Exercise Your Way to a Better Brain

Motion is self-expanding. We can easily succumb to the nonchalance of sitting on a couch and watching endless hours of Netflix. However, a sedentary approach to life is a shortcut to an accelerated death. To grow and live long, we must stay in motion. Physical activity endeavors from Pilates to sports to yoga all contribute handsomely to enhancing your body not just physically, but mentally. All the small things add up in the end, but we can temporarily obviate our inevitable demise by expending more kinetic energy, daily. The benefits of the impacts that exercise places on your brain are enough to convince any sane person to get moving post-haste. The brain can atrophy (cerebral atrophy) just like muscles can with underuse.

Throughout life we are battered by pangs of distress, emotional despondency, injuries, illnesses, diseases, hapless happenings, brain cell deterioration, etc. Moreover, most of these maladies come at the expense of our own ignorance. We’re taught early in life how important physical activity is in gym class. Some of us adhere, some throw the information in the back of our cerebellum only to be retrieved when it’s too late; or when we’ve been perturbed by unsettling news that an impending problem with our body will soon be taking place.

One of my favorite platitudes that I can’t say enough, “The time is now,” really hits the nail on the head on why we shouldn’t delay the advancement of our mind & bodies because tomorrow is truly not guaranteed. I understand how easy it is to be lazy; the willingness to not unleash any energy seems like a quality that an obese society cherishes. There’s too many avenues of contentment and complacency that, and much to our own chagrin, end up withering us away — even unknowingly.

Neurobiologically, exercise releases cortisol — the stress hormone that increases fat and stifles memory consolidation — which is a major benefit to adapting to stressors that may offset your system’s homeostasis. Along with strengthening your immune system, exercise can increase euphoria and feelings of bliss by the production of endorphins. Hence the term “Runner’s high” that befalls you once you reach a plateau of running and the feeling of comfortability and oneness with the specific activity. Long walks stimulate creativity and de-stress you from whatever may be burdening you at the moment.

Alzheimer’s, the terrible neurodegenerative disease that affects millions of people,  can be slowly prevented by increasing your movement. Scientists and psychologists have proven that a reduction of cognitive decline can be the result of implementing small, 20-30 minute routines into your daily regimen. Obesity is a big risk factor for Alzheimer’s, so continuing to shed body weight can stave off the eventual disease and lower the incidence rate.

Cognitive functioning and brain plasticity will be expanded 10-fold by instituting any form of aerobic exercise into your lifestyle. The brain will become sharper, motor skills will improve, brain fogginess will subside, the ability to learn new things will increase, and your memory will strengthen. These are advantageous points enough to keep you from ever wanting to take the escalator again.

As time progresses, we slowly lose more and more brain cells. We just aren’t made to last forever. Our bodies fade just as ink does on a sopping wet canvas. Death is inescapable, but we can decelerate the process by becoming more active. A civilization in motion is one that is highly prosperous and productive. Showing our kids the importance of ‘go-getter-ness’ and relaying the undeniable benefits of movement can take our planet to greater heights. As the battle with obesity and decline in brain functioning continues, understand that you choose whether or not you want to make yourself better. Be wise, get moving.

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Facing Your Fears

Fears and phobias, by and large, instill tremendous anxiety from the outset of any unsettling personal thought. Phobias, being less focused on in this essay, are illuminated inside the purview of fears and create a sense of psychological impairment. For example, I’m 96% sure I have arachnophobia, well, according to me. Anytime I’m confronted by the eight-legged freaks, I suddenly become perturbed by involuntary reflexes and emotions. It’s really as if I have no control of my body. Fears, on the other hand, don’t seem to go that far in the domain of “scarediness.” Many people fear heights, but will be unhesitant to ride Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure; a phobia of heights (acrophobia) will leave you grounded in the kiddy park. Day in and day out, people tend to tackle fears in a way that is highly admirable; but, unfortunately, many of us remain stagnant: staring through the lens of uncertainty and worry, only to find ourselves back at the spot where we once were before. Fears, disconcertingly, act as a safeguarding response mechanism to things that may threaten or hurt us. This is something that doesn’t seem maladaptive. But, once fears get overanalyzed when there’s no injury in the way such as public speaking, we can overcome these “glitches” in our system by recognizing and preparing for what’s at stake.

