Doing Life Together

Girl textingIt’s a common sight. People texting and walking.

I admit. I get annoyed when I am walking in a big city and someone walks into me because they are texting on their phone. Everything inside of me screams, “Look Up! Pay attention! You are a danger on the street!” But are they?

Ahhh, the pros and cons of texting while walking seem to be gaining research interest. So let’s begin with some good news.

A group of researchers studied the effects of mobile phone texting while subjects walked and negotiated barriers simulating pedestrian traffic. What they noticed was that the people in the study changed the way they walked.

Specifically, they shortened their step length, reduced their step frequency, lengthen the time during which both feet were in contact with the ground and increased obstacle clearance height. In other words, they adapted their gait (walk) to the challenges of the environment caused by their distraction of being on the phone. Their changes kept them from walking into people or objects. It did take the distracted walkers longer to get to where they were going than the “normal” walkers. But they were more cautious. I guess slow and steady was at work here.

I know, it seems counterintuitive I feel like I am running in to more people who are distracted on their phones. And it is only one study on a small group of people. Others studies have observed people weaving, losing their balance, etc.

The downside: Posture is affected by texting while walking. Our bodies are in a hunched position while our hands are texting away. This impacts balance. Your head down tends to make you weave more and lose balance. It can pull the spine out of alignment causing neck and should pain. Some have dubbed this, “text neck.”

So the jury is still out. Meanwhile I suggest more looking up. If nothing else, a good posture is worth the change. And is anything really that important that you risk running in to someone on the sidewalk? A little more courtesy could do us all some good.

pianoWhile having a high IQ doesn’t guarantee life success, it sure helps with academic achievement. So if you feel you need a little IQ boost, keep reading. Measures of intelligence are not static and can be affected by life and school-related experiences. However, we need to know what works.

For example, My mom worked crossword puzzles every day when she was elderly. She believed that this cognitive activity was keeping her mind functioning well.

Another friend plays Mozart for her baby and believes this will give hr child an IQ boost. But does this really make a difference when it comes to IQ?

1) Take music lessons. Forget making your baby listen to Mozart. Listening to classical music doesn’t really boost your IQ. Now, it certainly won’t hurt your child and may be enjoyable to us as parents. The key here is to change the listening to doing. Give your child piano lessons or any type of music lessons. Playing music is good for the brain and can increase IQ. So if you want to give your child an edge, enroll them in band, orchestra or private music lessons. The benefits to IQ are small but long lasting.

2) Consider your diet. Cut out the saturated fats! These fats can actually slow down your brain’s reaction time and impair memory. Add omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseed oil, mackerel, herring and trout)–all good for brain function. In fact, children who are fed healthier diets at an early age may have a slightly higher IQ according to a study at the University of Adelaide. Those children who were fed a steady diet of junk food had a slightly reduced IQ. OK parents, you have control of what goes into your kid’s mouth. This is one easy way to give them an advantage– feed them healthy food!

3) Stop multitasking. Constantly making the brain switch tasks actually helps you lose creativity. Boost your IQ by focusing on one thing at a time. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tells us that answering one email mid task can reduce your IQ 10 points! Focus, focus, focus!

4) Memorize something. Now that we can look up every piece of information we need, we no longer commit even the simplest things to memory. When was the last time you memorize a phone number, a Bible verse, a street address? Every day, try to memorize some fact. Memory is good for the brain. According to Edward Awh, a psychology professor and a member of the Oregon Visual Working Memory & Attention Lab, the number of things a person can remember is associated with fluid intelligence, an ability to solve new problems and identify patterns.

5) Stop watching reality TV. Australian psychologist Markus Appel did a study that found what you watch on TV influences your behavior. In his study, reality TV viewers did poorer on test of cognition after watching the show. Hmmm, interesting. It’s only one study but maybe reality TV isn’t challenging our brains, you think! Actually a better idea would be to do something novel. Be open to new information in order to create new neural networks in the brain. So get off the couch and take a cooking lesson, blaze a new hiking trail, or attempt a new language.

