I truly geek out over gardening. I love the prepping of the dirt, the labor that goes into weeding, raking, roto-tilling. I love the smell of the amended soil. The daily watering, the harvest, the clean up. I seriously love it all. I think the reason I come back to gardening every spring is the way gardening makes me feel. My favorite thing to do when I come home from an all nighter, think mid July, is to go out to my garden, turn on the water and walk around. I observe the changes that took place while I was gone and feel the sense of peace knowing everything is thriving.
Gardening has a way of connecting people back to the earth by lowering our cortisol levels, stress hormones. Check out this article below. Maybe building mini station gardens, (flowers, vegetables, fruit trees) would benefit us more than just our station meals? Maybe they would become our focal point for decompression, relaxation, and a place where we could share our harvest with the community?
Petal Power: Why Is Gardening So Good For Our Mental Health?10 ways horticulture helps us heal, overcome anxiety and lift low mood
Posted May 13, 2015
By: Sarah Rayner
"Time and again research reveals that gardening has a positive effect on our mental health, so let's explore what it is that seems to make horticulture so healing.
Source: Sarah Rayner1. Looking after plants gives us a sense of responsibility.
I remember when my mother gave me a little spot in our garden to tend. I must have been about five. I demarcated it with stones and planted forget-me-nots and ‘poached eggs' flowers that still make me smile.
Source: Eric Rayner, used with permissionHaving to care for plants is a good way to learn to look after and respect other living things and when we are small it helps develop an appreciation of the magic of nature.
2. Gardening allows us all to be nurturers.
It doesn’t matter if we are seven or seventy, male, female or transgender, gardening underlines that we are all nurturers. Horticulture is a great equalizer: plants don’t give a fig who is tending them and for those with mental health problems to be able to contribute to such a transformative activity can help boost self-esteem.
3. Gardening keeps us connected to other living things.
Gardening can act as a gentle reminder to us that we are not the centre of the universe. Self-absorption can contribute to depression, and focusing on the great outdoors – even in the pared-down form of a patio – can encourage us to be less insular.
As long ago as 2003, research concluded that for those in mental health units and prison, the social nature of group gardening is beneficial because it centers on collective skills and aspirations rather than individual symptoms and deficits. Yet to dig and delve in a walled or fenced garden also helps to keep vulnerable people within boundaries both literally and metaphorically, allowing them to feel safe at the same time as they expand their horizons.
article continues after advertisement4. Gardening helps us relax and let go.
For many the peacefulness associated with gardening comes not from its social aspect however, but the opposite. It enables us to escape from other people. ‘Flowers are restful to look at. They have no emotions or conflict,’ said Freud. Tending to plants allows us to tap into the carefree part of ourselves with no deadlines, mortgage or annoying colleagues to worry about.
Source: Sarah RaynerMoreover, the rhythmic nature of many tasks associated with horticulture – weeding, trimming, sowing, sweeping – allows thoughts to ebb and flow along with our movements. I often take to watering the plants in my patio when trying to untangle the knots in plots or characterization that can arise when writing a novel, and all too often the solution comes to me far more easily there than if I sit staring and despairing at my screen. The competing thoughts inside my head somehow clear and settle, and ideas that are barely formed take shape.
5. Working in nature releases happy hormones.
To say that gardening encourages us to exercise and spend time outdoors might seem a statement of the obvious, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that what’s good for the body is also good for the mind. When I’m deeply immersed in writing it can be all too easy to forget this, but when we exercise levels of serotonin and dopamine (hormones that make us feel good) rise and the level of cortisol (a hormone associated with stress), is lowered. It’s true that a session in the garden can be tiring, but it can also get rid of excess energy so you sleep better and ultimately feel renewed inside.
article continues after advertisementSource: Sarah Rayner6. Being amongst plants and flowers reminds us to live in the present moment.
As I explain in my little book on anxiety, 'when we let go of ruminating on the past or worrying about the future and instead focus on the here and now, anxiety lessens’. So one of the best ways to calm the anxious mind and lift mood is to become more ‘present’. Next time you’re in a garden, pause for a few moments and allow yourself to be aware of your senses.
