Teen Brains: What’s Going On Up There?

College girls napping

Parenting teens tests most parents’ determination to give them what they need—not just what they want. We hope to provide practical tips to help you along the way in this most important—but very challenging responsibility. Hang in there!

Our Teens Need:

  • Respectful communication with parents and with other adults
  • Clear and consistent boundaries, consequences and follow through
  • Practice dealing with the consequences of their own choices
  • Opportunities to explore and create their unique identity
  • Enough rest to allow their brains to mature
  • Healthy nutrition
  • Peer friendships
  • Physical activity, preferably in nature
  • To know we love them and believe in them

The View from Here

How do we keep them in clothes? In food? They are growing so fast! The dramatic physical changes we see are only a sign of huge reconstruction going on inside. Think of the tree we see on a hill. It wouldn’t be able to stand tall without a complex and deep network of roots that are underground, out of sight. The same holds true for the brain.

The changes in the teen brain show up as behavior and relationship changes. The kind, respectful child we love may vanish, only to be replaced by someone we struggle to understand. “What have we done? How can this be?”  Not to worry, it’s only a reflection of normal teen development. Stay the course, keep the door open for communication, let them know they are loved, maintain expectations, boundaries, consequences, and hang on for the ride. It will get better—eventually.

Brain Basics

We all come with 100 billion brain cells as original equipment. Each one has up to 10,000 connections, but less than 25% of them are connected at birth. The child’s interpretation of experiences and interaction with parents and caregivers determine which cells actually connect with others.

Brain as an Ice Cream Cone?

David J. Linden, PhD, John Hopkins University neuroscientist compares the three parts of the brain and their assignments to an ice cream cone. (Readers’ Digest article by Kimberly Hiss “The Beautiful Life of Your Brain” Sept 2014, pp 78-79)

  1. At the top of the spine, we find the “bottom scoop” or brainstem. That part of the brain takes care of survival tasks like circulation, breathing, heartbeat, etc.
  2. The “middle scoop” is the midbrain which processes emotions and creates memory. The “amygdala” issues an “all system’s alert” shifting gears from thinking to feeling when it senses danger is near.
  3. The “top scoop” is the cortex. When we think of the brain, we visualize this folded surface. Thinking and specific jobs are assigned to particular places in the cortex. The front part of the cortex, or prefrontal cortex (PFC) provides self-control and what some call “executive function.”

The PFC is the last part of the brain to be fully developed, making parents wonder “What were they thinking?!” Truth is, most teens are working with only part of the equipment they need to carefully consider choices and consequences. They need boundaries, consequences, and communication with parents and other adults to head off their sometimes impulsive behavior.  Kids also need to find their own identity at the same time. No wonder why teens and parents experience conflict.

Building Blocks

Let’s look at the brain as an electrical system with several parts processing information from our senses.

  • First, our eyes, ears, skin, muscles, tongue and nose bring messages from our world into brain cell branches or dendrites.
  • They then pass the electrical message on to the neuron the central part of the Brain Cell.
  • A cable or axon then carries the information on to the next cell. The axon is protected like an electrical cord with a blanket of fat called myelin, made from omega 3 fats from foods we eat. Myelin makes the message “zip” onto the next brain cell much faster than it would without the protective coating. Myelination or wrapping it with this fat layer is the last stage of development. Until that is finished, teen’s thinking often appears—and is—“scattered”. Researchers have determined this process is incomplete until mid-twenties or later. That should clear up some things.
  • Neurotransmitters enter the gap or synapse between dendrites, acting on the impulse before it reaches its next destination. Some speed the message along, while others slow it down.

What’s Going on up There?

Living with a teen can feel a bit like revisiting their “terrible twos”—only with a bigger world and higher stakes. That’s because some of the processes are the same. The brain goes through phases of blossoming—creating huge numbers of new dendrites—and pruning clearing away the connections that haven’t been strengthened through repeated use.  The use-it-or-lose-it principal is at work. The unused and unsaved connections are removed to make room for more complex structures. It’s a good thing!

Vulnerable Brains

Huge changes going on in a teen’s brain make them particularly vulnerable to hazards. Fortunately, athletic organizations have responded to research by ramping up screening and precautions to protect players from concussions.  Alcohol, tobacco and drugs also present significant threats to kids’ developing brains. Research shows that damage to the brain can last a lifetime.

