Category: consciousness

Start your day with music – a guest post!

More on mindfulness!

I opened my email box a couple of days ago and there was an email from Sarah.

It said:

Hi there!
I would be honored to be a guest writer for your blog and of course would reciprocate.  I hope you don’t mind that I shared your link in my last post.  I am not totally sure if blogging etiquette.  😀
Sarah Kinneavy
MyAmazing2ndChapter.com

Of course I said yes!

Sarah’s background is sociology and she has a degree in the subject. Just as important she owns a dog walking business. I will let her finish her background:

I believe in living life to the fullest.

My daughter is a Cancer survivor- and as a result of that journey- It put my life into perspective. I learned to never take anything for granted- you never know what’s around the next corner. I am continuing to work on becoming the best version of me, while making the most of each and everyday.

Frankly, I do not really know what it is like to have a daughter, or a son come to it, go down with cancer. The nearest I have come to the disease was when I had just turned 12 and my father died of lung cancer.

So here’s her guest post.

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Start your day with music- not the News! Surviving the Coronavirus with mindfulness Day 2

By Sarah Kinneavy, March 28th, 2020

As I continue to try to stay calm with mass panic happening across the globe 🌎 with this pandemic. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post:

https://myamazing2ndchapter.com/2020/03/27/surviving-the-coronavirus-with-mindfulness/

I am using mindfulness to train my brain in how it reacts to stress. The more we do these exercises the better we get at them.

Start your day with music rather than the news!

Yesterday one of my friends posted on Facebook to start the day off with music – rather than the news! What a great idea!!! So, yesterday, as I got ready for a job interview and I waited until it was late enough in Hawaii to do my daily well check on my daughter there (she is in isolation in a dorm room – I am not sure if she has the dreaded virus or not). I used music as the focal point of this mindfulness exercise. This 15 minutes of focusing on the music- listening to the rhythm helped keep me present. I wasn’t worrying about getting the job or how my daughter was doing. I was just in that moment of getting ready with the accompaniment of music. It was honestly 15 minutes of pure happiness. What a great way to start my day! One thing I have to add – I try to not let myself think about what the words of the songs mean to me, or when I first heard the song. I just listen and enjoy. Okay- I may have danced around my apartment a bit too!

I can tell you – I did not feel anxious going to my interview like I normally would. I didn’t panic about my daughter’s health – I was able to wait until after my interview to check in on her. Mindfulness does not keep me from ever worrying about my kiddo or the world around me. No – I still worry – but It isn’t swallowing me up whole. And this is key!

Heading to my job interview.

I can’t wait to talk to you again tomorrow . How are you coping with all the stress and anxiety?

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That’s a lovely guest post!
And the message is clear and powerful: “No – I still worry – but It isn’t swallowing me up whole. And this is key!

Mindfulness and health

What is it about mindfulness that delivers?

I have posted before about the role of mindfulness and do so again.

Simply because this article published by Mother Nature Network is both comprehensive and detailed.

In a world which seems crazier by the day it is good to remind ourselves how beneficial is mindfulness.

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Why is mindfulness beneficial for your health?

Practicing focus and acceptance can help with stress and more.

Rachel Pomerance Berl
March 16, 2020

By paying attention and listening to your body and feelings, you can get a sense of peace and calm. (Photo: andblank/Shutterstock)

Focus on your breath. Listen to your body. Notice your emotions, but don’t judge them.

These are a few of the cues routinely used to induce mindfulness, a meditative state of self-awareness and detached acceptance that promises practitioners a sense of peace and presence of mind.
By putting equanimity within arm’s reach, if even for a moment, mindfulness programs are quickly gaining steam throughout the country. And it’s perhaps no surprise. At a time when America’s huddled masses seem more wound up, stressed out and distracted than ever before, the call to calm down is a compelling one.

At issue is not only relief from stress but also the innumerable ailments related to it. And like yoga, mindfulness programs are proving to be powerful antidotes. From depression and anxiety to weight control and pain management, there’s a mindfulness treatment out there for what ails you. Fortune 100 companies are using mindfulness as part of leadership training, and the military is incorporating such techniques to reduce stress before deployment and to help ease post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s cultivating a general skill that can be applicable in lots of different circumstances,” says Vermont-based psychotherapist Arnie Kozak, who’s been using mindfulness in his clinical practice for nearly 20 years. “I think the place where it pays the biggest benefit is helping people to reduce reactivity,” he says. As Kozak explains, mindfulness won’t change someone’s condition, but it can change someone’s response to it and, in doing so, alleviate suffering.

How and why mindfulness works

Calming environments can help you accept and observe the chaos without judging it, part of the mindfulness approach. (Photo: Tejvan Pettinger [CC by 2.0]/Flickr)
In dealing with a difficulty — say, a crisis at work or a chronic disease — people often get mired in the narrative they create about the situation, perhaps chastising themselves about their feelings or behavior, envisioning catastrophic consequences or rehashing the incident ad nauseam. Mindfulness, however, teaches a healthy skepticism about the stories we tell ourselves, say Kozak, who likes to repeat a mantra: “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Fundamental to the practice is acceptance, rather than avoidance of a stressful situation. In a sense, it’s the opposite of the “Calgon, take-me-away” approach of yesteryear (commercials for the bath products featured a harried Mom pleading with Calgon to “take me away” from the cacophony of domestic life). Mindfulness, alternatively, would ask you to accept and observe the chaos, without liking or disliking what’s happening around you.

If that sounds challenging, it is — but the rewards can be profound. And they don’t require some sort of monastic discipline.

After an eight-week course of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness, participants changed their brain structure, according to a study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital. Brain scans of the subjects, who meditated an average of 27 minutes a day, found a thickening of regions associated with learning, memory, self-awareness and compassion and a thinning of the region connected to stress and anxiety.

According to Psychologist Lindsay Sauers, there are two parts of the stress-response cycle, and though everyone knows the first part — the rush that comes when you system is flushed with adrenaline and cortisol — the second part doesn’t get as much notice, but it’s important. There must be an emotional and physical release in response or the cycle is “incomplete.”

