Although the daylight hours are getting longer, we still have the drearier months of January and February ahead. This is the perfect time to think about Mental Health and what we can do to overcome the winter blues and keep our spirits up. A growth mindset perspective embraces this challenge as a positive challenge and the perfect opportunity to keep ourselves healthy and boost our mental wellness. The Conscious Care and Support program (training offered by CLKD) is providing many insights to wellness for everyone, whether using or providing supports and services. First of all, let’s understand what is going on. A lot is being said these days about our brain, particularly the Medial Prefrontal Cortex (MPFC) and how taking care of it is as important as good eating, enough sleep and exercise. The MPFC is the upper part of the brain that, when strengthened, lowers our negative default reactions such as restlessness, impulsiveness, “auto pilot” tenancies, and can override anxiety, fear, fight, flight, or freeze reactions left over from our ancient ancestry when, if we weren’t always on our toes and hyper attentive, we would be eaten! Due to the progression of the human species, this negative default reaction is now a faulty response. What we need now is to be aware and mindful of our own thoughts and show compassion towards others and their perspectives. Mindfulness and aerobic exercise are two ways to increase calm and decrease anxiety. Becoming more mindful simply means paying attention and noticing, especially the things we take for granted, like how we breathe. We should ask ourselves: “what am I seeing, hearing, feeling… what are my thoughts”. Dr. John Ratey (2014) says that aerobic exercise is “miracle grow” for the brain. The growth of brain cells occurs because aerobic exercise stresses, and even destroys, some of the brains neurons which help the brain to regenerate more, better, and stronger cells. To determine the level of exercise that will bring your heart rate up, burn off old brain cells and grow new ones try this simple math: Take the number 220, subtract your age, and multiply it by 75 % (220 - age x 75% = heart rate). This will determine how many heart beats per minute is best for you. Brisk walking, jumping on mini-trampoline, or taking the stairs, all count. These new brain cells are activated in the brain’s Medial Prefrontal Cortex (MPFC)…there it is again! Surely, this sounds simple enough. Choose to implement one, or both, of these suggested activities in 2020 and keep track of your progress; not only the amount of time you have practiced these activities, but also how you feel before you start and when you are finished. On March 21, the first day of spring, look back and reflect on the difference these activities have made in your mood and your life! Here’s to 2020, Cheers!
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