Relax and Live a Little

One Smart Octogenarian on Slowing Down, Savoring Life (and De-Stressing Your Brain in the Process)

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:

Stop being such a perfectionist. A sure-fire path to burnout is to place expectations of perfection on ourselves and others. When we believe that mistakes or failures are to be avoided at any cost, we can end up at either tragic end of the spectrum: accomplishing a lot while creating massive amounts of stress for ourselves (and the people we love), or so paralyzed by fear of failure that we never really do anything with our lives.

Relax. Limber up. Relaxing and limbering up can happen in almost any area of your life—your body, your thoughts, even your schedule! Many of us are addicted to our daily list of activities and errands. Why not start the day by postponing or eliminating a couple of non-essential to-dos on your agenda? Give yourself room to stretch and move a little. In fact, don’t be afraid to create quiet moments in your day to simply relax and let your mind wander. Unplug from your phone, computer, TV, etc. Develop the habit of letting yourself enjoy spells of doing nothing throughout your day.

Savor the good stuff. Silliness. Laughter. Family. A good book. Make your own list of things that make you smile, then make sure you incorporate these things into your everyday life. It’s tempting to live each day worrying about the past or the future. Learn to focus on the here and now and the unrepeatable moments with your children, family and friends.

As your stress level begins to subside a little, know that you’re doing your brain a favor. And while you’re at it, scoop yourself a heaping bowl of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Calcium is good for the brain, you know.


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

How Temperature Affects Decision-Making Skills

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.

The thought that temperature can influence decision-making skills may seem far-fetched, but it’s backed up by science. Our brains, like any other organ, need energy to function, and that energy comes in the form of glucose. We not only need glucose to walk, talk, breathe, and perform daily activities, we even need it to perform mental functions, such as practicing self-control, making decisions, suppressing emotional responses, and solving problems. Yet, glucose is a limited resource. On hot days, our bodies use a lot of glucose simply maintaining our internal temperatures, and that means less glucose for mental processes like evaluating new information to make a decision. When temperatures are higher, studies show that we also give up more easily, make more mistakes, and even avoid complex decisions in the first place.

If you live in a warm climate, don’t worry! These results do not mean that you consistently make poorer decisions than people who live in cooler parts of the world. Humans are adaptive and are able to acclimate over time, performing just as well in various temperatures. If you’re visiting someplace new, however, with temperatures different from what you’re used to experiencing, your decisions may be impacted. You may not be able to control the temperature in your new environment, but you can be aware of how the change can affect your decisions throughout the day.

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Scary Snacks for Autumn Fun

Check out these brainy, gooey, and creepy recipes!

Brain Cupcakes

Since we like to talk about the brain, think about the brain, study the brain, and improve the brain, we thought Halloween was the perfect time to MAKE some brains. Take some traditional treats and turn them into a creepy, delicious dish everyone will love. And don’t worry, you don’t need to be a zombie to enjoy these brains.

Want to make some scary appetizers for a Halloween party? Try these recipes:

Avocado Salsa Brain Dip
Creamy Chicken Brain Dip
Skeleton and Brain Dip
Shrimp Cocktail Dip
Watermelon Brain


Check out these brainy treats that will satisfy the sweet tooth:

Brain Cake Balls
Brain Blood Clot Cupcakes
Monster Brain Cupcakes
Wormy Jello Brain
Zombie Truffles
Skull Truffles

And, finally, here are some drinks that both kids and adults will love:

Witches’ Brew
Black Halloween Punch
Green Grog

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Can Attention be Trained? Seniors (and Babies) Prove It Can

Baby girl playing outdoorsWhen TV newscaster Diane Sawyer was asked the secret of her success, she said, “I think the one lesson I’ve learned is there is no substitute for paying attention.”

If you struggle with ADHD, however, that’s a lot easier said than done.

About 6 million children and teens have been diagnosed with ADHD, with an estimated four percent of U.S. adults struggling with the disorder as well.

The good news is that support and education help. Plus, there are things you can do. In fact, if you’re looking for something you can do to help yourself or a child who struggles, two studies on attention are worth, well, paying attention to.

Both studies indicate that attention can be trained. In other words, attention can be improved through exercises for the brain.

