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The Reading Brain (Why Your Brain Needs You to Read Every Day)

 

Reading puts your brain to work.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to your body.

It gives us freedom to roam the expanse of space, time, history, and offer a deeper view of ideas, concepts, emotions, and body of knowledge.

Roberto Bolaño says“Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.”

Your brain on books is active — growing, changing and making new connections and different patterns, depending on the type of material you’re reading.

Reading heightens brain connectivity

Our brains change and develop in some fascinating ways when we read.

As you read these words, your brain is decoding a series of abstract symbols and synthesizing the results into complex ideas.

It’s an amazing process.

The reading brain can be likened to the real-time collaborative effort of a symphony orchestra, with various parts of the brain working together, like sections of instruments, to maximize our ability to decode the written text in front of us.

Reading rewires parts of your brain. Maryanne Wolf explains in her book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain:

Human beings invented reading only a few thousand years ago. And with this invention, we rearranged the very organization of our brain, which in turn expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species. . . . Our ancestors’ invention could come about only because of the human brain’s extraordinary ability to make new connections among its existing structures, a process made possible by the brain’s ability to be reshaped by experience.

Reading involves several brain functions, including visual and auditory processes, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and more.

The same neurological regions of the brain are stimulated by reading about something as by experiencing it.

According to the ongoing research at Haskins Laboratories for the Science of the Spoken and Written Word, reading, unlike watching or listening to media, gives the brain more time to stop, think, process, and imagine the narrative in from of us.

Reading every day can slow down late-life cognitive decline and keeps the brains healthier.

It enhances fluid reasoning

Research shows that reading not only helps with fluid intelligence, but with reading comprehension and emotional intelligence as well.

“Fluid intelligence” is that ability to solve problems, understand things and detect meaningful patterns.

Reading can increase fluid intelligence, and increased fluid intelligence also improves reading comprehension.

Research at Stanford showed a neurological difference between reading for pleasure and focused reading, as if for a test.

Blood flows to different neural areas depending on how reading is conducted.

2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology found overlap in brain regions used to comprehend stories and networks dedicated to interactions with others.

Reading makes you emotionally intelligent

Fiction is a social experience.

The reading process plays an important social function.

While reading fiction, you mentally imagine the event, the situation, the characters, and the details described by the author.

It’s a total immersion process.

In her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott writes, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

Psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, at the New School for Social Research in New York, have proved that reading literary fiction enhances the ability to detect and understand other people’s emotions, a crucial skill in navigating complex social relationships.

“What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others,” said Kidd.

Researchers at Emory University found that reading a novel heightens connections in the parts of the brain that deal with language reception.

The study’s lead author, neuroscientist Gregory Berns, says it also taps into a process known as grounded cognition.

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist. . . . We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.” — Gregory Berns

It improves concentration

In a single 30 minutes span, the average person will divide their time between working on a task, checking email, talking to colleagues, keeping an eye on social media, and constantly reacting to notifications.

Reading not only improves your brain’s connectivity, it also increases attention spans, focus and concentration.

If you struggle to focus, reading can improve your attention span.

When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the story or gaining a better understanding of a particular topic— the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing.

Books with better structures encourage us to think in sequence — the more we read, the more our brains are able to link cause and effect.

Try reading for 15–20 minutes in the morning before work (i.e. on your morning commute, if you take public transit).

You’ll be surprised at how much more focused you are once you get to the office.

Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation!

Embrace the reading habit

In a world where information is the new currency, reading is the best source of continuous learning, knowledge and acquiring more of that currency.

Reading requires patience, diligence, and determination.

Reading is like any skill. You have to practice it, regularly and constantly.

Where you prefer the alluring glow and convenience of a smartphone or the sense of control of a paper book, by all means make time to read.

Next time you choose a book from the shelf, or download a new title on your Kindle, stop and think about what you’re reading — it could impact you more than you realize!

 

Article by: Thomas Oppong  from medium.com

Protein Packed Beauty Smoothie

 
 
 According to a survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH),  87 percent of Americans don’t eat enough fruit and 91 percent of us skip veggies.
 
Here’s how to get more in your diet.
 
 
A Smoothie packed full of protein from a grass-fed collagen source. Collagen is a building block for many organs and structures of the body. Great for hair, skin, nails, and joints.
 
This smoothie is simple, easy to make, and a tasty way to incorporate more greens into your diet. 
 
Ingredients (use organic):
– 3-4 leaves green kale (with main stem removed)
– 1 cup frozen dark red cherries
– 1/2 frozen banana 
– 1 tsp. cinnamon’
– 1 tsp. turmeric 
– 16 oz of water or almond/coconut milk
– two scoops of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
 
 
Directions: 
1. Rinse the frozen cherries under cool running water and add to blender.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender
3. Blend on high speed setting for about 1 min. or until smooth
4. Enjoy!

