Doing Life Together

ID-100220921Music, dance, drawing, reading, listening to poetry–all ways we can engage the arts. But is there a connection between staying young and engaging these activities?

Yes, engaging in the arts helps you stay young.

1) Take up dancing. Dancing is not only aerobic but it challenges the brain. So the benefit of improved blood flow to the brain and the mental tasks involved in dancing have been shown to lower the risk of dementia. Maybe it’s time to take that salsa class or sign up for Zumba and dance your way into a healthier brain.

2) Take up an instrument or continue to play one. For years, I have played the piano and flute because I enjoy it. But now I know that continuing to play those instruments could help my aging brain. A study from Stanford University School of Medicine showed that baroque music was especially good. So pull out that Bach piece and improve your rusty playing skills. It’s not only relaxing for many of us, but engages our brains in ways that help memory and focus.

3) Read poetry. Drink it in, don’t be distracted and think about the deeper meaning of the poem. Too often we read without focusing and read too many things, downloading too much information to our brains. This isn’t good. But if we take a poem, read it with focus, think about it and allow the beauty of poetry to sink in, this is good for the brain. Go ahead, pull out a classic like, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost and meditate on it. Better yet, read portions of the Song of Solomon and let it sink into your soul. It’s not only good for your spirit, but also your brain.


Yesterday, I heard a CNN reporter talking about the movie 50 Shades of Grey like she was promoting a Disney Movie. I was stunned by what she was saying. She was giddy with approval (not sure how that was journalism) and telling me to take my husband or boyfriend to see the movie. Oh, but leave dad at home.

So, in her opinion, I would want to sit with my husband or boyfriend and watch Dakota Johnson topless having bondage sex. This would be a great date or experience? According to the reporter this would be fun!

All I could think of is how uncomfortable and embarrassing this would be. I would want Dakota to put her clothes on and stop allowing a man to hurt and objectify her. I would be distraught at the porn, thinking this is some dad’s little girl. Actually, I would probably be yelling this in the theatre, so it is best I don’t go.

I openly admit I haven’t read the books and I won’t see the movie. The media hype has been over the edge and the true critics see Fifty Shades as a mediocre movie at best. But one review caught my eye and gave some explanation as to why this movie is so popular.

Behind all the sex, LifeSiteNews writer, Kirsten Anderson, gets to the heart of what is attracting so many women. She writes, “Forget the porn for a minute; forget the abuse.  In Fifty Shades, we have a story that has touched the hearts of millions of women, and underneath its filthy exterior, at its core, it’s about unconditional love and redemption.”

And after a thoughtful analysis, Kirsten challenges Christians, “… this is our story. If a hundred million people will shell out for a counterfeit paperback version of a love we live every day, we should see that not just as an attack, but an opportunity. Love is our story.  Let’s tell it better.”

I couldn’t agree more.

To read her analysis, click here.

ID-10066530The other day I was running late for a meeting. As I rushed to the meeting, I suddenly realized I left my iPhone on my desk. For a moment, I panicked. Should I excuse myself and go back and get it? If I do, I will miss part of the meeting. If I don’t… well, I might suffer from iPhone separation.

Go ahead and laugh, but researchers took a look at what happens to people when they are separated from their iPhones. Are iPhones such an extension of our identity that separation can have negative effects?

Researchers studied the psychological and physiological effects of cell phone separation. When it came to how people performed on cognitive tests, cell phone separation made a difference.

In the study, participants were asked to complete a word search word puzzle with or without their iPhones next to them. Their heart rates and blood pressure were monitored. They also reported their anxiety levels during the task. One group could hear their phones ringing during the task, but couldn’t answer them because they were out of reach.

Those who could hear their phones ring but couldn’t answer them, reported more anxiety. And their performance on the cognitive task (the puzzle) decreased when they were not in possession of their phones.

The take away–Cell phone separation may increase your anxiety and decrease your performance on cognitive tests. When we see these phones as extensions of ourselves , we may experience negative effects when we are separated.

Hmmm….I probably should have gone back for my phone!


Source: Clayton, Leshner and Almond’s study, “The Extended iSelf: The Impact of iPhone Separation on Cognition, Emotion, and Physiology,” the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

ID-100139663When my husband and I watch a movie that has a strong emotional story line, I seem to be more moved by the story. For example, the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan felt traumatizing to me. I kept whispering in my husband’s ear, “Make it stop. It’s too much.”

Is this because women are sensitized to emotions more so than men, or is it because of differences in the way men and women process emotion?

A study from the University of Basel looked at gender differences in emotional processing to help answer this question. In their study, men and women were shown images of emotional and neutral content. Women rated the emotional images as more emotionally stimulating than men, especially the negative images.  When the images were neutral, there were no gender differences in the ratings.

When both genders were given a memory test following the exposure to emotional images, women remembered them better than men. This was especially true for the positive images. The reseachers believe this is due to differences in how emotions are processed in the brain of men and women.

Looking at fMRI images of the male and female brains, the researchers saw increased activity in motor regions of women’s brains linked to those emotionally stimulating images.

According to one of the researchers, these findings may help us understand why women are more prone to depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress, all of which involve emotional dysregulation. If women have stronger reactivity to negative emotional images and remember them better than men do, this could help explain those gender differences.

Maybe this is why I had to close my eyes during the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan and was so much more bothered by the massacre on Omaha Beach. I was more emotionally stimulated, expressed those emotions and could recall them better than my husband.


Source:Klara Spalek, Matthias Fastenrath, Sandra Ackermann, Bianca Auschra, XDavid Coynel, Julia Frey, Leo Gschwind, Francina Hartmann, Nadine van der Maarel, Andreas Papassotiropoulos, Dominique de Quervain and Annette MilnikSex-Dependent Dissociation between Emotional Appraisal and Memory: A Large-Scale Behavioral and fMRI StudyJournal of Neuroscience (2015) | doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.2384-14.2015