Listen. Touch. Smell. See.
Just a short time experiencing the fullness of nature like this can be very restorative.
7. Gardening reminds us of the cycle of life, and thus come to terms with that most universal of anxieties: death.
Source: Sarah RaynerRituals can help us work through difficult emotions, including grief, and gardening is a form of ritual involving both the giving of life and acknowledgement of its end; it's symbolic of regeneration. It’s no coincidence we create gardens of remembrance and mark the scattered ashes and graves of our loved ones with roses, shrubs and trees; by doing so we’re acknowledging that from dust we all come and to dust we return.
article continues after advertisement8. Some aspects of gardening allow us to vent anger and aggression...
Clearly then, horticulture is not all sweetness and light: nature has its dark side too. In a similar vein, some of the therapeutic power of gardening is that it allows us to unleash our anger and aggression as well as providing an opportunity to nurture. Why beat pillows with a baseball bat or yell at the cat when you have a hedge to hack? I confess there are times when I enjoy cutting and chopping and yanking and binding as much, if not more, than sowing and feeding and watering, and the great thing about destructiveness in the garden is that it's also connected to renewal and growth – if you don't cut back the plants, your space will be swamped by them.
9. ...whilst others allow us to feel in control.
In a similar vein, anxious people often feel overwhelmed, and gardening can be a good way of gaining a sense of control. Moreover, whereas trying to control other people is invariably a fruitless exercise, you’re more likely to succeed in controlling your beds and borders, which can make gardening a particularly satisfying experience.
10. Last but not least, gardening is easy.
When it comes to growing things, for all its power of healing, the world of plants can feel intimidating to an outsider. If you’re new to gardening you may well be anxious you won’t have ‘green fingers’ and here, as with all new ventures: starting small is key."
Rayner, Sarah. 2015. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/worry-and-panic/201505/petal-power-why-is-gardening-so-good-our-mental-health
Service animals. It's a debate. Some people love the idea, some do not. The truth is they are incredibly popular because their effectiveness in providing comfort and relaxation to whom ever is in their path. They are smart little buggers that get you to release Oxytocin when you see and start to interact with them. Here are some reasons why a service animal might be what the fire service needs:
"Studies have also found that:
They can help you lose weight:
"Numerous studies have linked dog ownership to weight loss:
Lastly look at some of these Fire Departments who have already adopted this practice to help their firefighters:
Credits:Authors: Lawrence Robinson and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. November 2018.
This little guy looks so thankful, he he :)
"Matthew Walker: My name is Matthew Walker, I am a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and I am the author of the book "Why We Sleep." "
"We certainly know that a lack of sleep will actually prevent your brain from being able to initially make new memories, so it's almost as though without sleep the memory inbox of the brain shuts down and you can't commit new experiences to memory. So those new incoming informational emails are just bounced, and you end up feeling as though you're amnesiac. You can't essentially make and create those new memories. "
"We also know that a lack of sleep will lead to an increased development of a toxic protein in the brain that is called beta-amyloid and that is associated with Alzheimer's disease because it is during deep sleep at night when a sewage system within the brain actually kicks in to high gear and it starts to wash away this toxic protein, beta-amyloid. "
"So if you're not getting enough sleep each and every night, more of that Alzheimer's-related protein will build up. The more protein that builds up, the greater your risk of going on to develop dementia in later life."
"What are the effects of sleep deprivation on the body? Well, there are many different effects. Firstly, we know that sleep deprivation affects the reproductive system. We know that men who are sleeping just five to six hours a night have a level of testosterone which is that of someone ten years their senior. So a lack of sleep will age you by almost a decade in terms of that aspect of virility and wellness."
"We also know that a lack of sleep impacts your immune system. So after just one night of four to five hours of sleep, there is a 70% reduction in critical anticancer-fighting immune cells called natural killer cells. And that's the reason that we know that short sleep duration predicts your risk for developing numerous forms of cancer. And that list currently includes cancer of the bowel, cancer of the prostate, as well as cancer of the breast."
