Constitutional Health Network:
Focus

What makes creative people…well, creative? It’s a question both philosophers and scientists have asked throughout history. Surprisingly, today we’re no closer to an answer than we were a thousand years ago. We can look into the brain. We can see what areas light up when a person is involved in a creative activity. But understanding what brings on that burst of creativity in the first place is still beyond us. And when it comes to explaining that “spark” that makes some of us more creative than others…well, we just don’t know.   Luckily, when it comes to creativity the “how” is probably more important than the “why.” We might not know exactly what ignites that creative spark in the first place, but we do know some simple methods for fanning the flames to spur greater creativity. And even more luckily, there’s a very simple trick that takes practically no effort and only a few minutes of your ...

This isn’t a political post. I try to stay out of politics unless there’s something concrete we can do, like call our Congresspeople and tell them to vote against the newest law aimed at trying to take over our health. Politics is a stinking swamp full of alligators, and stepping a toe into it is more than I want to do. That said, here’s what I want to talk about today: Politicians lie. They lie a lot. And they tell lies the size of Texas without turning a hair, appearing as sincere as you or me. If any of us didn’t already know this, the current election cycle makes it abundantly clear. And the bulk of the country is still smarting from whoppers like, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” and “the ACA will save the average family $2,500 a year.” Yes, politicians lie. And it seems like the longer they’re in office the more easily they lie and the bigger the lies become. Of course they’re not ...

No matter how things may appear, the world is not all gloom and doom. There are awful things going on around us, of course. GMO food is a reality, and our voices really were ignored when we protested. Big Insurance really is reaching deep into our pockets for every last penny. Big Pharma really does have its tentacles stuck deep in the heart of government. None of this is our imaginations—we really are in the middle of a battle both for our health and our rights. BUT—and this is sometimes hard to remember—even in the midst of a battle there are islands of calm, instances of kindness, bright shining moments that make it possible to keep on going even when things seem their worst. When bombs are falling all around you, you have three choices: you can panic and run screaming right into the line of fire. You can huddle in your foxhole and pray that none of them hit you. Or you can grab whatever you have on hand and build a better bomb shelter. I think ...

As crazy as it sounds, it seems like it’s almost a badge of honor anymore to be sleep-deprived. I hear it all the time—people bragging about how they “only need 4 or 5 hours of sleep.” It’s as if sleeping is a vice. Something to be ashamed of. Somehow we’ve come to a point where sleep has been relegated to the status of a luxury, a guilty pleasure that we only let ourselves enjoy on rare occasions—and often feel guilty about afterward.   Sleep is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. Just like air and water and food, our bodies must have sleep, and not getting enough can lead to problems from minor inconveniences like a foggy memory to outright catastrophes like traffic accidents.   According to the National Sleep Foundation, a whopping 60% of Americans say they’ve driven when they’re sleepy in the past year, and a shocking 37% admitted to actually falling asleep at the wheel. Even more incredibly, 13% ...

I know. "Stress-busting" and "craze" really don't belong in the same sentence. Yet together they're the perfect description of a phenomenon that's sweeping the country. From cities to small towns, people are getting together in coffee shops, public libraries, and any other quiet and comfortable place where they can spend an hour or two. They gather in groups of four or five, fifteen, maybe even twenty-six or -seven. Some meet daily, some only weekly or monthly. The members come prepared — they're equipped with colored pencils, gel pens, and magic markers. Some even sport old-fashioned wax crayons. And they all carry coloring books. No, they're not coming for a children's day at the library, and they're not taking their kids or grandkids on a playdate. These people are members of adult coloring groups. That's right. Coloring, as in old-fashioned Crayolas and cheesy pictures printed on rough newsprint. The quiet ...

If you've never played a video game, now is the time to start.    New research shows that gaming not only helps improve your focus and build your memory, it actually makes your brain grow new cells. Specifically, new cells in the hippocampus. This is the area where memories are formed. It's the first part of the brain to be affected by dementia. So while DARPA is busily at work on a drug which grows new cells in the hippocampus, the solution to the aging brain may be already be right at your fingertips. Literally.    We've talked about video games before. I know many of us are biased against playing games — there's a strong feeling that they're a "waste of time." The newest research suggests that we should seriously reconsider. It underscores what earlier studies have already found, and hints that video games may be one of the best things you can do to stave off dementia.  Play a game, build your ...

If you have a hard time staying focused, you're not alone. Recent research says that the average focused attention span today is a mere 8 seconds. Goldfish have an attention span of about 9 seconds.    That's right. Most of us have a shorter attention span than a goldfish.  Why is this? Technology is partially to blame — we're constantly distracted by beeps and buzzes, email and Facebook. Even the least tech-savvy of us can have a problem, though. Many factors contribute to our inability to focus, from poor nutrition to lack of sleep.    We are more than the sum of our parts, and being a whole and healthy person means addressing all the different parts of ourselves — body, mind, and spirit. If you need a boost when it comes to memory and concentration, here are 15 simple things you can do not just for your mind, but for your body and spirit too. 1. Get enough sleep Lack of sleep doesn't just leave you ...

Most articles on keeping your brain young and sharp all repeat the same handful of things:       •  Exercise     •  Lower your stress     •  Eat “healthy”     •  Play brain games     •  Get enough sleep   There are several reasons these things appear on nearly every list.   First, they really are important. Regular exercise has been shown to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. The same with reducing stress. Stress and diet play a role in heart disease and diabetes, which both raise the risk of dementia significantly.    Playing games — and particularly video games — improves cognitive function, though “brain games” don’t appear to be any more beneficial than other types of video game. Chronic ...