“We often wait until the ‘breaking point,’ when addressing the impact of stress becomes an absolute necessity,” she told Dave Bellomo of NorthCentralPA.com. “The challenge is that in waiting, we often feel so guilty about the consequences of the breaking point that once the immediate distress has leveled off, we go right back to pushing aside stress until it grows to that ‘breaking point’ again. It becomes a ‘rinse and repeat’ situation. While the rinse and repeat might be tolerable if we know it’s going to happen … this all-or-nothing process has a cumulative, detrimental impact on the body.”

Bringing mindfulness mainstream

University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness is where MBSR — and much of the mindfulness movement in this country — got its start. That’s thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-trained biologist who founded the center in 1979 and developed the MBSR program, helping to bring meditation mainstream.

Today, there are some 520 MBSR programs across the country and about 740 worldwide, according to the center’s executive director, Saki Santorelli. The center has seen more than 20,000 people complete its eight-week course, with many of them referred by conventional medical centers.

Mindfulness programs have also become a fixture of many integrative health care centers at universities across the country such as the dozens of members that comprise the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine.

Santorelli attributes the interest in mindfulness primarily to research and access. “From the very beginning, research has been a critical part of this process,” he says, adding that “society, in many ways, trusts science.” The growing body of literature on mindfulness fuels further interest.

Also, mindfulness work has a low bar to entry, Santorelli says. It doesn’t require renouncing one’s faith. It doesn’t necessarily cost anything. And it enables people to take an active role in their own healing.

He argues that the optimal approach for health care incorporates both the Western discipline, in which practitioners do something “to” or “for” a patient, with the self-care inherent in mindfulness.

While the former is critical if a patient requires surgery, the latter can bring about a sustained approach to well-being, Santorelli says. How so? He explains that through mindfulness, observation gives way to self-awareness — the point at which it becomes possible to change habits and behaviors.

That’s especially important, he adds, since so many of today’s maladies are related to lifestyle — from obesity to smoking.

Practical applications

Eating slowly and thinking about every bite may help you make healthier eating choices. (Photo: KPG Ivary/Shutterstock)

As director of research at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Frederick Hecht is using mindfulness techniques to disrupt the automatic eating behavior that so often derails efforts to lose and maintain weight.

“The idea is to chew our food a little more carefully, to really savor both the texture and the taste of the food, to be aware of all the sensations you’re feeling as you eat,” with the goal of getting greater satisfaction from less food, he says. By paying close attention to how they feel before and after eating, participants may be more likely to make healthier choices.

“There’s promising data for things like mindful eating, but it’s preliminary data,” says Hecht, who is training in internal medicine and clinical epidemiology. “More research and better research is really key, and its particularly key for health professionals when we’re called on to really recommend this, and we need a stronger evidence base.”

At the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, pulmonologist Roberto Benzo is using mindfulness techniques to help patients manage conditions such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). “Health is far beyond fixing an organ, having a transplant, getting a coronary fixed — that is just a piece of the story,” Benzo says, referencing his yet-to-be-published research showing that quality of life and self-care hinge on one’s emotional state.

The many benefits of mindfulness training.

Gratitude and an appreciation of nature can help a stressed person tune into the moment. (Photo: vvvita/Shutterstock)

With that in mind, Benzos work as founding director of Mayo’s Mindful Breathing Lab is to help patients see past their disease and appreciate life.

“To embrace life, we always embrace what we like … It’s difficult to embrace that sometimes we’re sad, sometimes things are not going in the direction we want,” he says. “Mindfulness is the ability to be here and now even when one has a condition like a lung disease or a heart disease or something like that.”

Using techniques like breathing, moving and gratitude, Benzo has found that patients tune in to the moment and feel better. “They start to look at the good that is in front of them,” he says.

But getting to that stage requires switching gears.

To that end, Los Angeles-based psychologist Elisha Goldstein and author of “The Now Effect” reminds his patients to simply “STOP.” The acronym stands for: Stop, take a few breaths, observe your experience and proceed. As Goldstein puts it, the exercise “pops them out of autopilot” and into a position to ask “what really matters in life” at that moment. From that place of calm, we are better poised to make the best choice and the most of the moment.

As those moments build up, they may amount to a lifetime of living in the midst of them.

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I can do no better than to repeat the advice of Elisha Goldstein in that penultimate  paragraph.

Stop, Take a few breaths, Observe your experience, Proceed.

We most certainly need this help. All of us!

There’s no escaping it!

Getting old is inevitable.

Becoming wiser as one ages less so!

I am minded to start today’s post with that reflection because quite simply it was the way to introduce my republication of Wibble’s post.

The article is about Dexter and is just lovely. It is called Older or wiser.

Enjoy!

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Older or wiser

By Dexter, February 19th, 2020

I’m sitting here and the rain is drizzling down the window. It’s February, its windy, we’ve had two winter storms in quick succession and they are digging up the road outside my house. Do they not know I am trying to sleep. Even more surprising but equally as joyous, Lenny isn’t trying to bite me. Now if you have read some of my recent blogs, you will know I have been somewhat contemplative. If you are hoping for shenanigans in this article, then I fear you will again be somewhat disappointed. Earlier today I was wondering to myself about becoming older and, apparently, wiser.

Being older is a bit obvious really. I have more grey hair, I eat my dinner more slowly and I don’t need to walk as far as I used to. I’ve even missed scenting rabbits and squirrels according to assorted parents I have been attached to when these alleged missed sightings have taken place. I can still play bitey face with Lenny, and give him what for, but I tend to duck out of said prolonged snout jousting after a short time. Being beagles we are docile chaps and even when we are in full cry with sofa covers flying around, furniture being rearranged and rugs being ruffled, we manage to stop for a breather on fairly regular occasions. Sometimes it takes a parent stepping in between us to remind the warring parties that its time for a break but, on the whole, we tend to cease and desist quite readily. I am then happy to retire to one of my six or so beds to snooze. However Lenny seems to have a little extra bounce in his paws although I think that is because he is around eighteen months old and I am, allegedly, going to be ten next birthday. No one truly knows how old I am due to me being a rescue but the wise money is on nearly ten now. I am happy for him to run around a little longer, chew what remains of one of my toys and then fall asleep on the sofa. Usually this is interspersed with trying to bite me but again, being docile, I try and fend him off without sending clear signals that I just want to rest.

