hand. My to-do list is not even part of the equation now. I am standing with a better posture, am thinking more clearly and my heart rate has slowed. I feel calmer as a result of just taking two minutes to close my eyes and breathe deeply and with resolve.

    You may have to do this more times than usual when the pace heats up to a level that it tends to do during the holidays season. In fact, you will have to – at least if you want to be able to get things done efficiently and effectively. By taking time to do this you will be making time to do everything else.

    Even when you feel as if everything else is spinning out of control, your own breath is something that is always under your control, never spinning. So…just breathe.

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    Go out for a good meal.

    I’m not talking about fast food here, either. You need to go out either by yourself or with those close to you and have a good sit-down meal. Treat yourself to it. It’s a great way to slow things down – to enjoy the process of a meal as intended. You’re giving yourself the time to eat, drink and be merry…or in your own thoughts.

    Having a meal where you only need to order and not cook also gives you the time to, as mentioned, be with your own thoughts. I’ve come up with some great ideas – or solution to problems – while waiting for a meal or eating one in a restaurant. It’s those moments that have a harder time coming to you when you’re busy with the making of something. You’re feeding your mind, body and soul when you give yourself the gift of a good meal. Take it a step further and skip the making portion of it altogether – just once during the next week or so.

    It’s time well tasted.

    Run somewhere, anywhere. Preferably outdoors.

    It’s amazing what a good run will do for you. You’d think that by moving faster that your mind would try to keep up, but that’s not the case when you go for a run. Your mind tends to wander, and it slows down in the process. The rush against your face of the cool air adds a freshness that can’t be found when doing anything else that you have control over. There’s a freedom to running around, a feeling that you can go anywhere and not be hindered by roads or trails. Your mind gets that freedom as well.

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    Sometimes I bring a recorder to capture my thoughts, but often I don’t when I run. I just let the flow happen. Sure, that’s counter-intuitive to the tenets of productivity (or at least, GTD to a point), but I’m not running to make more work. I’m running to create a space between myself and my work. I’m running to take a break – a much-needed one at that.

    I’m running so I can stay in the race over the long haul, not so that I wash out of it.

    Step back from social networks.

    I’m not doing nearly as much on social networks right now. And I’m okay with that. I am doing less reporting on my life and spending more time living it.

    I’m not divorcing social networks – at least not yet. I just think that by spending more time working on me and my own life and work and less time keeping up with everything else that social networks offer that I’ll be better serving both myself and those very platforms later on. I’ll be able to offer a clearer version of myself and what’s going on – should I choose to even do that. I’m not worrying about status updates and tweets. I’m not even worrying about my presences on any of those social networks.

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    What allows me to slow down is the fact that I’m focusing on being present.

    Feelin’ groovy.

    Before I do any of the things I’ve mentioned above, this set of lyrics come to mind:

    “Slow down, you movin’ too fast;
    You gotta make the morning last;
    Just kickin’ down the cobblestones;
    Lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy…” – The 59th Street Bridge Song, Simon & Garfunkel

    I do that and I start to feel, well…groovy. And that’s a pretty darn good feeling.

    (Photo credit: Trying to Stop Time via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on February 21, 2019

    7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

    7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

    Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

    You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

    Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

    Instead, we’re going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

    How Do We Remember?

    The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

    This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

    Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

    The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

    Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

    Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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    The last step is memory retrieval.

    That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

    You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

    Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

    7 Natural Memory Boosters

    So how to work on memory and boost your brain power? Here’re 7 brain boosters backed by science that you should try:

    1. Aerobic Exercise

    Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

    Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory. [2]

    In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

    They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

    So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

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    Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

    2. Sleep

    You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password). [3]

    Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance. [4]

    Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance. [5]

    3. MIND Diet

    Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

    The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet. [6]

    The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

    The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

    The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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    So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

    4. Relax

    We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

    When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

    To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

    Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

    5. Continuous Learning

    The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

    Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

    Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games. [7]

    Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

    6. Stay Social

    The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

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    Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline. [8]

    In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests. [9]

    What to do?

    Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

    7. Wakeful Rest

    This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

    But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories. [10]

    What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story. In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date. [11]

    Conclusion

    You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

    There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

    More Resources About Boost Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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