It’s been several decades in the making, but Big Pharma may soon have the biggest payout in the history of the industry. With many of its current herd of cash cows either about to go off-patent or already there, pharma is feeling a little anemic. It needs an infusion of cash, and it’s set its sights firmly on Alzheimer’s disease as just the thing to fill the bill.   Don’t get me wrong. I want someone to find the cure for Alzheimer’s. I’ve seen first-hand the devastation this disease can leave behind. First with my Grandfather, then with my own mother. More than most, I want to see a real treatment. And there’s a flood of new medications due to hit the market in the next few years. But the ever-expanding guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer’s (“asymptomatic Alzheimer’s,” anyone? Or “pre-clinical Alzheimer’s”?) suggest that there’s more to the story than the desire to ...

It’s amazing how easily some health concepts are accepted as gospel while others aren’t. Some ideas just seem to catch our imaginations and hold on. Others never make it into the collective consciousness no matter how strong the evidence. The idea of depression as a “chemical imbalance” is one of the ideas we’ve latched onto in spite of the lack of evidence. In fact, since we’ve been able to actually measure the levels of chemicals in the brain, the evidence strongly suggests that depression has nothing to do with brain chemicals. Or at least not the brain chemicals that antidepressants affect. Of course that hasn’t stopped Big Pharma from coming out with new drugs to treat this theoretical imbalance. Neither has the fact that antidepressants are no more effective than placebos. The idea of depression as a physical problem — a chemical deficiency — has taken root and we're not going to let go of it. As the years ...

If killing part of your brain in return for milder symptoms of a non-life-threatening problem sounds like a good deal to you, don’t bother to read the rest of this. If destroying part of your brain sounds like a high price to pay for anything or like the plot of a mad scientist movie, then read on. Because the FDA just approved a new ultrasound “treatment” that does just that. And they based that approval on a trial that included a whopping 76 people. That sure makes me feel safe. It just gives me the warm fuzzies knowing that there’s a government agency that cares so much about my health. I feel so much better knowing what rigorous scientific study new gadgets and surgeries go through before they go into everyday use. After all, if it was used on 76 people and none of them actually died, then surely it’s completely safe. Right? Bah humbug. Every once in awhile I think I’ve passed the point of being surprised by Big Medicine or Big ...

When was the last time you enjoyed some peace and quiet? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably “It’s been a while.” Days, maybe. Weeks. Possibly even months. We live in a noisy world, and it’s becoming increasingly louder with each passing year. As technology has grown more sophisticated, so have the ways in which we subject ourselves to unnecessary noise.   Where once the loudest thing we had to endure was the early-morning crowing of a rooster, today we have countless types of noise inflicted on us nearly every waking moment—and it doesn’t stop when we sleep. Noise is a constant, and if the environment doesn’t assault us with enough we inflict it on ourselves.   Many of us keep the television on day in and day out, “for company.” We have the radio on in the background “to break the silence.” We have computers and phones, iPads and iPods and MP3 players, all pouring noise ...

On August 12, long jumper Jeff Henderson captured the gold with a leap of 8.38 meters. It was a memorable moment for Team USA—the first US gold medal in the event since 2004. The win might have had fans cheering, but what he did after being awarded his medal brought a tear to their eyes. It reminded us all just what the Games are all about and the spirit that underlies them. The 27-year-old Arkansas native is a multi-talented athlete who is also a sprinter. He became a serious athlete at age 15 and winning the gold is thus far the pinnacle of his career. In a touching gesture guaranteed to tug the hardest heartstrings, he decided to pay tribute in front of the whole world to the person who helped him climb to that pinnacle, even if she doesn’t remember it now. Henderson dedicated the gold to his mother. And he confided that she is one of the millions of people world-wide who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease—the most devastating form of dementia. ...

Eastern practices like yoga and meditation have always been popular with a certain subset of the population, but over the past decade or so they’ve really gone mainstream. If I’m honest, I’d have to say that this is due in large part to the “me too” mentality. Yoga and meditation suddenly became hip for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that highly visible celebrities started endorsing them.   And that’s a good thing. People who might once have scoffed at trying something as “out there” as meditation or yoga have taken up the practices. Some, of course, drop out as soon as the novelty wears off. But for those who stick with it, the health benefits are often significant.   The sudden popularity of these and other mindful practices have had an added benefit: the anecdotal stories have spurred science to look into what effects they really have on our health. It’s thanks to this sudden upsurge in ...

It’s a running joke that cats are really aliens bent on taking over the world and it turns out, the idea may not be so far off the mark. We’ve long known that cats play host to a parasite which can infect humans—this is why pregnant women are exempt from emptying the litter box. But while scientists thought that the parasite goes dormant once it infects humans, recent research shows that this isn’t the case at all. Not only does the beast not go dormant—it lives in your brain and exerts a sort of mind control. Aliens have invaded your brain. For real Toxoplasmosis gondii is a parasite that normally infects cats. It’s famous among scientists for its novel method of spreading itself from one cat to another—it hijacks rats and changes their behavior so that they’re more likely to get eaten. That’s more than a little creepy. Toxo leaves the host cat via cat feces. A rat comes in contact with it through contaminated ...

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