Exercise and the Brain – and Dancing to Enrique Iglesias

taylor swift

Greg went to arrange his annual colonoscopy.  Because he was having a chronic cough, his gastroenterologist (GI specialist) was wise enough to schedule him the “double dip” colonoscopy and endoscopy.  Greg was not pleased.  He was less pleased when Dr. GI found gastritis (inflammation) in his colon, an ulcer (inflammation) in his stomach, and esophogitis (location of inflammation intrinsic to word, esophogitis.)

I got the scoop on Greg’s inflammation story when he came in to see me, (yours truly, psychiatrist, brain doctor.)  And why?  Because of his colon and stomach?  Well perhaps.

True.  Greg was not happy.  He had not been happy for a very long time in fact.  Greg was suffering.  And no, he could not exercise.  He just could not.  Fill in the blanks of why he could not.  We have all given those reasons.

Discussing Greg’s story with him, we agreed that ignoring the inflammation story of his GI would be ignoring something that just might relate to the, “Why?” of why he was in to see me.  The same inflammatory process affecting his gut was affecting his brain, the same brain where his emotions and behaviors came from.

Inflammation.  We think about pus-filled blisters, puffy painful knees, spitting back spasms.  But do we think about frothing road rage?  Do we think about forgetting car keys in the supermarket where we bought five things we did not want and nothing of what we planned?  Do we think about divorce?  About losing our job, or not wanting to get out of bed?  When we hear about inflammation, do we think about brain disease?  I think not, Count Powerball.

The other day, we were in the Kaia, “Juicy JAM” class.  (Seriously. That is what it is called.) Coach Becca does these Juicy JAM classes about once every three to five months with us, just for fun.  It combines dance with athletics in a way that is designed to burn calories, yet effectively reduces grown women, responsible women of our community, parents, book-keepers, encyclopedia saleswomen, psychiatrists, (I am just guessing at least one of us moves like a psychiatrist) and such…, into giggling, hopping, human bumper cars.  And it is hard!  It is not easy to squat, pop, and then pull your fisted arm down super latino-drama-style over your just so angled body to Enrique Iglesias… I think it was, “Tonight I’m Loving You.”

By the time we had survived our first number, all I knew was that Becca looked really good.  Me, eh, not so much.  It is too bad we can not collect disability for this, not being able to dance.

When we dance, we do not usually notice how everyone else is dancing around us, as much as we think about how we are, ourselves.  Like any other behavior or emotion, we are trapped by our own design.  Look who is telling us that after all!  Our own brain.

Then Becca’s tattoo pokes out and we all think, she is such a bad ass!  (It’s right there just above the line of her pants.)

Where do these emotions, and behaviors come from?  Do they come from the good merit we have earned by hard work?  Maybe a really sweaty muscle bending Juicy JAM work-out?  No they do not.  You are right.  The emotions and behaviors come from our brain.  They come from that bit of us that is, after all, connected to the rest of our body.  Our body, where our muscles pump, where our pancreas balances our insulin levels, where our bowels, which flaunt the highest number of serotonin receptors of our whole selves, move and flow.  Our bodies, where nerves stop or start sending pain signals to our brain, where our heart and lungs pump all the blood that touches every part of us like a master control room – this is what matters to our brain health.  It is a relationship, like Garth will always go with Brooks.  Body goes with brain.  An inflamed body, an inflamed mind.

Now we know you are all thinking about bowels and what exercise does to bowels, and you are uncomfortable.  As you should be.  At least standing at a respectful distance.

I’ll never forget some months ago, and probably most of my Kaia-peers won’t either, when Coach Alyssa was taking us through Kaia-flow, a series of twisting yoga poses slash killer exercises.

Good job women!  This is also great for your stomach and bowels.

I thought, there-after only about stomach and bowels!  It was like a beacon.  No matter what I did, I was thinking about my gut.  And then like the answering horn of a trucker to a kid’s arm signal, “please honk,” there I went.  A slow twist, quiet music in the background, the soothing voice of Alyssa urging us on, and, honk.

There was no way to hide it.  No way to pass it off on my dog or kids or farmland creatures.  I was in the middle of the room and suddenly, like Taylor Swift on a center stage, everyone heard and looked.  Just one more bit of savory evidence that exercise decreases inflammation.

