Memory is a funny thing. Sometimes just the simple smell of bread baking in the oven or the sound of children laughing can trigger vivid memories of something that happened to you many years before, and with such detail that you’re amazed by your powers of recollection. Then you start looking for the keys that you put down somewhere just five minutes ago and they’ve vanished, leading to hours of fruitless searching before you realize you left them in the door. Equal parts endlessly amazing and frustrating.
Sensory memory, that which is gleaned from our five senses, is the most short-term form of memory. The amount of time between the information being captured and processed and when it can be retrieved and used is only mere seconds to minutes. The areas of sensory memory that have been most keenly studied by researchers are iconic, or visual input, and echoic, or auditory input.
We all know that the eye is one of the most complex parts of our body, but as anyone who’s spoken to a specialist hearing organization such as Hidden Hearing will be aware, the workings of the ear are also extremely elaborate. Any damage to the ear and how it performs can have an effect on echoic memory.
So, what exactly is echoic memory and what does it even do? Essentially, it’s the way that the brain replicates a sound as its received—someone coughing nearby, a word said during conversation, a car backfiring—and retains it for a very short period, usually only 2-4 seconds. The easiest way to understand how it works is this: If you're talking to someone and you miss what they’ve just said and are about to ask them to repeat it, but suddenly you recall it. This happens because you're able to access your brain’s interpretation of it.
Basically, it gives you time to think! The brain takes these copies unbidden, and the most amazing part is that it sorts all of the sounds we pick up, during every moment of the day, and automatically filters them into what is of importance and should be retained in the short-term memory, and what can simply be discarded.
This knowledge was the result of experiments conducted by Ulric Neisser as recently as the late 1960s, and has since been expanded on so that, for instance, we know the span of our echoic memory lengthens as we get older.
Our short-term memories degrade rapidly, so if you do miss something someone says at a party and you’re distracted and unable to instantly recall what was said, chances are that you’re going to need to ask them to say it again. But echoic memory can also be distorted by other events, such as a stroke which damages the brain. Thus if a victim is shown a list of four single-digit numbers they may still be able to recall them perfectly, but if the numbers are spoken, they would be unable to recall them at all.
Similarly, if we suffer from hearing loss as a result of the natural aging process, regular exposure to excessive noise or infection, then that will have a negative effect on the amount of sounds that our brains are able to record and process.
Echoic memory is a vital brain function that serves us well in our daily lives, and the loss of it can cause major problems. Luckily, we can take steps to guard against such problems. Simple health maintenance like keeping blood pressure down, quitting smoking, having hearing checked regularly by specialists and wearing ear protection if you're going to be somewhere noisy for prolonged periods can all greatly reduce the risk of hearing loss, or health problems that could contribute to hearing loss.
We all experience feelings of anxiety, to varying degrees, throughout life. Whether it’s stress from work, school or myriad other life obligations, this response is part of our inherent “fight or flight” mechanism. For some, anxious feelings and symptoms can become so overwhelming and persistent that they begin to disrupt normal life. If you find yourself experiencing spells of anxiety, try incorporating the following four easy-to-grow anti-anxiety herbs into your daily routine.
Valerian is one of the best herbs for bringing down fear & worry based anxiety (excess Air) in a person as it contains much of the Earth element and is thereby very grounding. A sedative and nervine (tonic for the nervous system), warming valerian cleanses toxins from the colon, blood, joints, and nerves—everywhere that air hides! It calms muscle spasms, menstrual cramping and can help alleviate insomnia. Take it as a strong tea or decoction by boiling and straining it. Valerian was named Phu, by first century Greek physician Dioscorides, because it has a funny smell. The taste and smell of an herb is part of the medicinal value, as it tells your body what to do and how. Potent valerian will attract bees, butterflies and birds to your garden.
Skullcap is a sedative and nervine that works on the nervous and circulatory systems by bringing heat in the body down. It is a superb herb for cooling down hot emotions like anger, jealousy, and burning desire. So while valerian alleviates anxiety and insomnia due to cold emotions like fear and grief, skullcap should be used in the same manner for insomnia due to hot emotions like anger, jealousy, and desire. It has nice light flavor.
Catnip isn’t just for cats! A cooling member of the mint family, catnip is also a mild sedative and digestive aid. It is great for children and adults who can’t or won’t quiet down! Catnip is pleasant tasting and does well in iced or hot tea with raw honey. Try swapping out traditional black or green teas for catnip. If you don’t want to wait until it grows, Alvita makes a great catnip tea that is very convenient, you can find it in the tea aisle at most natural food stores. Like all plants in the mint family, catnip is very easy to grow.
Lemon balm, aka Melissa, is another member of the mint family. It has a pleasant lemony aroma and is used primarily for nervous stomach (gas, bloating) and nervous skin (cold sores/herpes). Lemon balm is used too to promote mental clarity, concentration and relaxation. I love blending lemon balm with, her sister, catnip in the summer for refreshing iced tea! It is easy to maintain and will help keep the bugs at bay.