Nearly everyone has faced an internal battle with their own nerves. From the knots in the stomach to light-headed wooziness: these profound feelings evince stress. What’s worse, when the aforementioned feelings arise, you can’t help but prolong the process of queasiness because of the vicious cycle of negative thinking.

The fear of public speaking is widespread, and seems to coincide with acute anxiety. Understandably, it’s nearly impossible to mollify the feelings of distress that creep up on you in the wake of a presentation or speech. A slew of people would pay a large sum of money to abscond standing in front of a big crowd of people. What exactly is making us so afraid? In my estimation, it’s disapproval. When you’re in the visual radius of 50 to 100 people who all seem to be judging you, you can’t help but think the utmost worst of how they’re perceiving you. All our lives we thrive to be social butterflies and once our reputation gets an overwhelming amount of scrutiny, our fight-or-flight response activates, thus leaving us in a stupor of uncomfortability. By besmirching your purported “image” or “character” you may be overwrought by an outcome that seems undesirable. We, for most part, strive to make the best impression on our peers and those of higher status to gain some credibility in society.

The biological reactions that fire off and take over our bodies is something that’s been embedded in us. Survival tactics once were extremely vital to the savior of one’s body. If there was some rustling in the bushes nearby, you had to be fast on your feet to realize if it was a portent of death or something like a kindred spirit. By choosing the former, you gave yourself the undeniable ‘live-another-day’ card. Animals who became a bit too curious would ordinarily bite the dust. Our unconscious instincts drive us and have landed us to be on the winning side of the survival of the fittest gauntlet. Without these death-preventing measures, we may have had a short shelf life as human beings.

What suddenly emerges out of a person’s will to overcome fears that have scarred them for nearly their whole life? Maybe we’ve suppressed our bravery. Maybe we’ve had a past experience that tainted our outlook on a certain perspective of a “thing” or endeavor. Human beings are remarkably fascinating. The thresholds for pain that get transcended by indefatigable feats and acts of valor are truly laudable. Friends of mine have plodded through fears like soldiers in Vietnam. They’ve accomplished things they would have been afraid to play a part in just a mere 5 years ago. There was no cognitive behavior therapy that they used; just sheer guts and determination to triumph over the normal standard of human limits that we arbitrarily place on ourselves.

An erstwhile experience of mine was a shining example of fear itself. I had the unenviable displeasure of dealing with a drowning child in my pool. Given the massive amount of brain-rattling terror when I was gazing at the face of an 11-year old with a distended stomach along with eyes rolled back in his head, I instantly felt the amalgamation of every worst possible emotion. Whether it was from witnessing a quasi-dead person in my backyard to the forethought of having not saved this innocent young child, I couldn’t let this ride on my conscious any longer before my unconscious swiftly stepped in to handle things on autopilot. My fear was characterized by apprehension. At first view, I became unshakably paralyzed. As all these chemicals were going off in my anatomy, I eventually came to with the proper know-how to muster up some courage to administer CPR. Without the help of my father and my cousin, that poor kid would have perished that sunny Monday back in June of 2011.

People have the mental wherewithal to face obstacles and rise above the hardscrabble by foreseeing themselves succeed. Positive reinforcement and an optimistic attitude on life creates an urge to embark upon things that once seemed inconceivable. A lot of fear manifests itself out of distasteful outcomes that we ostensibly have no control over. Moreover, fear can be debilitative; stripping us our total potentiality and dehumanizing us down to quail sheep. Just remember: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. It’s our prerogative as sentient creatures to conquer everything that lies in our way and obstructs our betterment. The best way to beat fear is to unravel yourself out of the cobwebs of doubt by looking past your irrationality of what’s exactly at hand. But here’s the twist: maybe we’re all just comprised of billions of cells of which we had no hand in making within a universe replete with infinite particles and a product of behaviors that exist in faculties of our brain which we cannot breach (unconscious), ultimately leading us down the steep hill of a lack of free will. Plausible? Yes, but it remains to be seen…