With this understanding, we can perhaps consider exercise like a pill.  Like a prescription.  Do exercise because we do what is friendly to ourselves.  Do exercise because we like being friendly to others.  We know that we cannot give what we do not have – to ourselves or to others.  We exercise because if we do not, we will be the barking mom we do not like, dad, sister, child or whomever.

We will not be nice to our partners when we have ill brains.  We will not feel pleasure as deeply.  If we are kindly toward ourselves, such as exercising, we will protect the soft underbellies of them others we love.  We will treat ourselves better.  We will.

One hour later, after dancing or twisting our inflammation, shame, and inhibitions into the ground, after passing a little gas, we are reduced to inspiration, humbly thinking, “Yes. I am that good.”  And that is the Magic there. We are bad arss.  Body meets brain meets community meets Magic.

And for you scholarly folk who don’t believe me when I say, exercise decreases inflammation decreases brain illness, here are a few articles:

Question:  How have you noticed your body speaking on behalf of your brain?  Or vice versa?  Please tell us some of your story.

Science & Sensibility » Research Review: Maternal Metabolic Conditions and Risk for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Hello friends.  Here is the link to my recent entry on obesity, autism and some of how to be a friend to yourself in the on-line Journal, Science & Sensibility.  Thank you for sharing space.  Keep on.

Science & Sensibility » Research Review: Maternal Metabolic Conditions and Risk for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Discover Your Sweetness – Value, That is To Say

English: Casimiroa edulis, White sapote fruit ...

Image via Wikipedia

My kids look at fruit as if they are inspecting a diamond for flaws.

Is this a good one Mommy? 

My daughter was pointing at a blemish that comes from fruit grown outside in dirt and not genetically engineered.

My huffing sounds are barred by something almost like maturity, just in time.  I pick up a different White Sapote with broken skin and beak marks where it is half eaten by whoever got there first.

After spitting out the seeds, I remembered bits of my filthy self as a daddy-chasing kid.  The words dusted off and important to me again, I heard Dad say,

Pick the fruit that the birds have pecked at.  They know what’s good better than we do.  Here Sana.  Take this one.  This is really sweet.

The fruit turning in my daughter’s hand, the cast-offs still in the basket, her anxiety about finding the best and my dad’s words came at me like the sounds between Broadway and 42nd Street.  And out walked Jean.

Jean was a patient I had known, particular to me despite common problems.

Abuse since at least my daughter’s age or younger.  Neglect.  Disgusting trauma survived.

Jean who, after getting picked on for the first thirty years of her life, came to me, insisting on living.  She resisted being a White Sapote in a bowl on the counter, inspected by passerbys.  Her community had tried to declare her value, her second chances and hoped to cast her off.

Pick the fruit that the birds have pecked at.  They know what’s good better than we do.  Here Sana.  

Jean’s face was in my memory.  Her white scar on her black skin shocked me; a large keloid.

Take this one.  This is really sweet.

I gave my daughter a squeeze and told her what Papa had said.  I’m so glad my daughter reminded me about this in we who have been hurt.  (Okay.  That’s all of us, see it or not.)  The way Jean grew, looked for light, the courage she answered to, the newness that came out of used up and shabbiness – Jean was teaching me about value.

Even when we are not behaving well, when we don’t look good and when we drop the market price, we have value.  Somehow, being chosen for life is more important than being chosen to suffer.  I wish I could explain why and how better but it’s just something each of us will have to experience for ourselves.  We will have to in humility and wisdom, like Jean’s or my dad’s wisdom, find the sweetness in Me.

Questions:  What is it about you that is particularly sweet?  Do you perceive your value?  Per what measure or qualifier? Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Discover your sweetness.  Be a friend to yourself

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Purposefully Harness The Power of Social Influence

A piece of chocolate candy.

Image via Wikipedia

Hello Friends.

I’m starting the 4-week detox for sugar addicts.

I know I’m more empowered with your company, so join in if interested.  And because it is friendly to you/Me too, spread this around to others.

(#Obesity – Abstract of article: social influence affect #weight loss http://bit.ly/xn1Bjq #selfcare #community #service.)

