Brain Hack: Have Something to Look Forward To

Joy is the antidote to stress. While stress shuts us down and sends negative signals to our HPA axis, joy opens us up and helps us to rest and digest. So often we get stuck in the same way of doing things, the work-eat-sleep repeat schedule, that we don’t make time for fun and joy!

Even though our brain is wired to focus on the negative, having something to look forward to is a tool that can help our brain focus on the positive. I do this with my youngest child on the way to school every day, because he’s slow to get moving and always says he doesn’t want to go, even though he always ends up liking it. In the car on the way there, I say, “It’s going to be a great day today. Can you think of three things that will make today great?” One day, he was excited about taking his Avengers backpack to school. Another day it’s because we were going swimming right after. It’s usually pretty random, but his answers often inspire me to look beyond what I would normally say as well.

I think this is why I put so many books on hold at the public library. Do you know how much excitement I get when I receive an email that says that the book I had on hold is available? (And even better that it’s free!) We do the same thing with online shopping orders and deliveries. I love to make plans to eat out at a fun restaurant with my family on the weekend, or even plans to pick up takeout. It gives me anticipation that feels good.

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The Surprising Secret to Health and Longevity

Being able to fight against oxidative stress and damage is crucial for our whole body health. When our body can fight free radicals with antioxidant support, we are healthier and have greater chances of being disease-free. Some studies even show oxidative stress being linked to brain issues like bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Chris Burres is the owner of SES Research, the first company to deliver carbon nano materials, and MyVitalC, the world’s first nano antioxidant.

When Chris realized a Nobel Prize-Winning chemical tested by NASA had been proven to almost double the lifespan of mammals, he decided to make ESS60 into a household item. He’s now on a mission to help people live longer, healthier and pain-free lives one dose at a time.

Listen to this powerful episode here or find wherever you get podcasts!

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Why You Need More Protein for Your Mental Health

In light of the new research being published on mental health, this episode is important! Our brains need key nutrients to function, and if we want to support the root cause of brain balance, we need to be aware of what nutrients we need. Because protein is crucial for building our neurotransmitters, it takes the primary focus in this podcast episode.

Christina T. Veselak, MS, CN, LMFT, is the founder and director of the Academy for Addiction and Mental Health Nutrition which teaches practitioners around the world how to use diet, along with amino acid and nutrient therapy to help prevent cravings and recurrent use by restoring neurotransmitter function and keeping blood sugar in balance. She has been a licensed psychotherapist working in the SUD treatment field since 1985 and a certified nutritionist specializing in mental health and addiction recovery since 1993.

Download and listen to this episode here or find wherever you get podcasts.

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New Research on the Serotonin Theory of Depression – My Takeaways

The serotonin theory of depression has been extremely pervasive in how we discuss mental health, though no comprehensive review has ever fully broken down the relevant evidence. 

At first glance, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) method of keeping serotonin in our synapses longer is pretty revolutionary.

But that’s assuming that an issue with serotonin at the brain level is what is causing depression.

Unfortunately, current research is showing that depression and mood issues are not simply related to serotonin alone. There are MANY other factors at play, chronic inflammation being a key role, along with other epigenetic drivers.

While over 77 million Americans are prescribed psychotropic drugs in the US (which is a number greater than any other developed country), with 45 million on antidepressants, we still have climbing rates of depression and anxiety, and prescriptions are being written for children as young as two. 

A new systematic review and meta-analysis, published this week in Molecular Psychiatry, suggests that depression isn’t a chemical imbalance of serotonin or really anything to do with low serotonin at all.

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How to Make Sure You’re Getting the Best Sleep

More and more Americans struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep on a consistent basis. We need all the practical tools and tips to support healthy sleep, and that’s what this episode is all about!

Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a neuropsychologist in New York City. She is also faculty at Columbia University. Her website Comprehend the Mind is here.

Dr. Hafeez has been a trusted and recurring expert across media channels for top outlets such as The Wallstreet Journal, The Washington Post, HuffPost, The New York Times, Bustle, Elite Daily, Refinery29, Prevention, Health, Healthline and on TV for such shows and news as Dr. Oz, The Doctors, CNN, CBS NY Weekend News, and FOX.

Download this episode here or find wherever you get podcasts!

Key Topics: –

  • Why 40-50% of Americans are struggling with sleep, more so than ever before
  • What is circadian rhythm and why it matters
  • How sleep impacts mental health and replenishes the brain
  • How anxiety starts at night
  • The ritual to have to prepare for sleep
  • Tips to try to support better sleep
  • The best way to calm an anxious brain at bedtime
  • How parents can use kids’ bedtime to take time to develop their own sleep hygiene

Sponsor: Ritual vitamins – get 10% off your first three months at ritual.com/spark.

Surprising Science on How Vision Impacts Mental Health

What does our vision have to do with mental health? Way more than I ever imagined! This episode is a fascinating dive into vision therapy and how it impacts the way we see and show up in the world.

Dr. Lynn F. Hellerstein is a developmental optometrist and pioneer in vision therapy. She has authored 4 books including the Award-Winning book, See It. Say It. Do It! and #1 Amazon Best-Selling book, Expand Your Vision. For more than 40 years, Dr. Lynn has utilized vision therapy with children and adults with learning related vision problems, vision perception deficits or brain injuries, as well as enhancing visual performance for athletes. She has inspired thousands of people to improve their vision and enhance their lives.

Download and listen here or find wherever you get podcasts.