Online resources provide more information:



David Walsh, psychologist and bestselling author of “Why Do They Act That Way?” helps parents struggling with their teens. He told one dad, “When you feel like taking the wind out of his sails, it is a better idea to take your sails out of his wind.”  (Why Do They Act That Way? p 47, Free Press – 2004)

Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart! Hang in there—this too shall pass. Just love them.

This is an adaptation of an article written by Sandra Stanton for the Chippewa Falls Teen Brain Summit,  first published in the Chippewa Herald, June 9, 2015
















Eight Great Ways to Max Your Mind

We’ve been given one mind with 100 billion brain cells. It performs 400 trillion processes every second, so it needs our help. These eight Fade-Fighting tips will help keep it sharp and humming along at its best.

1. Relationships with the People we “Do Life” with are gifts we give ourselves. They keep our minds healthy. Sharing hugs and fist bumps boost our brains and emotions.

2. Exercising Body and Brain Active muscles stimulate the brain and release healthy growth hormones. Brain chemicals or Neurotransmitter help us manage stress and mood. Our body generates natural feel good chemicals, endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.
Exercising our brains with crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or video brain training software help keep it sharp. Try Neurobics—switching up a regular activity by doing it with the other hand, or backwards, or finding a new way to do it. The brain loves novelty which creates new connections.

3. Humor, Laughter and Joy
Laughter can dissolve stress and heal our bodies, even without jokes. 8000 Laughter Yoga groups have formed around the world to enjoy its benefits. They fake laughing on purpose until the body takes over and makes it real.

4. Trust
Knowing our world is in God’s hands frees our brain to fully experience the present moment and its gifts. Rest, knowing that fixing things isn’t your main job. Just be.

5. Gratitude
Focusing on the positive counteracts the brain’s default mode looking for threats to keep us alive. Choose to be grateful and the entire body will benefit. The brain’s main job is to keep us alive, so its default mode is looking for threats. We can over-ride the negative focus and choose to be grateful and our entire body will be healthier and happier. Research shows the brain releases dopamine while expressing gratitude. It’s like enjoying a glass of wine without the chemical downside.

6. Creative Juices Go Ahead! Sing, Paint, Write! Your mind will love it!
Always wanted to make something beautiful? Painting, drawing, or even coloring books exercise your creative juices. A bonus-they stay done unlike many of our daily chores. Music gives the brain a workout. Sing, dance, listen, or make your own music for a healthy “rush” and mental exercise. Writing either with a computer or with pen in hand is a great way to explore your thoughts.

7. Sleep
Let the “Night Crew” clear the clutter while you sleep. While our bodies are at rest, the brain’s glial cells are very busy getting rid of byproducts of converting our food to fuel. During sleep the brain gets a chance to sort information we’ve taken in throughout the day. It files away things that we’re motivated to keep and gets rid of things that aren’t connected to what we’ve used before.
Note: Electronic screens before bed can interrupt the brain’s sleep cycle.

8. Nutrition
The brain runs on a steady supply of fuel delivered by the blood. Since the brain is 80% water, we need to keep it hydrated. When the water supply gets low, headaches or fading function might show up. Healthy Omega 3-6-9 fats from fish, avocados, and oils keep the axon’s myelin wrap in good shape o brain cells can communicate with each other.
Carbs become Glucose, feeding our brain. Choose healthy ones to keep everything working smoothly.

Want more? Order your personalized and signed copy of Max Your Mind: The Owner’s Guide for a Strong Brain from her website, Amazon.com or your favorite book store.
Contact Sandra for Brain Coaching to help you create your own best life through applying everyday neuroscience. As your thinking partner, she can help you discover many more ways to be kind to your brain, giving it what it needs to stay healthy. You’ll find information about booking a series of individual Brain Coaching sessions, conference presentations, or consultation tailored to your needs at www.SandraStantonAuthor.com.

Grateful for Max Your Mind’s Journey

mym_coverBooks like Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth and Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series put me in awe of the writing process. How could anyone actually research and turn all that information into a gripping story? I doubted that I would be able to tackle such a project, but I truly wanted to accept the challenge.

