Back to School and Your Brain

By: Tina Davidson

First_Day_of_School_Thumbs_down

It’s that time of year again. Social media is filled with pictures of kids sporting new shoes and holding chalkboards to document their current grade level.

The first day of school should be a happy day for students, right?

Rarely do you see a sobbing child in a back-to-school photo (I know I cried when I started kindergarten) or belligerent photos of kids flipping off the camera  (a little league softball team learned the repercussions of this the hard way).

Although not all kids appreciate having their picture taken, they all love going back to school, right?

A thumbs down picture might be as far as some moms will let their kids go in expressing their disdain for having to go back to school.

The topic of kids being able to express themselves was addressed in a book I (sorta) read during summer vacation.

The first time I busted out the book, “How Children Fail,” by John Holt, my youngest son was appalled.

“It’s just mean to write a book about how children fail.”

B. Davidson, age 8

I tried to explain that it was a book about helping kids and preventing failure.

To my dismay, I failed to finish reading it, but I did succeed in reading the book’s summary.

One section of the summary that resonated with me was a discussion the author had with teachers.  Holt felt that most teachers aren’t honest about their feelings of impartiality (liking some students more than others).  This creates feelings of guilt in teachers and some force fake smiles around their students.

He went on to mention that the children in these classrooms end up resenting their phony teachers and this in turn creates phony kids. **You’ll have to read the passage to get all the context.**

“As we are not honest with them, so we won’t let children be honest with us. To begin with, we require them to take part in the fiction that school is a wonderful place and that they love every minute of it. They learn early that not to like school or the teacher is verboten, not to be said, not even to be thought. ”

“How Children Fail” by John Holt, Pg. 284

Have you ever corrected your child for complaining about school?

Guilty here.

I don’t want to encourage Eeyores (poor dear!) when it comes to school, but every kid should be free to express themselves.

Here’s a scary passage from the summary:

“It is a rare child who, anywhere in his growing up, meets even one older person with whom he can talk openly about what most interests him, concerns him, worries him.”

YIKES!!

Looking back, I’m glad my son expressed his dislike to me about my choice in summer reading books.

Holt also has a book titled, “How Children Learn.” I should probably let my son see me reading that one too. Or at least ask him how he feels about learning.

How do you feel about all this? Need some tools to help communicate with your child or help them with school?

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.

www.mindsetonline.com

Check out the book, “Mindset,” by Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck. I read all of this fascinating book and I’m continuing to work on my mindset.

People with a growth mindset are also constantly monitoring what’s going on, but their internal monologue is not about judging themselves and others in this way. Certainly they’re sensitive to positive and negative information, but they’re attuned to its implications for learning and constructive action: What can I learn from this? How can I improve?

www.mindsetonline.com

Whether we are “in school” or not there is always more to learn.

Have a great school year!

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Your Brain’s Playlist

By: Tina Davidson

Tina_Davidson_tinadavidson_wordpress

This is me with “Tina” in Germany circa 2000.  Photo Credit: One of my college roommates. 

Music evokes strong emotions and can bring back memories long forgotten.

When I hear the song, “Cotton Eye Joe,” by Rednex, I am transported back to college and I picture myself surrounded by friends dancing under a black light.

I never really thought of my current playlist (Cotton Eye Joe, you didn’t make the cut) as a scientific tool, but now that’s changed.

Read All About It

My mindset has changed thanks to the book, “Your Playlist Can Change Your Life.” It boasts, “10 Proven Ways Your Favorite Music Can Revolutionize Your Health, Memory, Organization, Alertness, and More.”

Now that’s some big claims. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’m listening to a lot of music and paying better attention to it.

Parental Advisory:  Stick to the songs that bring back good vibes.

Brain Tunes

Chapter 10, “How to Use Your Brain’s Own Music,” intrigued me the most. Music can be made from your brain’s own waves and added to your playlist.

Bonus Track:  Google “Brain Music Therapy” (BMT) and “Galina Mindlin“– once you’ve discovered BMT, there might be a cure for your insomnia after all.