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Cheating: Why Men and Women Do It

         For centuries, men and women have drifted astray into the fray of infidelity. Humans, still in our infancy on an evolutionary timescale, look at this contemptuous behavior with evil eyes. The incompetence to remain faithful to your partner has a natural corollary: a tempestuous break-up and a surrendering of friendship. Let’s face it: most of our partners are concomitantly our best friends. Lying, a by-product of deception, can tear down a relationship far worse than one could have ever envisioned. Most people are in cheating-denial, but when push comes to shove, they find themselves unexpectedly compelled and tempted to do things that are ignoble in the light of romantic etiquette. There are plenty of causes that foment someone into the dark realm of cheating, and this cynical dystopia can be prevented if people learn to be more introspective and to empathize more thoroughly.

          According to the Associated Press Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 57% percent of men admit to having been unfaithful whereas this figure is 54% for women. It’s important to note that this is only the people who admit their wrongdoing; the bleak side of this is that it may be a lot more prevalent than the statistics show.

          Another study published at Texas A&M University devised a way to indicate the strength of sexual impulse by rating people on their attraction to an unavailable member of the opposite sex, revealing that men and women have nearly the same amount of self-control, but men are burdened with stronger sexual impulses that override that threshold of self-control. Paul Eastwick, a professor in the department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the university of Texas states, “Men have plenty of self-control — just as much as women…However, if men fail to use self-control, their sexual impulses can be quite strong. This is often the situation when cheating occurs.”

         Disloyalty wasn’t born overnight; it has been embedded in our DNA as a result of our ancestors’ survival. The reason is that men, however unwise and flighty they may have been, looked to propagate their genes with a number of women to produce a plethora of offspring. Conversely, women embarked on their journey of infidelity in order to find Mr. Perfect. They painstakingly selected a male whom was viewed as responsible and with some kind of high social status. You don’t want to procreate with someone who’s a deadbeat, which depressingly, so many people end up settling for nowadays.

         One of the things that keeps cheating at bay is religion. On the big day, you’re sworn to abide by God and his commandment, [Thou shall not commit adultery]. However, divorce rates are just as high in the religious community, which is surprising, given how taboo the Bible portrays adultery. But, maybe it’s deeper than that. People who are radically devoted to religion may be beholden to God to save their marriage, which often doesn’t happen. Thus, discontentment arises and people take the path of infidelity only to worry later to repent for such iniquity. The ever-spinning gyroscope of repentance is what builds the hypocrisy of religion: if people were really religious they’d follow the “infallible” word of their beloved God; instead they cherry-pick religious texts and remain no more or less moral than the rest of society.

          Now, let’s get down to the brass tacks. Men find opportunistic ways to cheat, and most of the time it’s derived from being immature. Whether they keep “their” women around as “insurance”–just in case something goes awry with their other women–their never-ending dalliances should be a giant red flag to women. Most men cheat because they know they can get away with it. The old platitude, “What momma don’t know, won’t hurt her”, is what every man tells himself while partaking in unfaithfulness. Some men certainly are more prone to cheat than others, and these men are not the ones who should be getting married first. Jumping into the sea of commitment comes with a barrage of responsibility, but many males don’t acknowledge this and think they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. Unfortunately, the bridge is in plain sight right after that protruding bump in the road. If you’re “sexually curious” or “looking for the extra thrill” it isn’t worth the subsequent consequences because everything you do will come to fruition, one way or another: lies smell, so while we can cover them up, that stench will make its way to the surface eventually.