Grow and cultivate any of these herbs in your personal garden. Be wary of planting catnip, lemon balm or anything from the mint family with other crops, as they have a tendency to take over garden plots. Gardening itself is great exercise and many anxiety sufferers are calmed by it—a win-win. Let me know how it goes!
Shar Veda is an Ayurveda Lifestyle Counselor & Health Educator, Yoga Therapist, and herbalist living in Ashland, Oregon. She works with at risk teen-aged girls and offers compassionate health and lifestyle counseling anywhere in the world via Skype and or the good old-fashioned telephone. Shar has had the great gift of studying with leading teachers in Ayurveda, Yoga, and herbalism for nearly 20 years. However, it was her adopted grandma, Doe (English-American and Blackfoot Native), who instilled within her profound appreciation for the supreme power of loving touch, healing arts, and world family. Visit her website for a video, full bio, and photos or find her on Facebook!
We tracked down everything from alarm clocks and the latest apps to all-natural supplements that may help you sleep more soundly.
Rest Your Head
Earthsake’s Natural Latex Contour Pillow helps support and align the neck and spine sans formaldehyde (often used in conventional foam pillows).
To Buy: $99, Earthsake
Wake Up Happy
Encourage the body’s circadian rhythms (which help regulate sleep/wake cycles) with the Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light.
To Buy: $70, Amazon
The f.lux app changes the spectrum of light coming from your phone or tablet to
correspond with the time of day—and your circadian rhythm.
To Buy: Free, f.lux
Maintain melatonin, GABA (a neurotransmitter) and serotonin to promote healthful sleep and manage anxiety with NeuroScience Kavinace Ultra PM.
To Buy: $50, PureFormulas
Drift off to dreamland with Earth Therapeutics Dream Zone Pillow Mist, scented with lavender, valerian, geranium and bergamot.
To Buy: $9, Ulta
Learn more about the importance of healthy sleep in The Power of Sleep.
If you don't get enough healthy bacteria in your diet, consider these high-quality supplements.
Hour After Hour
American Health Probiotic CD’s 12 billion organisms are delivered gradually over an extended period of time and throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract.
To Buy: $20, iherb.com
UAS Labs Senior Probiotic provides 25 billion units of five strains of bacteria, specially designed for older adults.
To Buy: $38, Vitacost.com
ohso Probiotic Chocolate Bars offer 1 billion bacteria in the form of a tasty, 70-calorie bar of Belgian chocolate.
To Buy: $9, Vitacost.com
Go for a Drink
With prebiotic inulin to assist the healthy growth of bacteria, NOW Probiotic-10 +Inulin delivers live organisms in a powder you can stir into water, tea or juice.
To Buy: $20, NOW Foods
Irwin Naturals Active-Cleanse and Probiotics combines beneficial bacteria with aloe and triphala for all-around digestive support.
To Buy: $27, Irwin Naturals
Learn more about probiotics, prebiotics and their role in your health in The Vital Importance of Healthy Gut Bacteria.
In between scheduling meetings and keeping up with numerous other work and family commitments, it is often all too easy to skip your workout and promise yourself that you will find the time tomorrow.
Keeping fit, healthy and looking toned are all admirable goals that the majority of women are committed to achieving—amongst the thousands of other things that are occupying your mind and filling that daily planner.
Here are seven ideas that will help you fit that all-important fitness schedule into your hectic lifestyle.
Photo by Fotolia
Between 6AM and 7AM is a pretty good time to fit in a run or workout using a yoga or fitness DVD.
There are plenty of studies which strongly suggest that women who manage to work out first thing in the morning, before the day starts to unravel, tend to stick to their programs more often, want to eat less and sleep better than those who try to exercise at different times of the day.
You may not be a morning person, but the simple advice is to try to become one. The initial pain of dragging yourself out of bed to get the heart rate working early through a regular exercise regime, will soon be forgotten when you look in the mirror and see pleasing results.
Make It Easy on Yourself
Part of the motivational problem at the gym is not just the aspect of finding the time to get there, but it is also the hassle it sometimes feels like in getting all your exercise gear together before you are able to even go and workout.
Make the task easier by renting a gym locker where you can keep all your gear onsite. This makes it feel a lot easier to find the time to exercise, when you can simply show up, get changed and get straight to work.
Photo by Fotolia
Plan Your Workouts
In the same way that you probably have a long to-do list for everything else going on in your life, you will almost certainly find you are better motivated and prepared for your workouts, if you write a weekly list of fitness goals.
Try writing out your planned workouts on a series of cards. Keep them in sight and ditch each card as you complete the tasks. By the end of the week, you will be sufficiently motivated to finish up without cards and have a healthier, more toned body.
