Janet's Blog

The connection between your adult health and your childhood

Photo - MorgueFile

Photo – MorgueFile

Here is an article that is a real eye-opener for society. I believe parenting classes and education in child rearing is essential. Far too often parents don’t have a clue how to parent and use dysfunctional approaches with their children. They may use extreme discipline techniques that mimic their own dysfunctional upbringing. Or they may have no structure at all creating insecurity and chaos. It is so important to raise our children in loving, nurturing and stable environments.

How bad experiences in childhood lead to adult illness | Aeon Essays by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

If you saw Laura walking down the New York City street where she lives today, you’d see a well-dressed 46-year-old woman with auburn hair and green eyes, who exudes a sense of ‘I matter here.’ She looks entirely in charge of her life, but behind Laura’s confident demeanour lies a history of trauma: a bipolar mother who vacillated between braiding her daughter’s hair and peppering her with insults, and a father who moved out-of-state with his wife-to-be when Laura was 15 years old.

She recalls a family trip to the Grand Canyon when she was 10. In a photo taken that day, Laura and her parents sit on a bench, sporting tourist whites. ‘Anyone looking at us would have assumed that we were a normal, loving family.’ But as they put on fake smiles for the camera, Laura’s mother suddenly pinched her daughter’s midriff and told her to stop ‘staring off into space’. A second pinch: ‘No wonder you’re turning into a butterball, you ate so much cheesecake last night you’re hanging over your shorts!’ If you look hard at Laura’s face in the photograph, you can see that she’s not squinting at the Arizona sun, but holding back tears.

After her father left the family, he sent cards and money, but called less and less. Meanwhile, her mother’s untreated bipolar disorder worsened. Sometimes, Laura says: ‘My mom would go on a vitriolic diatribe about my dad until spittle foamed on her chin. I’d stand there, trying not to hear her as she went on and on, my whole body shaking inside.’ Laura never invited friends over, for fear they’d find out her secret: her mom ‘wasn’t like other moms’.

Some 30 years later, Laura says: ‘In many ways, no matter where I go or what I do, I’m still in my mother’s house.’ Today, ‘If a car swerves into my lane, a grocery store clerk is rude, my husband and I argue, or my boss calls me in to talk over a problem, I feel something flip over inside. It’s like there’s a match standing inside too near a flame, and with the smallest breeze, it ignites.’

To see Laura, you’d never know that she is ‘always shaking a little, only invisibly, deep down in my cells’.

Her sense that something is wrong inside is mirrored by her physical health. During a routine exam, Laura’s doctor discovered that Laura was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy and would require a cardioverter defibrillator to keep her heart pumping. The two-inch scar from her surgery only hints at the more severe scars she hides from her childhood.

For as long as John can remember, he says, his parents’ marriage was deeply troubled, as was his relationship with his father. ‘I consider myself to have been raised by my mom and her mom. I longed to feel a deeper connection with my dad, but it just wasn’t there. He couldn’t extend himself in that way.’ John’s poor relationship with his father was due, in large part, to his father’s reactivity and need for control. For instance, if John’s father said that the capital of New York was New York City, there was just no use telling him that it was Albany.

As John got older, it seemed wrong to him that his father ‘was constantly pointing out all the mistakes that my brother and I made, without acknowledging any of his own’. His father relentlessly criticised his mother, who was ‘kinder and more confident’. Aged 12, John began to interject himself into the fights between his parents. He remembers one Christmas Eve when he found his father with his hands around his mother’s neck and had to separate them. ‘I was always trying to be the adult between them,’ John says.

John is now a boyish 40, with warm hazel eyes and a wide, affable grin. But beneath his easy, open demeanour, he struggles with an array of chronic illnesses. By the time he was 33, his blood pressure was shockingly high; he began to experience bouts of stabbing stomach pain and diarrhoea and often had blood in his stool; he struggled from headaches almost daily. By 34, he’d developed chronic fatigue, and was so wiped out that he sometimes struggled to make it through an entire workday.

John’s relationships, like his body, were never completely healthy. He ended a year‑long romance with a woman he deeply loved because he felt riddled with anxiety around her normal, ‘happy family’. He just didn’t know how to fit in. ‘She wanted to help,’ he says, ‘but instead of telling her how insecure I was around her, I told her I wasn’t in love with her.’ Bleeding from his inflamed intestines, exhausted by chronic fatigue, debilitated and distracted by pounding headaches, often struggling with work, and unable to feel comfortable in a relationship, John was stuck in a universe of pain and solitude, and he couldn’t get out.

Laura’s and John’s life stories illustrate the physical price we can pay, as adults, for trauma that took place 10, 20, even 30 years ago. New findings in neuroscience, psychology and immunology tell us that the adversity we face during childhood has farther-reaching consequences than we might ever have imagined. Today, in labs across the country, neuroscientists are peering into the once-inscrutable brain-body connection, and breaking down, on a biochemical level, exactly how the stress we experience during childhood and adolescence catches up with us when we are adults, altering our bodies, our cells, and even our DNA.

Emotional stress in adult life affects us on a physical level in quantifiable, life-altering ways. We all know that when we are stressed, chemicals and hormones can flush our body and increase levels of inflammation. That’s why stressful events in adult life are correlated with the likelihood of getting a cold or having a heart attack.