"In fact, the link between a lack of sleep and cancer is now so strong that recently the World Health Organization decided to classify any form of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen. So in other words, jobs that may induce cancer because of a disruption of your sleep rate rhythms. "
"We also know that a lack of sleep impacts your cardiovascular system because it is during deep sleep at night that you receive this most wonderful form of effectively blood pressure medication. Your heart rate drops, your blood pressure goes down. "
"If you're not getting sufficient sleep, you're not getting that reboot of the cardiovascular system, so your blood pressure rises. You have, if you're getting six hours of sleep or less, a 200% increased risk of having a fatal heart attack or stroke in your lifetime. "
"There is a global experiment that is performed on 1.6 billion people twice a year and it's called daylight savings time. And we know that in the spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, we see a subsequent 24% increase in heart attacks the following day. "
"Another question, perhaps, is what is the recycle rate of a human being? How long can we actually last without sleep before we start to see declines in your brain function or even impairments within your body? And the answer seems to be about 16 hours of wakefulness."
"Once you get past 16 hours of being awake, that's when we start to see mental deterioration and physiological deterioration in the body. We know that after you've been awake for 19 or 20 hours, your mental capacity is so impaired that you would be as deficient as someone who was legally drunk behind the wheel of a car. So if you were to ask me what is the recycle rate of a human being, it does seem to be about 16 hours and we need about eight hours of sleep to repair the damage of wakefulness. Wakefulness essentially is low-level brain damage."(Friedman, N. 2018.What Happens To Your Brain and Body if You Don't Get Enough Sleep. Business Insider.)
We've all been there. Something unexpected happens, we shut down, we get angry, we dwell, we cry, we do irrational things, we drink too much. What if you could slow that response and process. Change your mindset and think more clearly.The ability to bounce back after adversity is found in your mindset. Numerous studies suggest that having a switch from pessimistic attitude to one of opportunity and action can lead to healthier bodies, better psychological effects and improvements in relationships.
"Margaret Heffernan coaches CEOs on how to make work more meaningful and fun. On a recent TED Radio Hour, The Meaning of Work, she discussed the productivity of groups by describing an experiment conducted by evolutionary biologist William Mure that involved chickens. " (Caroll, 2016)
"Mure set out to determine how productive a group could be if filled with only the most productive chickens, called “superchickens” in the experiment. Mure began with one flock of average, generally productive chickens. After some time, Mure took the superchickens out of the average flock and started a “superflock.” Mure easily identified the superchickens—he simply counted the number of eggs laid by each individual chicken. For each generation, Mure selected the most productive chickens from the average flock and moved them into the superflock. After six generations, Mure compared the productivity of the two flocks by counting the total number of eggs laid. The results were astounding." (Caroll, 2016)
"The average, generally productive flock was plump, fully feathered, healthy, and more productive than ever. The superflock, however, had only three surviving chickens—the rest had pecked each other to death." (Carol, 2016)
"The relevance of the experiment to today’s workplace is significant. I’m sure you can look around your office and point out the superchickens or realize for the first time you’re part of a superflock. What are the implications of competing against superchickens or being part of a superflock? " (Caroll, 2016)
"Most importantly, productivity is suppressed because the success of a superchicken depends on the failure of others. Instead of increasing overall productivity through collective effort and collaboration, superchickens seek to increase individual productivity at the expense of the group. The superchickens in Mure’s experiment achieved high productivity rates by literally killing the competition. Superstars in the corporate world achieve individual success through aggressive and coercive tactics, leading to increased dysfunction and waste in the workplace." (Caroll,, 2016)
"With these implications in mind, why does the superchicken model dominate companies? Heffernan reports that it starts early—superchicken parents fight to get their chicks into the gifted and talented group in kindergarten, then the best private schools, and finally Ivy League colleges. By the time a chick enters the corporate world, he or she is a full-blown superchicken groomed to compete in a high-intensity job with a kill-or-be-killed mentality. Performance management systems focused on identifying superchickens (i.e., high potential talent) and evaluation systems with forced rankings only exacerbate the problem. These systems also reinforce the mantra of the superchicken model: others must fail for me to thrive. " (Caroll, 2016)