Mimi’s Top 5 Immune Boosters

 

  1. Echinacea – For prevention, increased dosage if starting to feel sick
  2. Congaplex – Powerful combo of whole food supplements to be taken at the first sign of symptoms (turns on immune fighters). 
  3. Immuplex – Powerful combination of whole food supplements for prevention and treatment of any immune problem.
  4. Chywanprash – Powerful Ayurvedic formula for prevention and treatment 
  5. Cataplex AC – Best for flu, contains echinacea and whole food nutrients 

How Meditation Can Improve Memory

 

 

An Increase in Lifespan with a Decline in Memory 

The World Health Organization estimates that 47 million people live with dementia. As people are living longer, these numbers are expected to increase to approximately 75 million affected by 2030. Although this number is extremely high, we need to remember that this kind of complete loss of memory is not a normal part of the aging process. Plus, with so many people affected, the economic burden of this growing health concern is high – an estimated $818 billion USD annually. It’s no wonder that an increasing number of health practitioners and health-minded people are seeking ways to protect against memory loss. 

 

Protect Your Memories
There are many health tools promoting their ability to strengthen cognitive function; however the efficacy behind some of these claims can seem unclear. It can feel like an overwhelming task to find the best ways to protect against memory loss. However, today we’re providing some clarity on the subject and delving into the practice of meditation, with its links to protecting against memory loss. Two primary ways meditation may help is through its associations with cortisol level reduction and increased brain connectivity.

 

Meditation Reduces Cortisol Levels to Benefit Memory
We’ve all heard about cortisol and the many roles it plays in formulating the stress response. However, what is less well known is this hormone’s ability to alter the volume of the hippocampus, an important brain structure essential for learning and memory. Repeated cortisol exposure from stressful events has been linked to reductions in hippocampal volume, which likely stimulates memory loss. However, reversing this loss, and even increasing hippocampal size, is possible. Through brain imaging, studies have shown that experienced meditators have significantly larger hippocampi than non-meditators. It is possible that meditation’s ability to reduce cortisol levels acts as a protective factor against hippocampal shrinkage and memory loss. 

 

Meditation Improves Brain Connectivity 
Another mechanism through which meditation may promote memory function is through increased brain connectivity. Brain connections are important as they enable actions to proceed efficiently, including the ability for new experiences to be created into memories. A major component for proper connectivity is the flow of blood in the brain, providing a supply of nutrients and oxygen thereby promoting cognitive function. One study followed subjects during an eight-week program and concluded that after a treatment of 12 minutes of meditation per day, subjects had significantly increased measures of cerebral blood flow and improvements in cognitive function. 

 

Promote Brain Health

Even in a healthy population, cognitive decline can begin after 20 years of age, meaning it’s never too early to start incorporating brain-health activities into your daily life. Considering that memory loss and dementia are global concerns and have such negative impacts on individuals, families and society, prevention is incredibly important. Mindfulness meditation might be one effective approach, and being that it is a holistic, low-cost, and scientifically-backed alternative, there’s no better time than the present to get started. 

 

These are extracts from The Science of Meditation Report from UNYTE. UNYTE: Biofeedback and interactive meditation 

Tomato and White Bean Soup

 

 

Serves: 4-6

Use Organic:

  • 3½ cups pureed tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 fennel bulb – thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 bunch of sliced Swiss chard
  • 1 15oz. can cannellini beans – rinsed and drained
  • 4 garlic cloves – chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon  Coconut Oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot on stove top and heat to medium high.
  2. Add oils, then add fennel, onion, garlic and salt and sauté for about 7 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and reduce heat to low and let simmer (stirring occasionally) for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  4. Serve with bread, gluten free crackers, or parmesan crisps.
  5. Soup lasts 5 day refrigerated or 2 months in freezer.

From: https://www.gardenoflife.com/content/garden-recipes/tomato-white-bean-soup/

Meditation and Mindfulness for Preventing Cold and Flu

 


Welcome to the Cold and Flu Season

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that influenza is most common during the fall and winter seasons with infections peaking between late November to March. It is estimated that annually approximately 35.5 million Americans will get a cold and 13 million will get the flu, with thousands of people dying from complications. Not only do these illnesses make you feel terrible, but they also account for $10 billion in medical expenses and $16 billion in lost earnings, annually. So, how can we prevent getting sick?

Preventative Measures are the Answer!

If you’re like us, with a busy schedule and never-ending to-do list, you tend to wait until the last minute to take action. And in the cold and flu season, we often find ourselves being one of those statistics. However, by taking preventative measures, we can increase our chances of staying healthy. Of course, we know that hand washing and regular exercise are excellent preventative measures, but have you considered meditation? 

Using Meditation to Strengthen Your Immune System

One study conducted by the University of Wisconsin showed that meditation may be more effective than exercise at preventing the cold and flu. They also found that if you do get sick, meditation effectively reduced symptom severity. Infante et al. found that compared to non-meditators, those with an established meditation practice had higher levels of B lymphocytes and natural killer cells, cells the body uses to protect itself from foreign invaders. Even in new meditators, Davidson and colleagues found similar benefits. They noted that compared to the control group, after an eight-week mindfulness meditation program they had increased immune responses to foreign invader cells. As additional research is conducted in the field of meditation and immunology, it seems very likely that we will continue to learn great things from this long-standing practice.

These are extracts from The Science of Meditation Report from UNYTE. UNYTE: Biofeedback and interactive meditation