6) Get regular sleep. Not only does a lack of sleep impact stress and mood, but memory as well. Several studies have found a correlation between sleep and grades with school children. Others have noted that getting less than 8 hours of sleep a night can lower IQ the next day. According to Lance Kriegsfeld from the University of California at Berkeley, “…repeated disruption of circadian rhythms is likely going to have a long-term impact on your cognitive behavior and function.” So if you are a shift worker, constantly jet lagged or working your medical rotations at all hours of the day and night, you may have more difficulty learning.

Small and easy changes might just give us that edge we are looking for when it comes to being smarter.


ID-100186774Most of you are concerned about the effects of divorce on the adjustment of your children. You want to do whatever possible to help them adjust. You already feel guilty about putting children through the ordeal of divorce.

A good place to begin is to reduce the conflict between you and your ex-spouse. I know you are thinking, “ If I could do this, I wouldn’t be divorced!” Possibly, but you still have to work on it for the sake of your kids.

Here are 6 tips to work on conflict resolution with an ex:

1) Try to resolve whatever unresolved feelings remain towards your ex. It’s time to bury the multiple hatchets. Forgiveness is key.

2) Remind yourself that no matter how you feel about your ex, he/she is your child’s parent. That fact doesn’t change. Build positive exchanges around parenting issues. It’s not about the two of you now but about the kids. This will help build positive feelings in the child as well.

3) Stay humble; putting your needs aside for the sake of your children requires sacrifice.

4) If you didn’t have great role models for interpersonal skills in marriage, go to seminars, be open to change and learn to better communicate. This will help all your relationships.

5) Keep children out of what therapists call an unhealthy triangle. A triangle forms when two people have difficulty communicating or dealing with conflict directly and bring in a third person. The third person deflects the problem and becomes the focus on attention. The third person is often the child of warring parents. The child is caught in the middle.  So deal with your ex no matter how tempting it is to go through your child.

6) Decide how much contact to have with each other. If negotiations can’t be reached, parents who bring in the legal system are opening up an adversarial process that usually results in more conflict. This may be needed in high conflict divorces, especially when violence, drug abuse, mental illness, etc. are involved, but do what you can to work things out apart from the legal system.

Adapted from We Need to Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle (Baker, 2015)

scaleLosing weight seems to be a life long trial for so many of us.

Let’s just say that getting on the scale is a sometimes depressing event. I know it is important to weigh yourself regularly in order to keep your weight down. This has been conformed by studies-people who weigh regularly keep their weight off. I confess, I have gotten away from that regular habit. One reason the habit is important because it guards against weight creep. You know, the few pounds that attach themselves to your body without you noticing!

Well I’ve had more than a creep, it’s now a crawl. I put on a dress I wore a year ago for our medical school’s white coat ceremony and it was really tight, really, really tight! So much so, I couldn’t wear it. Then I jumped on the scale and have gained a full ten pounds!

So I began to think, hmmm, not much has changed on the eating front. In fact, I don’t eat that many calories a day. And I am not in denial about this! But I am still gaining weight.

What has changed dramatically is my physical activity. For the past year I have been sitting at a desk developing curricula. And when I looked at one of my previous blog’s, Sitting is the New Smoking, I knew what the weight gain was all about.

And if I need a little reminder from my blog, too much sitting is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and early death from all causes. That’s right, the World Health Organization puts sitting or physical inactivity 4th on the list of risk factors for death worldwide. Death is a good motivator for me.

Honestly I don’t have time to exercise like I used to, but if I am going to keep my weight down, I have to find a way. Studies confirm this. More Americans are eating less, but are still overweight.

So join me America. Not only do we have to pay attention to what we eat, but we have to ramp up the physical activity. I have an idea of what I am going to do that will not require me to talk myself into going to the gym when I am exhausted. This is key-find something that works for you and make the time. I’m working it in to my schedule like meals.

Exercise is not something I like, but since I don’t have time for tennis or pilates classes anymore, I have to figure it out. I’m getting a mini trampoline called a rebounder that I can bounce in front of my TV at night. It just might work. It’s worth a try because I don’t feel I can cut the calories much more.