cute animal videos build bone

Why cute animal videos are good for your bones

As you may have noticed, cute animal videos have overtaken the internet. One of my favorites is Nature magazine’s Top 10 Cutest Animals in Science 2014 which includes everything from dancing frogs to new species of monkeys to koalas enjoying a nap.

As scientists, we’re not content to just look at cute animal photos or videos, we’re also discovering the effects they have on humans.

For example, Japanese researchers found that after viewing images of baby animals, study participants performed tasks that required focused attention more carefully than those who hadn’t seen the images.

I look forward to seeing work that shows a more important effect of animal videos is the joy that many of these images bring to us.  I believe that being happy, choosing optimism and laughter enhance every aspect of our health. Here are just a few example of how happiness and joy affect our bones:

  • A recent US study found a significant association between marital quality and spinal bone strength for women. Women who reported increase in spousal support had a significantly higher bone density than women who do not have such support. It is reasonable to suggest that greater spousal support would translate into greater happiness, adding support to my long-and held theory that happiness strengthens bone.
  • A Finnish study published January of this year showed older women who were satisfied with their lives had higher bone density and are less likely to develop osteoporosis than unsatisfied peers.

Why not get started building your bones now by taking a look at my favorite video of the Top 10 Cutest Animals in Science 2014?  I do love the dancing frogs — what’s your favorite?

 

References:

Nittono H, Fukushima M, Yano A, Moriya H (2012) The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus. PLoS ONE 7(9): e46362. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046362. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0046362 (accessed 1/21/2015)

Miller- Martinez, et al., Marital histories, marital support, in bone density: findings from the Midlife in the United States Study. Osteoporosis international, published online 15 January, 2014.

Nursing Standard. 29.22,16-16, in print 28 January 2015.

Why I value meditation

iStock_000006845147XSmall“Do less and accomplish more, do nothing and accomplish everything.”

I heard these words from a great meditation teacher some four decades ago. Today I am still fascinated by this concept referring to the fact that deep within us is a supreme intelligence with an amazing organizing power. I find it remarkable that, without the least effort on our part, our 37 trillion cells carry out thousands of functions per second in coordination with each other and with awareness of what every other cell is doing.

The benefits of meditation

Meditation is a simple technique in which we still the body, slow down the breath and quiet the mind… releasing stress and coming closer to the dynamic, yet silent, core within each of us. This silence within rejuvenates our entire miraculous body.

Volumes of scientific research document the multifaceted health benefits of meditation. These range from lowering blood pressure, stress hormones and heart disease to increasing intuition and the capacity to love. One of the most recent studies, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology reports that meditation actually alters gene expression. A single day of intensive meditation was found to turn “on” and “off” selected genes to result in:

• Down regulation of harmful pro-inflammatory genes (COX2 and RIPK2)

• Faster recovery from stress

A few years back, we realized that our choice of foods can impact gene expression, and now we see that our thoughts and mental activity can also impact our basic genetics in a favorable way. My meditation experience I have meditated for more than four decades with uplifting, health-enhancing, sustained benefits. It’s not always easy for me to quiet my mind. Some days my mind relentlessly jumps from thought to thought as I meditate. When I find myself thinking, I just come back to my breath. By sitting and paying attention to my breath, I experience greater happiness and enhanced energy. Even more striking, I become clearer as to my most heartfelt intentions. And, the clearer I become, the more easily my heart-felt goals are fulfilled. Truly, meditation allows me to do less, to sit and do nothing, and accomplish more!

Getting started with your own meditation

Coming into contact with your own great intelligence through meditation, prayer or visualization is an important part of the Better Bones Program. If you’re already meditating, keep it up and go deeper into the silence. If you haven’t started yet, jump on board. You might well start by trying the short meditations I created just for you on my new Meditations for Bone Health CD. I guarantee you will find it worth the time and effort.

 

Reference:

Kaliman, P. et al. Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. Psychoneuroendocrinlogy, vol 40, Feb 2014: 96-107

 

How to overcome your fear

iStock_000000330337XSmallLove and fear are the only two basic emotions according to ancient wisdom. Love expands, strengthens and feels good. Fear contracts, weakens and carries a feeling in the various ranges of terrible.

Both love and fear dramatically influence our physical health… even our bone health.

Ironically, today the message modern medicine brings women about their bone health is a debilitating and fearful message.

Keeping this is mind, I want to remind you that fear is most often a mental construct we create ourselves, and that we have the power to let go of fear and move towards love.

Here’s how I set aside bone-depleting fear messages

When fear strikes, acknowledge the feeling and the contraction it brings. Stop and take note, “Oh yes, I can feel the rising of anxiety and/or fear.”

