One of my biggest inspirations was my late father, Laurence Sisson. He supported our family as a painter, primarily water color paintings of New England nature scenes. His work ethic was insane as was his creative genius. But my most salient memories of him are not those spent in the art studio watching beautiful representations of nature’s glory appear before my eyes. No, what I remember most are the evenings spent around the piano. He was also a great jazz pianist, and often took paying work as a musician when the times demanded it. During holidays, he’d play the classics. On quiet afternoons, he’d noodle on the keys. Piano music was the backdrop of the house. And, I’m convinced, playing that piano kept his brain nimble to the very end. Music and Brain Function If you spend any time at all on social media, you’ve probably seen the videos of otherwise unresponsive Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease patients lighting up when a favorite piece of music from their younger days plays. There’s this one, where an old man in a nursing home on his last legs comes to life. After listening to some of his favorite music, he becomes incredibly responsive, answering questions about himself and his life. Music gives him access to the parts of his brain that were previously shut out, at least for a brief moment. The most recent one I saw is of a former New York City prima ballerina with Alzheimer’s disease. When she hears “Swan Lake,” she motions to raise the volume and then launches into the choreography from her chair—the same dance she mastered and performed over 50 years prior. Even as I’m writing this and picturing it, I feel tears welling up from the beauty of the moment. Most of you reading this aren’t in that dire of a cognitive situation, but you can probably relate to the effect music can have on our brains. We’ve all felt the power of music. When that song comes on and catapults you back to some bygone era of your youth. When you hear an album and actually smell the smells, taste the tastes, and feel the emotions it evokes in you. Something powerful is happening in the brain, and we shouldn’t wait til degeneration sets in. If we know there are certain lifestyle, dietary, and behavioral modifications that can improve the outlook of a patient with dementia, then enacting those changes before dementia arises will be even more powerful and effective at staving it off. Music is one possibility. And if merely listening to music can have that effect on cognitive function, even severely degenerated cognitive function, what can playing music—creating it with your own mind—do for it? Playing an Instrument for Brain Health We actually have evidence that playing an instrument is protective of brain health and function. In one recent study, researchers asked 23 former orchestral musicians if they or any musician they knew had dementia. Dementia rates among the queried musicians were nonexistent, … Continue reading “Brain Benefits of Playing Instruments”
People rag on the holiday season for being too commercial. You can certainly go too far in that direction, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving meaningful gifts to people you care about. In fact, that’s one of the kindest acts a person can do. Today’s Primal gift guide does not consist of pointless consumerist pap that your giftees will enjoy for a day or two until the newness wears off and they move on to the next thing to spend their money on. These are useful gifts. Gifts that enhance life, that further our relationships, that expand our culinary horizons, that compel us to go out and experience the world. There’s no shame in celebrating the holidays in this manner, because these are good gifts given out of love, fellowship, and friendship—all of which embody the true meaning of the season.
Parents, right off the bat, let me say that there is no right way to be feeling about the current situation. Relief, anxiety, excitement, dread are all normal. We’re all figuring this out as we go along and doing the best we can. Virtual high-five! This is not a homeschooling post per se. This is about the importance of play as learning, and letting our kids play to restore some balance we don’t always manage in our typical over-scheduled lives. Here’s the good news if you’re stressed about making sure your kids are still learning why they are at home: they are. I recently attended a workshop with a local homeschool coordinator. The biggest thing I took away was a reminder that all play is learning. Why Kids Need to Play Play is how kids learn about the world. Theoretical and Applied Playworker Bob Hughes (awesome title!) lists 16 different types of play that are central to physical, mental, emotional, and social development. By manipulating objects and trying things out (“I wonder what will happen if I give the dog a haircut?”), using their imaginations to role play different scenarios, and moving and challenging their bodies, kids play to learn: How their bodies work Laws of physics Laws of nature How to interact with other people, and the consequences of breaking social norms How to follow rules, and the consequences of breaking those, too Play builds neural connections and motor skills. Through play, kids get to act out adulting (as in playing house), tap into their creativity, and discover their passions. Importance of Play Play is not optional. There is a reason that it’s Primal Blueprint Law #7 and Mark has written about it frequently here. (I’ll put some links at the bottom.) Yet, we all know that kids don’t play today like they used to for a variety of reasons. If this time at home offers one thing, it’s time for playing. This means getting free play, movement time, social time, music and arts time, and family time—checking a bunch of Primal boxes. I’m not just talking about the kids, by the way. I’m talking about the adults in your house too. How much do YOU play in your normal life? I’m guessing not enough. A lot of the ideas here are fun for the whole family. Play to Learn: Indoor and Outdoor Activities for Kids For obvious reasons, I’m not listing things that involve going to parks or other public places. If you can still go for bike rides or kick the soccer ball around outside, great! You can do these inside or in your yard if you have one. I also didn’t list too many options that might necessitate shopping for materials. Pick the ideas that work for you given the ages of your kids, what stuff you already have at home, and how much space you have. Before You Begin… If you’re like us, you have a stash of art supplies, board games, boxes of legos … Continue reading “Learning Through Play: 101 Ways To Keep Young Minds Occupied At Home”
When you ask most people what it takes to be fit, you get some pretty wild answers. Hours on the treadmill or pounding pavement every day. Hours in the weight room. Obsessing over how to turn every moment of the day into an opportunity for some kind of workout move.
I never liked what I heard, and after many decades of overtraining, I decided it was time to come up with a sane alternative—Primal Blueprint Fitness as I’ve called it over the years. It boils down to three logical steps all rooted in ancestral patterns people lived for hundreds of thousands of years:
Primal Blueprint Law #3: Move Frequently
Primal Blueprint Law #4: Lift Heavy Things
Primal Blueprint Law #5: Sprint Once in a While
All told, it’s a handful of hours a week, most of it moving frequently. In addition to those 4-5 hours a week of walking or other light movement, throw in an hour’s worth of strength training and 15 minutes of sprint time. There you go. Do that, and you’ll be in darn good shape.
As we covered in Parts I and II of this series, during perimenopause and menopause women can experience a complex web of physical, psychological, and social symptoms.
The treatment usually prescribed by doctors, hormone therapy (HT), is controversial and not appropriate for some women. I won’t get into the HT debate here—Mark did a great job covering the pros and cons recently. Suffice it to say that HT isn’t the answer for everyone, and it’s not a panacea by any means.
Whether or not they choose to go the HT route, many women desire additional support during perimenopause and beyond. For the sake of keeping this post from becoming a novella, I’m going to focus on mind-body therapies today.
I’m a believer in working hard AND playing hard. When we get stuck in patterns of overwork and overstress, we lose the important connection with our creative, intuitive, playful selves. Our work suffers and so does our happiness (which means everything else, like our relationships, will, too). Stuart Brown, one of the world’s leading experts on play, calls play a “profound biologic process.” What we all know (or used to know until modern living helped us forget) is that play is an essential component of our physical development and general well-being. From a personal standpoint, the older I get the more I recognize play as the linchpin for my own sense of vitality. As a result, I prioritize play—even above “exercise.” Fortunately, however, I’ve grown into a new relationship with fitness as a result of play. I gave up the slog of grueling training regimens decades ago now, but to this day I’m still living more deeply into a play-based fitness vision. Let me show you a bit of what that looks like for me….