The Magic Number
Always try to bear in mind what is considered to be the “magic number” when it comes to a successful exercise regimen.
Three and a half hours a week is that number. This is amount of time you should spend each week engaged in varying levels of physical activity, if you want to achieve meaningful weight loss through exercise and a healthy diet.
It is also worth pointing out that if at some stage you decide to get a helping hand with your goals through consulting with specialists like KR Plastic Surgery, the fitter and healthier you are will only help to get the best possible results, both before and after.
Start in the Kitchen
Good habits relating to exercise and a healthy diet start in the kitchen.
Anyone coping with a hectic work and family schedule can easily be tempted into getting a quick-fix with some sugary snacks or other junk-food items, especially if they are readily available in the cabinet or refrigerator.
Try to be ruthless: Go through your cabinets and fridge, ditching all of those hard-to-resist snacks and any other temptations. Replace them with some healthier alternatives and you will be well on the way to resisting the wrong sorts of food temptation when you are pressed for time.
Follow the Supermarket Trick
If you hadn’t noticed, most supermarkets put what they want us to buy at eye level.
You can copy this trick for yourself in your kitchen, by putting healthy foods, such as Greek yogurt or fruit, at eye level in the fridge and pantry. This way you will see them first, before any less healthy alternatives you might have around.
Photo by Fotolia
The Big Four
Good diet and regular exercise are the key components to a healthy lifestyle, but if you are really busy, it can be a challenge to stick to these goals every week.
Life is unpredictable and plans come unstuck, so try to make a minimum commitment to at least do what are referred to as “the big four” every week, when it comes to exercise.
If you really have very little time available, there are four body-weight moves that will get you the best results: lunges, push-ups, plank pose and squats. Concentrate of these four simple exercises and do them as a circuit, repeating them four times in your mini-workout, without taking a break in between.
Many women lead incredibly busy lifestyles, but do try to make time in your schedule to look after your body and to eat well, it will pay dividends in the long run.
Dr. Kevin Ruhge is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons who runs a busy cosmetic surgery practice in sunny Pasadena, California. He serves patients throughout southern California and throughout the United States. His posts appear mainly on health, medical and wellness websites.
Yoga is great for the mind and body, and it doesn’t just create a chiseled body. It can help you achieve inner peace too. If you’ve ever wanted to get involved with this ancient practice, here’s how to get started today.
Photo by Fotolia
Take Beginner Classes
Beginner classes will help you get a feel for yoga without committing a lot of time or money. Most cities offer a free “community” class that is taught by a skilled instructor. Try to sample three to five different types of yoga classes to really get a sense of what the education and training is like in your area. If you like a particular class, sign up! If you can’t find a class or instructor that you’re fully satisfied with, it might be worth the extra cost to go on a retreat.
Go on a Retreat
A yoga retreat, like the Bali yoga retreat, will immerse you in the culture and practices of yoga, as well as get you familiarized with the basics. Once you’ve determined that this is something you could stick to long-term, a retreat will give you access to experts, other practitioners, and an environment where you can form a mental imprint for later.
Mental imprints are important. When you’re meditating at home, the memories of the retreat or the scenery you experienced can have a powerful calming effect. The retreat will also allow you to get the experience you need so that you can sign up for more advanced classes at home and get the most out of your time with your permanent instructor.
Headspace is a new meditation application for mobile phones and tablets. The app lets you start practicing meditation which can be very challenging, especially if you’ve never done it before. One of the major mistakes people make when doing self-guided meditations, is that they don’t really have enough experience or knowledge to do the meditation.
Those new to meditation either focus too hard, creating anxiety—the total opposite of what’s supposed to happen—or they relax too much and fall asleep. Headspace helps you practice good meditation habits, which will play a very important role in your yoga practice.
Some argue that meditation is more important than the physical aspect, since it’s the meditation that’s so often credited with many of the health benefits of the practice. Regardless of whether you’re a “mind over matter” type of person or you enjoy the physical aspects of yoga more than the mental, the fact remains that meditation is part of yoga, so it’s good to practice.
Beginner Yoga Poses
Start with easy poses, like mountain pose, pigeon pose, and bridge pose. Work into downward facing dog and cat pose. Tree pose is also a beginner pose that will teach you balance, while strengthening the thighs, calves, ankle, and muscles that protect the spine.
Beginner poses help acclimate you to the physical demands of the practice. Some poses, like triangle pose, can be more or less beginner or intermediate, depending on how you perform them. The important thing is that you start where you’re comfortable, while also challenging what you think are your limits.
Yoga’s methods are designed to strengthen both the body and the mind, and help you to develop the mental toughness required to get into, and maintain or hold, various poses. If you’ve never done any sort of physical activity before, start slow. You may be sore for the first few weeks, but it will pass as you become stronger. Eventually, you will transition into more advanced versions of beginner poses or additional poses that challenge your physical ability.