This is my list of reasons re: my choice today as part of step 1:

Reasons why I am cutting back on sugar

  • inflammation,
  • clarity of thought and subsequent depth of experience,
  • #obesity and related illnesses (comorbidities,)
  • appearance and social stigma,
  • social influence,
  • self-esteem,
  • quality of life and
  • longevity

If you choose to participate, and are interested in what the power of social influence can do for you, please post your own reasons here.

Looking forward to connecting with you. Keep on.

Self-Care Tip – Deliberately and purposefully harness the power of social influence in becoming a friend to yourself.

Self-care is Not Selfish But You Might Feel Alone

Social circles of Influence

Many times I feel like a stranger because I don’t want to do what they want.  

Pilot was perplexed and sad. 

This is familiar to me.  There are lots of these times.  When I was a kid I didn’t know to call feeling like a stranger, “normal.”  I didn’t know I wasn’t alone.  I thought feeling like a stranger was qualified bad.  In the older Me, part of Me knows.  The rest of Me is conflicted.

Talking about self-care is like that sometimes.  I don’t know yet how to consistently teach others without hurting them.  

Self-care is not selfish, I say, but it doesn’t make sense.  

They hear me and the long anticipated enemy they knew would come suddenly wears my face and uses my mouth and voice.  People look at me in horror.  I watch their faces blanch and despair, as if they know they are holding a fork and knife to defend against magic and they will die a martyr’s death.  

No.  It’s not like that, I say.  

But they don’t hear more.  They crouch in a thicket.

Researcher, Jennifer Walters, describes how social influences such as team-based competition leads to a healthier BMI (basal metabolic index) and weight loss.  We may say, “Um, yah!?!” as if everyone knows that from Biggest Loser.  But just like holding an apple looks like crunchy food to Mary, John see’s a projectile.

It must be researched.  It must be said.

We don’t believe that taking care of Me is selfless.  We are scared.  To love ourselves means being alone and feeling the stranger.  Taking care of others “first” intuitively tells us that we are connected and right. This is a distortion.

I argue that this intuition to care for others first is not our friend.  The intuition to care for others first is not friendly when it is driven by fear of being alone, fear of being the stranger.   At some point in the timeline of selflessness to selfishness we find that we cannot.  We have ruined and thereafter cannot care, serve or do much for anyone but take. Now we, without getting consent from those same others, are in a place of being served.  We didn’t ask our loved one(s.) 

Would you like to take care of my wasted self?

We didn’t ask if it was ok with them that they be put in the position of now being our own caregivers. To answer their wants before our needs is a trick on them, an exchange for us taking care of them now for them taking care of our needs later when we cannot.  But we didn’t ask. We didn’t make a transparent negotiation.  If they knew we were taking care of their wants before our needs or wants, if we knew, would we un-crouch, step out, hear and consider?  However, we responded before we felt alone.  We gave before we felt the stranger.  We didn’t ask, we didn’t consider and now we cannot.

Growing healthy involves the sometimes happy journey towards a knowing that giving to self long enough becomes someone who gives to others; long enough a stranger to grow familiar.  And it isn’t selfish.

Caregiving for others starts with caregiving for Me.

Question:  How does becoming your own friend separate you from those you want close?  How do you survive feeling alone long enough to know that you are not?  When the stranger becomes familiar, does it make that time and difficulty worthwhile?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Remember, self-care is not selfish, even when you feel alone.

The First Premise of Being A Friend To Yourself. Me.

What is being a friend to yourself?  As long as we have been talking about this, we still wonder.  Although a dynamic concept, we have a premise that doesn’t change.  Everything starts and ends with Me.

Seated in any test, laid aside any stressor, blocked by a wall of most threatening construct, being a friend to yourself begins here.  We have that to guide us and will never ever have to ask again, “Where do I start?”  We never will lose ourselves to the confusions around us of looking for our home; our point of reference and direction.  There is immense usefulness in this.

Question:  How has this starting point helped to reorient you, to decrease negative climax and increase presence in your life?  How has starting with Me been friendly and/or how is/will be starting with Me be friendly?  Please break it down and tell us your story.

The Vanishing Point

Image by Roger's Wife via Flickr

Self-Care Tip:  Start with Me to start being a friend to yourself.

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