But when children or teens face adversity and especially unpredictable stressors, they are left with deeper, longer‑lasting scars. When the young brain is thrust into stressful situations over and over again without warning, and stress hormones are repeatedly ramped up, small chemical markers, known as methyl groups, adhere to specific genes that regulate the activity of stress‑hormone receptors in the brain. These epigenetic changes hamper the body’s ability to turn off the stress response. In ideal circumstances, a child learns to respond to stress, and recover from it, learning resilience. But kids who’ve faced chronic, unpredictable stress undergo biological changes that cause their inflammatory stress response to stay activated.

Joan Kaufman, director of the Child and Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) programme at the Yale School of Medicine, recently analysed DNA in the saliva of happy, healthy children, and of children who had been taken from abusive or neglectful parents. The children who’d experienced chronic childhood stress showed epigenetic changes in almost 3,000 sites on their DNA, and on all 23 chromosomes – altering how appropriately they would be able to respond to and rebound from future stressors.

Kids who’ve had early adversity have a drip of fight-or-flight hormones turned on every day – it’s as if there is no off switch

Likewise, Seth Pollak, professor of psychology and director of the Child Emotion Research Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, uncovered startling genetic changes in children with a history of adversity and trauma. Pollak identified damage to a gene responsible for calming the stress response. This particular gene wasn’t working properly; the kids’ bodies weren’t able to reign in their heightened stress response. ‘A crucial set of brakes are off,’ says Pollak.

Imagine for a moment that your body receives its stress hormones and chemicals through an IV drip that’s turned on high when needed and, when the crisis passes, it’s switched off again. You might think of kids whose brains have undergone epigenetic changes because of early adversity as having an inflammation-promoting drip of fight-or-flight hormones turned on every day – it’s as if there is no off switch.

Experiencing stress in childhood changes your set point of well-being for decades to come. In people such as Laura and John, the endocrine and immune systems are churning out a damaging and inflammatory cocktail of stress neurochemicals in response to even small stressors – an unexpected bill, a disagreement with their spouse, a car that swerves in front of them on the highway, a creak on the staircase – for the rest of their lives. They might find themselves overreacting to, and less able to recover from, the inevitable stressors of life. They’re always responding. And all the while, they’re unwittingly marinating in inflammatory chemicals, which sets the stage for full-throttle disease down the road, in the form of autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, fibroid tumours, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, migraines, and asthma.

Scientists first came to understand the relationship between early chronic stress and later adult disease through the work of a dedicated physician in San Diego and a determined epidemiologist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Together, during the 1980s and ’90s – the years when Laura and John were growing up – these two researchers began a paradigm-shifting public-health investigation known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

In 1985, Vincent J Felitti, chief of a revolutionary preventive care initiative at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care programme in San Diego, noticed a startling pattern in adult patients at an obesity clinic. A significant number were, with the support of Felitti and his nurses, successfully losing hundreds of pounds a year, a remarkable feat, only to withdraw from the programme despite weight-loss success. Felitti, determined to get to the bottom of the attrition rate, conducted face-to-face interviews with 286 patients. It turned out there was a common denominator. Many confided that they had suffered some sort of trauma, often sexual abuse, in their childhoods. To these patients, eating was a solution, not a problem: it soothed the anxiety and depression they had harboured for decades; their weight served as a shield against undesired attention, and they didn’t want to let it go.

Felitti’s interviews gave him a new way of looking at human health and wellbeing that other physicians just weren’t seeing. He presented his findings at a national obesity conference, arguing that ‘our intractable public health problems’ had root causes hidden ‘by shame, by secrecy, and by social taboos against exploring certain areas of life experience’. Felitti’s peers were quick to blast him. One even stood up in the audience and accused Felitti of offering ‘excuses’ for patients’ ‘failed lives’. Felitti, however, remained unfazed; he felt sure that he had stumbled upon a piece of information that would hold enormous import for the field of medicine.

After a colleague who attended that same conference suggested that he design a study with thousands of patients who suffered from a wide variety of diseases, not just obesity, Felitti joined forces with Robert Anda, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC who had, at the time, been researching the relationship between coronary heart disease and depression. Felitti and Anda took advantage of Kaiser Permanente’s vast patient cohort to set up a national epidemiology laboratory. Of the 26,000 patients they invited to take part in their study, more than 17,000 agreed.

Anda and Felitti surveyed these 17,000 individuals on about 10 types of adversity, or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), probing into patients’ childhood and adolescent histories. Questions included: ‘Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment or other reason?’; ‘Did a parent or other adult in the household often swear at you, insult you, put you down or humiliate you?’; and ‘Was a household member depressed or mentally ill?’ Other questions looked at types of family dysfunction that included growing up with a parent who was an alcoholic or addicted to other substances; being physically or emotionally neglected; being sexually or physically abused; witnessing domestic violence; having a family member who was sent to prison; feeling that there was no one to provide protection; and feeling that one’s family didn’t look out for each other. For each category to which a patient responded ‘yes’, one point would be added to her ACE score, so an ACE score of 2 would indicate that she had suffered two adverse childhood experiences.

To be clear, the patients Felitti and Anda surveyed were not troubled or disadvantaged; the average patient was 57, and three-quarters had attended college. These were ‘successful’ men and women, mostly white, middle-class, with stable jobs and health benefits. Felitti and Anda expected their number of ‘yes’ answers to be fairly low.