Older?

As for being wiser, I don’t really know what that entails. If it means that I have seen things, been places and done stuff, then yes I am wiser. If it means that having done said activities, I have learned from the experiences, then not necessarily. For example I have been on the tube and train to London quite a few times, however I still want to investigate what those wonderful smells are down on the track. Thank goodness for a lead and attached human apparently. Another example, is that I have lived here for seven Christmases and, despite the jolly red faced man delivering me many wonderful things but nothing closely resembling a pizza tasting gift, it is wrapping paper I am still fascinated by. I can’t eat it, I know I can’t, but does it stop me from trying? Of course not. Many winters have I seen here, many dirty puddles have I walked through in a Moses style and many times have I been told “Dex, no, ugh good grief you look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon”. Does it stop me stomping through puddles in the most triumphal fashion? No, of course not. I have stopped chasing pigeons in the garden and that’s not because I am banned from the garden. Far from it, for I merely allow my protege to chase them for me. Young whipper-snapper legs are faster than these old bones of mine. I have stopped chewing my toys to a misshapen soggy jumble of fabric, with an accompanying scene of death and destruction wrought across the rugs. Again I leave the dental lobotomisation of toys to Lenny, as he seems to have picked up the baton fairly quickly and extremely proficiently.

Wiser?

If growing older and wiser means seeing things, going places, enjoying the view, smelling more flowers and generally knowing that I should take my time to appreciate and immerse myself in all the things I rushed to see previously, then I am older and wiser. I still have adventures, I still walk and pull on the lead, stick my head down rabbit holes and try to climb the banks along the lanes and byways I explore. I still look in awe at the beauty of the countryside I visit, gaze at the buildings and people in the city. But I let it sink in now, I actually look at what is in front of me and then usually fall asleep soon after, twitching and dreaming. I am trying to pass on my perceived wisdom to Lenny. He is often too busy bouncing around, trying to sniff everything, meet every fur and being a very lovable pest in as quick a time as possible. I see much in Lenny that I had in my youth and this gives me a warm feeling. I hope I can help him to understand that, at some point, he will sit and watch the world go by, with a peace and calmness that I seem to be achieving more often.

Who knows, maybe that is the secret to being older and wiser.

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Just read that last paragraph again. Especially the first sentence: “If growing older and wiser means seeing things, going places, enjoying the view, smelling more flowers and generally knowing that I should take my time to appreciate and immerse myself in all the things I rushed to see previously, then I am older and wiser.

In my opinion dogs do this so much better than we humans. Yet another lesson to be learned from dogs!

Because both for dogs and their human friends, it’s only a matter of time!

Yet another bonus of having dogs in our lives.

There really is no end to the sense of smell that a dog has.

I was browsing online The Smithsonian magazine and came across a long article that was all about the dog’s sense of smell in terms of sniffing out citrus greening disease.

There’s no end of articles about the dog’s sense of smell and I have written about it before. But first I’m going to reproduce the article on Animal Planet because it gets to the point.

Dogs rule. Or, at least, they do when it comes to their sense of smell, which crushes that of humans. According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), a dog’s sense of smell is about 1,000 times keener than that of their two-legged companions — and many dog experts claim it’s millions of times better — thanks to the construction of their often-slobbery, wet schnozzes. So what, exactly, is going on in there?

A dog sniffs at scents using his nose, of course, and also his mouth, which may open in a sort of grin. His nostrils, or nares, can move independently of one another, which helps him pinpoint where a particular smell is coming from. As a dog inhales a scent, it settles into his spacious nasal cavity, which is divided into two chambers and, ACES reports, is home to more than 220 million olfactory receptors (humans have a measly 5 million). Mucus traps the scent particles inside the nasal chambers while the olfactory receptors process them. Additional particles are trapped in the mucus on the exterior surface of his nose.

Sometimes, it takes more than one sniff for a dog to accumulate enough odor molecules to identify a smell. When the dog needs to exhale, air is forced out the side of his nostrils, allowing him to continue smelling the odors he’s currently sniffing.

Dogs possess another olfactory chamber called Jacobson’s organ, or, scientifically, the vomeronasal organ. Tucked at the bottom of the nasal cavity, it has two fluid-filled sacs that enable dogs to smell and taste simultaneously. Puppies use it to locate their mother’s milk, and even a favored teat. Adult dogs mainly use it when smelling animal pheromones in substances like urine, or those emitted when a female dog is in heat.

Top Sniffers

What all of this sniffing and processing really means is that a dog’s sense of smell is his primary form of communication. And it’s a phenomenal one, because dogs don’t just smell odors that we can’t. When a dog greets another dog through sniffing, for example, he’s learning an intricate tale: what the other dog’s sex is, what he ate that day, whom he interacted with, what he touched, what mood he’s in and — if it’s a female — if she’s pregnant or even if she’s had a false pregnancy. It’s no wonder, then, that while a dog’s brain is only one-tenth the size of a human brain, the portion controlling smell is 40 times larger than in humans.

So, who’s top dog when it comes to sniffing? While all canines have an incredible sense of smell, some breeds — such as bloodhounds, basset hounds and beagles — have more highly refined sniffers. This is a result of several factors. Dogs with longer snouts, for example, can smell better simply because their noses have more olfactory glands. Bloodhounds, members of the “scent hound” canine group, also have lots of skin folds around their faces, which help to trap scent particles. And their long ears, like those of Bassets, drag on the ground, collecting more smells that can be easily swept into their noses.