Over the years, nonfiction and the complicated world of neuroscience caught my attention. I had been fascinated with how the brain works since Junior High when my brain carried my friends with me during our family’s move to Cumberland, Wisconsin. I found many answers and tried to explain the brain in clear terms people could understand. My search led through education, counseling, and coaching.  My first attempt to explain the answers in print became a series of eight articles “Dr. Brain’s Basic Eight Things Every Brain Needs: Security, Play and Exploration, Music and Movement, Interaction, Touch, Good Food, Reading and Language, and Rest and Sleep ”  for Eau Claire’s Leader Telegram beginning during Brain Awareness month in 2005. I had become a member of the collaborative BRAIN Team (Brain Research Awareness Integration Network) when it formed through the Wisconsin Council for Children and Families in 1999. This was my chance to download some of the accumulated information to parents and others who could use it. Building Baby’s Brain classes for prenatal to toddler parents, Music, and the Brain:  an interactive class for parents and toddlers gave me face-to-face opportunities to teach about my favorite subject.

That series was on its way to become a book to accompany St. Mary’s Press’ Breakthrough Bible in 2006, until their marketing team made the decision that it wouldn’t sell. I kept trying with other conferences and publishers because I sensed a promise that God would use my work and finish the project in His time-not mine.  I had gone to several writers’ and speakers’ conferences, each one resulting in invitations to send the book proposal to publishers, each of whom eventually rejected it. Maybe the children’s Picture Book series based on my developmental guidance classes was a better plan.  I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers’ and Illustrators group and attended national conferences working to hone those skills. I learned the most from my gifted SCBWI critique group and our weekly work together.

Who knew God could work through Twitter?  In January 2014, W. Terry Whalin of Morgan James tweeted me back to work on Max Your Mind. I replied thanking him for his Book Proposals That Sell which gave me tips to improve my work through six rejections. Our online conversation continued, and he asked about my “Brain Book” which I had shared with him at one of those early conferences. Long story short, he encouraged me to submit the project to him, and to come to Author 101 University in March of 2014 at LAX. As I was packing for the conference, he called to let me know Morgan James was offering me a contract to publish the book with them.

This was the beginning of a complete rewrite with the help of Amanda Rooker, my gifted editor who cared as much as I did about sharing this information with readers. We wanted to reach people over 30 who had experienced frustrations with declining brain function. At the conference, I met Amanda and the Executive Team of Morgan James, and found that they shared my vision for the project.

Each writing day began with God’s marching orders at 5:00 AM.  The ten-hour days for ten months including weekends were extremely intense. I “finished” probably five times. My husband–and I– wondered how many times our finishing celebrations would only lead to more revisions.

On April 20, 2015, 500 copies of Max Your Mind: The Owner’s Guide for a Strong Brain arrived, the baby was born! The writing deadlines were over, but marketing is an entirely different kind of busy! Many more deadlines, contacts and arrangements needed for signings, promotional articles and campaigns, local book release parties and a book tour.  As a newbie, I learned much more than I signed up for, mostly by making mistakes. But, I’m very thankful for the journey.

Today being Thanksgiving, I’m filled with gratitude. The thrill of readers letting me know about something that helped them manage their health or adding helpful habits of laughter, breathing meditation, time in relationship, gratitude or exercise give me wonderful waves of thanks.

My business is Connections of the Heart, LLC, which means that I appreciate connections with real people, an antidote to the solitary times at my computer. I would love to hear from readers, and I am open to coming to you either personally for a presentation or online webinar (to be developed) or coaching by phone. Brain Coaching is my focus, and I offer Max Your Mind as a taste of my work to help people make the most of their lives through understanding and enjoying basic neuroscience. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog!




Max Your Mind Class Series

class ad !cid_A2307E72-2880-4841-8CF6-4A4D1291627F@eau_wi_charter

Why did I come into this room? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, we’d like you to join us at the Center-Eau Claire for a combination book signing/brain chat on Sunday, July 19.

Our four session class series will follow on Thursdays from 12:30-2:30 pm, beginning July 23 to Aug 13. We will laugh, learn and try out activities that have helped others “Fight the Fade” and “Bless the Boost”, celebrating the mental skills that improve with age. !

