Reorganize Your Brain for Healthy You

How to boost your brain power for a healthy, younger you?

Organize your life, reorganize your brain.  The brain continuously make new neural connection throughout your human life.  Your brain cells can regenerate itself, adjust to new situation (learning), or new environment. Your brain is like your own superhero – can only go to your rescue if the brain has fuel, nutrients, and the roadmap for a healthy you! This process is called ‘neuroplasticity.’

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Why is it important to keep our brain with energy? With the right food, healthy lifestyle choices, and attitude, you can increase neuroplasticity.  The brain continually adjusts and reorganizes, and this brain activity promotes brain reorganization.

Practice a particular movement over and over again to help the brain to form and strengthen connections for movement.  Timing is important. When an area of the brain does not practice movement, the surrounding area are starved for stimulation and thus, unable to connect, (even if the neutron cells are regenerated).

Five ways to boost brain power: 

  1. Focus on the new exercise. (Turning on Changes)
  2. Be engaged in practicing exercises. (Strengthen neural connection)
  3. Learning helps the brain to stable and reduce ‘noise (positive reinforcement)
  4. Repetition is key. Initial change is temporary (fast brain system 1 and slow brain system 2 negotiation)
  5. Brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal which will translate naturally to external performance.  (Fake it till you believe it)

Brain plasticity is two-way street: negative vs positive change have equal chances. 

Money Karma 50-30-20

 

One of the most common resolutions is “save money”, “learn to budget”, and “invest in retirement”.

There is more than hundreds of books on the topic of financial planning, excel spreadsheet, and different mobile apps that can help you budget, save, and invest.

We all know why it is important to budget, save, and invest in our retirement, but in the US, more than 50% of the American have less than $1000 in their emergency funds.  So, if we are one of the most educated countries in the world, how come we don’t know that $1000 is just not enough.  We should aim at incurring an emergency fund that is worth 9 months of monthly payments in case of medical care, layout, or anything that is consider ’emergency’. But going on vacation, buying gifts for holidays, and shopping for the 10th pair of shoes do not constitute as ’emergency’.

It is the mindset and the framing.  We all know that ‘what to do’, but we don’t now the ‘how to’.

I believe in the KISS Method (KISS stands for Keep it simple, stupid) BUT I am going to think positive and call my KISS method as Keep it simple and sane !

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It is based on Elizabeth Warren’s work  50/30/20 Rule.  

Where 50% of your monthly salary go to ‘MUST HAVE’ that are essential for your basic survival (rent/mortgage, food, transportation, basic clothing, reasonable living condition).

Where 30% goes toward your “WANTS” such as the entertainment, shopping, dining out, and your desire.

Where 20% goes toward your “SAVING” – where 10% goes to your emergency fund and 10% goes to your investment fund.

 

Here is my own twist to the 50-30-20 rule:

I believe we can reduce our ‘wants’ from 30% to 20% by being creative in how we use our money and see buy things we want.  To help growth our nest eggs, it is important to add more to your investment and emergency funds from 20% to 30%, especially for folks who are starting late in their investments.

As long as you remember to KISS your budgeting,  saving, and investing, you are on your way in bringing money karma toward yourself.  When you take care of your money, the universe will take care of you.  

 

Brain Booster Ideas

What are your resolutions?  I want to lose weight, save more money, and be happy.  All of these are great resolutions, but why is it that we can continue to wish for the same resolution at the strike of midnight on Dec 31st every year?

  • 50% Americans who begins an exercise program but quit with the first 6 months
  • 88% Americans who make a New Year’s Resolution.
  • 60% Resolutions are health related
  • 10% People who keep their resolutions

Where do you and your New Year’s Resolutions want to be in 6 months? 

Learning new habits and making changes are new processes that require your body be in tune with your brain.  Can we change our brain to accommodate these new changes in our body.

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Old Science

    • The structure of brain doesn’t change.
    • We are born with a set number of brain cells at birth.
    • Cells are lost over time when we age. Cells deleted due to stress, toxins, and risky behavior.

New Science

    • Brain is plastic and is always growing and evolving.
    • Brain changes based on what we think, feel, eat, act (not act such as meditate), and react.
    • Brain changes in function and structure where new synapses (new neural connections are formed and connected in different region of the brain)

Our brain can adapt and be flexible to new learning with a growth mindset.  We just a strategy and understand how our brain works, function (under normal and stressed condition), and how to boost brain boost to decrease neurological disorders development, reduce depression and loss of memory.