The correlation between having a difficult childhood and facing illness as an adult offered a whole new lens through which we could view human health and disease

When the results came in, Felitti and Anda were shocked: 64 percent of participants answered ‘yes’ to having encountered at least one category of early adversity, and 87 percent of those patients also had additional adverse childhood experiences; 40 per cent had suffered two or more ACEs; 12.5 percent had an ACE score greater than or equal to 4.

Felitti and Anda wanted to find out whether there was a correlation between the number of adverse childhood experiences an individual had faced and the number and severity of illnesses and disorders she developed as an adult. The correlation proved so powerful that Anda was not only ‘stunned’ but deeply moved.

‘I wept,’ he says. ‘I saw how much people had suffered, and I wept.’

Felitti, too, was deeply affected. ‘Our findings exceeded anything we had conceived. The correlation between having a difficult childhood and facing illness as an adult offered a whole new lens through which we could view human health and disease.’

Here, says Felitti, ‘was the missing piece as to what was causing so much of our unspoken suffering as human beings’.

The number of adverse childhood experiences a patient had suffered could, by and large, predict the amount of medical care she would require in adulthood: the higher the ACE score, the higher the number of doctor’s appointments she’d had in the past year, and the more unexplained physical symptoms she’d reported.

People with an ACE score of 4 were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer than people who hadn’t faced any form of childhood adversity. For each point an individual had, her chance of being hospitalised with an autoimmune disease in adulthood rose 20 per cent. Someone with an ACE score of 4 was 460 percent more likely to face depression than someone with a score of 0.

An ACE score of 6 or higher shortened an individual’s lifespan by almost 20 years.

Researchers wondered if those who encountered childhood adversity were also more likely to smoke, drink and overeat as a sort of coping strategy, and while that was sometimes the case, unhealthy habits didn’t wholly account for the correlation Felitti and Anda saw between adverse childhood experiences and later illness. For instance, those with ACE scores greater than or equal to 7 who didn’t drink or smoke, weren’t overweight or diabetic and didn’t have high cholesterol still had a 360 per cent higher risk of heart disease than those with ACE scores of 0.

‘Time,’ says Felitti, ‘does not heal all wounds. One does not “just get over” something – not even 50 years later.’ Instead, he says: ‘Time conceals. And human beings convert traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life.’

Often, these illnesses can be chronic and lifelong. Autoimmune disease. Heart disease. Chronic bowel disorders. Migraines. Persistent depression. Even today, doctors puzzle over these very conditions: why are they so prevalent; why are some patients more prone to them than others; and why are they so difficult to treat?

The more research that’s done, the more granular details emerge about the profound link between adverse experiences and adult disease. Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina, the University of California, San Francisco, and Brown University in Rhode Island have shown that childhood adversity damages us on a cellular level in ways that prematurely age our cells and affect our longevity. Adults who faced early life stress show greater erosion in what are known as telomeres – protective caps that sit on the ends of DNA strands to keep the DNA healthy and intact. As telomeres erode, we’re more likely to develop disease, and we age faster; as our telomeres age and expire, our cells expire and so, eventually, do we.

Researchers have also seen a correlation between specific types of adverse childhood experiences and a range of diseases. For instance, children whose parents die, or who face emotional or physical abuse, or experience childhood neglect, or witness marital discord between their parents are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes, headaches, multiple sclerosis and lupus as adults. Facing difficult circumstances in childhood increases six-fold your chances of having myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome) as an adult. Kids who lose a parent have triple the risk of depression in their lifetimes. Children whose parents divorce are twice as likely to suffer a stroke later down the line.

Laura and John’s stories illustrate that the past can tick away inside us for decades like a silent time bomb until it sets off a cellular message that lets us know the body does not forget its history.

Something that happened to you when you were five or 15 can land you in the hospital 30 years later

John’s ACE score would be a 3: a parent often put him down; he witnessed his mother being harmed; and, clearly, his father suffered from an undiagnosed behaviour health disorder, perhaps narcissism or depression, or both.

Laura had an ACE score of 4.

Laura and John are hardly alone. Two-thirds of American adults are carrying wounds from childhood quietly into adulthood, with little or no idea of the extent to which these wounds affect their daily health and wellbeing. Something that happened to you when you were five or 15 can land you in the hospital 30 years later, whether that something was headline news, or happened quietly, without anyone else knowing it, in the living room of your childhood home.

The adversity a child faces doesn’t have to be severe abuse in order to create deep biophysical changes that can lead to chronic health conditions in adulthood.

‘Our findings showed that the 10 different types of adversity we examined were almost equal in their damage,’ says Felitti. He and Anda found that no single ACE significantly trumped another. This was true even though some types, such as being sexually abused, are far worse in that society regards them as particularly shameful, and others, such as physical abuse, are more overt in their violence.

This makes sense if you think about how the stress response functions on an optimal level. You meet a bear in the woods, and your body floods with adrenaline and cortisol so that you can quickly decide whether to run in the opposite direction or stay and try to frighten the bear. After you deal with the crisis, you recover, your stress hormones abate, and you go home with a great story. For Laura and John, though, that feeling that the bear is still out there, somewhere, circling in the woods, stalking, and might strike again any day, anytime – that feeling never disappears.