Of course, dogs are individuals as well, so it’s certainly possible to find a non-scent-hound who can outperform one. And as Dr. Sandi Sawchuk, a clinical instructor at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, notes: “There are lots of breeds that can be trained to sniff out certain items — for example, cadaver-sniffing dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, etc.”

Now to that longer Smithsonian article.

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Can Disease-Sniffing Dogs Save the World’s Citrus?

Once trained, canines can detect citrus greening disease earlier and more accurately than current diagnostics

By Katherine J. Wu ,    smithsonianmag.com
Feb. 3, 2020

A detector dog named Szaboles, trained to sniff out the bacterial pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus in a citrus orchard. (Courtesy of Tim R. Gottwald)

Tim Gottwald will never forget the sight: the mottled yellow leaves, the withered branches, the small, misshapen fruits, tinged with sickly green. These were the signs he’d learned to associate with huanglongbing, or citrus greening—a devastating and wildly infectious bacterial infection that slashed the United States’ orange juice yields by more than 70 percent in the span of a decade.

“It’s like a cancer,” says Gottwald, a plant pathologist with the United States Department of Agriculture. “One that’s metastasized, and can’t be eradicated or cured.”

Once they’ve begun to sport splotchy foliage and stunted fruit, trees can be diagnosed with a single glance. A symptomatic plant, Gottwald says, is a diseased one. Unfortunately, the converse isn’t true: Infected trees can appear normal for months, sometimes years, before visibly deteriorating, leaving researchers with few reliable ways to suss out sick citrus early on—and giving the deadly bacteria ample opportunity to spread unnoticed.

Now, Gottwald and his colleagues may have a creative new strategy to fill this diagnostic gap—one that relies not on vision, but smell. They’ve taught dogs to recognize the telltale scent of a huanglongbing infection—an odor that eludes the attention of humans, but consistently tickles the super-sensitive schnozz of a mutt. Once trained up, canines can nose out the disease within weeks of infection, trouncing all other available detection methods in both timing and accuracy, the researchers report today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is a major step in the development of what could be a really important early detection tool,” says Monique Rivera, an entomologist and citrus pest expert at the University of California, Riverside who wasn’t involved in the study. “It could give growers information about potential exposure … to the causative bacteria.”

First described in China in the early 1900s, huanglongbing has now crippled orchards in more than 50 countries around the globe. Fifteen years ago, the scourge took hold in Florida, where infected trees are now the norm; the state’s $9 billion citrus industry, once the second largest in the world, is now on the verge of collapse. From oranges to grapefruits to lemons, no variety of citrus is immune.

As the disease continues to creep into new regions, researchers worldwide are scrambling to contain it. But the task has proved difficult: No effective treatments, cures or vaccines exist for huanglongbing, the product of a bacterium called Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (or CLas, pronounced “sea lass”) that’s ferried from tree to tree by winged insects. Scientists have also found the microbes to be extraordinarily difficult to grow and study in the lab.

The 20 canines in the study trained to detect CLas-infected citrus trees. (Gottwald et al., PNAS, 2020)

Currently, the only surefire way to curb citrus greening’s spread is to extract and eliminate infected trees. This strategy depends entirely on early detection—“one of the biggest problems in the field right now,” says Carolyn Slupsky, a plant pathologist at the University of California, Davis who wasn’t involved in the study. Spotting an asymptomatic infection by eye is essentially impossible. And though genetic tests can sometimes pinpoint microbes in apparently healthy trees, their success rates are low and inconsistent, due in part to the patchiness with which CLas distributes itself in plant tissue.

In many ways, huanglongbing is “the perfect storm of a disease,” Slupsky says.

But canines may just be the perfect candidates to lend a helping paw. With a sense of smell that’s 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than a human’s, dogs are superstar sniffers, capable of nosing out everything from bombs to drugs. In recent years, they’ve even been deployed to detect pathogenic diseases like malaria. Infections, it turns out, stink—and dogs definitely take notice.

To see if pooches’ powers of perception might extend to huanglongbing, Gottwald and his team taught 20 dogs to pick up on the smell of citrus plants with known infections, rewarding the pups with toys when they identified the correct trees. After just a few weeks of training, the newly-minted citrus sniffers were picking out infected trees with about 99 percent accuracy. Put in pairs to corroborate each other’s results, the dogs got close-to-perfect scores.

Gottwald was floored. “I wasn’t surprised [the dogs] could do it,” he says. “But I was surprised by how well they could do it. It was pretty amazing.”

The team then pitted the pups against a common but expensive laboratory test that’s often used to verify the presence of CLas DNA in suspicious-looking citrus. After spiking the microbes into 30 trees, the researchers mixed the newly-infected plants into rows of healthy ones and allowed the dogs to inspect them on a weekly basis. Within a month, the canines had collectively homed in on every single CLas-positive plant.

The DNA test, on the other hand, had no such luck: Seventeen months into the infection, it was still failing to identify a third of the diseased trees.

If Gottwald’s team sees continued success, “this could be very exciting for [citrus] growers,” who could someday keep dogs around as a fast and relatively inexpensive way to survey their orchards, says Phuc Ha, a microbiologist at Washington State University who wasn’t involved in the study. For now, the most immediate applications lie in disease prevention. But, she adds, should researchers develop treatments for huanglongbing, canines could eventually play a role in curing the condition as well.

Gottwald and his team have already begun to send small teams of citrus-sniffer dogs to inspect vulnerable trees in California and Texas. In both locations, the canines have alerted the researchers to trees that have yet to test positive in the lab.

This, however, evokes the double-edged sword of early detection research: The dogs are so much faster at finding potentially diseased trees that their picks can’t actually be confirmed, Slupsky points out. Maybe they’re more sensitive than the molecular test, and the disease is more widespread than researchers feared. Or maybe the canine’s noses are leading them astray. “Specificity is always an issue,” Slupsky says, “because you’re comparing them to an imperfect test.”

Dogs also come with their own drawbacks. They can tire; they can be distracted. They’re not machines. And while they can make fast work of orchards where infections are rare, their performance will probably plummet in heavily afflicted groves. In an ideal world, Slupsky says, the dogs would serve strictly as a first line of defense, screening trees for further monitoring or testing in the lab. She and her colleagues are hard at work on one such diagnostic, built to detect the unique suite of chemicals infected leaves produce early on.

