Coloring Books, Grown-Up Style: the Trend and Brain Benefits

Special thanks to Sarah Stokes, the author of this article, originally published in the April 2016 Queen of the Castle Magazine.

If you’ve walked into a bookstore in the past year, you’ve
probably run right into the displays of adult coloring books. They
are everywhere! The swirls, mandalas, paisleys and flowers are
just waiting for you, the black and white designs next to the
boxes of tempting vibrant-colored pencil options.
Growing up, we knew coloring was a great activity as we learned
to choose colors and create a finished product that was sure to
have mom grab a magnet for the fridge. We learned to move from
scribbling to coloring inside the lines. We could gaze lovingly at
our favorite cartoon characters, brought to life by our crayons
and sign our names to the pages. Now, as grown women, we
are using colored pencils and markers to design beautiful pages.
Coloring books are cool again.

Here’s what some of our readers said about adult coloring books:
“So relaxing, and I wish we would have had these available as
kids!” – Nikki Chetwood
“It helps to color when you’re bored, stressed, have a headache,
decompress from a long day. I would recommend to anyone.” —
“[It] brings peace and solitude after a long and rough day.” —

But what are the benefits behind the books? We went in search
of answers from brain expert, Sandra Sunquist Stanton, author
of “Max Your Mind: An Owner’s Guide to Your Strong Brain.”
Sandra referenced the constant state of “go go go” in our lives
and said coloring can slow us down, almost like a mindful
meditation. “It captures the focus of many parts of the brain
and keeps them busy creating beautiful pictures that ‘stay done’
unlike most household tasks.”

Sandra said these are some other benefits for your brain when
you’re coloring:
• Repetitive motion is soothing for the brain, as in knitting,
crocheting, sewing, rocking, and walking.
• Using our senses activates the parts of the brain where they’re
processed. Creating the pages triggers the kinesthetic sense as
well as the visual.
• What fun for the right brain to choose color and design for the
over-all picture—unlike the old prescribed colors in paint by
number projects!
• The left brain works to create visually pleasing balance,
sequence and detail.
• It’s a perfect self-soothing activity to help us shift from the
amygdala’s worry, planning and regret to the prefrontal
cortex’s positive focus.
• Occupational therapists and psychologists have prescribed
them for people with stress disorders, anxiety, anger
management issues and substance abuse issues.
• Coloring pages are a treatment modality accessible to
anyone—without a prescription, huge expense for equipment
or need for an appointment with someone else. They sit on
your table ready when you are. How cool is that?

Several organizations are hosting coloring groups, to add a
social element to the stress-busting activity. Personal growth
centers like Silver Springs Wellness in Whitehall and Equine
Inspired Wellness in Cadott are hosting coloring events and
senior care non-profits like American Lutheran Communities
in Menomonie, Willowbrook Assisted Living in Eau Claire and
Pioneer Nursing Home in Prairie Farm are welcoming seniors
from the community into their buildings to enjoy the brain boost
along with a cup of coffee.

“We do activities all the time with our residents, but realized
seniors who live at home may not have access to the same
opportunities, so we started hosting a free public coloring
group for people who live in our area,” Angela Greger, the
administrator of Pioneer Nursing Home, said. “It’s a wonderful
thing to see a group of people enjoying themselves and tapping
into their young hearts.”

No matter why you color, just go for it! Find this article on
queenofthecastlemagazine.com for a selection of free printable
coloring pages and a listing of some area coloring groups.

L.E. Phillips Senior Center – 5 class series Max Your Mind class

We’d love to have you come and join our Max Your Mind class

$40 will hold your spot and get you a signed copy of the book!

Register at L.E.Phillips Senior Center

Thursday April 7-May 5 2016  1-3:00 PM

 

 

Not Your Mother’s Parenting

shutterstock_98703734Parenting for Your Baby’s Brain- Then and Now

Do you sometimes wonder what’s going on in babies’ precious little heads? The experiences parents choose for their baby shape her. What a responsibility! It’s always been a daunting task, one for which we don’t even get an operation manual. We have to figure it out for ourselves, often with the help of our own parents who learned long ago how to navigate in very different “waters”. Let’s look at some of the ways parenting has changed from the 70’s and 80’s to 2015.

Today’s parents have the benefit of recent neuroscience research. We now know that full term babies have 100 Billion brain cells of which only 25% are connected to each other and functioning. The rest of the connections grow through the child’s experiences—engineered by parents and caregivers. When little ones feel safe and know that they are loved, they are eager to learn. Touch and loving eye contact create a sense of safety, giving them freedom to try new things. Don’t worry about spoiling a baby. They grow and develop best when they know that they matter to the grownups who care for them.

“Children should be seen and not heard”

Then:

We used to hear this from adults who were frustrated with noisy, distracting children. This philosophy downplayed the importance of interaction for babies’ brains. Ignored by their adults, many little ones felt isolated. Without interaction, children’s brains become stressed, restricting the formation of connections. Playpens were common in the 70’s and 80’s.  With baby playing in an enclosed space, moms could get their work done, and they could still watch, talk and listen to the kids.  Children were safe and entertained, but they couldn’t explore their world.

Now:

Babies now often spend their time in carriers, experiencing their parents’ movements and activities. This is a far better way to create connections between the child’s brain cells. Parent and child are able to enjoy each other singing, dancing, and sharing activities.  Parents are better able to become their child’s favorite “toy”. They love to study Mom’s or Dad’s face, and learn how to get smiles.  Climbing into his world on the floor develops his brain and helps him learn about relationships.

Entertaining Children

Then:

Children across time have learned by playing. In the 70’s they liked, trucks, dolls, and other toys. An entire generation grew up watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Sitting and reading the same book over and over together in a rocking chair has always been a wonderful way to help them explore relationships and learn about their world.

Now:

In the past ten years, electronic options with bright moving visuals and engaging sounds keep children occupied and quiet, tempting busy parents to rely on them.

Unfortunately, screen time develops mostly passive connections in their brain at the expense of active skills. According to the American Academy of Pediatricians, “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”[i]

For more “bang for the brain”, babies and toddlers need face-to-face interaction with a parent or consistent responsive caregiver. Examining a real leaf, empty boxes, plastic containers and other real-live experiences with their adults awakens their creativity, wonder, and teaches them to play. When either the parent or the child is focused on TV or other screens rather than each other, children miss out on critical development opportunities. Most important, the screen doesn’t respond to the child’s communication, so they learn they don’t matter.

Babies are gifts—even when they keep us from sleeping. Find joy in your time together, and everyone will have a stronger brain.

 

(footnote i) https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx#sthash.8IRtOYTa.dpuf

Resources:

http://www.fredrogerscenter.org/initiatives/simple-interactions/about-simple-interactions/

http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Unplugged–New-recommendations-about-Media-Use-fro.aspx

Building Baby’s Brain Class:

Contact Family Resource Center at 715-833 1735 to register for Building Baby’s Brain class on  June 16, 2016 5:30-7:00.

 

First published in Queen of the Castle Magazine, Nov. 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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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