There are a lot of bears out there. Chronic parental discord; enduring low-dose humiliation or blame and shame; chronic teasing; the quiet divorce between two secretly seething parents; a parent’s premature exit from a child’s life; the emotional scars of growing up with a hypercritical, unsteady, narcissistic, bipolar, alcoholic, addicted or depressed parent; physical or emotional abuse or neglect: these happen in all too many families. Although the details of individual adverse experiences differ from one home to another and from one neighbourhood to another, they are all precursors to the same organic chemical changes deep in the gray matter of the developing brain.

Every few decades, a groundbreaking psychosocial ‘theory of everything’ helps us to develop a new understanding of why we are the way we are – and how we got that way. In the early 20th century, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud transformed the landscape of psychology when he argued that the unconscious rules much of our waking life and dreams. Jungian theory taught, among other ideas, that we tend toward introversion or extroversion, which led the American educationalist Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers to develop a personality indicator. More recently, neuroscientists discovered that age ‘zero to three’ was a critical synaptic window for brain development, giving birth to Head Start and other preschool programmes. The correlation between childhood trauma, brain architecture and adult wellbeing is the newest, and perhaps our most important, psychobiological theory of everything.

Today’s research on adverse childhood experiences revolutionises how we see ourselves, our understanding of how we came to be the way we are, why we love the way we do, how we can better nurture our children, and how we can work to realise our potential.

To date, more than 1,500 studies founded on Felitti and Anda’s hallmark ACE research show that both physical and emotional suffering are rooted in the complex workings of the immune system, the body’s master operating control centre – and what happens to the brain during childhood sets the programming for how our immune systems will respond for the rest of our lives.

The unifying principle of this new theory of everything is this: your emotional biography becomes your physical biology, and together, they write much of the script for how you will live your life. Put another way: your early stories script your biology and your biology scripts the way your life will play out.

Unlike previous theories of everything, though, this one has been mind-bogglingly slow to change how we do medicine, according to Felitti. ‘Very few internists or medical schools are interested in embracing the added responsibility that this understanding imposes on them.’

With the ACE research now available, we might hope that physicians will begin to see patients as a holistic sum of their experiences and embrace the understanding that a stressor from long ago can be a health-risk time bomb that has exploded. Such a medical paradigm, which sees adverse childhood experiences as one of many key factors that can play a role in disease, could save many patients years in the healing process.

But seeing that connection takes a little time. It means asking patients to fill out the ACE questionnaire and delving into that patient’s history for insight into sources of both physical and emotional pain. As health-care budgets have become stretched, physicians spend less time interacting one-on-one with patients in their exam rooms; the average physician schedules patients back-to-back at 15-minute intervals.

Still, the cost of not intervening is far greater – not only in the loss of human health and wellbeing but also in additional healthcare. According to the CDC, the total lifetime cost of child maltreatment in the US is $124 billion each year. The lifetime healthcare cost for each individual who experiences childhood maltreatment is estimated at $210,012 – comparable to other costly health conditions, such as having a stroke, which has a lifetime estimated cost of $159,846 per person, or type-2 diabetes, which is estimated to cost between $181,000 and $253,000.

Further hindering change is the fact that adult physical medicine and psychological medicine remain in separate silos. Utilising ACE research requires breaking down these long-standing divisions in healthcare between what is ‘physical’ and what is ‘mental’ or ‘emotional,’ and that’s hard to achieve. Physicians have been well-trained to deal only with what they can touch with their hands, see with their eyes, or view with microscopes or scans.

Just as physical wounds and bruises heal, just as we can regain our muscle tone, we can recover function in underconnected areas of the brain

However, now that we have scientific evidence that the brain is genetically modified by childhood experience, we can no longer draw that line in the sand. With hundreds of studies showing that childhood adversity hurts our mental and physical health, putting us at greater risk for learning disorders, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, depression, obesity, suicide, substance abuse, failed relationships, violence, poor parenting and early death, we just can’t afford to make such distinctions.

Science tells us that biology does not have to be destiny. ACEs can last a lifetime, but they don’t have to. Just as physical wounds and bruises heal, just as we can regain our muscle tone, we can recover function in underconnected areas of the brain. If anything, that’s the most important takeaway from ACE research: the brain and body are never static; they are always in the process of becoming and changing.

Even if we have been set on high-reactive mode for decades or a lifetime, we can still dial it down. We can respond to life’s inevitable stressors more appropriately and shift away from an overactive inflammatory response. We can become neurobiologically resilient. We can turn bad epigenetics into good epigenetics and rescue ourselves. We have the capacity, within ourselves, to create better health. We might call this brave undertaking ‘the neurobiology of awakening’.

Today, scientists recognise a range of promising approaches to help create new neurons (known as neurogenesis), make new synaptic connections between those neurons (known as synaptogenesis), promote new patterns of thoughts and reactions, bring underconnected areas of the brain back online – and reset our stress response so that we decrease the inflammation that makes us ill.

You can find ways to start right where you are, no matter how deep your scars or how long ago they occurred. Many mind-body therapies not only help you to calm your thoughts and increase your emotional and physical wellbeing, but research suggests that they have the potential to reverse, on a biological level, the harmful impact of childhood adversity.

Recent studies indicate that individuals who practice mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) show an increase in gray matter in parts of the brain associated with managing stress and experience shifts in genes that regulate their stress response and their levels of inflammatory hormones. Other research suggests that a process known as neurofeedback can help to regrow connections in the brain that were lost to adverse childhood experiences.