"Heffernan believes there is another way to manage and motivate people: through social capital that involves building trust within groups of people. Trust takes time, but trust also compounds over time. Teams that work together over time garner more and more social capital, which translates into a new way of working—with increased candor and openness. Social capital turns good ideas into great ones because teams push and challenge each other through honest discussion and collaboration." (Caroll, 2016)
"It seems simple that productivity will increase when people love going to work and the people they work with. It also makes sense that people will work harder when they feel emotionally connected to their work. If you want your workforce to bring its best and do its best, Heffernan says you must speak to something deeper inside people than revenue targets or measurement goals. Create purpose and meaning for employees. My challenge to every organization is to stop creating superchickens and focus on creating a flock in which everyone flourishes. " (Caroll, 2016)
Carroll, H. (Feb 10, 2016) Is the Superchicken Management Model Hurting Your Productivity?https://www.apqc.org/blog/superchicken-management-model-hurting-your-productivity
"Often-ignored but totally necessary, self-care is any action or behavior that helps us avoid triggering health problems (like increasing our risk for heart problems due to excess stress, for example) and benefits us by improving our mental and physical health through better self-esteem, less stress, and overall wellbeing. These behaviors help provide balance in an increasingly over-stimulating world. Self-care makes up an essential part of a healthy lifestyle that keeps us healthy, happy, and more in-tune with our minds and bodies."(Duran, 2015)
"The problem is, we probably aren't doing enough of it."
"Experts suggest we neglect self-care because it can be tough to make healthy changes and manage stress in better ways. Self-care is also sometimes associated with selfishness and lazy, over-indulgent behavior. This mentality might make us feel guilty for thinking we need to take a break from our lives to do something that, simply put, makes us feel better. But ignoring our needs has some dangerous side effects: It makes us more likely to get sick and can make existing conditions worse—not to mention the emotional toll of never taking a break."(Duran, 2015)
"That's why taking the time to check in with your mind and body isn't a bad thing. In fact, researchers believe the pursuit of health and happiness is far from selfish. When we take good care of ourselves, we're likely to see an improvement in many aspects of our lives, including our physical health, relationships, and even our income. Plus, by making the choice to practice self-care, we have a tendency to care more for others—proving its importance for not just ourselves, but the world around us."(Duran, 2015)
"Your Action PlanSince self-care is a very individual thing, there's no set prescription for how or when to do it. That said, mental health professionals recommend taking at least 20 minutes a day to do something for ourselves, which seems pretty darn reasonable to us. Lost for ideas? Don't fret. We've rounded up some sweet strategies that'll help slash stress, boost happiness, and improve total health. Practice any of these self-care behaviors (or any others that occur to you!) daily, weekly, or even hourly—whatever feels best to you."(Duran, 2015)
"1. Get outside.
Ditching the comfort of your home is a great way to improve mental and physical health. Similar to meditation, spending time out of doors benefits the brain. Other research suggests that being outside in nature also makes us feel more alive. Even living in an area with more green space (i.e. parks and gardens) is associated with greater life satisfaction and less mental distress." (Duran, 2015)
"2. Try an outdoor workout.
Consider taking your sweat session into nature, too. Research shows that working out in the Great Outdoors boosts mental health, and may decrease tension, anger, and depression ."(Duran, 2015)
"3. Pay it forward.
By helping others, we actually help ourselves, too. Lending a hand not only boosts mental health, but may also lead to a longer life . Volunteering also positively affects self-confidence, self-esteem, and general wellbeing."(Duran, 2015)
"4. Breathe the right scents.
We know that breathing techniques can help us relax. But what we breathe might be just as important as how we breathe. While the benefits of aromatherapy are debated, research suggests that citrus scents—orange essential oil in particular—can help slash stress and anxiety, and getting a whiff of rosemary may boost memory ."(Duran, 2015)
"5. Stress less.
