Nice To Your Brain: Appreciate Ordinary Miracles. Although it may seem cliche, taking time to “stop and smell the roses” is sound advice for enhancing well-being and finding more satisfaction in life. A growing body of evidence is emerging from several directions suggesting that appreciation and gratitude are key in brain chemistry and overall physical health.
The ability to be appreciative is not an innate personality trait; we can all harness this brain nutrient. A Rutgers University study, directed by psychology professor Nancy Fagley, PhD, surveyed nearly 250 undergraduate students and evaluated their level of appreciation. Defined as, “acknowledging the value and meaning of something — an event, a behavior, an object– and feeling a positive emotional connection to it,” appreciation was divided into eight aspects in an attempt to find out whether or not appreciation of the simple things in life has any distinct benefit of its own. The study looked at the students’ personality traits to determine if they were more or less outgoing or neurotic in case this was a determining factor for the ability to be appreciative. Dr. Fagley found that those high on the appreciation scale enjoyed more life satisfaction regardless of personality traits. The research found that it is the intentional choice to be appreciative that makes the difference!
Expressing genuine appreciation is something that can be cultivated. Here are three simple ways to cultivate appreciation of the many ordinary miracles all around us and improve your brain health at the same time:
- Schedule time to observe ordinary miracles. Even as little as ten minutes is enough time to carefully contemplate the beauty in your world that is easily overlooked. Find a place to enjoy a sunset with no cell phone distractions. Remember, intentionality is required!
- Live in the present. How much time have we each wasted in the “if onlys” and the “what ifs?” I’m so guilty of this! Pondering the idea of what “my daily bread” actually means has been on my mind lately. Living in the present is about making progress toward the future today and not obsessing over what can only be done tomorrow.
- Keep a journal of the ordinary miracles that you appreciate! It can be the simplest pleasant event like having running water or watching a bird building a nest. Don’t judge me — because I am totally directionally challenged, but I appreciate finding my car in the parking lot without having to sound the key alarm. It’s the simple things in life that bring joy!
Be nice to your brain, one simple Start Somewhere strategy at a time. You can do it. I will help you.
#AskDrDebbie: “What is your favorite moisturizer?” -Patti C.
I think my answer will surprise you! About seven years ago, I started using Virgin Coconut Oil as my facial moisturizer. This was the result of discovering the benefits of a scrumptious peppermint body sugar scrub that I found on vacation. Because the sugar scrub was difficult to find locally (this was before online ordering was easy) and was expensive, I started experimenting and came up with my own recipe. You can find it here! Use of this fantastic scrub initiated the idea to mix my liquid foundation with a bit of coconut oil. It makes my skin feel silky smoothe and I have since found that it is truly skin therapy. It is also an excellent eye makeup remover! Here are a few reasons to consider using Virgin Coconut Oil as a face and body moisturizer:
- It is chemical and fragrance free. What goes on the skin goes into the body and must be processed by the liver. The skin is a huge organ of absorption. Virgin Coconut Oil is pure and inexpensive.
- It is naturally antibacterial and antifungal. The medicinal properties of Virgin Coconut Oil are attributed to its medium-chain fatty acids, of which lauric acid is the most abundant. The anti-infective mechanism of fatty acids is hypothesized to be due to interference with bacterial cell walls which leads to cell death. It has been used traditionally for skin infections for centuries.
- It is inexpensive compared to other moisturizers and has a long shelf life. It can easily be purchased locally. I store a larger container in the refrigerator to enhance the freshness.
Referred to as the “tree of life” because of its many uses, it has a low melting point. In temperatures above 76 degrees, it is liquid. When using it in the “butter” stage, put a little in your hand and rub it until it liquifies. Remember, a little goes a long way! Thank you Patti for this practical question. I hope you all try my sugar scrub recipe — it’s a great handspun gift idea!
Grain-Free Spiced Sweet Potato Bread (The Chalkboard)
You will need:
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup coconut flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground mace
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp sea salt
4 large eggs
½ cup almond butter
4 Tbsp unsalted, grass-fed butter, melted
1 tsp organic almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with the coconut oil. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pan and lay the parchment in the pan.Place the sweet potato slices in a medium saucepan and cover with about 1 inch filtered water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then return the slices to the saucepan.Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth and allow to cool to room temperature. In a bowl, combine the coconut flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, baking soda, baking powder and salt.In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until combined. Add the mashed sweet potatoes and the almond butter, melted butter, and almond extract and whisk gently until well combined. Add the coconut flour mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until evenly moistened.Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Invert the bread out of the pan onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.Cut the loaf into 1-inch slices and serve. Store tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 4 days.
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift from God, which is why we call it the present.” By Bil Keane (I think I’ve quoted this recently but just feel like we all need it again today!)