Meditation, mindfulness, neurofeedback, cognitive therapy, EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) therapy: these promising new avenues to healing can be part of any patient’s recovery plan, if only healthcare practitioners would begin to treat the whole patient – past, present and future, without making distinctions between physical and mental health – and encourage patients to explore all the treatment options available to them. The more we learn about the toxic impact of early stress, the better equipped we are to counter its effects, and help to uncover new strategies and modalities to come back to who it is we really are, and who it was we might have been had we not encountered childhood adversity in the first place.

This is an adapted and reprinted extract from ‘Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal’ (Atria), by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. Copyright © Donna Jackson Nakazawa, 2015.

Donna Jackson Nakazawa is a science journalist whose work has appeared in Psychology Today, The Washington Post and Glamour, among others. Her latest book isChildhood Disrupted (2015). She lives in Maryland.

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Visualization – Mental Rehearsal for the Brain Can Significantly Improve Performance

I wanted to share this article that describes the process of creative visualization and imagery that is used in hypnotherapy to fast tract success.

By Shen-Li

Visualization

Image by cohdra

In rock climbing, we called it “visualization” – a practice of mentally rehearsing the moves you are going to make before you start climbing. I used to visualize all my project routes because I read in The Mind Gym that the brain does not differentiate between a real memory of something that really happened and something we just played in our minds like a daydream.

Visualization or Mental Rehearsal is a common practice in sports, music, and surgery because it has been found to be a very effective way to improve performance.

“Neurologists have shown in clinical tests that a person can visualize in their mind’s eye completing a physical motor skill and can mentally rehearse the skill with a significant effect on actually performing the skill physically.” – TJW

But sports, music and surgery are not the only instances where visualization can be useful. It can be applied to many other areas of our lives if we could apply it as effectively as the professionals do.

How to Visualize

In Head Games: The Use of Mental Rehearsal to Improve Performance from Wright State University, they suggest the following procedure:

  1. Find a time and place where you won’t be interrupted.
  2. Recline or lie down, and close your eyes.
  3. Relax, concentrate, and focus.  Take deep breaths and exhale slowly.  As you exhale, imagine that stress is leaving your body.  Start at your feet … feel all the stress leave your feet … then your legs …  then your chest … all the way to the top of your head … feel all the stress leave your body.  Free your mind of distractions and allow your mind to focus on the relaxation process.
  4. Once relaxed, focus on the specific challenging task.
  5. Mentally tell yourself that you are confident and that you have the ability to perform this task successfully.  Repeatedly tell yourself, with confidence, that you will be successful.
  6. Imagine what you will see just before you begin the task.  Visualize yourself as an active participant, not as a passive observer.  For example, to mentally rehearse putting a golf ball, imagine that you are standing on the green rather than watching yourself from the gallery.
  7. Remaining relaxed and focused, mentally rehearse the successful performance of this task.  Imagine going through the process and seeing successful results.
  8. Repeat step 7 several times.
  9. Finally, open your eyes and smile.  You have successfully performed in your mind, which is great preparation for actual performance.  You should now be confident that you will perform successfully in the real situation.  Remember to praise yourself for being successful.  Self-reinforcement is another key to self-motivation.

  Image Effectiveness: How well you control the image; the vividness and clarity of the image and your ability to incorporate all the senses (sight, sounds, hearing, feeling and taste) into making the mental experience. You want to make it as real as possible.

 

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Bringing Older Adults and Children Together

I’m all about making the world a better place. I love coming up with creative suggestions for clients to solve problems, so when I came across this article on Facebook I just had to share.

I have recently been visiting a rehabilitation and nursing facility to see a family member, and I can definitely see the need for this type of program.

Also as new grandmother

I can appreciate the benefits my grandchildren could receive as well as what their presence could offer the elderly.

Let’s face it, at some point we are all looking at becoming elderly. I have never heard anyone say they were looking forward to it. So why not find ways to bring happiness and stimulation to the elderly and young children?

“The young and the old connect and learn from one another at this unique facility. “

“In many ways, Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle is a typical senior living community. It’s home to about 400 elderly residents and provides them with different types of assistance. However, within the facility is also the Intergenerational Learning Center — a preschool where children and seniors have the chance to bond.”

“Marie Hoover, ILC director, told HuffPost that interacting with the seniors has proven beneficial for the young ones, making them more open-minded.”

“For the ILC children, interacting with the residents is simply part of their day-to-day life here and I think the way aging is ‘normalized’ for them may be the most important benefit they receive in this program,” Hoover said. “I’ve had parents call me years after their children have graduated from our program to let me know about some incident when their child was the first to warmly greet someone who happened to be in a wheelchair.”

“As for the seniors, administrator Charlene Boyd says that they’re delighted by the companionship the children provide.”

“The children bring so much energy and joy to our residents. Many of our residents are widows or widowers and can become lonely. Their adult children may still be working, so they may not get to see them as often as they would like,” Boyd says. “Having the children be close by seems to make our residents feel as though they are still part of a community.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/24/intergenerational-learning-center-_n_7639362.html

The Intergenerational Learning Center

The Intergenerational Learning Center (ILC) is an award-winning child care program located within Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle. All children are welcome.

Both planned and spontaneous activities and programs for children take place throughout the building and campus which is also home to more than 400 older adults. Five days a week, the children and residents come together in a variety of planned activities such as music, dancing, art, lunch, storytelling or just visiting. These activities result in mutual benefits for both generations.This enhances the opportunities for children and people of all ages to have frequent interaction and is an integral part of the Mount’s intergenerational community.

