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Senior Viewpoint: The Heart of the Brain—Losses & Gains

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Are you concerned your brain’s ability may decline as you age, or that it already has?

If so, you’re far from alone. This is one of the most common current concerns about aging.

The Cedar Tree Institute of Marquette recently presented Heart of the Brain, a four-hour workshop addressing the unique nature of individual brains, and the impact of this uniqueness on one’s everyday life. Participants gained insights into the roots of memory and problem solving at different stages of life, with practical techniques and specific practices to improve mental functioning and decision-making.

Heart of the Brain, a unique program created by Layne Kalbfleisch, M.Ed., Ph.D., is an amalgam of psychology, neurology, pediatrics, behavior modification, education, art, prayerfulness, and intuition. Kalbfleisch designed this program to help participants learn basic principles about the brain’s function and plasticity–how it adapts, remembers, creates, and imagines in childhood and across life; the difference between good and bad stress; and new skills to keep it healthy, enhance memory, and support skills and talent in the individual.

Usually aging is seen as loss.

However, that’s not necessarily true. The brain, with its principle of plasticity, over time brings a tradeoff between declarative memory (names, dates, and other straightforward facts) and non-declarative memory (recollection of how to do things automatically, such as drive, swim, bike, etc.). With repetitive structures to daily life in place, elders may bring more openness, and approach their lives more creatively.

Cedar Tree Institute Executive Director Jon Magnuson notes, “I’ve seen this with people I’ve worked with in counseling—the ability to see options one hadn’t when younger, coming to a different way to look at one’s life. In the faith community, I’ve found it’s your children and elders who are the most creative, and that those in the middle age range are more likely to have become hardened and rigid.”

Kalbfleisch’s years as an educational psychologist, cognitive neuroscientist, and educator give her a unique background to approach brain function challenges from several perspectives at once. She is the founder of 2E Consults ® LLC, and works with doctors, psychiatrists, educators, physical therapists, and other professionals to help them function as a team to solve problems and ensure support from all sides for her clients.

“Teachers, doctors, psychologists, scientists–they all live in separate universes,” Kalbfleisch said.

“I bring information from learning science into people’s lives, uncover the root of problems, and help people understand them and find ways to work on them. The evaluation processes are standard, but I use the results more holistically to target change,” she said.

Kalbfleisch studies the relationship between talent and disability, and how the human brain supports ingenuity and problem-solving throughout a lifetime.  “I work across the lifespan,” she said. “I work with young children through those suffering from age-related changes to memory.”

Kalbfleisch helps clients use their natural assets to solve problems. She looks at the client’s weaknesses and strengths in functioning, and helps them understand and change unwanted behaviors. “Natural resources can be disguised as a burden,” she said.

Here are some of Kalbfleisch’s recommendations to help optimize your own brain’s function:

Make Music 

People who have training in music and who engage in music on a regular basis are being shown to have brains that are more resistant to distraction. Don’t play an instrument? Sing! This helps your brain to integrate and exercise, powerfully impacting its abilities.

Sleep Well

Deep, REM sleep lets your brain rest, sort, and sift, providing hygiene for your brain. Have trouble sleeping?  Fit more zzzs in with a nap. Research is showing naps support better cognitive processing.
Exercise – Staying active helps keep the parts of the brain that facilitate memory from aging as fast as the rest of the brain, so find and continue the forms that work for you.

Exercise

Staying active helps keep the parts of the brain that facilitate memory from aging as fast as the rest of the brain, so find and continue the forms that work for you.

Engage Socially 

Having a social life and engaging with others supports the aging brain by protecting against inflammation and supporting the processes that allow you to grow new brain cells in response to social experiences and activities. For bonus points, talk about your feelings. This exercises your ability to empathize, a key factor in connecting with others, which in turn improves your quality of life.

Kalbfleisch is affiliated with Pediatrics at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., and in the College of Education at Northern New Mexico College, Espanola, NM. She has been featured on CNN with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, SiriusXM Doctor Radio, The Coffee Klatch – Special Needs Radio, Rhode Island PBS ‘School Talk’ and as a columnist writing on brain science and education for the Fairfax County Times. To learn more, visit 2E Consults at the2e.com. Layne Kalbfleisch can be reached at (505) 316-0285 or 2econsults@gmail.com.