Many questions remain unanswered. Gottwald still isn’t sure what exactly the dogs are smelling on the plants, though a series of experiments indicate the scent is probably coming from the CLas bacteria themselves. That theory may be tough to test: Though researchers like Washington State’s Ha have now grown CLas in the presence of other microbes, no one has yet managed to isolate the strain in a pure culture, hampering efforts to understand its basic biology and develop precise treatments.

While exciting, the team’s dog-nostic developments ultimately underscore “just how distant we still are from understanding a lot of the mechanistic processes that are going on [with this disease],” Rivera says. But with more collaboration and multidisciplinary work, she adds, “I think we’ll keep heading toward solutions.”

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When one watches a dog closely it’s very clear that their nose is their primary sense. At least a thousand times better than our human sense of smell and some people put it much higher. That is impossible to understand. The best we can do is to wonder at the sort of world that dogs ‘see’ with their noses.

I will close with an old photograph of Pharaoh helping a prospector look for gold in our creek.

Pharaoh, instinctively, thought that a dog’s nose would raise the odds of a find.

This has nothing to do with dogs!

But everything to do with staying fit and healthy.

There are many things that I read first thing in the morning before I am dressed. Ninety-nine percent of them I don’t share with you.

But the following caused me to a) reflect on whether I was guilty of doing this, and b) how many others know of this.

One of the results of having 4,000 (bar 25) followers of this place is that I feel a certain obligation to share certain news.

It was published on The Conversation and is free to reproduce.

So here goes:

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The serious consequence of exercising too much, too fast

Exercising too much, too hard can lead not only to burnout but sometimes to a serious condition that can harm the kidneys.

By , Associate Professor of Exercise and Sports Science, Wayne State University, January 24th, 2020.

Every 365.25 days, when the Earth completes a full orbit around the Sun, we humans have the opportunity to hit the reset button and become fitter, finer versions of ourselves. As usual for January, social media is humming with advice on how to eat better, exercise regularly, lose weight and remain healthy. We feel particularly invincible at this time of year, armed with renewed vigor and motivation to purge ourselves from previous indulgences and our couch-potato ways.

The New Year is also the time when our overzealous, instant-gratification selves emerge, and we do too much exercise too soon to make up for lost time. Exhaustive muscular work, especially following a period of inactivity, can cause mechanical and chemical disruptions to muscle cell membranes which trigger the muscle cells to burst.

I am an exercise physiologist and sports medicine specialist who studies exercise-associated collapse. I am seeing and hearing of more incidents of skeletal muscle ruptures that are causing harm in other parts of the body.

This information is not designed to scare people back onto the couch. The key take-away from highlighting these cases is to remind athletes, coaches and mere mortals that the desired physiological response to a training stimulus requires both a gradual buildup period and period of recovery in between training sessions.

A cross-section of the human kidneys, which can be injured when muscle cells rupture and send toxic chemicals into the bloodstream. crystal light/Shutterstock.com

More than muscle injury

The medical term for skeletal muscle cell rupture is “rhabdomyolysis,” or “rhabdo” for short. When muscle cells rupture or explode, the intracellular contents are released into the bloodstream. These cellular contents include enzymes, such as creatine kinase; electrolytes, such as potassium; and proteins, such as myoglobin.

Myoglobin, in particular, is a big, red protein that can block the kidney filtration system, or renal tubules, that serve as kidney plumbing. It also can dissociate into toxic byproducts that injure kidneys. In rare cases, too much myoglobin in the bloodstream can stop kidney function altogether, as happened with a 27-year old marathon runner who died from kidney failure.

In a study we conducted on college swimmers, we saw a cluster of rhabdomyolysis, in which six out of 34 swimmers were hospitalized after participating in a 20-minute or so “arm competition” to see how many pull-ups, rows and bench presses they could complete. Cases of “symptomatic rhabdo,” or those needing medical treatment, appear to be increasing within collegiate sports teams at an alarming rate, with the characteristic appearance seen in football players returning to January practice after a season-ending holiday layoff.

To date, 17 cases of team rhabdo have occurred from doing “too much, too soon, too fast” and include a variety of sports such as football, swimming, lacrosse, soccer, track, basketball, softball, volleyball and golf.

Noncompetitive athletes affected too

So, what about us mere mortals trying to get back in shape? Any physical activity that is either new or excessive can cause symptomatic rhabdo. Excessive gardening, weightlifting, CrossFit type activities and even a routine Army physical fitness test have triggered symptomatic rhabdo with kidney injury.

Over 90 cases of rhabdo have been documented after spinning, while 119 high school students in Taiwan ended up in the emergency room after their teacher made them complete 120 push-ups within five minutes. Thus, harmful muscle cell rupture can occur after any degree five minutes to 36 hours of exuberant and/or unaccustomed physical activity.

In combination, gradual training and appropriate recovery allow beneficial muscular, cardiovascular and body composition adaptations to occur, such as building muscle, increasing fitness and losing body fat. Our research confirms that a two-week gradual introduction into training after a layoff is required for muscle cell membranes to fully adapt to training stress.

Subclinical rhabdo, or muscle breakdown without acute kidney injury or debilitating symptoms, is common and represents the typical response to training which does not require medical treatment. However, hard exercise, especially following a layoff, with the following signs or symptoms within one to two days requires an appropriate medical examination:

    • excruciating muscle pain that does not resolve over time
    • muscle swelling with limitations in movement
    • nausea or vomiting, or both
    • very dark (looks like Coca-Cola) or sparse urine.

There are risk factors which increase the likelihood of developing rhabdo following a workout. These risk factors include exercising in the heat, dehydration or overhydration, binge drinking, excessive coffee consumption, extreme dietary practices (vegetarian or high [protein] https://doi.org/10.1097/JSM.0000000000000310)) and possessing the sickle cell trait. Both men and women can develop symptomatic rhabdo, although we see more cases in men. Smaller arm muscles appear more susceptible to rupture after five to 30 minutes of exercise than bigger leg muscles for reasons that remain unclear.