The ILC offers children opportunities:

  • To learn about the normal aging process;
  • To accept people with disabilities;
  • To be involved with people who are two or three generations apart;
  • To become part of an extended family;
  • To help them reduce their fear of older adults; and
  • To receive and give unconditional and unbounded love and attention.

In addition, residents and program participants benefit from:

  • Frequent interaction with children throughout their day;
  • Physical activity in playing with the children;
  • Opportunities to play, laugh and enjoy the spirit and joy that children bring to their home environment;
  • A renewed sense of self-worth;
  • An opportunity to transfer knowledge; and
  • The ability to serve as role models.

Our Curriculum is Based on Problem-Solving

In a problem-solving atmosphere, children are encouraged to think of solutions to problems that arise throughout their day, with their teachers acting as facilitators and guides. When children are learning that they are capable of solving problems, the teacher is neither permissive nor authoritarian. Children are trusted and encouraged by teachers to resolve problems that may occur in their environment, with materials and in their relationships. In addition, the children must take responsibility for their actions.

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Do you need more calm in your life?

calm

I wanted to share this perspective for us busy people including our children.

Carl Honoré is a Canadian journalist who wrote the internationally best-selling book In Praise of Slowness: How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed about the Slow Movement.

What is the Slow Movement?

It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.

What are the tell-tale symptoms of living too fast?

When you feel tired all the time and like you’re just going through the motions, getting through the many things on your To-Do list but not engaging with them deeply or enjoying them very much. You don’t remember things as vividly when you rush through them. You feel like you’re racing through your life instead of actually living it. Illnesses are often the body’s way of saying Enough already, slow down!

Why do we need a Slow Movement now?

It seems to me that we are moving towards an historical turning point. For at least 150 years everything has been getting faster and for the most part speed was doing us more good than harm in that time. But in recent years we’ve entered the phase of diminishing returns. Today we are addicted to speed, to cramming more and more into every minute. Every moment of the day feels like a race against the clock, a dash to a finish line that we never seem to reach. This roadrunner culture is taking a toll on everything from our health, diet and work to our communities, relationships and the environment. That is why the Slow Movement is taking off.

Here is another great article.

Slow down, parents. It’s good for your kids

SARA SMEATON

Recently, I was asked, “how we can make time for play in our busy lives?”

Some people, especially those with younger kids, may balk at the idea that we need to make time for play. I remember when our kids were small, life was all about three things: sleeping, eating and playing. It was a cycle that made up our daily routine. This was a particularly slow time in our lives when we really didn’t need to do anything or be anywhere (including work, thankfully, because I was able to be a stay-at-home mom).

As our kids got older the pace quickened and it became necessary to consciously carve out out time for play, because it’s easy to get sucked into the vacuum of “busy.” Or as Ferris Bueller put it, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Imagine what Ferris would make of the warped the speed we’re moving at 28 years after he uttered this famous line.

Thank goodness, Carl Honoré, award-winning journalist, author, globe-trotting speaker, and ambassador for the “slow movement” has taken up the cause and his approach is practical, reasonable and reassuring.

I spoke to Carl once about the connection between slowing down and kids developing physical literacy, a key ingredient in predicting whether a child remains active throughout their life time. The following are 10 tips I have pulled from our conversation on how to incorporate the slow movement into your life in order to raise active, healthy, happy kids.