Pump up the Volume

Here’s a few songs from my Summer Playlist:

I may regret my choices later (but all scientists have a work in progress, right?)

  • “Shake Shake Shake (Shake Your Booty)”- KC & the Sunshine Band

  • “Help”- The Beatles

  • “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard”- Blotto

  • “Last Night a DJ Saved my Life”- Indeep

  • “Obviously 5 Believers”- Old Crow Medicine Show

  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling”- The Piano Guys

 

Your_Playlist_Can_Change_Your_Life_Tina_Davidson_blog

Where’s the Show?

There’s nothing quite like hearing your playlist songs performed live. I doubt I’ll hear any of my summer playlist songs at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center any time soon, but looks like the 2017-2018 season is going to be a good one.

Do you have a favorite local performing arts center? Here’s my top picks of the upcoming Cal Poly Arts shows (wish I could afford to attend them all):

  • Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends- Oct 8

  • Steep Canyon Rangers- Jan 21

  • Improvised Shakespeare- March 16

  • Black Violin- Feb 17

  • Itzhak Perlman- Jan 16

  • Michael Feinstein- Jan 26

  • Andrew Bird- Oct 16

  • Koresh Dance Company- April 14

  • Cameron Carpenter- Feb 26

  • Brasil Guitar Duo- Oct 14

I Heard you on the Wireless

Special thanks to Cal Poly DJ, “Jack Funk,” for pouring out the groovy tunes on Wednesday evenings on KCPR (congrats on your graduation). My boys enjoyed listening to your show during our twenty-minute commute to gymnastics.

They’ll never forget that:

“Last night a DJ saved my life with a song.” Lyrics by Indeep

 

Happy listening! Here’s to a happy and healthy brain.

Please share your summer playlist in the comments.

 

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Strengthening Your Kindness Muscle

By: Tina Davidson

battleship

There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise.  TheAtlantic.com

Do you have a naturally strong kindness muscle?

I’m all for exercising kindness. In a world that often seems unkind, let’s focus on the small steps we can take to be kind to others– setting an example for the next generation.

Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outwards touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.  Dr. David Hamilton

Even if you can’t travel around the world giving monetary gifts to people like Leon Logothetis did in The Kindness Diaries (I haven’t read his book), you have talents and gifts that are unique and worth sharing.

Perhaps you’ve got an incredible smile or singing voice?

Whatever it is, be kind and share it with those in your life. I’m sure they’ll thank you for it and perhaps be inspired to pass some kindness along.  Their brain might even make it a habit.

Sources & Further Reading:

Masters of Love- Science says lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity. Emily Esfahani Smith.  TheAtlantic.com, June 12, 2014.

The 5 Side Effects of Kindness- 

The Kindness Diaries: One Man’s Quest To Transform Lives While Traveling Around The World With No Money– Jim DobsonForbes.com, December 14, 2014.

University of California – San Diego. “How the brain makes, and breaks, a habit: Neuroscience study identifies brain chemicals, neural pathway involved in switching between habitual behavior, deliberate decision-making.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160526185419.htm>.

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World’s First Implanted Brain Computer

By: Tina Davidson

remote-control-brain

Someone put a remote control in her brain and she can communicate?

It seems that this is more likely to happen in a sci-fi movie (or an episode of The Simpsons) than reality, but thanks to a group of researchers, this cutting edge technology is making communication possible for Hanneke De Bruijne.

De Bruijne has ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and developed locked-in-syndrome (almost all her voluntary muscles, except her eyes, are paralyzed). She can’t speak, but thanks to the help of a surgically implanted  brain computer interface (which works like a remote control), she can now type out words.

“This is the world’s first totally implanted brain-computer interface system that someone has used in her daily life with some success,” said Dr. Jonathan R. Wolpaw, the director of the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies in Albany.

I recommend you check out Steph Yin’s entire article, “Brain Implant Eases Communication by Late-Stage A.L.S. Patient.”

Please keep up the good work, brain researchers!!

Thanks to The Tribune (sanluisobispo.com) for running the article that originally caught my attention.