          The rules of cheating apply for women just as profoundly. Females, however unknowingly, can megalomaniacally manipulate most men without even speaking. From non-verbal cues to subtle gestures, men succumb to beauty nearly as much as money these days. Given their endless power in terms of their physical traits, women receiving a dearth of intimacy or battered by a dysfunctional relationship can snap their fingers into the world of deceit. It’s no surprise that women between the ages of 25-34 tend to have the most affairs. Still vibrant and vivacious, denying them affection while temptation is on every corner is no way to keep women dormant. Women are often confounded by strong emotions that dictate the status of their current affiliation with someone. When qualms start to arise, the floodgates open, and this becomes a slippery slope. Also, many women are vindictive and vengeful. And, as they should, they forgive but don’t forget. So at any moment when a male flounders, they use cheating as a crutch to justify their man’s initial misconduct. Although I may be biased because I’m a male, I find that women tend to be crueler when it comes to cheating. They simply have more options. The notion of being coquettish can make men try even harder than they normally would (see the movie Election for evidence).

          Cheating is even more accessible today, given the different outlets through which one can pursue it. Social media makes this process remarkably easier. Albeit, we’re social creatures who desperately need interaction on many different levels. There’s no more paging someone to meet up for a tryst. Instead, you can set up your liaison with a couple swipes to the right. My advice is this: if you’re prone to cheating, do not commit. You may be still evolving and shaking off your demons. There’s no rush; well, unless you feel she’s pressuring you into a relationship, this would be something you have to mull over, punctiliously. We all don’t intend to hurt our partners; it just springs up on us like seaweed in the ocean. But, there will be times when you are staring in the face of temptation with no one around you to dissuade you of what you’re about to do, and in this moment it’s best to be provident, and ask yourself, “Is it really worth all the bullshit?”

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Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Henderson

Happiness and Life

         No matter how far down we are in the doldrums, we inevitably find ourselves back on the path to the pursuit of happiness. Most of what we experience includes all sorts of emotions that evoke either bliss or misery. One doesn’t have to be the richest person in the world to garner all the positive feelings possible because money, for the most part, can’t buy happiness; but where one has been and where one envisions going can play a major part in salvaging any type of happiness. That is, happiness is relative; there’s no absolute equation for creating feelings of jubilation. We all seek happiness in every endeavor. Whether consciously or unconsciously, rapture leads to a better society. Utilitarianism, presented by John Stuart Mill, argues that happiness is the backbone of a morally righteous civilization insofar that it motivates us to seek pleasure over pain. But in my estimation, adversity has a profound effect on how we recover and put a perspective on happiness. Biologically, happiness is certain chemicals released in your brain and those feelings may be expedited by sufficient rest and exercise. As 50 Cent puts it, “Joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for pain,” and I think a little grief can make us stronger to face upheavals, but ultimately, leads us to a greater understanding about what we have and to be grateful for the things others may not ever possess.

          We are invariably unfocused on the actual present moment, fretting about what’s to come. Being mindful of what’s happening brings a sense of ease that begets an appreciation of what you have. Worrying about things too much only creates a life that will never be fulfilled, and unfortunately, a life that speeds by without ever noticing what happened; incessantly asking yourself, “Where’d time go?” That being said, experiences are crucial; we learn about ourselves and develop memories that guide us to better feelings. For example, a person in a barbaric tribe with no access to electronics or electricity may be more satisfied than, say, a person who has technology at his behest 24/7. All this connectivity we’re thrown into the fray with now only gives rise to more problems and discontent. Less is more and those primitive people are fully conscious of what they possess, thus they don’t seem to ruminate as frequently as we do in the First World. Happiness is the result of the realization of where one’s been and where one is now; you create your own happiness. Perspectives vary. Imagine a zombie apocalypse has transpired. Being a survivor, you’d suddenly find happiness in ways you’d never thought were possible; perhaps finding other humans who also survived and were thinking of innovative ways to cook foods that you wouldn’t normally eat. Then your happiness simply shifts from what it once was, pre-apocalypse.

