Is Beauty A Brain Health Recommendation?

What if the things we focus on become our reality?

There is a ready supply of Brain Health Recommendations on how to keep our brains healthy.  Typically they include;

  1. Physical activity.  Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity a week. 
  1. Hydration.  Drinking water and juices can help keep our brains in good shape. 
  1. Novel challenges.  Confronting ourselves with learning opportunities that are new and interesting.
  1. Living a Mediterranean lifestyle.  Eating fresh vegetables and fruits, especially those with vibrant colours. Getting out and socializing with others.
  1. Restfulness.  Sleeping at least 7 hours a night, and enjoy the benefits of relaxation, perhaps meditation during the day. 

From: Brain Health in Memory Care by Krystal Culler, Cathee Steghl, Patrick Cleary & Caroline Larimore.  Today’s Geriatric Medicine, July August, 2020, 22-25.

Who can argue with those five suggestions? But as Shakespeare put it (Hamlet, Act 11, scene 2) ‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’

Harvard psychologist  Ellen Langer had undertaken a couple of studies involving elderly patients. In one, she found that nursing-home residents who had exhibited early stages of memory loss were able to do better on memory tests when they were given incentives to remember — showing that in many cases, indifference was being mistaken for brain deterioration. In another, now considered a classic of social psychology, Langer gave houseplants to two groups of nursing-home residents. She told one group that they were responsible for keeping the plant alive and that they could also make choices about their schedules during the day. She told the other group that the staff would care for the plants, and they were not given any choice in their schedules. Eighteen months later, twice as many subjects in the plant-caring, decision-making group were still alive than in the control group. Ellen Langer back in 1979 and subsequently has demonstrated just how much our mindset influences our physical and mental ageing, and that body of evidence grows and grows. 

Langer then ran an experiment with a group of men in their 70s that has come to be known as “the counterclockwise study.” 

For five days, they lived inside a monastery that had been designed to look just like it was 1959. There were vintage radios and black-and-white TVs instead of cassette players and VHS. The books that lined the shelves were ones that were popular at the time. The magazines, TV shows, clothes and music were all throwbacks to that exact period.

At the end of five days, the men stood taller, had greater manual dexterity, and even better vision. Independent judges said they looked younger. In 2010, a BBC show recreated the experiment with ageing celebrities to similar effect. Langer’s research has led her to conclude that we can prime our minds to feel younger, which in turn can make our bodies follow suit.

“People with more positive feelings towards ageing walk faster, they do better on memory tests, they heal quicker, and they live longer. Even with brains full of plaques and tangles, some people stayed sharp to the end. What did they have in common? A sense of purpose. And what’s the biggest obstacle to having a sense of purpose in late life? A culture that tells us that getting older means shuffling offstage. That’s why the World Health Organization is developing a global anti-ageism initiative to extend not just life span but health span.”Ashton Applewhite TED Talks 2017

I would also mention all the work around the Polyvagal nerve that runs from the head to the gut, and  Gabor Maté who has studied the impacts of trauma upon our bodies.

So, here is just one tip beauty. Beauty?

You might be surprised by all the evidence ( https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/147470490500300109) that shows how beauty impacts positively upon our wellbeing. The gift of a bunch of flowers has  a powerful impact upon mood. A gift of any sort can lift someone’s mood but flowers have a longer lasting ability to lift mood. We know that a walk amongst nature is beneficial and is increasingly prescribed by doctors.

Eco-therapy – “Being able to connect with nature has positive mental health benefits. And it has been shown that being more active in green environments can boost your mood and  self-esteem far more than simply exercising alone.” Mind

So, I am not arguing for the pressure that society places on looking beautiful, a beauty perceived through the eyes of fashion which all too often brings pressure and increases anxiety, giving our inner critic a field day. I am arguing for appreciating the beauty that surrounds us. 

Start with an appreciative question, what beauty can I see in this moment?

In Appreciative Inquiry The things that we focus on becomes our reality.

 On a summer day I sat with a small sketch book in a garden and began to draw. I had around half an hour. It soon became clear to me that I needed all day! The more I looked the more I saw and at times I caught myself just looking and marvelling, rather than sketching. At the end of my half an hour I felt full of appreciation for nature and a great sense of calm energy. Now, when I look at my little sketch I find it easy to take myself back to that moment.  

What beauty can you –

See

Hear

Touch

Sense

How does that beauty positively affect your body? And if you breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth like a smoker as you appreciate the beauty, how do you now feel. Capture the moment it will keep you feeling younger!

Now Its About Who You Are

Retirement is not a time to sleep, but a time to become truly awake. To be truly awake is to have a real sense of your past, what is happening now and what might be.

If you have been busy all of your working life you can opt to live a busy active life but are you swopping business for another busyness to drown out the silence?

Once many cultures were mindful of the knowledge an elder had acquired, but now knowledge is instantly available through technology. Retirement means yo are no longer in competition with others, now is the time to distill your wisdom. You don’t have to be like anybody else or worry about what they think of you, only what you think of yourself.

