The Power of the Placebo

Dr. Cole and Steve discuss the psychological and physiological effects of using a placebo for recovery. Dr. Cole also explains the powerful effect the mind has on assisting the body in recovery.

Sports Medicine Weekly on 670 The Score

Beyond The Body: How Sports And Exercise Can Improve Mental Clarity

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Being physically active has long been associated with numerous benefits for the body. But did you know that the benefits extend to the brain as well? Just as proper nutrition contributes to a healthy state of mind, playing sports and exercising on a regular basis, significantly benefits mental clarity in both direct and indirect ways.

Thinking skills and memory

Recent research led by Harvard Medical School suggests that participating in sports and being physically active changes the way our brains work by not only improving thinking skills, but by protecting memory as well. As soon as your heart rate is up and you begin to sweat, there is a notable size increase of the hippocampus, which is associated with learning abilities and verbal memory. While you can choose many different types of physical activity for these benefits, the important thing is to remain consistent.

Eliminating brain fog

Partaking in sports and aerobic exercise also improves mental clarity in a different way. We all know that dreaded feeling of ‘brain fog’, often associated with general confusion, a lack of motivation and even inspiration. Breaking a sweat significantly affects our cognitive functions by increasing blood flow to the brain, resulting in higher levels of both energy and oxygen. It also releases hormones such as adrenaline and dopamine that not only make you feel good and energized, but also enable you to concentrate and think clearly. What does this mean for your mental state? Better performance and a clear head. In other words, say goodbye to brain fog.

Indirect benefits

While physical activity directly impacts our mental health, it also affects us indirectly, but again in positive ways. When we exercise, we are naturally reducing both stress and anxiety, which can negatively impact our moods and mental state. Playing sports is a particularly good option as your mind will be focused on working with your team or towards a goal, rather than stressing out about things you cannot control. Consistent physical activity also results in a deeper sleep, and feeling rested is crucial to mental clarity and mood.

While playing sports and exercising has long been associated with benefits for the body, it also greatly impacts our minds. By strengthening cognitive function, providing clarity, improving mood and promoting sound sleep, joining your local sports team or incorporating exercise into your daily routine is a move both your body and mind will thank you for in the long run.

By Jess Walter

The Power of the Mind-Body Connection: Make Mental Health a Priority

By: Erica Hornthal, CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy

Image result for mind body connectionAs a dance/movement therapist, I have always known that the mind and body are connected. I see it in my clients who carry scars of physical abuse, emotional abuse, tragic loss, debilitating illnesses and crippling anxiety. This tip is a reminder to pay attention to your body and know that there is a psychological component to your movement or even lack thereof. Whether or not you consider yourself an athlete, it is beneficial to move everyday and pay attention to what your body is saying.  So what can we do to be more present to the psychological impact that our bodies endure?

  • Never underestimate the power of your breath. Not only taking time to breathe, but notice how deeply you are breathing. The bodies ability to breathe can become compromised due to stress. Allowing for “breath breaks” throughout the day actually alleviates the buildup of stress and calms the nervous system.
  • Check in with your physical health every day. Make sure to move your body throughout the day to see what feels good and what doesn’t. Notice aches and pains that weren’t there before. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right.
  • Mental health is physical health.  There is a connection between mind and body even if you are not aware of it.  Everything you encounter emotionally, your body feels.  Take time to recognize that connections.
  • Make an appointment for a mental health checkup. Make your mental health a priority. Don’t wait for a reason to see a mental health provider. Be proactive!  Call Chicago Dance Therapy for a mental health check today!

Erica Hornthal is a licensed professional clinical counselor and board certified dance/movement therapist. She received her MA in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling from Columbia College Chicago and her BS in psychology from University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.  Erica is the founder and president of North Shore Dance Therapy and Chicago Dance Therapy.  As a psychotherapist in private practice, Erica specializes in working with older adults who are diagnosed with dementia and movement disorders.  Her work has been highlighted nationally in Social Work Magazine, Natural Awakenings, and locally in the Chicago Tribune as well as on WCIU and WGN.

This is Your Brain on Dance!

By Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT , Chicago Dance TherapyImage result for brain dance

June, which is just around the corner, is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. There are an estimated 47 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. If you are not familiar with Alzheimer’s disease, it is a progressive disease that affects memory and other cognitive functions and it is the most common form of dementia.

Since there is no known cure for the illness, people are looking for ways to stay cognitively active and one such way that has been getting a lot of attention is DANCE! According to researchers, dancing involves both a mental effort and social interaction which helps reduce the risk of dementia. We are now realizing that dance has so many benefits outside of physical health. Here are 7 ways that dance impacts our brains.

Dance makes us smarter.
Engaging in dance has the ability to improve processing and executive functioning skills which correlate to greater intelligence. Studies have reported that dance even helps with focus, productivity, and mental acuity.

Dance helps create new neural connections.
When we engage in movements that cross the midline (or center) of our bodies, we actually allow one hemisphere of the brain to “talk” to the other. This essentially creates new neural connections that enhance our neuroplasticity or, in other words, our brain’s ability to change.

Dance reduces stress.
When you dance, your brain releases serotonin- a “feel good” hormone. Participating in dance on a regular basis has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress in the brain and the body as well as play a role in stress management.

Dance helps maintain and even improve memory.
Practicing a dance or choreography enhances procedural memory which in turn supports the brains ability to quickly instruct or carry out a task.

Dance allows for greater empathy and compassion.
Finding new ways to move and expanding our “movement repertoire” allows us to move from a place of greater acceptance and understanding. We can enhance our tolerance and create space for differences by trying on new movements, essentially getting a feel for what it is like to move in someone else’s shoes.

Dance increases creativity.
If you have ever prepared for an audition, showcase, or merely marked some choreography, you most likely used your hands to symbolize a larger movement. Using our hands and engaging in gesturing actually increases our creativity.

Dance fosters social interaction.
Dance lessons can help improve social and communication skills. Dance can help people learn how to work as part of a team, develop a greater ability to cooperate and even assist people in making new friends.