The first study, conducted by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, used fMRI technology to measure senior adults’ ability to filter out distractions. The question on the table was this: Could 8 hours of brain exercises improve senior adults’ ability to focus in the midst of distractions?

The eight hours of brain exercises included one-on-one mental workouts and group brain exercise programs.

“We used to think that with age, brain cells shriveled up, died, and that was that,” explains Paul Laurienti, lead scientist on the study. “Now we know that even an older brain can grow new, stronger connections.” Laurienti and his team discovered that the brain exercises did, indeed, improve participants’ ability to focus.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, another study came to the same conclusion—that attention can be trained—this time through research done with 11-month old infants. After training, the babies were able to focus attention for longer periods of time, and also ignore distractions better.

Even more significantly, the trained babies also focused better in a real-world-setting, when they were playing with toys.

Sam Wass of the University of London’s Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, highlighted the relationship between attention and success when he said, “The connection is an intuitively obvious one: the better a child is at concentrating…the better that child is going to learn.”

How much can brain exercises impact brain performance and attention? LearningRx, a company that specializes in brain training, says that ADHD is the most common diagnosis with which people come to them for help. They team students with one-on-one with personal trainers for mental exercises that strengthen three kinds of attention. Improvements are measured scientifically by independent pre- and post-training testing, and they are often dramatic.

If you struggle with attention—or you love someone who is struggling—don’t give up. Learn about ADHD. Research your options. Get help. Life really can be easier and simpler.

October is ADHD Awareness Month, and Diane Sawyer was right. In the grand scheme of life, there really isn’t any substitute for paying attention.


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The Key To Success

Which Will Make Your Child More Successful in School—Smarts or Grit? Even Better, Here’s How Your Child Can Develop Both.

TEDResearch shows that kids with lots of grit (and less mental ability) are more successful than kids with lots of mental ability (but less grit). In this video, researcher and psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth extols the virtues of grit, saying that “grittier” kids—those who try harder and don’t give up over the long haul—do better in school. For that matter, “grittier” adults do better in their jobs and goals, too. In fact, when it comes to success, Dr. Duckworth says “grit” is a better indicator of future success than IQ.

So how do we build grit in kids and adults? Dr. Duckworth says the best idea she’s heard so far is something called “growth mindset.” She quotes Stanford University’s Dr. Carol Dweck who says that  “growth mindset” is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with effort. According to Dr. Dweck, when kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they’re more likely to persevere when they fail.

LearningRx one-on-one brain training is one way to build both mental ability and grit. While the mental exercises strengthen the brain skills that determine mental ability (including IQ), the student/trainer relationship develops the kind of “growth mindset” described by Dr. Dweck.

Tanya Mitchell, Vice President of Research & Development at LearningRx, explains: “Our trainers work hard to expand the way our students see themselves, their brains, their potential. We help them understand that by challenging and growing their brains they can expand and change their futures. Even more importantly, we help them live that process, walking them through the experiences of trying hard, not giving up, using setbacks as stepping stones to success, and then seeing real life changes and benefits as a result of all their determination.”

Some parents say the “can do” mindset their kids take away from brain training is one of the unexpected benefits. Here’s what one mom, Donna, had to say about the differences she saw in her 9-year-old son: “Tristan enjoyed his trainer as much as the program itself. He learned things from her—perseverance, believing in yourself—that exceeded the program fundamentals.”

Another mother, Tracy, says that her 11-year-old daughter, Mattison, came away from LearningRx with a more positive attitude that is empowering her to approach difficult tasks saying “I can do it” instead of “I can’t.”

Amy, mother of Michael, 15, says her son welcomes challenges now: “Working one-on-one with his trainer, Michael developed a skill set to make school less frustrating. His attitude turned more positive, he welcomed challenges at school where before he found it easy to give up and hide. He is a much happier and confident child. Michael now has the ability to identify pitfalls, adjust and improve. We feel he can now achieve anything he desires!”

LearningRx brain training also improves the way the brain processes incoming information in school and life. After brain training, improvements in cognitive skills—including memory, processing speed, auditory processing, and logic & reasoning—can be scientifically measured and are often dramatic. In fact, a study of 6000 LearningRx clients showed an average increase of 15 points in IQ after completing the program.

