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PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IMPROVES COGNITIVE FUNCTION

There is a nice post over on the New York Times Health blog about a few recent studies showing that physical activity including aerobic exercise and weight training can enhance cognitive functions like memory. Several of these studies have demonstrated that physical activity can actually change the brain by increasing neurogenesis (the formation of new neurons) and increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Neurogenesis and BDNF (low levels) have also been implicated in depression and might be at least partly responsible for the anti-depressant-like effects of physical activity that some people report experiencing.

Exercise might not always be the first thing we think of doing when we’re feeling sluggish or not so sharp, but it might be exactly what we need.

IN HONOR OF THE GREAT MARTIN LUTHER KING JR

His words are (unfortunately) as relevant and widely applicable today as they were 50 years ago.

From: I Have a Dream (1963)

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

 

From: Letter from a Birmingham City Jail (1963)

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

 

From: A Time to Break Silence (1967)

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

 

From: Where do we go from here? (1967)

 “The problem of transforming the ghetto, therefore, is a problem of power-confrontation of the forces of power demanding change and the forces of power dedicated to the preserving of the status quo. Now power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political and economic change.”

“What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about “Where do we go from here,” that we honestly face the fact that the Movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s market place. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

 

From: I’ve Been to the Mountaintop (1968)

“Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.”

“It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.”

That’s the question before you tonight. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.”

SLEEP IS AWESOME

Sleep is awesome – and so is this infographic created by Julien Smith (with Zeo and FFunction).

Most of us do not enough sleep. How much is enough? Well, that’s a bit of a tricky question because the amount of sleep that any one person needs can vary a bit, but it is generally recommended that you spend 7-9 hours in bed each night. If you are not doing this on most nights, then you are very likely not getting as much sleep as you need to perform at your very best.

So, besides going to bed earlier, what else can you do to improve your sleep?

Sleep specialists use the term “sleep hygiene” to refer to a collection of behaviors that you can do, avoid doing, and ways that you can change your environment to improve your sleep. Some of these recommendations include:

Your environment:

1) Keeping a cool bedroom temperature with enough blankets to stay warm is recommended for good sleep. Try to make your bed as inviting and comfortable as possible – having nice sheets, comforters, and pillows will pay dividends in wanting to go to bed and in getting good quality sleep.

2) Make the bed and bedroom a place for sleep and sex only. Working or watching TV in bed creates an undesirable association between being in bed and NOT sleeping.

3) An ideal sleep environment is absolutely pitch black. Try to eliminate any light that remains when you turn the lights out at night. Cover windows with heavy shades or drapes, cover lights from electronics or alarm clocks and turn them away from you, and use an eye mask if you are comfortable doing so. Light is an enemy of good sleep.

4) Protect yourself from noise pollution by running a box fan, air purifier, or white noise maker (sounds like radio or television static). White noise drowns out background noises that might wake you up during the night.

Things to do:

1) Establish a regular bedtime routine to begin at about the same time each night – this helps prepare yourself physically and mentally for a relaxing night of sleep.

2) Make sure that you get sunlight and exercise during the day – just not right before bedtime. Dim the lights around you as you approach bedtime.

3) Eat a light snack or take a warm bath.

4) When going to bed, close your eyes and focus on staying awake. This is called paradoxical intent, is terribly boring, and helps people fall asleep.

Things to avoid:

1) Try not to do any strenuous exercise several hours before bedtime.

2) Avoid eating any large meals or foods that are spicy or contain caffiene (e.g., chocolate) several hours before bedtime.

3) Do not consume alcohol, nicotine, or caffiene within several hours of bedtime. These will either make it difficult to fall asleep or will result in poorer quality sleep when you are sleeping.

4) Try to avoid taking naps during the day. Naps will make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.

Sweet dreams…

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