Use the Holidays to Develop a Critical Part of Your Child’s Brain

iStock_000017348857_LargeThe holidays provide a great opportunity for developing an important part of your child’s brain. And, no, we’re not talking about filling winter break with hours of extra homework. Between family gatherings, meals, shopping, gift wrapping, scheduling, and everything else, the last thing you want to do is carve aside time for extra math or reading—and the good news is that you don’t have to! In fact, the hustle and bustle of the holidays is the very thing you can use to help develop the frontal lobe of your child’s brain.

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that thinks, plans, makes decisions, controls emotions, pays attention and gets things done. And the more opportunity your child has to exercise that area of the brain, the stronger and more efficient those skills become. You can give your child these kinds of opportunities by involving him or her in tasks like planning meals, creating and following a gift-giving budget, prioritizing holiday tasks, following a recipe, writing the family holiday newsletter, or planning a dinner party.

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Is Your Healthy Food Everything it’s Cracked Up to Be?

HiResAll natural. Organic. Cage free. Range free. You’ve read the food labels, shelled out a little extra cash for the promise of healthier options, and savored the flavor of your favorite organics. But wait. If the truth were known about wholesome-labeled foods—the 100% real, 100% pure truth—you might find yourself lowering your fork. Or at least rethinking your grocery list.

There’s good news and bad news about today’s food choices. The bad news is that labels can be misleading. In fact, a growing number of nutritionists, natural food experts, and food industry insiders are blowing the whistle on some foods you’ve been led to believe are good for you and your brain. Buyers, beware when it comes to these popular foods with commonly mislabeled ingredients and processes:

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Go Ahead. Sleep on it.

iStock_000013131759_LargeWhat do Albert Einstein, Lady Gaga and George W. Bush have in common? Nope, not their fashion sense. The answer is …their naps. Each of these famous people is known for famously protecting their daytime dozing. Dozens of other napping notables join their ranks. Lyndon Johnson conducted presidential meetings while resting in his bed. Bill Clinton once nodded off during a Mets baseball and a memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr.

Why do we love our naps? Well, one reason is rooted in our biology. Many people’s inner clock slows between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., also known as the “postprandial dip.” Many cultures actually honor this natural energy lull with the allowable afternoon siesta, when shops close and people doze.

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Relax and Live a Little

DeCooler than your average granmands. Deadlines. Delays. Some days the stress of life makes our mental cogs spin so wildly, it can feel like our brains are overheating! In the rapid pace of everyday living, accumulated stress can compromise brain health, but what can we do about it?

Perhaps the advice of 85-year-old Nadine Stair offers some direction. In her poem “If I Had to Live Life Over Again,” the sage Kentuckian penned: “I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I’d limber up. I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip. . . . I would eat more ice cream and less beans.”

So how can we apply Nadine’s slow-down-and-savor-life perspective to our lives? Here are some suggestions:

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Should You Make a Big Decision on a Warm or Cold Day?

cold dayDid you know that temperature affects complex decision making?

Say you’re vacationing in Texas in the dead of summer and you run to the store to buy something you need. There are two choices: one is a more familiar option and the other is unfamiliar and a little more complicated. Studies say you’re more likely to buy the familiar product on that particular day than you would in the dead of winter. This is because on a hot day you may not have the cognitive resources to make a more complex decision.

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