 

 

Social Return on Investment (SROI): The New Money Mindset in Public Health

Why is financial management important to everyone in your organization, in your personal and professional development?

In the field of public health, we not only work in solo of expertise, but also share our findings across different realms aiming to improve population health locally, domestically and internationally. To drive change and sustain change, financial management is an essential key to understand ‘whether program/policies/projects’ are worth investing in before we start discussing  on how to ‘finance them.’ In a tight economy with constraint resources, it is not uncommon that the stakeholder’s decision-making is influenced by finances (or the lack of finances).

However, using the ‘financing reason’ as the first financial management tool is not usually the most effective approach.  Instead, using the return on investment (ROI) as a financial management tool to assess whether or which project(s) are worth investing based on common metric that bring benefits and social value can help stir effort, time, and resources to support these programs, which is the new money mindset:  Social Return on Investment (SROI).  

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Social Return on Investment (SROI) is a framework for measuring and accounting value, rather than money. There are two types of SROI: (1) Evaluative, which is conducted retrospectively and based on actual outcomes that have already taken place, and (2) Forecast, which predicts how much social value will be created if the activities meet their intended outcomes.

Why Use SROI? Assessing the SROI prior to implementation of polices/programs/project, can help your organization improve services by:

  • facilitating strategic planning to maximize the social value an activity creates.
  • helping you target appropriate resources at managing unexpected outcomes.
  • identifying common ground between what an organization wants to achieve and what its stakeholders want to achieve, helping to maximize social value.

Instead of focusing on only the money (or the lack of money), assess the ‘benefits and social value’ in your decision-making. Will this make a difference? and to whom? 

 

The Art of Financial Management: Sensitivity Analysis

Financial management is both an art and science. In my previous post, the financial management tools, Return on Investment (ROI) and Sensitivity Return on Investment (SROI), illustrated the science of projecting cost and benefits for a program.  We must be aware of the level of uncertainty and unknown when we make thees project. This comes the ‘art of financial management’ – sensitivity analysis, which is a process used to discover which assumptions are critical (or sensitive) to the analysis.

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This is done by testing a number of plausible values for each important variable

For example:

  • vary the discount rate
  • vary the probabilities
  • vary the cost parameter (if possible)
  • vary the benefits parameters (if possible)

Any problem, alternative, value, variable, or assumption can be subjected to sensitivity analysis.

Steps:

  1. list all the variables relevant to the policy problem
  2. establish a range of likely values for each
  3. holding all others constant, test the range of values for one variable to see if any one (or all) decision criteria are affected. This establishes the sensitive variables.
  4. test the sensitive variables
  5. contingency analysis
  6. cost overrun calculation
  7. feasibility of the project

The Science of Financial Management: Return on Investment (ROI)

Return on investment (ROI) is a financial tool to measure and communicate public health effectiveness for policymakers, funders, administrators and the general public. Often time, the ROI is conducted as an afterthought, after a project is completed and the funder/stakeholders/executive board needs a report that the money that they invested were justified.  What happens if the ROI is lower than expected? We can turn back time. Instead of using the ROI as a ‘back-end’ financial tool, use ROI as a ‘front-end’ as a forecasting tool to assess the ‘potential benefits’ (in monetary terms) given the ‘cost of the program’.

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Questions to Ask:

  1. Are we making the right investments?
  2. Are we becoming more efficient?
  3. What outcome/benefits are we getting for our buck?
  4. What is our budget accomplishing?
  5. Are we being resourceful?

The purpose of measuring the ROI is to analyze Investment effective to generate profit or benefits and is often expressed in percentage (%).

ROI = [ (cost of the benefits) – (cost of program) ] / (cost of program) * 100% 

When the ROI is greater than what your rate of return, expected value, or threshold of acceptability, then this project/program/policy is probably worth investing.  However, we cannot predict the future (financial tool) is a crystal ball. However, we can conduct a ‘sensitivity analysis’ to assess a range of unknown variables, uncertainly, and unpredictability that may impact our risk tolerance.

Subscribe and stay tune for the next post on “Sensitivity Analysis.” 