Thank you to article contributors Layne Kalbfleisch, Vicki Londerville, Jon Magnuson, and Roslyn McGrath.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved

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Green Living: Working Toward Well-Being, by Steve Waller

well-being, green living, sustainability, U.P. wellness publication, U.P. holistic health publication, U.P. health magazine, U.P. holistic health magazine, U.P. wellness magazine, holistic health in the U.P., holistic health in MI's Upper Peninsula, wellness publication in MI's Upper Peninsula

Ah, the good life!

We crave it. We work for it. We envy it. Can we define it? Would we know if we are already living it or is it always on the horizon, just out of reach? As Alice in Wonderland asks, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cheshire Cat. And if you don’t care where you get to, it doesn’t matter which way you go.

To get to the good life, to live the dream, you have to know which way to go. You need clear targets and a way to know how to reach them. A common assumption is that more wealth equals the good life, that a winning lottery ticket hits the bullseye. That’s the wrong direction.

Defining the good life is so vital that it has been the subject of scientific studies for decades.

In science, the good life is often called well-being, and is broken into subjective well-being–your emotional feelings of happiness, and objective well-being–measurable conditions affecting the quality of daily life.

The measurable conditions of well-being are by no means absolute, but certain elements are accepted as necessary: good living standards, robust health, a sustainable environment, vital communities, an educated populace, balanced time use, high levels of democratic participation, moderate income, and access to and participation in leisure and culture. These are measurable targets to move toward. We create our well-being by the choices we make, but one of the elements requires special effort.

Environmental sustainability,

an element we absolutely depend on for the rest of our well-being, is not something individuals or even communities can easily control. The environment is too large for a local community. Subtract any part of an environmentally sustainable source of clean water, clean air, and healthy food from the other elements and well-being, regardless of income, would be essentially impossible. It’s just that critical.

Local organizations are crucial to local environment, but what actually sustains us is not local. Air, water quality, energy, and resources are bigger than a local community. We need to become educated on the environment beyond backyards and local communities. The environment is the global biological machine that supports the world.

Do you know anyone who has read the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) report (summarized here: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/)? Probably not. That SDG report indicates the state of the world’s wildlife and focuses on most factors of well-being. It is the most comprehensive report on the planet. It also says we have work to do, changes to make, and fast.

Individual citizens are almost powerless to influence or control global environmental sustainability. Even when we try, our efforts are feeble in the face of opposition, and inferior to the scale of what needs to be done. Instead, we need to concede that the solution rests with powerful people. Yes, we need to defer to, no, encourage and empower the rare people who can connect with others around the world, and can affect the policies and practices that encourage environmental sustainability.

Become educated in the big picture.

There are abundant free reports online to educate you and help you focus on effective strategies. Know what your government is or is not doing. Get involved. You can’t influence environmental stability alone, but you can join powerful organizations that can lobby and act on your behalf. Contribute to the big influential organizations. That money is not an expense, it’s your tax-deductible investment in the good life. Make choices. Take actions. It’s your well-being we are talking about.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved

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Community Improvement: YOOPtopia in Action, by Roslyn Elena McGrath

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What do you think makes the U.P. a great place to live?

And what do you think would help make it, and its ability to impact the world in a positive way even better?

In addition to all of the U.P.’s natural charms, what’s struck me most during my twenty-five years of U.P. living, (with thirteen of them spent connecting with many in the process of publishing Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine and six on previous publications), is how many people, businesses and organizations strive to act on their particular vision of how this beautiful area and world can become a better place—what I call a “Yooptopia.”

The huge growth I’ve witnessed in purpose-driven businesses, holistic wellness, and non-profit organizations has inspired me to highlight this by founding YOOPtopia in Action. Thus far, this has taken shape in an online home showcasing good-for-you-and-the-planet U.P. businesses, organizations, and events for both residents and visitors, plus a seasonal meet-up for members.

At www.Yooptopian.com, you’ll find a guide to good-for-you-and-the-planet businesses, organizations, and activities in our beautiful Upper Peninsula. Eco-friendly, holistic, altruistic, and fun events, products, services, and volunteer opportunities, plus selected articles from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, and personal and business membership opportunities await you there, and in highlights at Facebook.com/Yooptopian. I also hope you’ll share with us your own positive visions, accounts, and responses to Yooptopian projects in action found there.