Source: Steph Yin, The New York Times

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Have you read, “Peak–Secrets from the New Science of Expertise”?

artist-mom

By: Tina Davidson

Did you ever dream of becoming great at something? Maybe it was singing or playing piano?

Well, with enough deliberate practice you might just make your dreams come true.

I’ve been reading,”Peak–Secrets from the New Science of Expertise,” by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. I recommend you pick up a copy. It is fascinating stuff and I won’t give away too much. Let’s just say I was especially impressed with the memorization skills of London taxi drivers.  I was also quite intrigued with Laszlo Polgar’s experiment–his goal was to raise three genius children. It seems he succeeded.

Here’s my favorite quote from Peak (pg. 179):

“Deliberate practice can open the door to a world of possibilities that you may have been convinced were out of reach. Open that door.”

I hope I’ve shared enough to “peak” your interest about the book.

Let me know what you think!

 

 

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Wireless Education and Your Brain

EMF_wifi_toothbrushWireless Education and Your Brain

By: Tina C. Davidson

I recently saw an advertisement that I found kinda alarming. I wonder if anyone else did a double take when they first saw a picture of the iPotty?

Now, thanks to the iPotty, toddlers can use their wi-fi devices hands free in the bathroom. It would be awful if children got their tablets messy while using the bathroom, right?

Is this high-tech helper developmentally necessary?  Most children learned to potty train without the help of an iPad stationed above the toilet. Sorry, iPotty. (To read more about how technology is influencing children, check out the book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. Sadly, tech addiction is starting young!)

So, what should we do since the high-tech potties, toasters, cars, fridges, helmets, dolls, toothbrushes (and who knows what else) all have wi-fi capabilities and are emitting EMFs? What are the health implications for our little and big people?

You can start by checking out a free quiz to test your knowledge of wi-fi safety. The quiz is brought to you by WirelessEducation.org and according to their website:

Wireless Education is the new training portal for Wireless Tech Safety. Our core business is focused on educationtraining and safety. We have researched medical and scientific information so you don’t have to.

I like the sound of that, but I’ll glean what I can from the Wireless Education site and others as I continue my quest for knowledge on the topic. (I can’t sit back and let them have all the research fun!)

How’d you do on the quiz?

I’m sure Jeromy Johnson, an EMF expert, would have scored 100% on the wi-fi safety quiz. He gave a TEDx Talk in February of 2016 on the issue. I recommend you check it out, if you haven’t already.

TEDx talks have become a popular way to reach a large audience on various topics (once videos are online they can go viral). Live talks, operas, musicals, and plays have always been an important tool for passing along ideas.  Your brain will most likely remember something better that it has seen and heard. I think a live performance can be a very memorable experience for your brain.

So far, there’s only one musical out there (that I know of!) that is addressing the health effects of wireless technology. Here’s more on the intention of the musical, Innocenzo:

A Note On Our Intention

We understand the “controversial” nature of this subject. Our aim is not to create or add to any existing conflicts. We are telling the story we have lived with the aim of prevention. Given our experience with electrosmog (ie, becoming seriously ill from it), we have decided not to wait for every scientist in the world to come to an agreement before taking action.

Not everyone is in consensus about the ill effects of wireless technology, but I agree that is is safer to take action now than to “wait and see.” It is encouraging that playwrights and web developers are doing their part to spread the word on how to be safe.

How about your readers? What do you think should be done to further protects consumers from electrosmog? Have you seen Innocenzo?

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Coloring Pages and Your Brain

coloring-page-icon-st-patricks-day-shamrock-luck

It was over three years ago when I created my first coloring page for my sons using the software, Adobe Illustrator. I stayed up late into the night learning the program and creating things for my children to color–a much needed creative outlet (confession–I worked on the pages more for myself then them).  After I had completed about ten pages, I had GRAND ideas of creating and marketing coloring books in my spare time.

I quickly realized this was not going to work out… unless I wanted to give up all forms of hygiene and many other time consuming necessities for survival. However, I did end up creating a website, with the help of my tech savvy older brother, where all my friends/family can download them for free (this includes you, so enjoy!).

