Getting in the Habit

10443201_10204271502925609_1769605977399701449_oAuthor: Kelsey Fukuda

As a senior in college, I want to express thankfulness towards my parents for continuously involving me in activities when I was younger.

In middle and high school, they encouraged me to join cheerleading, gymnastics, and ice skating. I admit that it was a lot easier to feel healthy when I was constantly exercising and had home cooked meals for me. When I started college, I had only moved about 15 miles away from home, but I was living in the dorms away from my family. It was hard adjusting to a life where I was so busy with school work and I felt like I didn’t have the time or energy to maintain healthy habits.

In my junior year I started running with my roommate on a consistent basis. When you exercise with a friend, there’s a lot of joint motivation and you try to keep each other accountable. Now, in my senior year, my roommate stopped running but I’ve continued going. This is a huge contrast from what my life used to be like. Before, I used to think that exercising without being on a team or without a coach would be scary and difficult.

Looking back, I think the hardest thing about habits is introducing new ones into your life. It’s disruptive when you’ve become comfortable with something else. The next hardest thing is maintaining what you are doing when you start doing things right. However, just forcing myself to start leading a healthier lifestyle was a huge factor in improving how I feel now. Setting goals for myself that I felt like I could achieve greatly improved my mindset. Studies find that exercising is so good for your health AND your brain! Aerobic exercise improves brain function. Running in particular is associated with cell growth in the hippocampus (part of the brain related to learning and memory).

My other habit I had issues with that I’m still working on involves cooking. My dad loves to cook, so before I moved away for college I hardly ever went out to eat. Last year I was talking with a classmate about desiring to cook my own meals more. She exclaimed that she recently started cooking her own meals and gave me a few tips: have a few favorite recipes, compile recipe lists for grocery shopping, and meal prep whenever possible. One study found that cooking at home is both healthier and cheaper. Home cooked meals are associated with greater dietary compliance. Making home cooked meals has so many benefits and I want to get better at making it a habit! In relation to the brain, cooking helps people organize, prioritize, sustain focus, solve problems, retrieve memories and multitask.

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My main takeaway for getting in the habit of exercising or cooking: if you have time, just do it! These habits are both better for you and they make you feel better yourself.

Sources:

https://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/everyday-brain-fitness/physical-exercise  

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170314150926.htm

https://healthybrains.org/cooking-cognition-making-meal-good-brain

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Being a Gymnast

Author: Catherine Bennion

As a semi-serious gymnast, I can easily say that there is no other relief like the relief that comes from exercise. There are few feelings greater than reaching a goal that I have been working towards for a while, or leaving a good workout feeling proud and accomplished. Being in school, I often go to practice after a long and stressful day and the last thing I want to do is exercise. It seems like too much, and a waste of time when I could be doing other things to reduce stress. Though after practice, I always leave feeling accomplished and free of stress, and exercise was a great distraction for all of the many other things going on in my life. This is because exercise triggers the release of chemicals in your body such as serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, dopamine. These chemicals dull pain, release stress, and make you happier. Not only will exercise make you feel better, but exercising even just once a week is great for your physical health.

Not only is exercise good for your physical health, but it is overwhelmingly great for your brain as well. Increased level of exercise are linked to decreases in depression, better memory, and faster learning. Additionally, recent studies have shown that exercising is the best way to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. Though it is not clear why, scientists know that exercise changes the structure of the brain for the better. It increases blood flow to the brain which helps to promote the growth of new brain cells. It also triggers the release a protein in the brain called BDNF that triggers the growth of new neurons and helps to mend and protect the brain from regeneration.

I have been doing gymnastics for 12 years now and I can easily say that I have never regretted going to practice, though I have regretted not going. Exercise is one of the best releases for stress, as well as improving self-esteem and making you feel great! Next time you have an hour to spare, consider doing something active; go for a run or bike ride, take a yoga class or go for a swim, whatever works for you.

Sources:

http://time.com/4474874/exercise-fitness-workouts/

Making Connections – Music Therapy

April is a big month for Plus One Foundation. We, as a team were able to take a moment and reflect on our first anniversary — what has been accomplished and the positive feedback we have been receiving from not only our Grant Recipients but also the service providers we work with. From art therapy to therapeutic horseback riding, we are still always surprised and pleased at how non-traditional medical methods can produce positive results for individuals living with a neurological condition. One approach that has garnished some recent media coverage is that of music therapy. Below is an overview of those who have seen positive effects, what music therapy is, and the Plus One Foundations support of this therapy.

Earlier this year congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was interviewed in a few different segments by CBS and ABC focusing on how music therapy was able to help her regain parts of her speech and the ability to walk again. What is important about Giffords recovery is that it brought music therapy to the forefront as we are able to witness first hand her struggles with speech, to her overall progress of stringing words together. This is a pretty remarkable feat and all accomplished with the love of music. For a more detailed account on Giffords recovery and the use of music therapy I would suggest this article written by Emily Sohn from the Discovery News: http://news.discovery.com/human/gabrielle-giffords-photos-111116.html.

Defined by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.

Music therapy interventions can be designed to:
Promote Wellness
Manage Stress
Alleviate Pain
Express Feelings
Enhance Memory
Improve Communication
Promote Physical Rehabilitation

It seems pretty evident while there are case studies that support the theory that music therapy can produce positive results, the medical community is still split on whether there is enough concrete data that music therapy does indeed work. However, this has not stopped the growth of music therapy even in the Seattle community. Swedish Hospital uses music therapy to treat their cancer patients, and complementary therapies including art, massage and meditation: http://www.swedish.org/Services/Cancer-Institute/Services/Complementary-Therapies/Music-Therapy#axzz1rrpK1l98

I watched a great video about Seattle local David Knott and his work over at Children’s Hospital. Watching the short news clip leaves no doubt that music therapy can help alleviate pain and anxiety, but also allow a child to connect the dots. To read more: http://www.seattlechildrens.org/videos/healthlink-music-therapy/.

A great resource for Washington State certified Music Therapist is the Music Therapy Association of Washington (MTAW). http://www.musictherapywa.org/info/.
MTAW is dedicated to providing resources and a connection point for professional music therapists, students, and others interested in learning about and promoting music therapy in the state of Washington. Included on their web site is a directory for Music Therapy providers: http://www.musictherapywa.org/info/directory-of-music-therapists.

Reading further, I found that the first and only program for becoming a certified music therapist in the state of Washington is at Seattle Pacific University. http://www.spu.edu/depts/fpa/music/therapy/. According to the programs documentation Music Therapy is a growing field where finding a qualified/certified therapist can be challenging. For more information on SPU’s music therapy program visit: http://www.spu.edu/depts/fpa/music/therapy/index.asp.

What does this mean for Plus One? Well it means we are excited for the opportunity to help our grant recipients take advantage of music therapy, and the positive effects it will have on the recovery process. If you or someone you know is interested in a music therapy program please feel free to contact us for more information, or fill out our Occasions program application http://www.plusonefoundation.com/occasions.html.

If you are also a trained music therapist we would love to talk to you about your services.

Mark Nieves
Board Member
Plus One Foundation