A copy of Max Your Mind: The Owner’s Guide for a Strong Brain is included

Register by emailing Sandra@SandraStantonAuthor.com. Your reply will include the address to send payment.
Cost: $100 for Early Bird payments received by July 16. After that date, the cost will be $150.

Trust in Kauai – Zip lining.

Living my zip line dream on our Hawaiian vacation taught me to trust.

Living my zip line dream on our Hawaiian vacation taught me to trust.

Zipline Solo photo

“Just keep walking until there’s nothing under you, then sit down and enjoy the ride” I waited ‘til last in line,  grabbed the strap with both hands, took a deep breath and walked off the platform at 10,000’. A hundred shades of green, mountain peaks, ponds and waterfalls lay below me, but I was too busy trying to steer and land feet first to notice them on that first run. Bundy told us later that was the highest point on Hawaii’s garden island– Kauai. I was zip lining! Whoo Hoo!

The gear felt surprisingly heavy at first, but I was thankful for every ounce when it carried me. “Keep your hands off the cable! Only hold the strap, not the metal clip above it. Just relax into the harness. It will hold you.” Bundy told us. “Steer with your knuckles. Turn them toward your knees. Feel the tension like steering into a slide when driving on icy roads.” Good advice, but how do they know about icy roads in Hawaii?

My word for 2014 is Trust. What a way to push off for the year! Letting go at those heights? Yes, I was shaky, and grabbed the strap as if my life depended on it– well, it did. But that strap and harness would hold even when I let go. My energy was better spent enjoying the view and the experience.  That’s my take away for my Trust year.

The first run was the shortest. They got longer, lower, and more fun when I remembered to exhale and relax into the ride.

We had a great group—lots of laughter and encouragement. The young couple always made perfect landings; experience was with them. Margaret and Bill from South Bend and I took photos of each other, soon to be shared between us. Jean and Walter quickly picked up the steering strategy.

John knew what to expect because he had done the same runs a few years earlier with his daughter. While we waited for the shuttle, he honored me by sharing their story. She would have been with him again, had she not passed a few months ago. This time he dropped a lock of her hair on her favorite run. My heart goes out to their family.

Randy was our strong and very upbeat Hawaiian “catcher”. I panicked on my first run when I came into the platform backwards, but soon learned he “had my back”.  Trust feels great. I felt no more fear, just exhilaration at actually being there and fulfilling my dream.

By the fourth run, I let go of one hand, and finally drank in the breathtaking view. Steering didn’t matter anymore. I wanted to remember this first zip line experience. My husband chose the ground tour so he could get some great photos, which we are enjoying now. I hope we will come back and zip line together. Now to Hang Loose for the rest of 2014.





Digging for Hope

Colors wink at me today where monster weeds and tangles of roots drowned my spirit just over a month ago. My garden brings me hope for a fresh start.  A couple of years ago I was climbing out of post-chemotherapy fatigue when the snow disappeared. This year our snow hung on well into May— ramping up our excitement to celebrate spring. I can count on the garden to give me the boost I need after low times. It’s a special gift to my spirit.

Clearing flower beds of choking weeds and roots felt personal for me. Uprooting weeds satisfies something primal in me. I love liberating the garden from invaders. Do I sense an urge to clear paper piles? Oops, this might be contagious…

We relished trips to garden centers. The pungent smell of moist earth greeted us. Our senses swam with all the textures and colors; fuscia, blazing red, indigo, happy yellow, and stark white. Let’s see, which ones did well last year in the shade?  Sun? and which perennial plants made it through our hard winter?

Digging in the dirt calmed my monkey mind. Rich, freshly composted soil under my fingernails signaled my connection to the earth. Clean black soil seemed to restore a peace in my soul. ..

Time in my garden has become an active meditation for me, accompanied only by birds’ songs. Silence is healing. My cancer-prevention medication brings on drenching sweats—on non-humid days. Now, with high humidity, dripping sweat and sore muscles, my body protests. The work is a stretch, but it  feels good, because I know beauty and joy will follow. Finally in mid July, dozens of shades of green set off the parade of color in our 6 gardens. I’m outdoors first thing in the morning and last thing at night, drinking in the freshness and smells of summer. Fireflies sparkle and surprise at days’ end.