Those were the glory days–where every coloring page I created was new and exciting. The possibilities seemed endless. (Just think about how many pages one could create on birds?)

Lately, I’ve been in a coloring page creative slump and have focused my creative energy on other “artistic” pursuits.

So, when some inspiration came to me to create a page for St. Patrick’s Day based off a green truck that my youngest son had perforated at school, you can imagine my excitement!!

The minute I saw the truck below, I had a silly vision of a leprechaun driving a green truck and spreading cheer with shamrocks instead of exhaust fumes.

When was the last time you were inspired?

Green-Truck-Montessori-work

Here’s some finished products below colored by my kids. They never cease to inspire me. Gotta love the pink road chosen by my oldest son because he wanted to make the colors more “exciting.” I get it! Think outside the box. 🙂

coloring-page-shamrock-truck.jpg

 

Can Coloring Help Your Brain?

What benefits does coloring provide? Did you know some people find that coloring books help them take their mind off of chronic pain?

I find it relaxing to create coloring pages and others find it relaxing to color them in. There were millions of copies of coloring books geared towards adults sold last year and it looks like the trend will continue for this year. Why not break out those markers and join the fun!

So, what’s the appeal?

According to Parade Magazine’s article, “50 Shades of Happy–The New Joy of Coloring:”

“It engages both sides of your brain in that it’s both creative and tactical,” says psychologist Alice Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Boston. The creativity comes with envisioning the color selection and how it will play throughout the piece, while the tactical involves applying your decisions to the artist’s design. Both keep your right brain from taking over and wandering where it wants, as it does when you just doodle.

Coloring books are also a good ways for people to enjoy life away from screens and electronic devices. All it takes is a coloring page and some coloring utensils–whether it be crayons, markers, or colored pencils. (Although there are plenty of coloring apps out there… remember there is an actual brain benefit by holding a pencil in your hand verses swiping a finger.)

For many, coloring books may be a good form of art therapy. Recently, it has been thought that the rise in adult coloring books has perhaps contributed to the rise of art therapy’s respect and global recognition.

“…United States is not alone in using art therapy as an effective approach to various physical and mental afflictions, including emotional distress, addiction, social development, anxiety, self-esteem issues, and more.” Art Business News, 2015.

For those with Alzheimer’s, art therapy may help improve cognitive skills. It doesn’t seem like it would hurt to try some form of art therapy out with Alzheimer’s patients?

Even the color you choose can have a calming and healing effect on your body. For example,

“The psychological effects from using the color green are similar to those of the color blue, and are perceived as being soothing:” PRWeb Newswire, 2013.

Why Color Alone?

I hope you’ll find some time to download a coloring page you like and share it with a friend.

Perhaps you can find some inspiration in the book, “Draw Your Big Idea: The Ultimate Creativity Tool for Turning Thoughts into Action and Dreams into Reality” by Heather Willems and Nora Herting. I’m interested in checking it out (the title seemed really good!).

For those on the Central Coast, check out slolibrary.org for more information on the Healing Power of Art for Adults taking place on Friday, March 18, 2016.

Healing Power of Art for Adults
Anne Kellogg will lead a workshop exploring the creative process of art and its use to give voice to your deepest self.  Space is limited.  Pre registration required.  Please call or stop by to sign up.

 

I feel like you’re never too old to color.

Keep on creating and pursuing your dreams! I hope this post contributed in some way to your brain health and happiness. 🙂

Sources

“KindaChic.com’s Tips for Selecting The Right Colors to Use in Every Room of The Home.”PRWeb Newswire 2 July 2013. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

 

Parade Magazine. http://parade.com/409702/hdowdle/50-shades-of-happy-the-new-joy-of-coloring/

Gross, Anisse. “Beyond coloring books: gifts & sidelines 2016: coloring books aren’t going away anytime soon, but publishers are already on the hunt for what’s next in gifts.” Publishers Weekly18 Jan. 2016: 24+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

Fard, Farah Joan. “The expanding reach of art therapy: though it’s a relatively new approach to mental health treatment, art therapy is gaining traction and making a difference in people’s lives.” Art Business News Winter 2015: 34+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

 

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