By now, we all know that stress is really bad for our health. Research suggests that stress may be contagious, and the more stressed we think we are, the worse it might be for our heart health . But between work, relationships, family, and whatever else life throws at us, it’s difficult not to succumb to it. Use these strategies, which range from drinking tea to practicing progressive relaxation, to keep the stress monster at bay."(Duran, 2015)
"6. Be mindful.
Focusing on the present—without judging how we feel and what we think—can be both a liberating and healthy practice. Studies show that getting in-tune with ourselves through mindfulness slashes stress and depression, helps us see ourselves in a truer light, and may even help keep our minds from wandering ."(Duran, 2015)
"7. Be happy!
We all know that happiness feels good, but it’s also great for our health. Research suggests that feeling happy may even prevent disease, including heart disease Fredrickson, B.L., Grewen, K.M., Coffey, K.A., et al. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013 August 13; 110(33): 13684–13689 . But being happy is easier said than done, right? Turns out there’s actually a simple way to feel more upbeat: Just crack a smile!"(Duran, 2015)
Meditation is proof that it doesn’t take a ton of time to do a mind and body good. Just a few minutes of quieting your mind can help relieve stress . Other benefits include a boost in compassionand emotional stability, and some research suggests that meditating could even keep winter illness at bay . The best part? Its benefits continue even when we’re not meditating—consider it the gift (to yourself) that keeps on giving. Sneak some meditation into day-to-day life with these 10 awesome techniques."(Duran, 2015)
"9. Dance around.
Shaking your booty doesn’t just make for a fit physique. It may also improve both mood and body image, lead to a better outlook, is associated with a lower risk for dementia, and even help you make friends . Consider this your cue for a silly impromptu dance party."(Duran, 2015)
"10. Turn up the tunes.
If you’ve ever noticed that certain songs bring a smile to your face, you’re not alone. As it turns out, science has taken note, too. Research shows that listening to music makes already positive emotions even more intense, and upbeat music in particular can do great things for your mood. Plus, jamming out can also improve heart health ."(Duran, 2015)
"11. Eat more fruits and veggies.
Adding more fruits and veggies to our plate is a great way to practice self-care all throughout the day. Research shows that eating berries boosts brain health while noshing on peppers prevents Parkinson’s . And in case we needed another reason to load up on nature’s goodness, filling up on seven portions of fruits and veggies per day might make us happier." (Duran, 2015)
"12. Swear it off.
Though a potty mouth isn’t appropriate in a lot of scenarios (work… church… on a date… you get the picture), dropping an F-bomb might be an easy way to blow off some steam. Research also shows swearing can reduce physical pain, and may even boost confidence and self-esteem . But, as they say, timing is everything—so be sure to filter your expletives to avoid adding embarrassment to stress."(Duran,2015)
"13. Indulge in some retail therapy.
Shopaholics, rejoice! Hitting the mall can help ease mild depression and make us more confident, according to some researchers. Another study suggests that purchasing new clothes can lift a person’s mood. Science aside, treating yourself to something shiny, special, and new (it doesn’t have to be expensive!) is a pretty surefire way to put a smile on your face."(Duran, 2015)
"14. Get it on.
There are tons of awesome things about sex, even apart from the way it makes us feel. Getting busy can boost the immune system :839-44)). Help to reduce stress, and may even relieve migraine pain—and that’s just to name a few of its health benefits ."(Duran, 2015)
"15. Become a bookworm.
Contrary to what some middle school bullies believe, reading is cool. Plus, it’s actually really good for our health. Research suggests that reading on a regular basis keeps the mind sharp as it ages, and reading fiction in particular makes for more creativityand a more open mind. Cracking open a book may also improve sleep and make us more empathic ."(Duran, 2015)
"16. Laugh out loud.
