I don’t think I have enough fingers and toes to count the times I have heard clients utter the phrases, “now I am getting older, my balance is getting worse” and “I am scared of falling so I can’t do the things I used to”
It is true, there are age related changes to our balance (reaction time, equilibrium and proprioception). But these physiological changes are compounded by the fact that we stop challenging facets of our balance as we mature. When we are young, we play on all sorts of objects. We climb trees, jump over puddles, dodge our friends and even hang upside down on the playgrounds. Children are unknowingly challenging their limitations every time they play. This brings about improvements in important aspects of balance.
Maintaining our body’s centre of gravity (balance) depends on co-ordination of several sensory systems within each of our bodies:
- The vestibular system (regulates equilibrium/head position)
- The visual system (spatial location relative to objects through vision)
- The somatosensory system (information from skin and joints to sense position and movement relative to surfaces and different body parts relative to each other)
As we leave our childhood into the monotony of adulthood – cooking, cleaning, working, we typically stop playing. Once we hit our 40’s, unless we specifically engage in different types of sports/activities, we tend to avoid or completely ignore actions such as jumping, hopping, balancing on a single leg. We stop practicing this co-ordination of systems….
The age-old saying is true… Use it or lose it!
Want the good news! Yes, we can improve these systems, much like we can with strength or aerobic fitness. We just need to challenge ourselves!
Tune in for part 2 on Mastering your Gravity if you are interested on HOW you can improve your balance.
It’s surely coincidental that I have been given the task to write about the “science” (I’m a nerd) and “happiness” (I like hugging people).
For some time scientist were unable to measure happiness. And you can hypothesis all you want, but if you can’t lay down the hard evidence then science or in this case psychology will debunk you. Dr. Sue Johnson a counselling psychologist debunked the critics that love could never be measured. With functional MRI showing us nerds the nitty gritty of the brain. Dr. Johnson could indeed show us with a little bit of oxytocin that love can be measured, and we all know that love/bonding is ever so important for the survival of human kind (for more references for Dr. Johnson, read her book “Love sense”)
So you have gathered I like science and hugging people….BUT! this blog is to celebrate International day of happiness. And how to measure your own happiness.
On the 28th of June 2012 Jayme Illien a United Nations adviser proposed happiness as a human right and a “fundamental human goal.” Jayme himself was a rescued orphan by Mother Theresa’s International Mission of Hope charities (for more on Jayme, http://www.happinessday.org/). And what a noble idea it was. And so on the 20th of March every year, International day of happiness is a day to promote, well….happiness!
So there is your sneaky background check. Now to the “science” behind happiness.
There is really one psychologist that has put positive psychology on the map, and there might be a confirmation bias here as I have read all of his books. Quickly, Positive psychology investigates what brings satisfaction to ones life. Without treating the pathology of mental illness. Professor Martin Seligman is the father of positive psychology and is famous for his previous investigation into learned helplessness. Professor Seligman defied and even challenged the likes of Sigmund Freud with his investigation and methodology. Prof Seligman hypothesised that you can measure happiness and well being. And along with his books Learned optimism and Flourish came about a measuring stick for happiness and well being. Prof Seligman developed a measuring questionnaire called PERMA through the university of Pennsylvania. Which scientifically measures your optimism and well being in life. A pessimistic outlook in life has been linked to poorer immunity, inability to bounce back from setbacks and even presidential speeches that were pessimistic, were less likely to get voted for (true story).
Prof Seligman has done wonderful work here at SAHMRI with the Wellbeing and resilience centre. Setting up PERMA programs through schools, workplaces and within the community with huge success. If you don’t feel inclined to follow up on the links, here is a a TED talk done by the man himself.
PERMA stands for….
Clicking on the above headlines will direct you through to PERMA in more depth along with http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/? .
I’m known to ramble on, so I will leave the links above and below for you wonderful people to investigate in your time. But as you can see (if you read the links) a splash of positive emotion (being optimistic) and a little sprinkle of engagement (nourishing activities) and you are well on your way to a “flourishing” meaningful life.
Happy international day
I am sure that you will agree that in today’s modern society, we are all constantly physically and mentally stretched to our limits. Stress, anxiety, multi-tasking and non-stop days where we feel like we are on auto-pilot are the norm for most. Take one of my closest friends for example. She is a 29 year old mother of two beautiful but tiring toddlers and a Staffy who seriously needs to be walked daily otherwise destruction will ensue. Add to that, she works part time in a hospital, works full time as a domestic goddess, plays hockey at state league level and is a committed friend and family member. I constantly wonder how she can complete all of her day to day tasks without losing sense of herself (and her hair).
When I asked her how she does it, she explained that when she is at hockey, she is able to be in the moment. She focuses on only what is happening there and then. She doesn’t think about what’s for dinner, or what clients she will see tomorrow. She allows herself time to think about her own body, her movements, how her running technique feels and how satisfying it feels to hit a little white ball awfully hard. What she didn’t realise is that this is the definition of being mindful. Whilst it’s a buzzword at the moment, the mental training technique is both simple and powerful.
Being mindful is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensation.
Sounds interesting I know, but this practice takes one away from autopilot. Research has showed that it is effective in reducing stress and undermining destructive emotive and cognitive processes which can lead to anxiety and depression. But what I find amazing is that research has actually shown positive physical changes. Mindfulness practice can lead to a decrease grey matter in the Amygdala (the brain’s centre associated with fear and stress). This in turn leads to thickening in the pre-frontal cortex. What results in an improved higher order functions within the brain such as concentration, decision making and overall awareness – pretty powerful stuff.
One of things I love focusing on in training sessions with clients is the neural connections created with attentive movement. For example, trying to feel glutes contract when completing a single leg deadlift. This allows a better quality of movement, decreased compensations and overall better muscle recruitment. The upside of this for me is, to achieve this, you must be solely focused on the present. You cannot practice quality movement without attention, and accepting the sensation created with movement. And ladies and gentlemen, this is the definition of mindfulness!