Be Nice to Your Brain: Prioritize Downtime. Taking time for a mental recess can intensify productivity, solidify memories, replenish attention, enhance problem solving, invigorate creativity and bring more joy to life. As we plunge into the Christmas season, it is important to intentionally relax. It has actually been proven that perpetual busyness doesn’t actually result in getting more done. Our brains are designed to require substantial downtime to recharge and regenerate.
The idea of downtime is difficult to accomplish due to our world of 24/7 technology and activity. But, unplugging can dramatically improve mental and physical health as well as nourish our personal relationships. Here are three simple ways to START SOMEWHERE decreasing the frenzy of the Christmas season and enhance joy:
1. Turn your smartphone and computer off. It may sound impossible, but you will be amazed at the freedom your brain feels! I have started turning my phone off at 8 p.m. and not checking it again until 6 a.m. My brain is definitely happier and so far, I haven’t missed anything important!
2. Develop a sleep routine and stick to it as much as possible. People may make fun of you at first! Our brains like routines that signal when it is time to work and when it is time to relax. Remember, sleep is the interval when the brain gets “cleaned” of amyloid plaque that contributes to mental decline. Lots of great research supports this!
3. Put downtime on your schedule. That sounds a little like an oxymoron but you get the idea. It’s like tithing; if you wait until you can afford it, it will never happen. Just as you would schedule a meeting, block off time at home to do nothing and let nothing interfere with that.
Create space in your life to hit the pause button often during this most wonderful time of the year. Your brain, your body, and your closest relationships will thank you for it. May the real reason for Christmas give you peace and rest!
#AskDrDebbie: “Isn’t Xylitol just another form of sugar that should be avoided?” -Alicia D.
What a sweet question! We can all basically agree that added sugar may be the single most unhealthy facet of our modern diet and that sugar is highly addictive. Consequently, health aware people are looking for natural, safe alternatives. While weaning off of the constant need for sweets and taming our sweet tooth is the key, we still need options.
At this point, I believe that Xylitol has a place in that category. It is a common ingredient in sugar-free oral care products, chewing gum, mints, and candies. Here are some facts about Xylitol to help you make your own decision:
- Xylitol is sort of a hybrid of a sugar molecule and an alcohol molecule. This structure gives it the ability to stimulate the sweet taste receptors on the tongue. Although it is a sugar alcohol, it is safe for alcoholics.
- Because it is found in minute amounts in many fruits and vegetables, it is deemed natural. While it has similar sweetness as table sugar, it contains 40 percent fewer calories. Note that they are also “empty” calories because Xylitol is a refined product.
- Although Xylitol is technically a carbohydrate, it has a very low glycemic index and does not raise blood sugar levels.
- It is excellent in dental care products, and I recommend chewing gum with Xylitol to my patients. Streptococcus mutans, a common oral bacteria, feed on glucose from food but their systems cannot use Xylitol. When they ingest Xylitol, they die. This decreases the rate of dental decay but it also decreases inflammation in the mouth, which benefits the entire body.
These are just a few of the benefits but there is one big warning. Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs and even small amounts can be harmful. As with any food, especially refined foods, use moderation; some people experience gas, bloating or even diarrhea. Although it appears to be safe, I have not seen any long-term human clinical studies and believe that more research is needed. Bottom line: In moderation, it appears safe for humans and is a great alternative in gum!
15-Minute Parmesan Thyme Mushrooms (Kitchn)
You will need:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (about 2 ounces)
Here’s the drill:
Add 1/2 of the mushrooms, stir to coat with the oil, and arrange in a single layer. Sear undisturbed until the bottoms are well-browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining oil and mushrooms.
Return all the mushrooms and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Season with the salt and pepper and cook, stirring once or twice, until the mushrooms are browned all over, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine is completely reduced, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the thyme and cheese.
With love to Samuel and Mica: November is National Adoption Month and I want to pay tribute to brave birth mothers everywhere. We celebrate with all other the families who have been blessed through adoption like Mike and I have. Our two wonderful children were born 31 days apart in 1992, and I am forever grateful to Rachel and Meghan for their bravery. I can’t bear to think of life without Sam and Mica; they have enriched our life beyond words.
According to the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), there are more than 15 million children around the world who have lost both of their parents and need a family to love and share life with them. The legal process takes lots of effort but the rewards are absolutely eternal. Here’s a poem (author unconfirmed) that honors the beauty of adoption and says it all from my perspective:
“Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone.
But nevertheless, you’re still my own.
Never forget for one single minute.
You weren’t born under my heart, but in it.”
(By Fleur Conkling Heyliger)