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National Autism Awareness Month

Five Facts about Autism (Plus Links to Stories and Articles You’ll Want to Read)


April is National Autism Awareness Month and chances are, you know of someone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Did you know ASD is the fastest growing development disability, rising 10-17% every year? About every 1 in 68 children are on the autism spectrum (about 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls).

Unfortunately, there is no single medical test to detect autism since symptoms are vastly different between individuals. There are, however, characteristics that are particularly common, including sensory processing challenges, speech/language delays and impairments, weak social cognition, and self-esteem issues.

Since 2007 a simple questionnaire that asks parents about their children’s motor skills, playtime behavior, and responses to social cues, called the Modified Checklist of Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), has been used to screen children for autism between 18 and 24 months of age. According to researchers, the most promising tools that are being explored for diagnosing autism in the future include eye tracking, blood tests, brain imaging, and online tests.

Since autism is so complex and differs between every child, there are certain things that every parent should know about the disability:

  • Autism is a genetic disorder, not the result of improper parenting.
  • For a child with autism, behavior is a form of communication and occurs for a reason.
  • Communication comes in many forms, so be alert for body language, withdrawal, agitation, or other signs that tell you something is wrong.
  • Social interactions may be difficult for the child.
  • Sensory overload is real. An ordinary environment to you may be overwhelming for someone with ASD.

To get a deeper understanding of real-life struggles of those with autism, as well as the challenges their loved ones face, check out this list of journalism pieces. Articles include the story of a father who discovered a surprising way to connect with his autistic son, the story of the first person diagnosed with autism, a look at dating and autism, and the riveting story of a massive state-wide search for a nonverbal eight-year-old autistic boy lost in an 80-acre state park.

The best thing you can do to help individuals or families impacted by ASD is to become educated, and Autism Awareness month offers many opportunities to learn more about ASD. And for help in improving the learning, reading, memory and attention skills of someone you love with autism, follow the link to find a LearningRx Center near you

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Award-Winning Science Journalist: Families Say Traditional Tutoring Didn’t Help, but LearningRx Made a “Major Difference”



Dan Hurley is the award-winning science journalist who, last year, wrote The New York Times article “The Brain Trainers” in which LearningRx was featured. His latest book, Smarter, has just been released. In the book, Hurley takes a look at the science and the methods associated with what he calls the “new field of intelligence research.” In the process, he devotes six pages to describing his visit to a LearningRx center and his conversations with various parents and students.

His observations are fascinating. After a couple paragraphs in which he points out the need for more published research (he also seems to find it odd that LearningRx is organized as a franchise, “like MacDonald’s”), Hurley dives into talking about two of LearningRx’s most important distinctives: the one-on-one training model, and the dramatic results experienced by LearningRx clients.

Hurley seems impressed with the one-on-one approach that LearningRx takes to brain training, observing that it offers definite advantages over digital products when it comes to motivating students and helping them persevere

But where this journalist really begins to shine is in telling the stories of the LearningRx parents and students he interviewed. He quotes parents saying they tried everything else under the sun, but nothing worked until LearningRx. He describes real-life gains, including making honor roll, better performance in marching band, increased confidence, and getting off ADHD medication. He tells the story of one teenager who, since LearningRx, got a job promotion and even landed his first girlfriend. He quotes another teen who says her grades shot up, her memory is better, and even tough classes are easier. He quotes a dad who says the cost of the program was a financial strain, but that it’s made a change in his son and that if it gives him a leg up in life, “you can’t put a price on that.”

Hurley also talks about the pre- and post-testing LearningRx does conducts on every student, and the fact that there is extensive pre- and post-results on more than 30,000 students. He also writes about Dr. Oliver Hill’s independent study of LearningRx results, and how those findings support the claims that LearningRx makes.

He adds that, searching online, he found a handful of complaints about us, but not that many, really, considering the number of franchises we have. He goes on to add, “But the families I spoke to all had positive stories, many of them insisting that traditional tutoring had been of little benefit but that the exercises practiced at LearningRx, as odd as they seemed, had made a major difference.”