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Healing Painful Periods and Managing Moodiness Naturally

Period problems seem to be increasing these days, and many women are looking for individualized support. Andrea Jones is a registered nurse, functional hormone coach, as well as life and health coach. Andrea helps women with hormone imbalances experience painless, mood-free periods so they could feel like themselves again.

In this episode, we cover every topic related to supporting female hormones, and the interplay with mood regulation and menstrual cycle. Download and listen here or find wherever you get podcasts!

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To the Mothers Who Are Chain-breakers

My grandma was never told “I love you” growing up.

She eloped with her childhood sweetheart when she turned 18, then struggled with infertility for years before she had a procedure done that allowed her to give birth to my uncle, then my mom. She wasn’t a perfect mom, but she began to break the chain. I never once doubted how much she loved me. She told me and she showed me. I miss her.

My other grandma was a mother before she wanted to be. She was the caretaker for her siblings, devoted to them to the point that she put her own dreams on hold. She gave birth in a twilight sleep, and wasn’t “allowed” to comfort her sons when they cried (according to her, that wasn’t how things were done). She wasn’t perfect, but she did the best she could and offered the gift of laughter and joy, especially to her grandkids.

My mom married young and mothered 3 kids under 2. She was always present. She taught me that it’s okay to cry and feel. It’s okay to be anxious, it’s even okay to be depressed. It’s okay to feel big feelings and not know what to do about them. It’s okay to not perform and fit the mold you are expected to fit. It’s okay to be a little inappropriate at times, because that’s just keeping it real.

My other mom by marriage sacrificed the freedom of her youth to give birth to her son. She blazed a trail bravely, choosing single motherhood as a teenager, despite advice of others advocating for the alternative.

I never anticipated to be ushered into motherhood and adulthood at the same time. It wasn’t how I planned it. I’ve never lived alone. I don’t remember what it’s like to not be “on call.” Showering or going to the bathroom in peace is always a luxury. But my road was paved by strong women who overcame generational bondage and trauma. They did hard things, made choices (some good, some bad), but they laid out the bricks to walk a better journey than the ones who came before them.

As mothers, we break chains. We build upon what went before us… all the good, bad, and really bad. We change patterns. But mostly, we learn as we go. We make mistakes, and we ask for forgiveness. We strive to do better.

I am who I am because of the ones who came before me. I am grateful for my time with the mothers no longer here on this earth and for every spare second I can get with the ones who are. I hope to continue to break chains and build upon their foundation of strength, love, grace, and hope.

Chemical Pollution: The Silent Pandemic

This episode is timely, in light of a recent water safety warning by the Environmental Protective Agency. This episode is part personal journey, part information. Tim’s story will inspire you to take control of your health in ways you’ve never thought of before.

Tim James is host of the Health Hero show and the founder and CEO of chemicalfreebody.com, a mission-based organization that is passionate about helping everybody ignite their highest excitement in life by putting themselves and their health first. Tim’s journey led him to a shocking discovery which helped his friend beat cancer and transform every area of his life. Feeling charged with a duty to help others he started sharing his knowledge with anyone that would listen. This led him to producing his own chemical free food products. ‘Chemical Free Body’ was born.

Download this episode here or wherever you get podcasts.

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Stop Using Exercise to Punish Your Body; Use It to Connect WITH Your Body

Beyond the brain health benefits, beyond the physical health benefits, moving your body is a way to intentionally connect to it and create space for safety and healing and growth.

When you have trauma of any kind, when you have body image issues or a history of disordered eating or disordered exercise behaviors, when you are fighting a chronic disease or are consumed by depression or anxiety… the last thing you want to do is intentionally connect with your body and be present with it.

For this reason, I hold a deep appreciation for movement like yoga or slower, low impact exercises. When I was a runner only, I could escape from the racing thoughts. I could “beat my body into submission,” by pushing harder, increasing my miles or my speed. But in yoga, where the moves rarely change, or when I’m walking slowly through my hilly neighborhood, I’m trapped in my thoughts – and my body. I have learned to lean into the discomfort of being present with my body, instead of punishing it for not acting how I want it to act.

I heavily dislike anyone promoting that you shut down the signals your body sends to you. I recently saw two shirts pop up in Facebook ads (thanks algorithm) that bothered me on such a deep level. One shirt read, “FIT: F*&% I’m tired” and the other read, “Shut up, legs, you’re fine!”

Listen. If I’m tired, I probably need to rest or make an adjustment in my schedule. It is simply unhealthy to keep pushing forward. If my legs are hurting during a workout, I probably need to take a breath, ask my body how to provide it further support. Exercise is an incredible tool for growth and healing. It’s a hormetic stressor that can create stress resilience.

It is not for dissociation and punishment. 

Moving my body is a way to engage, not disengage and dissociate. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is be present and move with the body I have – not punish my body for what I don’t.

Movement is therapeutic, it’s a celebration, and yes – it can even be a form of worship.

What a joy to intentionally flood our brains with endorphins and serotonin and GABA and brain-derived neurotrophic factor. What a gift!

Exercise and moving your body isn’t just something that impacts your physical health. Like with the act of eating, your mindset matters. Your thoughts matter, and they send signals to every cell in your body. Using your time of movement to renew your mind, renew your thoughts about your body, and celebrate what your body can do goes beyond simply pumping your arms and legs and getting your heart rate up.

I love moving my body. I love connecting to it and creating space for safety and healing and growth. I DISLIKE shutting down the signals my body sends me. 

Remember: every thought you think is a chemical messenger that brings information to your cells, positive or negative. Partner with your body; don’t punish it.