There’s a reason people say laughter is “the best medicine”: Chuckling and giggling benefit our mental and physical health, especially when combined with exercise . Giving into a case of the funnies can improve our overall quality of life, while getting goofy with other people can help us connect with the people we laugh with and foster our relationships. Your plan of action: Watch a funny movie or a comedy on television—those reruns of How I Met Your Mother may actually be good for your heart ."(Duran, 2015)
"17. Look at something cute.
Instant mood booster: looking at pictures of baby animals. Thanks to Pinterest, that’s incredibly easy (Just take a look at this board—it’s chock-full of super cute furry friends.). Plus, browsing through these photos may even help you when you’re on the job. Research suggests it may boost your productivity at work . Just, uh, don’t let the boss catch you."(Duran, 2015)
"18. Get enough Zzz's.
There tons of things that can sabotage our sleep, whether it’s a late night at the office, a wild night with friends, or just catching up on Scandal. The problem is, skimping on shut-eye can hurt job productivity, make us choose to eat larger portions, and may lead to diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Prioritize snooze time for a healthier, happier you—even if it’s just a quick cat nap during your lunch break."(Duran, 2015)
Some researchers believe that clutter can stress us out and bring us down. On the flip side, sorting through and purging unorganized papers, clothes, knickknacks, or whatever else is crowding our lives may help us be more productive, cheerful, and calmer."(Duran, 2015)
"20. Pound the pavement.
Not only does it torch calories, but running is a mood-booster that can help reduce anxiety . Long-distance running in particular may even provide pain relief. Exercise in general is linked to decreasing symptoms of depression, so lace up your sneakers the next time you need a mood lift ."(Duran, 2015)
"21. Indulge in a massage.
Set aside some time to experience the complete and total bliss of a massage. It soothes both the mind and muscles, improves sleep quality, and reduces stress."(Duran, 2015)
Whether you’re the big spoon or little spoon, cuddling is good for you. Studies show that physical contact reduces stress and releases a hormone called oxtocin that boosts happiness."(Duran, 2015)
"23. Get your Om on.
It comes as no surprise that yoga is a healthy practice. It helps relieve anxiety, stress, and depression, all while boosting energy levels and improving our overall sense of well-being. Don’t think you have to commit to a full-length yoga class to reap its health benefits. Just 20 minutes on the mat improves focus and boosts the brain . Try these restorative yoga poses to erase any built-up tension."(Duran, 2015).
These days, it feels like everyone’s glued to a phone, laptop, or both at the same time. Deliberately taking a break from social media, e-mail, blogging, and so on can help us recharge and gives our brain the downtime it needs to work at an optimal level."(Duran, 2015)
"25. Get out of town.
When it comes to taking vacation, most Americans don’t do a lot of it. But skipping out on time away from the 9-to-5 does more harm than good: Studies show that skipping the family vacay is associated with a higher risk of heart disease in both men and women . Whether booking a trip to an exotic location or going somewhere nearby, time away from work can help refresh our focus, and being exposed to a new location or experience may boost creativity. Plus, everyone deserves a break!"(Duran, 2015)
Duran, Alexandra.(2/2015)25 Science-Backed Reasons to Change Your Life By Taking Better Care of Yourself. https://greatist.com/happiness/ways-to-practice-self-care
Something I've always loved about the fire service is the camaraderie. The feeling of being accepted for your contribution as a team member. Whatever your strength is, you bring it and it helps the group. As a group we love this. We love being a mixed bag of interests, specialities, and knowledge. We get free expert advice on mechanics, nutrition, construction, fitness, real-estate... But, these little strengths are more then just added bonuses, they are the glue that make our teams strong. These long shifts give us the opportunity to contribute more then just to our community, it allows us to bond. It allows us to learn to trust each other and in turn work in dynamic teams. We lean on each other for these strengths and combine ideas to rectify problems. Without our diversity we would be inefficient ineffective and not nearly as interesting.
I thought this month would be a good month to reflect on feeling safe in our working relationships and also trusting ourselves and each other. This TED Talk talks about how important trust is in working relationships. Another important piece to this video is that there are leaders in all walks of life. Every one of us has the ability to change the environment in which we work. I hope we all choose to make it better, if not for you...do it for the person to the left and right of you. I hope you enjoy!