Although symptomatic rhabdomyolysis is uncommon, this emergent complication of exercise should be on everyone’s radar since cases are on the rise. We coaches, trainers, scientists, practitioners and others encourage everyone to reap the joys and benefits of regular exercise training. However, we caution against exercising too much too soon. Self- (or coach-) inflicted skeletal muscle cell explosions are fully preventable with adherence to smart, physiologically sound approaches to training.

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Now there’s an element of me not really understanding this (and I haven’t yet watched the video) but that’s no reason not to share it with you.

What do you think? Wiser to share it or too much a case of worrying? Tamara Hew-Butler certainly knows all about this.

Dog rescuers are a great bunch of people!

I was reminded of this earlier yesterday.

Yesterday and today are days where it’s my turn to do the neighborhood watch patrols. I left for the first patrol a little after 9am yesterday and when I was going up Livingston Drive there was a guy walking his Corgi. Now it’s the second time we have met and I stopped and let the sweet dog come up to my outstretched hand and sniff my fingers. John, not his real name, mentioned that he was slowly adapting to a life of love and affection in stark contrast to the beatings the dog received in his previous life. John was a real hero!

Here’s another example of goodness beyond description. Taken from The Dodo.

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Dog Found On Side Of Road Immediately Snuggles Her Rescuer

Photo Credit: Kris Lenker

Kris Lenker and her husband were driving home from work last week when they spotted something on the road ahead.

They assumed, being out in the country, that the small, tan animal was a baby deer — but as they got closer, they realized their mistake. “We slowed down and realized that it was a dog,” Lenker told The Dodo.

Lenker hopped out of the car and called to the dog, but the nervous pup took off down a pathway. Lenker followed close behind, tempted to turn around. “I couldn’t see her anymore and we almost left,” Lenker said. “I just had a feeling, though.”

Photo Credit: Kris Lenker

Lenker found the dog hiding behind a fence, and after a few minutes of gentle pets, the nervous dog decided to take a chance. “She wrapped her front paws around my neck and let me carry her back to the car,” Lenker said. “She was absolutely terrified, but I could tell she trusted me … It just felt like we were brought together for a reason.”

Shortly after the dog entered the car, her demeanor changed. It was as if she knew she was finally safe. “I just pet her and told her I had her,” Lenker said. “That is when she just collapsed into a ball in my lap. It’s like relief just hit her. She rode the rest of the way home in my lap like that.”

Photo Credit: Kris Lenker

While she decompresses and regains her strength, the dog, whom the couple has named Reba, is hanging out in a warm bathroom. When she’s up to it, she’ll get to meet her new dog siblings, who will show her the rules of the house.

And Reba is still just as affectionate as the first day they found her: “Belly rubs are her favorite, and she doesn’t hesitate to ask for them!” Lenker said. “She rolls on her back and paws at us until we give in.”

Reba was initially resistant to being rescued, but now she doesn’t want to leave — even to go outside for potty training. She demands that her mom carries her outside and back in every time.

Photo Credit: Kris Lenker

“I think she is still afraid she will be left out there,” Lenker said.

It’s only been a few days, but already Reba has been putting on weight and learning what it means to have a real family. “Her energy level is so much better and she is the biggest love bug,” Lenker said. “All she wants to do is snuggle us and give us kisses. It’s her favorite thing to do.”

Lenker believes they were truly meant to have Reba as part of their family. “She wouldn’t let anyone get near her, but she let us take her,” Lenker said. “She trusts us so much and we have fallen in love.”

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She trusts us so much and we have fallen in love.” What a fabulous end result.

There are so many loving people out there that would do the same. It’s an honour to present this account.

A New Start!

This has nothing to do with dogs.

Well not in a direct manner.

But all dog owners know that the odds of anxiety or depression if you have a dog or two around one are greatly reduced.

I’m chairing a discussion on depression at our local Humanists and Freethinkers group in eighteen days time; on January 18th, 2020. The core of my talk is a TED Talk given journalist Johann Hari in July of 2019.

This is how the talk is introduced.

In a moving talk, journalist Johann Hari shares fresh insights on the causes of depression and anxiety from experts around the world — as well as some exciting emerging solutions. “If you’re depressed or anxious, you’re not weak and you’re not crazy — you’re a human being with unmet needs,” Hari says.

There are sufficient numbers of people who follow this blog that it is likely that this talk will really engage a few of you. It’s twenty minutes long and very interesting!

I hope you find it engaging!

A Very Happy New Year to you!

This is a gorgeous story, and it’s true!

Piper lost and found!

There’s something almost beyond the world of words, pictures and blogging. That’s when a dog goes missing and then is found. Especially if the lover of the dog is a young boy who fears the worst.

Dogs bring out so much that is good in us. Dogs cross gender, age, country and ethnic boundaries.

This is what struck me with some force I will admit when I read this article on the Daily Dodo yesterday. It is republished for your own delight!

Oh, and welcome to Friday the 13th!

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Family Surprises Boy At School With His Lost Dog

So many happy tears 😭❤️️🐶

Photo Credit: Facebook/April Licata

The holidays aren’t about what’s under the tree; it’s who you’re with that matters. And no one understands that better than Carter Licata and his dog, Piper.

The 2-year-old pug loves everyone in her family, but her bond with her brother is special. “It was love at first sight for the two of them,” April Licata, Carter’s mom, told The Dodo.

But the family’s holiday season was nearly destroyed when the unthinkable happened — Piper went missing.

Photo Credit: April Licata

Last month, Licata let Piper and her other dog outside to use the bathroom. But when she opened the door to let them back in, Piper was nowhere to be seen.

The family searched everywhere, posted on social media, and reached out to neighbors and community groups. They prayed for Piper’s safe return, but as days turned to weeks, they feared that they would never see their pug again.

