I’m sure I’m not the only one who misses Jack LaLanne, who died January 23 at the age of 96. I remember watching him when I was a kid. Throughout my career, he was there, talking about health and chiropractic. But more than just talk health and chiropractic, he lived both, and showed by his example how we can live longer and better through diet, exercise and – of course – chiropractic adjustments.
We all have favorite stories about LaLanne, and after he died the web was filled with some great anecdotes. I came across this wonderful YouTube video of Jack on a local talk show. He was celebrating his 94th birthday and getting ready to go to the Parker Seminar. Naturally, he put in a good word for chiropractic. But, what’s really amazing is that he was still so full of life and energy it’s hard to believe he was “an old man.”
Hope you enjoy this video … and be sure to share it with your patients and friends!
Years ago, I’d spent hours at a time in meditation. With today’s hectic schedule, who has time? I often don’t even get a chance to fit a short meditation break into my day. But an article in a recent issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, is a powerful reminder of how beneficial meditation can be.
According to the study published in the Jan. 30 issue of that journal, participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. (abstract)
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study’s senior author. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”
We already know, from previous research, that there are actual structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation. A thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration has been observed.
For this study, MR images were taken of the brain structure of 16 study participants two weeks before and after they took part in the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation – which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind – participants received audio recordings for guided meditation practice and were asked to keep track of how much time they practiced each day. A set of MR brain images were also taken of a control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval.
Meditation group participants reported spending an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises, and their responses to a mindfulness questionnaire indicated significant improvements compared with pre-participation responses.
The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.
Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. Although no change was seen in a self-awareness-associated structure called the insula, which had been identified in earlier studies, the authors suggest that longer-term meditation practice might be needed to produce changes in that area. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.
“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.” said Britta Hölzel, PhD, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”
Amishi Jha, PhD, a University of Miami neuroscientist who investigates mindfulness-training’s effects on individuals in high-stress situations, says, “These results shed light on the mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based training. They demonstrate that the first-person experience of stress can not only be reduced with an 8-week mindfulness training program but that this experiential change corresponds with structural changes in the amydala, a finding that opens doors to many possibilities for further research on MBSR’s potential to protect against stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Maybe it’s time for me to get back to my meditation habit!
In recent months, my main personal objective has been to – in the words of the old song – “Accentuate the positive … Eliminate the negative.” Negative thinking simply blackens the soul; causes physical, mental and emotional dis-ease; and puts insurmountable hurdles in the path of progress. But it’s important that we do more than just ignore the problems in the world. We have to take steps to make things better.
I have taken to heart the attitude expressed by Mother Teresa when she stated: “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
I read this on the ECOLIFE Foundation website and it definitely struck a chord with me, so I wanted to share it:
“Around the world so many predictions for the future are very dark. On any given day, news is dominated by topics such as climate change, water and food shortages, stories of forest loss and dust bowls. When there are trashcans filled with food, how can there be food shortages? With richly landscaped desert homes, how can there be a water shortage? The answers are easy as we step back and look globally at our world. Each continent and island shares an ocean with someone else. No country survives without exports and imports. No matter what your politics or desires – we already live in a global community where all of our activities are ultimately linked.
“ECOLIFE Foundation is dedicated to resolving conflict between conservation needs and community needs. For example, ECOLIFE looks for a sustainable balance between conserving a forest and providing local communities fuel wood or construction supplies for survival.
“Our approach to conservation and humanitarian work is holistic. ECOLIFE believes that there is still space and resources for all people and wildlife that hold this fragile web of life in place. We believe conservative use of our resources will allow more people to improve their quality of life, better manage family sizes and ultimately allow us to live in greater harmony.”
Notice they never say they’re “battling” a problem or “fighting” a negative practice. Instead, they’re taking POSITIVE actions to make our shared earth better for all. Specifically, their “wish list” of actions includes:
• Saving butterflies
• Giving young women access to education
• Planting trees
• Reducing water-related conflicts with wildlife in Kenya
• Reducing our carbon footprint
• Reducing our water footprint
• Reducing deforestation
• Reducing the incidence of death due to water borne diseases
• Protecting our watersheds
• Helping to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our families and friends
On Monday, the Good News Network ran a piece from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution about a young woman who had a “chance encounter” that changed her life – and the lives of many people in a remote area of Africa on the Congo/Uganda border.
(I’m linking to the Good News Network as well as the AJC because the GNN is filled with the type of positive news we really need to read more about, and I urge you all to subscribe to the site!).
As you’ll read, Brittany Merrill was 19 when she was talked into a short trip to Africa by some friends, to teach during her summer vacation from Southern Methodist University. During that trip she met Sarah Kamara, a woman who wasn’t much older than Merrill but whose life was 180 degrees opposite from the privileged existence the American girl enjoyed. Instead of traveling around the world and shopping in exclusive stores, Kamara cared for 24 orphans, sleeping on the dirt floor of a tiny Ugandan house.
That was the “chance encounter” that sparked something in Merrill and turned her into a tireless humanitarian who has, in the last seven years, managed to gather the forces needed to build an orphanage to care for 180 Ugandan children, and then went on to channel $2 million in donations into projects throughout the African country. Thanks to her, the Ugandan American Partnership Organization has drilled 20 water wells, built two orphanages and started a vocational program that has trained 160 Ugandan widows to become financially self-sufficient.
Chance encounter? I don’t think so. In fact, I don’t think there are any “chance encounters” in life, no coincidences. Things happen for reasons, even when we don’t recognize or understand them. We get drawn to certain people, organizations, or ideas and doors open up. We either walk through those doors or we let them close without going through (which is okay, too … other doors will open).
What I realized once again from reading this inspiring story of Brittany Merrill is that we never know which people or encounters will result in incredible opportunities or wondrous events. I need to greet every person with the same anticipation, expectation, and excitement. My next client, the woman behind me in line at the store, the boy who delivers pizza to my door.
That person may be THE ONE who sparks something incredible in my life.
I can’t wait to have some “chance encounters” today!
Even though I’m Jewish and celebrated Hanukah earlier in the month, I enjoy the entire holiday season, including Christmas. Like so many others — of all religions — I find myself caught up in the gift-giving frenzy, which can enhance (as well as spoil) the holidays.
This year, I was amused to see a few gifts being sold online that indicate just how “mainstream” the chiropractic profession has become. Can you imagine some of these items being manufactured and marketed even a decade ago? All of them were offered through CafePress:
You have to know that when you make it on a Christmas stocking, you’re definitely part of the “in crowd!”
Hope you all had a joyous holiday season and that the coming year will be your best ever!