          In general, money doesn’t buy happiness. Actually, it plateaus after a certain amount (an income of $75k/year). Of course it’s better to be wealthy than to be impoverished, and money may indeed amplify happiness for a materialistic person, but that sort of contentment is superficial. That’s not to say we should not strive for affluence and success. But, happiness is the secret to success, not vice versa. Implementing meaning & purpose in your life gives you something to wake up for every single day. In Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, he eloquently states, “the satiation level beyond which experienced well-being no longer increases was a household income of about $75,000 in high-cost areas. The average increase of experienced well-being associated with incomes beyond that level was precisely zero . . . A plausible interpretation is that higher income is associated with a reduced ability to enjoy the small pleasures in life.“ Many Lotto winners aren’t happier than people who lose on every ticket because of the hedonic treadmill, where as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in unison, which results in no permanent gain in happiness; you adapt to what you have then you’ll want more. I believe happiness is transient and can come and go so expeditiously it’s hard to put a yardstick on it. Anybody who’s read or seen The Great Gatsby knows there’s a multitude of themes about how money doesn’t influence things such as love and loneliness, at least overtly.

        Renown theoretical physicist & cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, who was left paralyzed by a motor neuron disease at the age of 21, claims to be happier now (while debilitated) than when he was perfectly healthy. He declares, “it taught me not to pity myself because others were worse off, and to get on with what I could still do.” which gives credence to the fact that people acclimate and turn their dials toward happiness no matter how unfortunate the situation may be, naturally; and plenty of handicap people are just as, or even more happy than a normal salubrious person. Everyone has an equal chance to make the best of the position they’re in.

          To overcome the obstacle of unhappiness, we must flood our minds with what’s going on and how it could be much worse. Doing what you love and sharing experiences with people who have the same even temperament as yourself will only lead to euphoric feelings. Overusing hyperbole to describe unfortunate events doesn’t bring solace to one’s well-being. Brushing yourself off and trying again is a proper axiom to live by, and noticing your shortcomings and consolidating your emotions for the betterment as a person will only show you the way to a more respectable lifestyle. Through mindful meditation, you grant yourself serenity by inspecting the present-moment at its roots. This practice has been linked to increasing happiness and decreasing stress; it’s the brain’s way of unwinding. It’s also been proven that giving is better than receiving; i.e., more dopamine is released when bestowing something on someone rather than receiving something. In conclusion, we don’t live long enough to constantly be envious and unsure about what’s to come. However you devise your happiness, just remember: it creates a better planet. Stop worrying,  go out there, and do what makes you happy, because it’s within our control.

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4 Ways To Enjoy Valentine’s Day Single

The covetous Valentine’s Day has served as a staple for affection with your partner for many years. To those who can’t attest to this hallmark holiday, you may find solace in different ways than others. Here’s 4 ideas to conquer this year’s Valentine’s Day as a single person…

 

1. Go Party

Fortunately, this year’s Valentine’s Day lands on a desirable Saturday. So, gather some friends  and tie one on for the night; you’ll instantly bond with your family or peers in a calming environment that’ll defuse any stress you’ve accumulated entering the night. Cool out and enjoy yourself by basking in the rarefied air of singledom.

2. Surprise Someone

Whether it’s a family member, friend, or a person you’ve been recently pitching woo at —surprise them with a gift. The gift doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something that’ll subtly get the point across; preferably being a card or candy. Any platonic relationship you have with a person over many years would be a delightful bolt from the blue for their well-being. Sweeping someone off their feet never hurt anybody, but does leave a lasting impact on their appreciation of you in their life.

3. Exercise

Exercise is a boon on any day, this day should not be any different. You can channel some of your tempestuous emotions into a form of working out. By freeing your mind of unnecessary ruminations all day, you’ll unquestionably grow a little more confident by the mere fact that you’ve done some self-reform!

4. Disconnect

Unplug yourself from social media for the day. The breath of fresh air that you will endure is ineffable. Of course, seeing all the lovely gifts everybody receives on Facebook and Instagram can be endearing, but unfortunately, it can also naturally evoke envy. Many of the enviable presents that males or females bestow upon one another will be illuminated on Valentine’s day, thus engendering a sense of uncertainty about where you are in your path to love. Why not nip this in the bud & avoid all the frenzy?

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