“We were all sick,” Licata said. “The older kids wanted nothing to do with decorating the Christmas tree and it was a very somber Thanksgiving for them.”

Then, Licata received a Facebook message from the Genesee County Animal Shelter. A dog matching Piper’s description had been dropped off at the shelter by a person who wanted to remain anonymous. “My husband and I were going out to dinner and honestly, there was an outcry of joy in the truck,” Licata said. “We were shocked and elated!”

Carter was out of town when they learned about Piper, so they decided to keep it a secret and surprise him with a special reunion when he returned. Piper, meanwhile, wandered around the house looking for her brother, until finally, their reunion day arrived.

Photo Credit: Facebook/April Licata

When Carter saw Piper in the front seat of the truck, decked out in bows, he immediately broke down in tears.

Piper’s tail went crazy at the sight of her brother and as soon as he stepped in the truck, she jumped in his arms, showering him with kisses.

The family couldn’t be happier to have Piper back again — and just in time for Christmas.

“My son loves his dog so much, was sick while she was gone, and tonight she’s sleeping next to him again,” Licata wrote on Facebook. “What a Christmas miracle for our family.”

You can see the heart-warming video below.

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I know that for the main part I just republish the work that others do. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not affected by the articles. This one in particular had me in tears.

Dogs mean so, so much to us!

Picture Parade Three Hundred and Seventeen

A republication of a Picture Parade from November, 2016

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Originally seen on Mother Nature Network where it was published by Mary Jo Dilonardo back on November 8th.

Take a moment of Zen with these dogs

Chilled-out canines experience a moment of utter calmness

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Fred the Basset hound appears to have more Zen moments than most dogs. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

Australian animal photographer Alex Cearns remembers the first Zen dog image she ever captured, a Shar-Pei named Suzi.

“During her photo session, I caught a shot of her with her eyes closed, and a big smile on her face. I called the image ‘Zen Dog,’ and when her owners saw it, they immediately fell in love with the vibe of the image and with Suzi’s relaxed and happy pose,” Cearns says.

“With such positive feedback, I became keen to capture the emotion and moment of being a Zen dog for other dogs who visited my studio.”

Cearns tries to take at least one Zen-like image for every dog photo session she conducts at her Houndstooth Studio, even if the process takes time. She has compiled 80 of these images of meditative canines in her new book “Zen Dogs.”

Bailey is an Australian shepherd. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Bailey is an Australian shepherd. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

To get her canine subjects to relax, Cearns makes sure they are authentically calm and happy. Her studio is small, quiet and without many distractions.

“During my photo sessions, I realized that some types of dogs are more likely to close their eyes than others,” Cearns says. “Dogs who were fairly laid back, or who liked to lie about were easier to photograph in a Zen state, whereas dogs overly fixated on toys or treats wouldn’t close their eyes for a second, should the toy or treat disappear. They kept their eyes firmly on the prize.”

Lexie the Weimaraner looks stately. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Lexie the Weimaraner looks stately. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

Although it might look like the dogs are zoned out or even sleeping, that’s not the case; Cearns has skillfully caught a restful moment with her camera.

“The images capture a split second blink of my dog subjects, freezing the moment in time,” she says. “Sitting only a foot away, I’m able to watch each dog subject carefully to pick up on their blinking pattern, and take a series of images just before I predict their blink.”

Barney is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)
Barney is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)

The book “Zen Dogs” includes photos of a wide range of breeds, interspersed with Zen-inspired quotes by Gandhi, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi and others with thoughtful, meditative words to share. There’s this one, for example, from “Unknown”:

If you’re always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you’re in?

Muska is a relaxed Hungarian vizsla. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Muska is a relaxed Hungarian vizsla. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

“As soon as a dog visits my studio, I aim to genuinely make friends with them and ensure they are comfortable and feel secure,” says Cearns. “I try to find out what they love most — a certain type of treat, or a particular toy — and then use that knowledge to win them over.”

Kono is a miniature poodle in a moment of Zen. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)
Kono is a miniature poodle in a moment of Zen. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)

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It’s a wonderful reminder of what is important in our lives.

Big hugs to you all.

Now here’s a sight!

Walking improves vision!

Dogs are the masters of being on four legs. And, presumably, their sight benefits from being so active.

I have been following Tony who writes the blog One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100 for some time. Here is what he says about himself.

I’m Tony
I have been interested in eating healthy for more than 35 years. Unfortunately,  my actions haven’t always matched my aims. As Mae West said, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”

I drifted too, for a long time, but after writing posts for this blog for nearly 10 years, I have gotten good at it. I used the Lose It! App for a while (iPhone, iPad, Touch) a calorie counter that also breaks down nutrients and gives you a daily weight chart to demonstrate your progress. It’s not the only tool like this around, but it’s a good one. I think you are better off using a tool than not using one, especially if you are just embarking on a weight loss program.

Using that tool and practicing some self discipline I now have complete confidence in my ability to maintain a healthy body weight. I still need to work on the lean muscle mass thing, though. I love riding my bicycle and have no problem logging lots of miles and putting calories into the bank to free up my eating. I average around 100 miles a week.  That covers a multitude of sins at the table. Biking is a wonderful cardio workout. Few people realize, however, it is also very stimulating for the brain. It’s a lot more fun than working with weights, but ya gotta do that, too. I write about the benefits of cardio exercise on the brain often in this blog as it is usually misunderstood and/or completely overlooked in most fitness writing. I had an aunt who died of Alzheimer’s, my mother who suffered from dementia in her final years, and my grandfather on my father’s side also had cognitive problems in his later years, so I am dead serious about protecting myself from mental decline. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – and exercise to read more about it.

I retired 19 years ago. I spent 20 years as a Reuters Correspondent and Editor after starting my career in men’s magazines. I taught journalism at Medill for a while and then wrote in the investment department of a major U.S. philanthropy where I spent my last few years managing $900 million in bond investments.

