Archive | March, 2014

Baby Boomer Travel: San Diego Travel & Adventure Show

31 Mar

amtrak with loisI spent the weekend exploring the San Diego Travel and Adventure Show.  Saturday I went with my friend and writer extraordinaire, Lois, from the widely acclaimed blog Midlife at the Oasis.  We were looking for interesting and purposeful travel opportunities for our generation, and unique trips and products to share with our audiences.  We found some great stuff, hatched a few ideas, and hope to bring some valuable information to those who read our writing.

 On Sunday, I went back looking for things more focused on brain healthy travel and I found some volunteer travel opportunities for Boomers but mostly in places where even the vendors did not know they were sitting on a golden opportunity.

First, a bit about the show as a whole.  For a first time show, this was an amazingly well done event!  Yes, this is just a new location for the Travel and Adventure series (they also have shows in Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, DC, and Philadelphia) but any challenges that come with putting on a big event at a new venue were overshadowed by the quality of the exhibitors and presentations.   Both days, the aisles were packed, the booths were all swamped, and there was standing room only at many of the presentations I attended.

In a nutshell, here is what I walked away with.    The volunteer / adventure travel industry (at least what was represented here) is not marketing to the Baby Boomer market – they are focused on young people looking for something meaningful and challenging to do – mostly gap year students and pre-children twenty something couples looking to take advantage of those moments to go and be before their lives change.

Crowd outside Travel ShowThat, in my opinion is a huge missed opportunity and there is an enormous hole in that line of thinking.  We, Baby Boomers, as a massive group, are looking for ways to enjoy our lives, see the world, experience different cultures, and make a contribution in the process.   Those of us who live and work in the US don’t have 8 weeks or even a month to participate in meaningful projects and really want to maximize the one or two weeks we can get away.

Yes, Road Scholars – formerly known as Elder Hostels — was well represented and had all kinds of information about their many educational trip offerings.  And yes, Road Scholars does the whole international education and lifelong learning thing for mature adults incredibly well – they have been practicing since 1975.   And yes, they now have even added some more physically challenging trips that include a bit more adventure.   If your primary purpose is life-long learning (a noble purpose and one that we all should aspire to) exclusively and you are a “mature adult”, Road Scholars has great options. Check them out.

I am not quite at the mature adult stage (getting there) and since I don’t have lots of time to travel, my goal is always to maximize how I spend my leisure time.  I want to be able to make a difference where I go in the short amount of time I have.

Maybe this experience sums it up.   I was caught off guard when after I described my focus on the Baby Boomer market to one of the Adventure Travel companies, the lovely young woman pointed to the “Classic” and “Comfort” sections on their sheet of offerings because the level of difficulty was always “minimized”.  After a deep breath, I suggested a trip specifically for Baby Boomers writers who could help them figure out how to capitalize on this great market opportunity, and, after she took a deep breath, she seemed to get it.

DSCN0014We all need to take a deep breath and figure out how this generation of doers and change makers can really make a difference in our leisure time.  With that goal in mind, I started a new section on Cranium Crunches website:   Find Your Purpose.    Together, let’s explore how to challenge ourselves to be and do more while we maximize all our moments so we can live a more purposeful life.

 

 

Serve Your Community and Serve Your Purpose

31 Mar

Be purposeful.

Finding and taking steps to serve your purpose can be an incredibly rewarding and life /brain changing experience.   Did you know that doing things that make you feel like you are serving a greater purpose can stimulate your brain and fire activity in novel ways?  Actually, researchers with the Rush Memory and Aging Project found that people who lived more purposeful lives were less likely to develop symptoms related to Alzheimer’s Disease.

How about some more brain enhancing reasons to “Be Purposeful”?

  • When you do something meaningful to you, you feel good.  When you feel good, your brain releases dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline.  That sets off both a chemical and an electrical series reactions that make you want to come back for more.
  • When you feel accomplished — like you have really contributed to the greater good – notice that your respiration is more even and your stress levels (and therefore your biological stress reactions) reduce.
  • Finding your purpose is a learning and exploring process that requires actively using so many areas of your brain.  You are looking at how you want to live from an intellectual, emotional, and solution oriented perspective.   In order to do that, you must use every higher-level cognitive process and give those rational thoughts emotional value.  Talk about keeping neural pathways open and active.

Think about how often historical great thinkers were also great givers,  philanthropists, and community builders.   Doing the right things for the right reasons is frequently inspired by others and we “do good” as a tribute to someone else.   Have someone that you admire in mind?   Look for a project close to home, find a way to serve your purpose, and do some good for someone else today as a thank you to the person who has your attention!

Find what drives you – those “things” that give you a reason to be – and work toward them. When you live more purposefully, you create tangible ways that to leave the world a better place than you found it.   One day, one action, one moment at a time.

 

Contribute to the World One Small Project at a Time

28 Mar

Life does throw us curve balls and there is more and more evidence that you can prepare your brain for some of these mishaps along the way by building up a bit of reserve.

Creepy Staircase

This was one dark, windy, steep, creepy staircase…

Building cognitive reserve can be very rewarding process.   Find a purposeful project and contribute to the world while you fill your well of brain processing power!

I discovered an outlet for my purposeful projects and that is being a Citizen Scientist –  a non-scientist, non-specialists who collects data and adds to the body of scientific knowledge.   There are a ton of projects out there — some easier to participate in than others.   I love the philosophy of one project  the Marine Animal Identification Network — a project tracking seals and reporting information about migration — because it sums it all up:

“In many cases, we learn through the imprecise science of serendipity whereby a matrix of possibilities results in a report: the right person in the right place at the right time knowing the right person to contact.”  How wonderful is it that we all, just by chance, can be that person at the right place at the right time and can contribute to science?