Accept this unpleasant feeling. Accept the presence of this emotional and physical sensation. Observe “the feel” of anxiety, such as the pit in your stomach or other sensations.

Welcome this old familiar feeling like a lost friend who brings a lesson. Take a few deep breaths and create a space between you and this feeling, just witness it without pushing it away or judging it. Let it be for a few moments as you note how fear feels in your body.

Now let this unpleasant feeling dissipate. Feel the space between you and the fear. Affirm that you are not the fear. Gently let go of the fear.

Willfully direct your intention towards the energy of love. See yourself as an important and protected thread in the tapestry of life. Affirm on the deepest level that all is well.

Love truly is the creative force behind the universe, the source from which we all come. Love and joy have an incredible capacity to heal as noted in this verse “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

Love to you all!

Dr. Brown’s Infinite Decision Maker Exercise

iStock_000015093945XSmallYou and I are infinite choice makers.

Each day we make countless choices — what to eat, what to say, what to think, what to believe, what to doubt, and on and on.

With these quiet decisions we create not only our today, but also our future. Deliberate creation occurs when we know what we want, focus our attention in that direction and make aware, deliberate choices that support our goals.

I know that the idea of deliberate creation may seem overwhelming at times, so to help you get started, here’s my simple, yet empowering Infinite Decision Maker Exercise.

Step 1: Identify a heart-felt desire / goal that you’re having trouble fulfilling.

This can be as simple as the desire to spend one day eating all three meals in a calm and relaxed fashion, chewing the food thoroughly and enjoying the taste of each mouthful. Or it might be a goal that you’ve found a bit difficult to fulfill. In my case, this might be my failed desire not to be harsh with my son when I come home tired from work and find him watching TV, rather than cleaning his unbelievably messy room.

Step 2: Write down the reasons why you want to fulfill this desire or goal.

Gaining deeper insights into WHY you wish to fulfill this desire will add power to the process. Actually writing down your reasons will give you a laser-like focus. Also begin planning when the next opportunity will arise to be a proactive choice maker. This might be the next meal, if you want to be more deliberate with eating. Or you might have to wait until the next time you find yourself spontaneously (and in my case, strongly reacting) to your son’s TV viewing. Be prepared. It’s often difficult to be mindful when you’re in the throes of a serious gut reaction.

Step 3: Stop and make the deliberate choice in alignment with your goals.

Here, the operative word is “stop.” Most of the choices we make are done automatically, without much awareness. Rarely do we catch ourselves or note, “I am making a decision here.” So now, stop and take three deep breaths, recognizing that you are indeed about to make a choice. In creating this mental “space” you will automatically recall why this choice is important.

These three simple steps will bring awareness to your choices and help you to see their fulfillment. I hope you will let me know how this exercise works for you.

 

5 Intentions for a Healthy 2014

Jahr 2014

I believe in the magic of intentions. What we put our attention to has power and grows stronger in our lives. That’s why every New Year I set forth my intentions for the coming year and want to share them with you.

My list will give you a preview about what you can look forward to hearing from me throughout the year, and perhaps it will encourage you to develop your own list.

As you’ll see just by my first intention, 2014 promises to be an exciting and thought-provoking year!

Intention #1: Exploring the healing powers of happiness and love

Thousands of years ago ancient Christians noted, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Being happy, choosing optimism and cultivating love and kindness enhance every aspect of our health. While I admit that right now I have no idea how I’m going to do it, this year I intend to explore the multifaceted healing potential of love.

Intention #2: Moving beyond the myth of bone mineral density

I intend to continue to push the boundaries about what is considered the very basics of bone health. Clearly it is not just bone mineral density that determined bone strength. Over half of all those experiencing an “osteoporotic” fracture do not have what is considered “osteoporosis bone density” — so why is their bone weak? What determines bone strength beyond bone mineral density?

Intention #3: Connecting our emotions, thoughts and nervous system to bone health

Fascinating new research suggest that the autonomic nervous system and our stress response play major roles in bone health maintenance. Worry indeed seems to harm bone — and this year, I would like to find out just how much.

Intention #4: Sharing the truth about bone drugs

Women are told that this or that bone drug will reduce their chance of fracture by up to 60%. Yet when you look carefully at the clinical trials you find data such as three women need to be treated to in order to prevent just one hip fracture at a cost of $162,000.* My intention is to reanalyze the major bone drug trials from a public-interest point of view, sorting out the real facts on how much bone drugs reduce each type of osteoporotic fracture.

Intention #5: Improving natural options for women experiencing menopausal bone loss, especially thin women

The average woman loses 10% of her bone mass in years just before and just after her last period. Thin women often lose more than heavier women, and some women lose up to 20% of their total bone mass. Why is this so? Are their refinements I can make to the Better Bones approach which could even better meet the needs of women near menopause? I intend to find out!