There is no need to retire in the same way as every other soon to to retire or retired person. Retirement is a time to discover who you were meant to be now, because what you did has, or will soon come to an end.  No longer is your identity is based on what you do, now its’ about who you are.

How many sliding doors confronted you up to today?

Which doors did you choose to walk through and why?

What enhanced your identity?

What enhanced your self-esteem?

What have you learnt about yourself?

What do you need to do now?

Do you need some creative space to explore?

How can I help you now?

Getting Coached Around Retirement

Whilst retirement doesn’t seem to be a hot topic unless it’s about financial advice, yet it is a vital part of living one’s life to the fullest. When do you think about retirement? Does the question occur when you have successfully made a fortune by forty or is it when your pension falls due? Do you plan to work on past a ‘normal retirement age’?

Experience shows me that people begin to question what their life has become or could become at different points in their lives, my focus is on retirement because it provides an important focal point.

Childhood is the prologue, the career the first act, retirement the second act and death the third act. Once upon a time retirement generally meant one had perhaps five or six years left but today we are not too suprised when people make one hundred. So that could mean another forty years, pretty much as long as one’s working life!

Growing up as a child the questions are around what you will be. During a career the questions are around what have you become, what do you do, with possible sub-questions around what that involves, and with status around complexity, challenges, status and rewards. That whole structure disappears with retirement, so who then are you?

The questions we ask can be all important. The opportunity to use creative explorations can bring new insights.

What will you become?

I have brought together a range of creative tools and techniques to allow discoveries to be made and reflectively marinated to allow new positive approaches life.

As your coach on this journey I look forward to working with you.

More workshops are planned and I continue to coach one to one..

If you have questions please let me know.

The Rules For Creativity?

Rule 1: Feel safe to explore.

Rule 2: Never stop searching for stimulus.

Rule 3: Allow time for open meditation rather than focused meditation. One allows the mind to wander creatively and the other focuses the mind on one thing such as the breath.

Rule 4: Everything is an experiment.

Rule 5: Fight the inner interference that stops you working. Remember P = p – i (Performance equals potential minus our minds imposter syndrome interference)

Rule 6: Nothing is a mistake, there is only make

Rule 7: Don’t create and analyse at the same time, they’re different processes

Rule 8: THE ONLY RULE IS WORK. If you work it will lead to something. Its the people who do the work who catch on to things.

Rule 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself, its lighter than you think.

Rule 10: ” We’re breaking all of the rules. Even our own rules, and how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities’ John Cage

Apapted from the work of “Sister’ Mary Kent, who revolutionised graphic design and encouraged the creativity of thousands of people.

Draw Up. Draw In, Drawing

Drawing, that thing that most people do even if it’s an absent minded doodle. Drawing, that process that art schools condemned not so very long ago, but is now right back in fashion (it never really went away for most of us). Drawing, that thing that needs constant practice. Drawing, that thing that helps you develop your own language for expression. Drawing, that thing that thing where people say, ‘oh that’s good,’ ‘that’s not right, but mind you, I’m rubbish at drawing.’

No two people draw alike. Your drawings are as distinctive as your handwriting

I have always made myself work. Don’t just sit staring at the daunting, expectant paper. Just put something down – hopefully it wll lead to another thing, and before you know it the drawing may be underway like a slow locomotive pulling out of the station before it speeds down the track. Gerald Scarfe, The Long Drawn Out Trip, Little Brown 2019. https://www.geraldscarfe.com

The moment you put down two or three marks on a piece of paper, you get relationships. They’ll start to look like something. If you draw two little lines they might look like two figures or two trees. One was made first, one second. We read all kinds of things into marks. You can suggest landscape, people and faces with extremely little. It all depends on the human ability to see a mark as a depiction. David Hockney, http://www.hockney.com/works/drawings/2010s

Drawing could start anywhere. A crayon scuffs paper and the child holding it sees a mark emerge. A brush runs along a batten and look, there is a line. Yhe skid of a swung stick describes fine curves in the sand; the effects of our actions interest us and we make further marks. A zone of attention forms. Within this mental zone, whatever dots, edges or curves we produce seem to gang up and find ways of relating to one another- rhythms, behaviour patterns. Julian Bell. Ways of Drawing, Thames and Hudson 2019. https://www.royaldrawingschool.org

How Drawing Can Set You Free www.ted.com/talks/shantell_martin_how_drawing_can_set_you_free

Draw up, draw in, draw something today!

5 Objects and Some Flowers

If you were to prepare a still life using 5 objects that symbolize what was most important to you in your life so far what would they be?

How would you arrange these objects or metaphors?

Flowers bring colour and a need for light, they offer beauty, smell, seasonality etc. and evoke memories.

Would you photograph them, paint/draw them, make a model of them, just write prose/poetry about them – maybe I’ll draw something from the prose/poetry? The objects are few but the possibilities are up to you

The last sentence is the clue. I’m interested in you sending photograps or documents to me,(kevinshome@me.com) to see how they collectively emerge and what is evoked in me as an artist when I receive whatever you offer.

This idea is based on an original idea of Charles and Elizabeth Handy