Last month we discussed compassion fatigue. We discussed what it is, who has it, and what we can do to get compassion and empathy back in our lives. We know the Vagus Nerve is an important pathway to keeping us resilient at stress by allowing relaxation via the Parasympathetic System. This deescalating system allows us to heal, digest, rest and recover. Doing self work like meditation, Yoga nidra, Coregous ball work, Acupuncture and mindful techniques are all important and necessary to keeping you healthy for the long haul. When we don't "reset" by tapping into the parasympethic system we remain in that state of hyper vigilance. For the long haul, hyper vigilance isn't healthy.
This month I would like to discuss a different type of yoga that you should try. Its called Yoga Nidra, and anyone can do it!
"Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep as it is commonly known, is an immensely powerful meditation technique, and one of the easiest yoga practices to develop and maintain. While the practitioner rests comfortably in savasana (corpse pose), this systematic meditation takes you through the pancha maya kosha (five layers of self), leaving you with a sense of wholeness."(Jeraci, 2018)
As firefighters I think we like to see the EVIDENCE... Where's the proof that this will be worth my time? Well, give me a second. Heres how Yoga Nidra works, and it involves brain waves...
"Described as “dynamic sleep,” the Yoga Nidra practice allows the body to deeply relax while the mind stays inwardly alert. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, who pioneered the practice in the early 1950s from ancient Tantric texts, calls it “reaching the border between waking and sleeping states.” Western medicine would call it the confluence of alpha and delta brainwaves." (Hill, 2017)
"Here’s what’s happening: Over the course of falling asleep, brain waves move from the active, thoughtful beta waves (14-40 Hz), then pass through the relaxed, thoughtless state of alpha waves (9-13 Hz), and enter the slowest frequency of deep sleep, delta waves (1-3 Hz). Yoga Nidra guides practitioners into the “hypnagogic state”—the threshold between alpha and theta waves—the knife’s edge where the body “sleeps” while the mind is lucid. Swami Karma Karuna describes it as a point “beyond the personality, where the logical, analytical aspect of the mind is suspended.” This passive/active state allows access to subconscious memory and repressed experiences—unlike hypnosis where the person is totally inert." (Hill, 2017)
"Yoga Nidra is practiced in a comfortable lying down position. You are guided through a series of breathing exercises and simple instructions. Some of these include visual imagery or a scan of the body, which occupies the mind and prevents it from becoming involved in the usual mind-chatter that absorbs our ordinary consciousness. Within a short time, you become submerged in the alpha state, where brain rhythms drop into the silent space within. Once your body is relaxed and your mind is calm, all energies are focused on the Third Eye.."(Floresta, 2015)
"Researchers concede that the sample sizes are small and more longitudinal studies are needed, but the findings are hopeful. In two separate papers published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology researchers found Yoga Nidra improved blood pressure, heart rate variables, and hormone irregularities in women. Researchers at Shyam Shah Medical College measured fewer fluctuations in blood glucose levels in people with type-2 diabetes after 30 consecutive days of Yoga Nidra practice. All of this comes on the back of numerous studies firmly establishing measurable therapeutic effects of meditation, no matter the method, on everything from metabolic syndrome to clinical depression." (Hill, 2017)
Who's using it?