  1. Focus on building a foundation, not on early success We’ve all heard the expression slow and steady wins the race. According to Honoré, in our quest to raise the next athletic superstar we’re pushing kids too fast and too hard without equipping them with the building blocks (like hopping, running, jumping, etc.) they need to be able to continue being physically active throughout their lives. He sees this phenomenon not only in sports but in grammar and math as well and notes that kids who are given the time to master the ABCs will catch up with those that excel early, and eventually surpass them.
  2. Resist the mini-me syndrome If you’ve ever uttered the phrase “we’re doing dance camp this summer” it’s time to take a step back. Honoré talked to me about how the line has become blurred between parents and children because we’ve become so overly invested in our kids’ achievements. It’s a claustrophobic situation for both sides, he says. Kids need the space to find their own interests and passions, make their own mistakes and have their own successes. Parents also benefit from taking off some of the pressure to be on the sidelines or in the stands for every practice and game.
  3. Take a break from dinner in the SUV We’re moving so quickly through our days that we’re losing sight of the unique needs of our families. Pressing the pause button on some of our activities and obligations can help us gain back the perspective that has been lost running around all the time. According to Honoré, slowing down helps us tune back into our own intuition about what’s best for ourselves and our families.
  4. Schedule unscheduled time Some people might fear that slowing down or taking a break from organized activities means that everyone will retreat to their devices or to the couch. But Honoré says that it’s important is to actually schedule slow time into your day. During this time you can do things as a family that help kids develop physical literacy without them feeling like they are being coached or checking another thing off a list of tasks. It’s easy to develop skills while spending time together just “…go for a bike ride in the park, or go look for interesting stones at the beach, or build a fort,” suggests Honoré.
  5. Follow your own recipe Sometimes it seems as if there is little choice but to follow the way everyone else is doing things, but often, with a little creativity, you can find a new approach. Honoré gives the example of a child that loves hockey – it may seem like you either have to commit to playing four nights a week or not play at all. But if you can see through these two choices you can create something that might work better for your family and still lets your child play the game they love. Maybe it’s finding other kids to play road hockey, or engaging an older cousin or neighbour to pass along tips. Not everything needs to be programmed.
  6. Pour your energy into the simple things. While many of today’s parents are spending a great deal of energy on building their child’s “resumés,” Honoré is concerned that we aren’t spending energy on the simple things that go a long way to helping kids develop into well-rounded people – like having a meal together or reading them a story. Honoré warns that in trying to build the perfect child, we’re forgoing the very things that help to create a good one.
  7. Look for the balance between structure and space There is a middle ground between pushing a child and leaving them to their own devices. Honoré wants parents to understand that children need a little pushing, training, instruction and competition but that they also need to the time and space to figure things out on their own and direct their own play and interests.
  8. Turn down the pressure Not every child who participates in a sport will be a superstar and it’s important to realize that they will still get a lot out of taking part, even if they aren’t the best. The more pressure we put on a child playing a sport, the more likely it will be that they quit. Because pressure isn’t fun – and kids play sports to have fun. Parents hungry to turn out an elite athlete are at risk of “kill[ing] that thing we love, piling on so much pressure and so much organization so early that we squeeze out that space where the child can learn and get confident in herself.”
  9. Get out of the way of children’s play Honoré notes that as adults we can get between kids and their play, even though our intentions are good. But by slowing down we can see when we’re needed and when we’re inserting ourselves unnecessarily. “Let’s help [kids] but let’s help them at the right rhythm, the right pace so we’re not rushing when we shouldn’t be rushing and messing up the thing that we really want to nurture.”
  10. Know you’re not alone Instead of accepting the status quo while complaining about 5 a.m. practices, for example, consider that if it’s not working for you then that’s probably true for others as well. Honoré emboldens everyone to take stock of what we’re doing and if it fits into our lives, he invites us to say, “Is this what we really wanted for our kids? Is it want we wanted for ourselves? You hear these conversations going on in playgrounds, hockey training camps on the sidelines, you know it’s everywhere, and sometimes it’s to say, well instead of moaning about it why don’t we try to think about what we can do?”

It’s all about figuring out if you like what you see when you finally do stop and look around – and if not, making changes that feel right for your unique family.

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Reiki and Jin Shin Jyutsu Therapies for Your Wellbeing

I wanted to share these two therapies for your wellbeing. They are Reiki and Jin Shin Jyutsu.

Image courtesy of http://mrg.bz/beVsO7

Image courtesy of
http://mrg.bz/beVsO7

What is Jin Shin Jyutsu® ?

Jin Shin Jyutsu (pronounced “jin shin jootsu”) is the ancient art of harmonizing body, mind and spirit with gentle touch. It facilitates balance in the body’s energy systems, which promotes health and well being.

Jin Shin Jyutsu was rediscovered in Japan in the early 1900’s by Master Jiro Murai.
Master Murai defined Jin Shin Jyutsu as “the Art of the Creator expressed through the person of compassion”. He taught this art to Mary Burmeister who brought it to the U.S. in the 1950’s.

Jin Shin Jyutsu is an invaluable complement to conventional healing methods, inducing relaxation, reducing the effects of stress, and assisting our innate healing capacity.

While bearing conceptual similarities and lineage with acupuncture and acupressure, Jin Shin Jyutsu is an exceptionally gentle, non-invasive energetic healing modality that does not use needles or pressure to realize the potential benefits.

How does Jin Shin Jyutsu work?

Our bodies contain energy pathways (meridians) that feed life into all cells.
When one or more of these paths become blocked, the damming effect can lead to disharmony, manifested as discomfort or illness.

Deficiencies, over-stimulation, blockages, stagnation can develop in these energy pathways in response to various factors including lifestyle stresses, attitudes, environmental influences, illness and traumatic events.

To unblock and stimulate the circulation of energy along the affected meridian, the Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner applies a series of hand placement combinations using 52 energy centers called “Safety Energy Locks” (26 on each side of the body), restoring harmony to body, mind and spirit.

What is Jin Shin Jyutsu beneficial for?

This simple, yet incredibly powerful healing art yields amazing results physically, as well as emotionally. It is effective in:

  • relieving pain
  • allergies
  • colds
  • immune system
  • anxiety, depression
  • headaches, migraines
  • autoimmune disorders
  • asthma, respiratory problems
  • skin disease
  • digestive disorders
  • blood pressure, circulatory problems
  • stroke, brain injury
  • spinal misalignments, bones, joints
  • muscle disorders
  • infertility, reproductive problems
  • reducing side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments

So far, research studies have showed that when added to the conventional medical treatment, Jin Shin Jyutsu helped reduce symptoms of pain, nausea and vomiting after surgery, improved breathing in patients in chronic lung disease, improved recovery from cardiac procedures, and improved quality of life during chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

In a Jin Shin Jyutsu session which lasts about one hour the client rests comfortably, fully clothed on a cushioned treatment table.
Jin Shin Jyutsu treatments are safe, non-intrusive and do not involve massaging, manipulating, pressuring or rubbing the body.

A Jin Shin session begins with listening to the client’s pulse, which indicates the client’s current state of being. The pulse reveals to the practitioner information about what energy path needs to be unblocked in order to restore harmony, balance, and well-being.