Now that I am retired, I have complete control over what I eat. My heart goes out to you folks who go to work every day. It is much harder to control your caloric intake. There are business lunches and dinners to attend, late days at the office, working through lunch as well as traveling. I think if I were still working I would seriously consider bringing lunch from home a day or two each week to keep a handle on my intake. With a fridge and microwave where you work, you are good to go.

When I started writing for this blog in March of 2010 I weighed 165 pounds, the lowest I had been in 15 years. I thought I had arrived at fitness and health. Now, in 2019, I weigh 155 pounds. That’s right, I have melted off a further 10 pounds from my best weight in years. My resting heart rate is under 50 beats per minute (bpm), a result of my cycling, but significantly under the ‘normal’ of 65 to 90 bpm for a guy in his upper 70’s. I have less than 16 percent body fat and a 31 inch waist (the first time since high school). I have reached this state of fitness and health following the ideas and techniques I write about in this blog. You can, too

When the blog started, I was talking the talk, over nine years later I am walking the walk. You can do the same. I am just a regular guy. If I can do it you can, too. Check out my page  How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off for a start. Lots of excellent, practical principles there that I have learned and now apply to my daily life.

Just over 20 years ago my weight got out of control and I ballooned over 220 pounds. I took off 50 pounds in a year, but that only got me down to the mid-170’s. You can read How I lost 50 pounds in 52 weeks if you want chapter and verse.

When I retired, I started taking courses from The Great Courses. They include “Nutrition Made Clear” by Professor Roberta Anding. She has an MS in Nutrition and is a registered Dietitian and a certified specialist in sports dietetics. Another superb course is “Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well-Being at any Age” by Doctor Anthony Goodman. He also teaches “The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness.” By now, in 2019, I have probably taken more than a dozen courses on mental and physical health and wellness as well as  healthy aging.

I have about 40 games of backgammon going on the web. I was born January 26, 1940. I am an Aquarius and a senior citizen. At 79 years of age, I am healthier by far than I was over 20 years ago when I was in the work force and a relatively young man in my 50’s.

As a senior who presently is winning the war of the waistline,  I am also grappling with the experience of aging. As part of this blog’s focus on good health I look seriously into aging and what can be done about it. I know there is no fountain of youth, but there are techniques for aging gracefully and, more importantly, retaining one’s mental powers. I promise to share with you everything I can find out about it.

The masthead photo is a shot of me taken 40 years ago by a girlfriend when we were bike riding by the lakefront in Chicago. I had a lot more hair then.

Tony

Now Tony recently published a post that I found so interesting.

It’s all about improving one’s vision.

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Walking improves vision – Study.

By Tony, November 25th, 2019

As a big fan of walking I was thrilled to learn of this further benefit to the Cinderella of the exercise world. Walking leads to an increase of peripheral visual input, according to a study from the University of Wurzburg.

How do we perceive our environment? What is the influence of sensory stimuli on the peripheral nervous system and what on the brain? Science has an interest in this question for many reasons. In the long term, insights from this research could contribute to a better understanding of diseases such as ADHD and Parkinson’s disease.

The topography of the EEG response (l) and its localization in the brain (r) show visual sensory processing during the walking conditions slow and normal – green and red, and standing – black. The image is credited to Barbara Händel.

Perception and the underlying neuronal activities are usually measured while subjects are sitting or lying, for example while doing magnetic resonance imaging. As a rule, the head is fixed and people are encouraged not to blink. The measurements therefore take place under well-controlled but rather unnatural conditions.

Shift of visual preference

When processing visual stimuli, however, it makes a difference whether the person is sitting or moving: When walking around, the peripheral part of the visual field shows enhanced processing compared to the central part. This can be proven both by the behaviorally measured perception of the test persons and by their brain response.

This shift in visual preference makes sense. “It is above all the peripheral visual input that provides information about the direction and speed of our movement and thus plays an important role for navigation,” says Dr. Barbara Händel. The neuroscientist from Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany, and her colleague Dr. Liyu Cao have published their findings in PLOS Biology

“It was known from animals that increased body movements lead to an increased firing rate in visual areas of the brain,” says Dr. Händel. So far, there are only a few behavioural experiments available for humans that investigate the influence of movement on sensory brain areas. However, there is evidence that cognitive processes are linked to the behavioural state. “For example, some studies show that people learn better when they move,” says the JMU researcher. However, the underlying neuronal mechanisms have not yet been tested in detail.

Mobile EEG, sensors and video glasses

It is precisely such gaps in knowledge that Barbara Händel wants to close with her work. In order to explore the link between movement and perception, sophisticated technical equipment is necessary. While the test subjects walk around, they wear electrode caps and a small amplifier that records their brain waves. The EEG data are sent wirelessly to a laptop, which the subjects carry in a backpack. Motion sensors, video glasses, and a mobile device for recording eye movements complete the setting.

Quite an effort. “But we have to take this step if we want to understand human perceptual strategies during natural behavior,” says Dr. Händel. Research into perception during movement is still in its infancy. It is now up to science to ask clever questions and find out which of them can be answered with mobile technical equipment.

Many exciting research questions

Next, the JMU scientist wants to further investigate the effect of altered perception during movement. Does it only occur for visual input or possibly also in other sensory areas? Does it, in addition to navigation, perhaps also play a role in other cognitive processes such as memory and creativity?

All this is possible: experiments with rats have shown that these animals learn better, when they are in motion. And the idea that walking increases creativity has existed since ancient times. “For example, the Peripatetics, a philosophical school around Aristotle, usually were discussing while walking, from which their name derives,” says Barbara Händel.

There is also a connection between creativity and eye movements: “It is known that people blink more often the more creatively they solve a task. And we found that people also blink more often when they walk around compared to being at rest.” Obviously, there are many connections between the movements of the body, the eyes and the mental performance. Their research could reveal many more interesting aspects.

To read further on the benefits of walking, check out my Page – Why you should walk more.

Tony

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I find this a very valuable article.

It shows that the benefits of walking are much more than the pure exercise.

I wonder if it applies to bike riding?

Finally, here’s wishing every one of you a Happy and Peaceful Thanksgiving Day!