While no person, business, or organization is perfect, in their individual ways, YOOPtopia in Action members are taking steps to help improve our world. By frequenting these businesses, supporting these organizations, and following and sharing YOOPtopia in Action’s site and Facebook page, you can amplify their impact while making healthy choices for yourself, your family, your community and planet, which ultimately is what Health & Happiness is all about.

As an additional part of Health & Happiness’s community support, in a few short months, we’ll be making our annual donation to a local U.P. children’s organization, plus sharing a feature article on it in our next issue. At www.Yooptopian.com, you can tell us which organization you think we should choose and why. And be sure to subscribe to the site for upcoming opportunities to vote for your choice!

Together, we make things better!

Roslyn Elena McGrath of Empowering Lightworks LLC offers real world options for helping to collaboratively create a more uplifting world through her personal growth and inspiration books, workshops, private sessions, products, YOOPtopia in Action, and this magazine. Visit http://www.yooptopian.com, healthandhappinessupmag.com, and http://www.EmpoweringLightworks.com for more info.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Holistic Animal Care: To Get the Pet or Not to Get the Pet, Jenny Magli

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I have to admit, I am a total marshmallow when it comes to pets. I’ve had a lot of pets over the years, all rescues. Presently I have three dogs and two cats… all of which are geriatric. My oldest dog is between fifteen and seventeen (we aren’t exactly sure of her age), and the youngest is eleven. We’ve had all but the 11-year-old for almost their entire lifetimes. Thankfully, we have the room, ability, time, patience, and finances to care for them and manage their needs. Their health needs are changing now and veterinary costs are increasing dramatically. But regardless, we took these precious creatures on knowing it was a lifetime commitment and were prepared from the start to see things through until their lives end. It’s a package deal. We love them and wouldn’t have it any other way!

So, if you are pondering the idea of getting a pet, there are some things to seriously consider beforehand. Pet ownership is a long-term commitment and requires careful consideration before actually bringing a pet into your home.

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Things to Consider When Considering a Pet

Why: Think about your “why.” What are the reasons you’d like to have a pet?

Lifestyle and Finances: Consider your lifestyle and what you can afford. Different breeds of dogs have varied needs. Some are high energy and need an outlet for that. They do best when kept very active or they have a job to do (such as herding sheep). Others are less active and are fine with limited activity. Certain dog breeds require daily and monthly professional grooming. This can get very costly. Then there is basic veterinary care (spaying or neutering, vaccines, routine health care) and the potential of unforeseen costs due to health issues that may arise. Can you afford these things?

Time: Do you have time to attend to a living creature in your home? Or can you afford to have someone come and let your dog outside, walk and feed them, or hire a pet sitter if you have to be gone for several days? Puppies require training which can be time-consuming and requires a lot of patience. Dogs require walks at least two to three times a day and need human interaction (playtime) and attention. Please, if you don’t have time for a pet, don’t get one! It’s unfair to the animal to take it on only to surrender it later because you underestimated certain needs, costs, etc. Instead, you might consider fostering or helping rescues/shelters by spending time with animals that are awaiting adoption (by walking, grooming, or reading to them). Another option is pet sitting—you can set your own schedule, and still get a “pet fix.” If you really want a pet but don’t have a lot of time for them, consider fish or small animals like gerbils, etc., that are easy for others to come in and care for.

Care: Dogs need more of your time and attention than cats, and generally do not like being left alone for long periods of time. There is also potential for noise with dogs. Do you live in a place that will tolerate this? Is there a yard or can you take your dog to a park? If there is a chance you will have to move at some point, are you able to take the pet with you? If you have children, make sure beforehand they are not allergic. If you have a family, are they all on board with getting a pet, and willing to help with its care?

Please do careful research and consider all aspects of your life before choosing to take on a pet. Be brutally honest with yourself regarding the overall commitment. It can save you and a pet a lot of heartache!

Jenny is a Certified Natural Health Consultant for pets and their people, Healing Touch for Animals (Level 2) and NES Bioenergetics Practitioner. Consultations are done over the phone and via email. To contact, call (906) 235-3524 or email at 1healthlink@gmail.com.

Adapted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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