The treatment consists of holding gently different energy locations on the body in various combinations.
Stress is alleviated and the client feels much more centered and relaxed.
Although for chronic conditions several sessions might be needed, improvement is usually experienced after only one or a few sessions.

Original Article

The Jin Shin Jyutsu practice of holding the fingers

Original Article

Holding the fingers is a Jin Shin Jyutsu self-help practice that is extremely simple and yet profound. Because so many of the Jin Shin Jyutsu energy pathways run through the fingers (the ten fingers are said to regulate 14,400 functions within the body), holding the fingers is a way to balance and harmonize energy in the whole body. I encourage you to give this practice a try.

Attitudes associated with each finger

There is a primary emotion (what Jin Shin Jyutsu calls “attitudes”) associated with each finger. As you can see under the additional benefits I’ve listed below, there are also other attitudes associated with each finger, as well as physical symptoms. You can target these attitude and symptoms by holding specific fingers.

First, let me list the primary attitudes and the benefits of holding each finger. Then I’ll talk about various ways you can practice holding the fingers.

Worry: The thumb.

jin-shin-jyutsu-holding-l-thumbAdditional benefits: for depression, hate, obsession, anxiety, self-protection, to revitalize physical fatigue, for the back of the head, breathing, and digestive discomforts. Mary Burmeister recommended holding the thumb at the first sign of a headache.

Fear: The index finger.

jin-shin-jyutsu-holding-l-index-fingerAdditional benefits: for timidity, mental confusion, depression, perfectionism, criticism, frustration, digestive issues, elimination, wrist/elbow/upper arm discomforts. Mary Burmeister recommended holding the index finger at the first sign of a backache.

Anger: The middle finger.

jin-shin-jyutsu-holding-l-middle-fingerAdditional benefits: for feeling cowardly, irritable, indecisive, unstable, not alert, overly emotional, general fatigue, eye issues, forehead discomforts.

Sadness/Grief: The ring finger.

jin-shin-jyutsu-holding-l-ring-fingerAdditional benefits: for negative feelings, common sense, excess mucus, breathing, ear discomforts.

Trying To/Pretense (cover-up): The little finger.

jin-shin-jyutsu-holding-l-little-fingerAdditional benefits: for “crying on the inside and laughing on the outside” (that’s what’s meant by “trying to/pretense”), feeling insecure, nervous, confused, issues of “why am I here,” calms nerves, aids bloating. Mary Burmeister recommended holding the little finger at the first sign of a sore throat.

There is an acronym to help you remember the primary attitude associated with each finger. It’s “Get rid of Worry FAST.” W is for Worry (thumb), F for Fear (index), A for Anger (middle), S for Sadness (ring), and T for Trying To (little).

How to practice holding the fingers

There are two basic ways to practice holding the fingers. You can either hold all ten fingers, first on one hand then the other, or you can concentrate on the attitudes and benefits associated with just one finger.

When concentrating on just one finger, there are again two basic ways to do this. In Jin Shin Jyutsu, holding just one finger is called a “quickie.” The “quickie” hold simply involves holding a finger on one hand with the fingers and thumb of the other hand. For example, to hold the left thumb, you wrap all four fingers of your right hand around your left thumb.

You might choose to hold your thumb, for example, when you notice that you’re worried. I’ve been holding my ring finger lately because I have some tinnitus in my right ear. Don’t worry about whether you hold fingers on your left or right hand. The energy pathways cross over from one side of the body to the other. It’s more important to do what’s most convenient for you in the moment.

The second way to focus on the attitudes and benefits of an individual finger is to use a longer (extended) sequence for that finger. An extended sequence is a combination of fingers that you hold one after the other. For example, the extended sequence for Worry is to hold the thumb, then hold the middle finger, then the little finger. I’ll describe the extended sequences in the next post.

How long should you hold a finger?

You have several options when it comes to the length of time to hold the fingers. If you have plenty of time, hold all ten fingers, holding each finger until you feel a pulse arrive in that finger. If you find the finger is already pulsing strongly when you first touch it, hold that finger until the pulse calms down.

Another way to hold all ten fingers is simply to hold each finger for two or more breaths. This is a great practice to do throughout the day. It can be very meditative and relaxing.

When you hold just one finger (the “quickie”) to support a particular attitude, you can continue holding for as long as you like. For example, if you’re in a meeting at work, sitting around a table, and something is making you angry (and you don’t want to express that anger at the moment), you can keep your hands under the table and hold the middle finger until you feel the emotion softening.

Holding the fingers as you fall asleep

Holding the fingers before falling asleep is an excellent practice. It not only establishes a habit — a time of day when you’ll do acupressure self-help — but it will help you fall asleep.

In the next two posts I’ll describe first the extended sequence of holding individual fingers and then the finger mudras. Once you know all three practices, you can combine them into a nighly falling asleep ritual. Chances are you’ll fall asleep before you finish.

You can also use this practice if you wake up during the night or if you suffer from insomnia. Focus your mind on the finger and your breath. Notice the difference in temperature between the air that enters the nostrils and the warmer air that you exhale. This will keep your thoughts from racing and keeping you awake.

The different ways of holding the fingers — holding all ten or holding a quickie, holding for two breaths or waiting for a pulse — influence the body on a variety of levels, but they are all effective. Choose a style that feels most comfortable and satisfying to you in the moment.

Reiki

Click on this video to find out more about Reiki

 

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