Keeping intention #1 in mind, I wish you the best of health, high spirits and great joy in 2014!

 

Reference:

The Lancet, Volume 349, Issue 9050, Page 505, 15 February 1997. Editorial on FIT Trial, by Adrian Phillips.

 

 

So frustrated you want to scream? Go ahead, it’s good for you!

The anthropologist in me has a long term fascination with ancient cross-cultural concepts of health and healing. And it turns out these concepts include screaming. That’s according to Qi Gong master, Dr. Nan Lu, whose retreat on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC) I attended recently.

How is screaming good for you?Scream_iStock_000006756675XSmall

TCM focuses on the energy and rhythms of specific areas — and organs — of our physical body. In TCM, there are five seasons and Master Lu explained to us that springtime is the season of the liver.

Liver energy likes to flow, but the energy that feeds the liver’s well-being can be obstructed by frustration. This is significant because Master Lu contends that most contemporary health problems in this country are related to the liver.

He recommends we turn springtime into a new start by learning to “go with the flow.” If we take the first step and recognize when we’re frustrated we can discharge it through movement and, yes, screaming. Of course, you shouldn’t start screaming at other people when you feel frustrated, but vocalizing loudly when you’re at home can release lots of tension very quickly.

More help for liver energy: Try the simple, cleansing Tree Shake

Here’s a movement exercise that can free up your liver energy. Stand tree-like, nice and tall and then swoop your body down toward the floor and come up shaking like a tree in the wind. Shake around like a tree that knows how to go with the flow because it can sway in the wind without resisting and becoming rigid. And then as your outstretched fingertips reach toward the sky like the tree’s highest branches, gather up all your frustration and release it with a whopping scream.

Just by using the Tree Shake, I’ve learned to recognize and free myself from frustration with a powerful, therapeutic verbal release. My liver energy is all better for it and I am reminded that all is well. Oh yes, I do warn my staff and household members not to worry about the screams. It’s just my healthy way of saying goodbye to frustration.

Now go ahead and try it! Here’s a one minute video of Dr. Lu demonstrating the Tree Shake for Liver Cleansing.

 

From fear to empowerment

What is it that allows someone to look at a difficult, even life-threatening, event as a source of empowerment, instead of being overcome with fear? Allow me to introduce you to Carole Baggerly, the founder of Grassroots Health, a nonprofit organization focusing on public education and health advocacy through vitamin D use and research.

carole_portrait_0709-trimCarole’s amazing story starts with a diagnosis of both breast cancer and osteoporosis. She says she “reached the same freezing point the public now has — I didn’t know what to do.”

However, instead of staying frozen fear, Carole was driven to find out everything she could about vitamin D and cancer. Her research convinced her that the public needed to know about the benefits of vitamin D.

Now, Carole has become a true leader of the movement to show and share the true power of vitamin D, despite what certain government organizations or pharmaceutical companies may say about it.

I invited Carole to lecture here in Syracuse. She was just beginning to go on the road to raise public awareness about vitamin D and bringing together experts interested in helping the public. What I recall most about Carole was dynamism and her commitment to spreading the word on the new, life-saving, science of vitamin D.

Now we can all share in the results of Carole’s efforts through weekly webinars featuring vitamin D researchers who use their expertise to answer questions submitted by participants. View all Grassroots video webinars at https://grassrootshealth.net/project/videos.

 

My prescription: laughter every day

Mature women (50s and 60s) in workout clothes. Focus on woman in foreground.

What makes you crack up laughing no matter what? For me, I really get a kick out of Jon Stewart’s political and social satire. For one of my friends, it’s those crazy cat videos on YouTube — even when she’s watching the same video again — for the 100th time. While I tend to be more of a dog person, how can I argue with her choice for laughter?

Improving our bone health (and more) certainly includes a prescription for fun and laughter. It’s well-known that chronic stress, excessive worry, and sustained fear create health issues — including the disruption of neuroendocrine functioning and weakening of bone. Numerous studies show that laughter helps to decrease stress, improve immune function and even reduce our response to pain.

More benefits of laughter

I just read a study comparing the physical response during a hearty chuckle to what happens during exercise. Researchers found people who belly-laughed at funny videos could tolerate pain more effectively than those who had watched a dry documentary. This reaction is likely due to an increase in the laughters’ pain-managing endorphins, which is the same response that occurs when wfunnies_2e exercise.

Of course, we’ve all experienced the way sharing a good joke or being silly brings us together and strengthens our feelings of belonging and acceptance by others. What’s more, anthropologists continue to investigate how laughter has promoted human connection throughout our history and in different cultures today.