Goal setting sets up success

Success is not defined by the outcome but by the process.  The new year is just around the corner so use this time to clear out the clutter blocking you from your goal, success, and destination.

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The three types of goals for goal setting are: 

  1. Determine your “why”.
  2. Discover the “what”
  3. Learn the “how”.

You need to learn the ‘how’ to acheive to get “what you want” so they can acheive your “why”. 

Why is this goal important to you? The value you place on this goal can be related to you personally or to your family. Is the quality time you want to gain, people you want to make an impact on, or improve your own quality of file?

What is important about this ‘particular goal’? Ask yourself if this goal will lead you to your next career, help you get promoted, or transition to new area. Do you want to gain new knowledge, more money, or more time?

What is important about the way this goal is obtain? This is where the strategy is the key.  Make an inventory of the skills and task you must do or master or learn to get “what you want” to reach your ‘why’.

To be succesful at goal setting, you must master all goals : the why, what, and how .

Self-Care is the Best Gift You Give to Others.

As the holidays are approaching, we get so swamped with the pressure of getting everything right and perfect (i.e. shopping for the right gift, preparing the right dinner, and getting everything done right before we head out for holidays…), we lose sight of the true meaning behind it all.

When you take care of yourself, you have the space, time, and understanding of what it means to take care of others. If you get too tired, too stressed, and too frustrated (especially in the holidays), you are not your optimal self to take care of others. Soon, your ‘caregiving/caretaking’ may become resentful.

Thus, self-care is a vital gift, almost like the air you breathe, you give to yourself and to others.

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Here are three “Rs” to Self-Care: Use (or try to use) time to reflect, rejoice and relax.  

Reflect. As the year 2019 is coming to a close, it is a good time to reflect on what you’ve done and what you look forward to the new year 2020. What worked, what didn’t, and what could have been better and what are some things that just wouldn’t have mattered … Systematic reflection is a healthy way to grow independently and creatively.  You know yourself the best and you will be spending the most time (pretty much, the entire time, unless you were in a coma and had forgotten your own existence) with yourself than with anyone else – so get to know yourself better.

Rejoice.  Take time to enjoy your wins – big or small. Enjoy your health, your body, your mind, and your breath.  Sometimes, we compare ourselves to others as a measuring stick to improve ourselves. Instead, take a close look at your presence moment, and observe all of your ‘presents’. Thank you for the legs that get me out of bed so I can walk. Thank you for my eyes to see this beautiful morning. Thank you for families and friends in my life that are reflection of my inner world.  Thank you, Life.

Relax.  It is sometimes difficult to have time for oneself while our society has marketed these holidays as a time to ‘buy, buy, buy’… It is hard to even enjoy shopping for loved ones when there is time pressure, financial pressure, and people pressure (you know, the folks who kill for that parking space!). Remember to carve time for self-care in micro moments. Yes, it is possible.

Here are some micro moments of relaxation: 

  1. While you wait for the long line to pay for gifts during this crazy shopping season, listen to the favorite ebook/audio tape. You’re already in line, so the probability of bumping into anyone or getting yourself in trouble is very low. You just need to keep your eyes alert to move forward. You can block out the noise and enjoy these few minutes of silence with your favorite ebook, podcasts, and even music.
  2. Sleep 15 minutes earlier and get up 15 minutes earlier, and enjoy this quiet moment for yourself.  I meditate everyday, even if it is just one-minute meditation. Set your timer for one minute and close your eyes. Envision how your morning will be – peaceful. Then, let all thoughts (negative thoughts especially) float away from your mind. Find comfort in this space that you have claimed as yours.
  3. While you eat your meal, take the time to really enjoy your meal with all your five senses. No one can take this moment from you.  This is called mindful eating. Listen to the sound of the chewing, observe the colors of the food on your plate, and take a deep sniff of the aroma from your food.  Then, if you have any leftover from your plate, be a kid or baby again – touch your food, look at it, and feel the texture of the food.  Revisit your childlike wonders.

Self-care is vital to your health and well-beings of others. When you are well-taken of, you have the energy, capacity, and the desire to care and plus, you’ll be a more pleasant person to be cared for.

3 Ways to Keep the Weight Off for the Holiday Feasts

The months of November and December is packed with holidays to celebrate with families, friends, and food (yummy food). During these holidays, the waistline of many also expands (expectedly, and unexpectedly by how much). However, there are ways to reduce the ‘damages’, and still enjoy the holidays.