Weeding and coaxing my garden back to life is an annual ritual I trust. It’s even more meaningful now that the cancer is completely gone. Not long ago, I ripped open a new seed packet and retrieved just one seed.  Carefully tucking it just below the surface of the soil, I covered it with a bit more soil and watched and watered it in my sunny window garden—planting for the future. It’s amazing, really, that new life will spring from that.  A few weeks ago, I planted the whole tiny pot in my garden, and it’s already growing fast.  Now the tiny plant is ready for “real life” outdoors. New beauty, new hope. Another miracle, just like each new year in my blessed life. Thank you, God!

Where do you find hope? I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for stopping by!


© Sandra Sunquist Stanton MS, NCC, LPC, BCC Connections of the Heart LLC
 For additional articles and information, visit www.ourbrainbuddies.com or send an email sandi@ourbrainbuddies.com


Getting Restful Sleep Naturally

It's better together.Rumble strips jolted me back from drowsy driving on my afternoon commute.  The sun and hum of the road had lulled me into a trance after I sat down for the first time all day. The bridge rail came way too close for comfort. Guess I need to get better sleep at night.


A study recently released by the National Sleep Foundation cites 27% of adults are sleep deprived. Another of their studies cites 1/3 of American adults are losing sleep over the economy. Most of us struggle occasionally, so I’ve personally tested steps to make falling asleep easier. Here’s what worked for me:

1. TV and internet before trying to sleep

Our eyes, ears and brains are very active while we’re focused on electronic screens—translating pixels and sound bytes into thoughts, pictures, emotions and words.

Some even fall asleep with the TV on. That light blocks the brain from relaxing into the deep sleep that restores the body and brain.

Many people choose the printed page or e-reader instead. The words stay put, and our imagination supplies the pictures. Cool-down time for eyes and brains helps us relax and drift off to dreamland. You’re on your own if you choose suspenseful novels.

2. Consider Circadian Rhythms

During seasonal changes—especially this year– many folks struggle with fatigue. Our body’s circadian rhythms—or body clocks–take some time to reset when we switch to Daylight Savings Time. Traveling through time zones and getting up with children also compromise consistent zzzz’s. The body’s systems work better when they know what to expect.

3. Pump it up early

Walking, Pilates and Yoga keep my Fibromyalgia under control most days. When I miss stretching, my body protests. On days when I don’t get enough exercise, particularly outdoors, I have trouble falling asleep. During and following activity, the heart pumps oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells, which then seem happier—provided I don’t overdo it. If I exercise too close to bedtime, I have trouble wind down. Returning to a resting heart rate takes time after a workout, so I pump it up earlier in the day.

4. Be gentle

Raiding the fridge before bed? Choose carefully if you’d like to sleep well. Sending more than 400 calories to your digestive system before going to bed is asking for heartburn and wakefulness—for many of us. That pizza or big bowl of ice cream doesn’t work for most folks. Something light with carbs might help set it free to rest.

5. Easy Does it.

During sleep, the brain sorts and files all the experiences and information we’ve packed in during the day, saving the important stuff and discarding the rest. If we go to sleep still chewing on regrets or worries, that filing job doesn’t stand a chance.

Just when a good night’s sleep seems urgent for a clear head the next day, I can count on waking up in the middle of the night. The insistent message gets stuck in my head: Get back to sleep!  You don’t have much time…sleep fast!  Shift the focus… I’m glad that I’m at least I’m getting some rest. Thinking positive and listing blessings instead of sheep might work. After 20 minutes of struggling to fall asleep, try getting up and doing something else for a little while. A magazine or journal might help clear the chatter and clear the way for some real rest.

6. One muscle at a time

Progressive relaxation usually helps too. Lying flat in bed it’s easy to scrunch up one set of muscles—say the head and face—hold it with the breath, then completely relax on the exhale. Every muscle in the body communicates with the brain. Moving through the body with this process sends a clear signal to the brain to let go of the day’s stress.

These tips could also rescue our mental health and relationships. We become impatient with ourselves and cranky with everyone else when our brains don’t get enough deep sleep. Processing all the day’s information and emotions is the brain’s main job while we turn the thinking off.  It’s busy choosing what to keep and file into long-term memory, and what to toss. Without enough sleep to clean up the “filing cabinet”, my brain feels as cluttered as the top of my desk looks.