With all the clear benefits of laughter, I suggest we all be open to the possibilities of increasing opportunities for humor and joy in our lives. Here’s my prescription: Since you’re 30 times more likely to laugh in a social setting than alone, reach out now to friends, family or others and do or say something that makes you all laugh out loud — right now and often.

 

References:

Dunbar, R.I.M., (2011). Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold. Proc. R. Soc. B 22 March 2012 vol. 279 no. 1731 1161-1167. Published online September 14, 2011 doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1373 http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/279/1731/1161 (accessed 11.26.12)

Provine, R. R., & Fischer, K. R. (1989). Laughing, smiling, and talking: Relation to sleeping and social context in humans. Ethology, 83(4), 295-305.

 

How challenging emotional experiences can help us stay healthy

Dr Brown and MikeI sent my teenage son off to college this fall. Like thousands of other families, we spent a good part of the summer organizing and planning to make sure he would be ready for the start of classes. By the time he was finally on campus, we were both thrilled about this exciting new phase of his life. I had even taken the time to consider how I might feel about my son leaving home and thought I was fully prepared.

But I wasn’t.

To be honest, my emotions surprised me. I had a pit in my stomach and was sadder than I had anticipated. But at the same time, I felt proud and happy for my son.

Strong emotional events usually lead to deeper self-awareness — spiritually and physically

As we continue the journey of our lives, we are inevitably confronted by events that stir our emotions, whether it’s a child’s passage into adulthood, personal trauma or loss, or the illness of someone we love. While we know that staying positive and upbeat are keys elements of better bones and good health, we should also make sure to let ourselves “feel the pinch” of life’s changes. And it’s not all doom and gloom because there are good lessons to be learned.
When something life-changing happens — good or bad — we often feel scared, and our physical bodies reflect it. Maybe you get butterflies in your stomach, or feel nauseated, or lose your appetite altogether. While this is unnerving when it happens, it can make you more aware of the impact that an event can have on your emotions and well being.

What’s the upside to a challenging emotional experience?

You can’t go through life without stress, loss, or sadness and you certainly can’t just flick a switch to be happy. Instead, give yourself the space and time to accept what’s happened so you can process it in a realistic, productive way. And you can use it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and life in general.

I know that when you’re sad, unhappy, or anxious the feeling seems as if it will last forever. But time has a funny, wonderful way of helping us heal from difficult emotional challenges. It doesn’t take long before we begin to feel better, more like ourselves.

And that may be the most surprising emotion of all.

Positive intention for getting to sleep and staying asleep

Science has shown that sleep plays a critical role in bone health. However, from my patients’ experiences — as well as a few nights spent tossing and turning myself — I’ve also learned that getting a good night’s sleep may be easier said than done for many of us.

View of a retired senior woman sleeping in bed

When we’ve been having trouble sleeping night after night, it becomes a habit to crawl into bed every night already stressed that we won’t be able to fall asleep.

Unfortunately, while this worry is understandable, it may be the very stress that is keeping us awake. That’s because sustained stress increases cortisol levels, which in turn tell our bodies to stay alert — and awake.

One of the first ideas I introduce to my patients who have trouble sleeping is the idea of developing a focused, positive intention to sleep soundly through the night.

Here are some ways to do so

  • Visualize sleeping through the night and waking up refreshed in the morning.
  • As you lie down, become aware of the relaxing sensation of your bed, sheets, and pillows — notice how good they feel and take a deep stretch. On cold winter nights I love getting into a warm bed, so I heat it up with an electric blanket (unplugging before I get in). I take time to appreciate the warmth and I bask in a feeling of well being.
  • Take calming breaths deep into the belly and intentionally let go of any thoughts or worries. Imagine them floating off into space and know they’ll be fine for the night to be picked up tomorrow — if you choose.
  • Uncover hidden stimulants. Most women with sleep issues are already avoiding coffee and chocolate because of the caffeine content. These women would also do well to pay close attention to reducing intake of decaffeinated coffee and tea, mate, coffee-flavored ice cream and yogurt, and some sodas — all of which may contain enough caffeine to disturb sleep.
  • Watching TV or reading horror or high-intensity novels right before bed can also be agitating and interfere with sleep.

Positive intentions for sleep can begin well before bedtime. I have recently begun studying with a Qi gong master to learn how practicing mindfulness can help normalize our body rhythms, as well as clear and calm the mind throughout the day.

I also set aside the half hour before climbing into bed for relaxing activities. Some of us need as little as 15 minutes to wind down, while others benefit from up to an hour of rest/relaxation time, for activities such as a hot bath or meditation. And what is considered relaxing can be different for each one of us — so take some time to find what works best for you.