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Beyond the Breakfast Table

Real Life and Reading Comprehension


When you read a newspaper article at the breakfast table then think, “What did I just read?” it’s annoying. But what if the same was true at work when you read an important document before a big meeting? Or when your boss asked for your opinion of written text on the spot? Surely you don’t want to have to read something three times while he looks on!

Now imagine your child (or teen) going through the same thing at school. They read much slower than their classmates, or read quickly but have no idea what they just read. This is a common problem – even among “good” readers — and it’s about weak reading comprehension. In fact, 37 percent of fourth graders tested at “below basic” in their reading skills and one out of four eighth graders is functionally illiterate!

So how can a smart kid be a good reader but have poor comprehension? It’s simple: the reading skills we’re taught at a very young age are more about decoding, that is, putting the sounds together to understand the words. But reading comprehension isn’t about learning HOW to read but rather WHAT you’ve read.

Luckily, there is help. LearningRx has just released a groundbreaking reading comprehension program called ComprehendRx. It targets the seven core skills needed for reading comprehension and students graduate the program reading faster and with stronger tools to grasp, analyze and retain content. Your child will dramatically improve their understanding, retention and application, which will help them in school, college, work—and even reading the newspaper at the breakfast table!

To learn more about ComprehendRx, click HERE

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LearningRx Announces New Reading Comprehension Program


We read for meaning. But for some kids (and even adults), reading comprehension is a struggle. 

For some, decoding the words on the page takes so much energy that fully comprehending the meaning of the words takes a back seat. For others, the meaning is grasped but not retained. In fact, research by the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that one out of four eighth grade students, when asked to read age-appropriate material, can’t understand what they just read.

After several years in development, LearningRx is releasing a groundbreaking reading comprehension program called ComprehendRx. ComprehendRx incorporates the research and personal brain training techniques that have made LearningRx the largest one-on-one brain training company in the world. ComprehendRx begins where typical reading programs (which focus on decoding) leave off, targeting seven core skills critical for reading comprehension. Students not only read faster, they have stronger tools to grasp, analyze and retain content. The result? Dramatically improved understanding, retention and application.

For readers who lack reading speed, who read well but can’t remember what they’ve read, or who have to read something more than once to grasp the meaning, ComprehendRx offers a proven, life changing solution. Click on the link to read more about how ComprehendRx improves reading comprehension.

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A Doorway to the Heart

Stare into Each Other’s Eyes to Fall (and Stay) In Love

Stare into Each Other's Eyes

Love at first sight? Thousands say it has happened to them, while skeptics just roll their eyes. But what if the adage “there’s more to it than meets the eye” is true about the connection between visual contact and romance?

Research studies show that locking eyes nourishes relational intimacy and is a dominant theme in couples falling in love in cultures across the world. Early theologian St. Augustine described the eyes as “the windows to the soul.” With deep, personal eye contact you are inviting another to look beyond your retinal lens into your thoughts and emotions.

The eyes are a central focus of poetry, music lyrics and prose through the ages. Irish poet Juliet or W.B. Yeats penned, “love comes in at the eye.” Shakespeare’s Romeo declared romantic affection as “a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes.” Those sparks you feel when looking into a love interest or partner’s eyes? Scientists today explain the sparks as your brain neurons firing in response to your positive emotions.

One study reveals that love is in the air when a man gazes longer than 8.2 seconds at a woman. (Women, on the other hand, held eye contact equally with men they found interesting and those they did not). Other research shows that a sustained eye connection signals the body’s natural “bonding hormone”, oxytocin. The chemical, which boosts mood and increases trust and empathy, is released when couples gaze into each other’s eyes.

To build and maintain intimacy with someone special, try this 2-3 minute practice:

            Find a quiet spot to focus solely on each other.

            • Lower the lights so the pupils expand.

            • Relax your facial muscles and gaze softly.

            • Breathe deeply. No talking is necessary.

            • Think about things you appreciate about your partner.

Perhaps actress Audrey Hepburn said it best: “The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

If the eyes are indeed the doorway to the place where love resides, don’t be shy. Go ahead. Stare deeply into those baby blues (or greens, or hazels) belonging to the one you love. Or maybe belonging to the one you’d love to love.

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