Waking up naturally refreshed is priceless. The new day has so much to offer when we can be fully present and tune in to all the details. Creating a sleep routine that works best for you can be challenging, but your body and brain will thank you.  Who knows, family, colleagues and friends might wonder what you’ve been up to. How does an oatmeal raisin cookie and small glass of milk sound to you?

Check out these websites for more specific information to be your own best sleep detective:

www.sleepfoundation.org National sleep foundation offers tips to help establish a sleep routine.

www.webmd.com Web MD provides links to other websites for additional tips and sleep aids.

© Sandra Sunquist Stanton MS, NCC, LPC, Connections of the Heart LLC
 For additional articles and information, visit www.ourbrainbuddies.com or send an email sandi@ourbrainbuddies.com

What about “Why?”

shutterstock_9626632 writing pigtailsKids—and the rest of us–all make mistakes on the way to learning. We ask “Why?” but they can’t answer. It’s tough to come up with a safe answer to that question. The response “I don’t know.” is accurate, but doesn’t get us anywhere.  An excuse leads to frustration, shame and blame. A lie starts a dangerous spiral into unhealthy choices.

Brain Coaching uses a different approach. All behavior has a reason, and it’s our job as educators to figure out what they need and find a way to provide for it through our planned learning experiences. Maybe the boy needed to move, and he couldn’t think of a way to do it without bothering others. Those girls might learn best by talking about what they’re learning, but that wasn’t part of the plan, so they got in trouble for talking to each other.

As a school counselor, the most effective solutions seemed to involve knowing and applying what researchers have told us about the brain—what it needs to do its best job. No shame or blame necessary. Researchers have unlimited information that can help us, but who wants to read those intimidating studies?  Brain Coaching has helped me help people of all ages.  Educators, parents, and seniors can make better choices for our kids and ourselves with that information translated into something we can actually understand.

When we confidently work on problems together, without threat of failure, the brain works much better.  The almond sized Amygdala–our internal security alarm– stands at attention watching for anything that has scared us in the past. When it comes around again, that small part of the brain sets in motion a process that shuts down access to the Cortex, or thinking brain. In that mode we aren’t able to access anything we’ve learned, and we won’t take away any new lessons from the experience.  That explains why we really “don’t know” what we did wrong.

Instead of a guilt trip, the child needs support to calm the central nervous system. The Sympathetic “Fight, Flight, or Flee” System must settle down, so the Parasympathetic or “Rest and Digest” System can take charge and access to the whole wonderful brain and all it’s learned so far. Some ways to make that happen include:

  • Deep breathing,
  • Going for a walk outdoors,
  • Reading some light material, and
  • Laughing – On purpose, even without a joke. It is great exercise!

We can then be our best selves and move ahead solving the problem and gaining wisdom from the situation.  What works best for you? Please share your best ideas with the rest of us!

Thanks for stopping by! More Brain Coaching suggestions for schools will follow in future Educator Blogs.


© Sandra Sunquist Stanton MS, NCC, LPC, Connections of the Heart LLC
 For additional articles and information, visit www.ourbrainbuddies.com or send an email sandi@ourbrainbuddies.com

Eight Gifts You Can Give Your Child’s Brain

Nothing brightens my day like a baby’s contagious laugh. We can give them what they need to be happy, without breaking the bank. April celebrates the young child. These tips might help you, parents and caregivers, guide your little ones toward healthy brain development.

1. Security

You create his world. If he feels safe, he will be willing to try new things. If he is fearful, he may withdraw, refuse contact and choose to protect himself.

2. Touch

Loving touch soothes the central nervous system for both you and your child. It communicates safety and love. Enjoy snuggles, massage, and rocking while reading to her. These times are short.

3. Fuel Food

His brain doesn’t store the fuel it needs to operate. An infant’s brain uses 70% of his body’s energy. Every day it needs water, fresh fruit, and omega 3 healthy fats. These building blocks create and strengthen connections between his 100 billion brain cells.

4. Music

Both sides of her brain are active when she enjoys music. It’s a workout for her brain. She forms stronger memories when many parts of the brain are involved.

5. Movement

Your child’s vestibular system coordinates sensory input to send to his brain. Dance, skip, clap, and let him help you in the kitchen and garden. These activities provide the movement that gives each experience depth and dimension. His learning becomes multidimensional, richer and easier for him to remember and build on as he grows.

