For the month of June, there are several awareness categories (PTSD, Alzheimers, Aphasia, Migraine…), but I thought Brain Awareness covered many of them in one shot. The brain is the center of processing in the body. It absorbs information, stores memory, develops electrical impulses, tells us how to think and feel and function. If part of the brain is damaged or sick or overworked, something in the body doesn’t function well.
Each year, a special week in March is set aside to promote brain research and the month of March is Brian Injury Awareness month. In June, we focus on brain awareness. What does the brain do for you? What can you do to keep it working properly? What happens to the brain as we age, if we smoke or use other harmful substances, when it becomes diseased…? This brain of ours is so important and multi-functional that it takes years of college education for many to know much about it, and even then,. we are continually learning more and more.
You might be asking why they even have a Brain Awareness month if it is impossible to learn everything there is to know about the human brain. I would say that you have to understand what you can so you can maintain it to work at its prime capacity for a very long time. We take actions to maintain our automobiles so they last longer and function the best they can, so why wouldn’t we be as concerned or even more concerned about our brains?
Something some brain experts say about the brain is that “if you don’t use it, you will use it,” and evidence is available which shows exactly that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be a lifelong learner, but it sure does help with keeping the brain healthy. Many people play games, solve puzzles, build things, create art, read, and do other types of brain stimulating activities. Believe it or not, all of those activities keep the brain moving and help to maintain good brain functioning.
There are some thing that people do which can harm the brain, as well. Ingesting too much food (overeating), sugar, caffeine, or junk foods are harmful to the brain. The use of cigarettes, even electronic cigarettes, can shrink the size of the brain and cause cell damage. Speaking of things that can shrink the brain: You might be surprised (or not) that too much alcohol or caffeine fall into that category, as well. Not getting enough sleep or water can harm the brain. Finally, a bunch of new research is coming out which verifies what we all were hoping wasn’t true: Overuse of our beloved electronic devices, such as cell phones, computers, and digital TVs can harm the brain.
So what are some things we can do to keep our brain in optimal working condition? I would suggest that we take control of the things that we can control and we learn to live in balance (or even moderation). Here are a few tips:
- Make sure we eat breakfast, every day, so our brain gets the food and energy it needs to function properly throughout the day, drink plenty of water, and significantly reduce the amount of junk food we eat.
- Limit coffee to 4 cups per day
- Stop smoking or using electronic cigarettes… period. At least make an effort to get to zero use within a reasonable period of time, if you can.
- Learn to breathe properly and use deep breathing as your relaxation exercise in order to increase the amount of oxygen your brain gets.
- Try to get enough sleep. The amount of sleep you need depends upon your age and health conditions, but when you research how much sleep you need for optimal brain health, you will find that it is between 14 hours for toddlers and 7.5 hours for most adults (some may require a bit more). If you sleep less than 6 hours, you can bet that your brain may suffer some functioning issues at some point in time.
- Exercise, regularly. It doesn’t necessarily have to be strenuous exercise. It can be something as light as taking a walk each day or gardening. If you can combine your exercise with a brain activity, like listening to music or books on CD, planning for an event or speech, concentrating on the swimming techniques you are using, etc… you can work on two things at once.
- Refresh your brain by giving it some down time. You can do this with quiet time where you can clear your head, meditation or prayer, and even some forms of yoga. For young children and students, take a break from studies, several times per day. Some research has shown that more recesses for children (versus fewer) actually promote learning and decrease behavior problems.
- I know some of you will hate this one, but we need to reduce our screen time. Limit your television, computer, tablet, phone, and other device times in an effort to give your brain more down time, rest time, thought-producing time, and personal time. Learn to do things the old fashioned way, even if it isn’t always prudent (You can always pick up the device when needed) to gain back the part of the brain that learns from doing things.
- Find some time to create. Innovate, invent, produce, make, do…. It doesn’t matter if you are inventing a new product, creating a new way of doing work, developing new concepts, researching, creating fine art, coloring a picture, doing science experiments, or what you do to be creative. You can exercise the brain in many ways.
Since we are spending the month of May looking at ideas which may help us deal with the effects of mental health challenges, I thought we could explore chiropractic care. Like many alternative medicines, chiropractic care supports a holistic mind-body approach to wellness. Most chiropractors use more than one treatment and are willing to work with their clients to create treatment plans which are as simple or complex as the patient needs or wants. How can a full chiropractic plan help reduce mental health issues?
- Spinal adjustments can relieve nerve pressure and help with proper release of many hormones and other body chemicals. Some of those chemicals include endorphins, Oxytocin, Neurotensin, and many more. Many of the hormones affected are connected to the body’s ability to maintain a happy and healthy set of emotions.
- Spinal adjustments have been linked to significantly lowering the number and duration of migraine headaches and body aches, reducing the symptoms of the adolescent and perimenopausal changes, and creating a positive change to the overall perceived health of patients.
- Chiropractic care has been linked to realigning the balance of body functions by restoring the nervous system’s ability to properly communicate with all other systems within the body. This is especially important for immune system care, since the immune system is spread throughout every inch of the body and is connected to disease and well-being.
- Studies show that people who have regular adjustments in long-term chiropractic care increase the body’s ability to repair cells and increase4 immunity.
- Adjusting the spine can help with reducing tension and increasing flexibility. This allows a person to be able to move more, exercise with less pain, and relieve some forms of chronic pain which may be associated with anxiety and depression.
- Regular chiropractic care has been linked to better sleep patterns which allow the person to get to sleep more quickly, stay asleep longer during the night, and sleep an appropriate amount of time for optimal functioning.
While it is easy to look for answers in research studies, I have found that I have learned much more from listening to the stories of people who have increased their quality of life through chiropractic care. While it may be anecdotal evidence, the stories are inspiring and widespread evidence that chiropractic care is effective for people who suffer from both physical and mental health issues.
I decided to find out for myself. I found Drs. Nathan and Caitlin Zeigler at Alliance Chiropractic in Carmel, Indiana. Carmel is a suburb of Indianapolis (north side) and is somewhat close to where I live. Most of you know that I am a veteran of the US Navy and experienced a fall which resulted in serious injuries from which I have suffered chronic pain for a decade. Dr. Zeigler does an adjustment for me at each visit and has performed a series of other therapies. In addition, they have given me some therapeutic exercises to do at home, several times per day, and are willing to talk with me about diet and lifestyle needs.
While I still suffer to some extent, my pain levels have significantly decreased, and I am much less stressed out. I can feel a significant difference in my ability to function in life which increased my motivation and moves me toward success. I feel great, and I highly recommend chiropractic care to anyone who doesn’t have a medical condition which prohibits it. It is just one more way to combat mental health (and physical health), and it might be something for you to consider.
Drug Free Marion County and the Association for 100 Black Women hosted a Youth Mental Health First Aid certification seminar at the beautiful Indiana Health Foundation Building in Downtown Indianapolis. They learned about how mental illness and youth adolescence look very similar and how to know if a young person is suffering from a mental health condition as early as possible. Since early intervention is the key to the most successful outcomes for anyone, young or old, this training better prepared them to identify and reach out to a young person in need. This was one of our favorite groups to train to date! Congratulations to our new mental health first aiders!
Purdue University hosted its second Mental Health First Aid for Higher Education seminar at the Rec Center. The faculty and staff at Purdue are always seeking ways to make college life better for students. The Dean of Students and her staff weren’t just fabulous participants, but they also had some artistic talent among them. We had to share the posters they made in class, because they were fantastic!