Commit to Long-Term Training and Practice
Ultimately, you’ll want a teacher who can help challenge and educate you. There are a lot of philosophies about training, even within yoga. Finding the teacher that you personally connect with may take some time.
A long-term relationship with your instructor will help you get the most out of your practice, while also helping you achieve your own personal physical and mental goals.
Most people get into yoga because they want a chiseled body, or because they believe that it’s healthy. After years of practice, these things seem very superficial. Yoga is really about balance, living well, being calm, and living a peaceful life.
It’s about being able to pass on knowledge, challenge yourself and any preconceived notions about the world around you, and to learn how to better love your fellow man.
Lily Goncalves is the founder and director of the Blooming Lotus Yoga schools of Bali and Thailand. Having received her Masters in Counseling Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Lily combined her knowledge of Western psychology with the self-development tools of classical yoga and now offers yoga retreats to clients from around the world to help them heal both body and mind. Based on the tropical island of Bali, Indonesia, Lily continues her life-long work of offering the sacred wisdom of yoga to her many students.
If you have been doing yoga for a few weeks or even a few years, you may have discovered that you tend to do your stretches and poses close to the same time every day. Getting into this kind of health and wellness routine is terrific, but it can be limiting in terms of yoga benefits.
Yoga can actually provide you with some amazing physical and psychological advantages when you perform specific movements at specific times such as morning, afternoon and evening.
It isn’t essential that you do your yoga at the exact same moment each day, but if you start to weave yoga throughout each 24-hour time frame, you may just find that you have more energy, are able to de-stress faster and get better sleep.
Photo by Henrik Moltke
Yoga in the Morning
In the morning, it is common to occasionally – if not all the time – feel a little groggy. This is understandable; your body is trying to wake up, and so is your mind. Therefore, it’s critical to explore yoga routines that gently prepare you, holistically, to start your day in the right mood and with muscles, tendons, joints and bones ready for action.
Some frequently suggested yoga poses for the morning include spine and leg stretching poses such as:
Spine Stretch – Do this stretch on a firm surface. Sit cross-legged and make sure your back is nice and tall. Keep your hands lightly on your legs. Slowly lift your left arm until it is completely extended above your head. Then, let it guide your body as you lean toward your right side, stretching your back. Hold for a few seconds at the deepest part of the stretch, then return to the center. Switch arms and repeat.
Child’s Pose – Start in a kneeling position with your back straight. Lean forward and put both hands on the floor in front of you. Slowly curve your back over your thighs as you reach forward with your hands and slide them along the floor or yoga mat. By the end of the post, your chest should be as close to your thighs as possible, and your arms should be outstretched.
Yoga in the Afternoon
There’s a reason so many people run for the snack table or vending machine in the afternoon: It’s tough to stay focused! No wonder some countries encourage a siesta or a few hours for light snoozing during the afternoon. If you don’t have that luxury – and most of us can’t afford to take a two-hour break to nap – you can always turn to the very vocal ujjayi pranayama yoga to make it easier for you to get through that low point in the day.
Breathing is essential in this type of yoga, and it helps keep your mind from wandering. Practice your Conqueror Breath by inhaling through your nose and then exhaling through a wide mouth and repeating the “ah” sound. After a few times, repeat again but both inhale and exhale from the nose. Keep the mouth closed, but perform the same throat and tongue motions so a deep hiss comes out when you exhale. Your breathing should be slow and very focused.
Most people enjoy sitting in a cross-legged position when practicing the Conqueror Breath. If that isn’t possible, you can try to do it at your desk if your co-workers are all out on a mid-afternoon coffee run.
Yoga at Night
Do you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Chances are that you’ve been going full-force all day, and what you need is some yoga to wind down. Calming yoga will assist you in completely letting go and getting yourself prepared to give your entire being a chance to reset. Most of us simply hop into bed. This doesn’t enable any kind of relaxation process. Just 10 to 15 minutes of the right type of yoga will increase your chances of deeper slumber.
A few calming yoga poses that are gentle on the body include:
Hamstring Stretch – Lie on your back. Gently wrap your hands around one of your thighs and stretch the leg to the ceiling with foot pointed. Repeat with other leg.
Savasana Pose – Lie in bed on your back. You can prop your head up with pillows or not. Let your feet relax. Allow your hands to lie apart from your body. Place your palms in a more upward than downward position. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Some people fall asleep doing this pose.
As someone who wants to live naturally and as healthfully as possible, you owe it to yourself to try yoga at different times throughout your daily activities. This will help you unleash the true power of yoga, and show you why believers know that there’s so much more to yoga than a great way to exercise.
Kayla Matthews is a health and wellness blogger who loves jogging, yoga and hiking. Follow Kayla on Google+ and Twitter to read all of her latest posts.