6. Reading and Language

Talking and reading with your child prepares her for reading and learning. Time with you is the best way to help her learn language patterns and support early social development. Does reading the same book over and over again get old? Remember repetition is exactly what her brain needs to learn.

7. Rest and Sleep

During quiet times his brain gets a chance to process his mountain of experiences. When he’s busy, his neurons are busy taking in sensory information. His brain’s original cells still need to be connected to one another. That happens during these breaks.

8. You!

Enjoy your time together. Give her face to face practice matching your expressions and language with everyday activities. Electronic media cannot substitute for time with you. She learns that she matters when you respond to her. Enjoy this together time and make some memories.


© Sandra Sunquist Stanton MS, NCC, LPC, Connections of the Heart LLC
 For additional articles and information, visit www.ourbrainbuddies.com or send an email sandi@ourbrainbuddies.com



Max Your Mind with Humor and More

It's better together.What a great group of good sports! Thanks to each of you for your enthusiastic participation in the crazy brain coaching activities we did at UWEC’s 25th Annual Sr. American’s Day March 19, 2013

Without regular “workouts”, our brains slow down and don’t serve us so well. It doesn’t show up in body measurements, but we definitely notice the “fade”.  We know about crossword puzzles, Sudoku, brain training software. But did you know that just laughing is a wonderful brain workout?

Every time you hear a joke:

  • The language center on the left side of your brain makes sense of the words.
  • The message then crosses to the right side of the brain where the right frontal cortex activates stored emotions and social memories.
  • It then shuffles the information until it clicks and you get the joke.
  • Next, a structure deep in the brain pumps out dopamine, a “reward system chemical” that makes you feel good.
  • Your brain stem near the base of your skull makes you laugh.

(Adapted from “Just Laugh” by Pam VanKampen of Northern Area Agency on Aging)

That’s a lot of activity for the split second it takes to laugh at a joke. How about making it a body work out without the joke?

Laughter Yoga’s been around since 1995, there are 8,000 Laughter Yoga clubs across the world. Now it’s sweeping our nation because it works out the body’s muscles, our breathing systems, and especially the brain. You don’t even have to have a sense of humor, it uses no jokes or comedy. Groups of people do simple exercises, make eye contact with each other, begin with “fake” laughter, and soon genuine laughter takes over. Someone said they feel as good after Laughter Yoga as they do after a good cry. Endorphins flood the brain connections, and everyone has a great time. In Eau Claire, Jodi Ritsch M.D. will be starting a new season of classes next summer in their new center. For details, go to www.LifeByDesign.com.  Jodi says, “If you can breathe and laugh, you can do Laughter Yoga.” You Tube examples can get you started with some friends or even by yourself. Give it a try!

Humor Heals! Research studies detail many cases, including Norman Cousins’ where people successfully beat their ailments through humor and nutritional support. Cartoons, jokes and funny stories work more of your brain than simply reading. It can tune our minds, help us learn, and keep us mentally loose, limber and creative.

Seniors at our workshop listed their top 20 sources from “Good Old Days on TV”that they turn to when they need a good laugh:

I Love Lucy, Carol Burnett, All in the Family, M.A.S.H., Smothers Brothers, Dick Van Dyke, Seinfeld, Howdy Doody, Sheriff Bob, Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say The Darndest Things”, Bill Cosby Show, Jackie Gleason, Honeymooners, Three Stooges, Little Rascals, Amos and Andy, Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Laurel and Hardy, and George Burns.

Reaction was mixed on slapstick, but it was fun remembering together.

The “real” Dr. Patch Adams tells us, “We have to get people laughing because:

  • It provides balance in people’s lives
  • It helps people cope better
  • It helps them stay well

Laughter is powerful!”

Some thoughts for the road…

“Each humor event you experience makes you grow a little bit…the brain has expanded and taken on new connections.” William Fry, M.D.

“Humor is something that causes a tickling of the brain. Laughter is invented to scratch it!” Hugh Foot

What makes you laugh?  How about the grandkids?




© Sandra Sunquist Stanton MS, NCC, LPC, Connections of the Heart LLC

For additional articles and information, visit www.ourbrainbuddies.com or send an email sandi@ourbrainbuddies.com

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