How do you prepare yourself (and your waistline) for the holidays? It’s all about perspective. Don’t look at the food as filling up your body; instead, use the food to fulfill your other senses.  
The core stems from mindfulness in three dimensions of health: physical, emotional, and social well-being.

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1. Physical Mindfulness. The jury is still out whether calorie counting really works, or the Paleo diet, or the plant-based diet … etc. Regardless of the type of dieting planning you are on, the best ‘diet’ is a non-diet plan, right?  What if you can continue your eating plan, but add a dimension of physical fitness now (in preparation of the holiday feasts), in incremental installment. This act will prepare the body to burn the extra calorie and increase your metabolism rate. When preparing your coffee, can you squeeze in jumping jack for 5 minutes, a few push-up, or Abs crunches.  Or before you get into the shower, do a 5 minutes yoga stretch in bed. As the turkey is baking in the oven, can you make it a game with your family to see how many squats you can do before the timer goes off?
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2. Emotional Mindfulness. When you are eating, do you notice the sounds and the texture of the food as you chew. Often time, the taste of the food overpowers our senses, and because of the ‘additive’ ingredients in the food, we ignore the ‘full’ signal in our stomach.  By enjoying the ‘sounds’ and ‘texture’ of the food, you will become mindful in your action. Naturally, your attention to the other sense (beside taste) will become ‘full’, and you will automatically want to eat less.  Your mind is connected to your stomach.  Try it, it works ! When the holiday feasts start, you won’t be tempted to pack your plate with food, instead, you will be focused on enjoying the ‘music of your food’.

3. Social Mindfulness.
 I agree, the food during the holidays are sometimes extra special and extra delicious. Instead of packing on the calorie at the dinner plate, use the time to enjoy the conversations among families and friends. When you are busy socializing and listening to you other’s life stories, you mind and heart will become ‘full’, before your stomach notices.  You’re be too busy filing your mind and heart with good ‘soul food’ to notice that you didn’t get the second plate of turkey meat !

Use these 3 ways to become ‘full’ beyond your tummy’s desires: physical, emotional, and social mindfulness through the holidays will keep your waist line in check.  

Three Easy Ways to Write Well for Work, your Dissertation, and even during NaNoWriMo

After completing a few writing boot camps and even survived my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November) with a 50,000+ word count manuscript at the finish line, I was too exhausted to even appreciate and celebrate my accomplishment.  I realized I focused too much at my goal at the expense of my health. I took up a bad eating habit (who has time to cook?), stopped exercising (isn’t exercising my brain to write, enough?), and didn’t sleep well (if only, I can add a few more words…). I realized this pattern has to change.

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I must change.  

Does it have to be this way? Yes and No. The choice is yours.

Whether you will be one of the novelists working on the 50,000+ words masterpiece, writing on your dissertation (probably over 50,000 words), or even working on your first blog, the writing process can be transformative beyond the words on the page and into your spirit.  You just need to be healthy enough to reflect and to enjoy it.

1. Change the mindset.

Self-care is not selfish.  Self-care is vital to ending the vicious cycle of love-and-hate of writing and our true nature. The entire writing process can be a retreat within the vicinity of your own body.  Through writing, you can know oneself on a deeper level, be reflective of your own senses and allow your awareness to direct your writing. Neglecting your body’s calling during the writing process is a missed opportunity to familiarize yourself with a healthy self, and the true self.

2. Restructure the writing schedule with self-care.  

Make your own wellness the priority and then assign a block of writing time around that.  I block out “health appointment” for myself.  If we go to our writing fortress with a well-nourished mind, body, and spirit, you will not only finish the writing project with minimally disrupted events but also end with a well-designed body and mind.

3. Create accountability.

As you track your word counts, create a method to keep track of your wellbeing. Join an online writing community as well as meet-up groups with a common interest in health and wellness.  Join an online writing community or meet up with a local writing group. Participate in a class and meet other writers to work on this wellness journey together.

The writing process can be an inspiring journey for self-discovery on and off the page. Writing through the empty spaces is like hiking into new terrains.

Write Strong. Live Well.  

Good Luck Fellow Writers for National Novel Writing Month!