I was surprised at how easily I found projects that require very little investment of time and technology.    All you really need is a smart phone or a computer and  a few extra minutes to participate in some of these projects!  Do a search for citizen science projects in a geographic are or that have to do with an interest.   Love the outdoors?  Check out the projects from the National Wildlife Federation’s listing of projects from backyard birders to butterfly counting to star gazing.    All of these projects ask you to do is observe, record, and report.

Butterfly Resting Ground

This field was full of butterflies saving up energy to take the next step on their journey north. If we had not looked closely, we would have missed them completely!

Are you near the Mississippi River and interested in birds?   Work with the Audubon Society’s Rivers Project Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to  monitor and track birds in the  bottomland forests on the Mississippi River.  Observe, record, report, contribute!

In your reflection

What do you see in your reflection? Be kind….

 

 How about working with NASA from your own backyard?  NASA has several ongoing citizen science projects going on now and more to come!

There are so many things you can do right now that take so little and give back so much!

 

The “Be’s” of Brain Health

24 Mar

There are ways to activate the pleasure centers, challenge your creativity, and maximize quality just by approaching life differently. Here is an introduction to what I see as the “be’s” of brain health:

Ray of Sunshine A ray of sunshine before the clouds move in, bringing a winter rain storm.

  • Be active. There is no better way to nourish yourself – mind, body, and soul – than to take an active approach to life. Be a thinker, a doer, a creator, and a motivator. Move your body, use your mind, and think bigger.
  • Be social. Not only are we better together but reaching out to other people also activates multiple areas of the brain. When you are interacting with other people you activate multiple areas of your brain: sensory, language, memory, logic and reasoning, and emotional areas — all working in concert.
  • Be engaged. Participate in things that fire your passion and excite you. Some days it is not just enough to be active and social – throw yourself in fully and participate in life by becoming a part of your experiences. Yes, this includes both IRL and online!
  • Be purposeful. Find what drives you – those things that give you a reason to be – and work toward them. When you live more purposefully, you both fill holes in your life and contribute to something greater.

Beyond a shadow of a doubtIn 2008 I started writing a Dream Inventory. That inventory is vast and varied but each item shares the basic elements of those “be”s. My husband and I are setting out on a short adventure to practice what I am preaching and to knock something from my first Dream Inventory.

We are, as this posts, on our way to on a tiny island off the coast of Belize to actively participate in a reef conservation project. I am not sure what exactly we will be measuring or labeling or counting or documenting but I know that we will be supporting something so important to both of us – the health of ocean and, as a logical offshoot, the overall health of the planet. As a bonus I get to be at peace underwater, surrounded by color that most can’t even imagine exist, and in complete harmony with the rhythm of my breathing.

**We looked the island up on Google Maps last night and the indicator arrow pointed right in the middle of the water. So I zoomed in. Still nothing but water. One more zoom and there was something that I guess could have been land…. I am leaving my coordinates with Lois Alter Mark in case you need to send out a search party!

What are you doing to “be” today?

Time to Be Intentional About Living a Quality, Brain Healthy Life

18 Mar

Last week at the National Forum on Brain Health, one of the leaders in the field of neuroplasticity and the aging brain, Dr. Paul Nussbaum, said a few things that almost knocked me out of my seat.

Ah ha moment #1:   At this point in the history of research in the field, “I think it is OK to speculate.”

puzzle brainOK, that is big…. In this “show me definitive proof before I take/recommend action” world of neuroscience, one of the premiere voices in the field is saying that maybe we should just act on what we know and maximize our lives based on the evidence as it comes in. What a huge boost for the cause of every day brain health. Practice those things that we know make a difference in quality of cognitive life and trust that the proof will follow. I’m in!

Dr. Nussbaum then spoke about a wide reaching approach to aging as well as cognitively possible. My heart skipped a beat as ah ha moment #2 started to sink in:

Why have a limited toolbox? “Meditation and nutrition are every bit as important as Paxil.”

Again, that is huge! He is talking about those things that are so hard to measure in part because controlling all the variables sufficiently to remove all doubt about what, exactly, was effecting change is a monumental task.

I have a hard time agreeing to lowering the standards of proof and statistical significance of an outcome but I also agree that there is a time to just go with it. We may never have definitive proof that nutrition and meditation alone brought about a change but we sure can come to some pretty well grounded conclusions that both matter. Maybe we do know enough, right now, to take positive steps to improve the quality of our lives.

Dr. Nussbaum’s recurring theme is this. Our bodies and lives are driven by this 2 to 4 pound organ made of mostly fat and fueled by chemical and electrical activity. So if we are being logical about all of this, it makes sense to act on what we know.Brain wrinkles

Through lifestyle choices we know ways, right now, to regulate and amplify that chemical and electrical activity. We have proven strategies to protect ourselves and build our brain “resilience” so we can ward off bits and pieces of decline.

As Dr. Nussbaum said when asked what he thought was coming next in the field, “We are going to find out that answers lie between our ears.” 

Why not keep that “thing” between your ears functioning at maximum capacity?

It is really time to expand our toolboxes with choices that we know make life better: read, socialize, get involved in music, pay attention to what and how much we eat, participate in challenging activities, seek out new situations and tasks that are complicated, tune in to what your body tells you, enhance your sensory experiences…. Be Active, Be Engaged, Be Social, and Be Purposeful but most importantly, Be Intentional about maximizing your cognitive life.


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