"Yoga Nidra’s psychological benefits have opened a discussion with wide implications in the study of PTSD. Dr. Amanda Hull, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is working to integrate Yoga Nidra, acupuncture, and qigong into the VA hospital structure. Alongside Dr. Hull, compelling research is happening at John F. Kennedy University involving Vietnam and Iraq war servicemen with severe PTSD. They reported “reduced rage, anxiety, and emotional reactivity” after eight weeks of regular Yoga Nidra practice. Similarly, at the Veterans Hospital in Long Beach, CA, researchers administered Yoga Nidra twice a week for 10 weeks to women who were victims of rape and military sexual trauma. Their 2014 study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy “showed significant decreases in negative thoughts of self-blame and depression.”"(Hill, 2017)
"Consenting voices are ringing as far as Silicon Valley. CEO Charlie Kim, CEO of e-commerce company Next Jump, says investment in sleep “is a company problem.” Kim instituted Yoga Nidra company-wide, including offices in London and New York, offering it as “sleep class” every afternoon. Next Jump’s Head of Wellness, Peter Chica, says, “Companies invest in exercise and nutrition programs; it just makes sense to invest in sleep as well.” So, did it work? Sleep class was adopted immediately, Chica reported. “Everyone does it and even friends and family ask to come.” Next Jump employees reported better productivity, focus, and emotional balance. “The early adopters were the program’s best salespeople,” Chica says." (Hill, 2017)
"Stress is the biggest problem of modern life. We carry tensions both within the physical body and on even deeper levels in the subtle bodies which we are not even aware of. While physical tension can be eased by stretching, exercise or massage, subtle tensions are difficult to recognize and even harder to release. Yoga Nidra is a unique method that goes below surface tensions to release and transform stress at its deepest level." (Floresta, 2015)
If you are interested please look into your local yoga studios. If you are local to Marysville, Wa please message me I can get you in touch with our Nidra specialist, Wendy Soper. She has been advocating for Nidra programs in our area and is coordinating with Spark Hot Yoga. www.sparkhotyogastudio.com
Floresta, P. 2015. "Brain Waves and Yoga Nidra". https://paolodafloresta.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/brain-waves-yoga-nidra/
Hill, E. 2017 "How Yoga Nidra works". https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-yoga-nidra-works_us_58efcea5e4b048372700d692
Jeraci, A. 2018, "5 Benefits of Yoga Nidra", Yogainternational.com, https://yogainternational.com/article/view/5-benefits-of-yoga-nidra
I think we've all felt it. It's that uncomfortable feeling of empathy absence that you know you should have. That callous feeling that didn't come on overnight, it's been years in the making. It's the under reaction of emotional numbness. Maybe you notice it on a call, after a call, at home when dealing with family. So what exactly is compassion fatigue? What can we do about it? How can we get it back?
"Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among individuals that work directly with trauma victims such as therapists (paid and unpaid), nurses, teachers, psychologists, police officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, animal welfare workers, health unit coordinators and anyone who helps out others, especially family members, relatives, and other informal caregivers of patients suffering from a chronic illness. It was first diagnosed in nurses in the 1950s."(Day, Anderson(2011))
"The nature of some of these professions, combined with one’s life choices, can result in living life in a continually up-regulated state of sympathetic dominance, or the “fight or flight” nervous system."(Andrade, 2017)
What can we do to stay healthy:
"The stress response has been shown to have a similar effect on the brain as trauma and hence practices like interoceptive based yoga, mindfulness, breath, meditation and gratitude practices can be essential part of cultivating resilience. By building one’s own resources they can better meet their environment, and weather the peaks and valleys of life with more presence and connection to one’s true self and state of being."(Andrade, 2017)
Getting in Touch With Your Vagus Nerve
"Another cornerstone to my toolbox is yoga nidra, or “yogic sleep.” Some yoga nidra programs mention that 30 minutes of yoga nidra is equivalent to 4 hours of sleep in terms of brain activity, other say 20 minutes is equivalent to 1 hour, but what is the science behind it? New studies in Copenhagen using brain scans and electroencephalograph (EEG) show that nidra practices increase theta activity, which can improve our intuition and creativity, and it activates different parts of the brain related to emotional, visual and tacticle processing, as well as one’s sense of self." (Andrade, 2017)
"Such areas are often negatively affected by the continual up-regulation of the nervous system which can have unintended impacts over time on our neural pathways. These impacts often feed a cycle of stress, disrupting not only one’s emotional state, but also our immune system, our ability to function in the work place and maintain inter-personal relationships. The result over time can be a narrower window of tolerance and weaker vagal tone." (Andrade, 2017)
"Hence as a person who is often upregulated, another key tool in my toolbox is stimulating the Vagus nerve to downregulate, and strengthening vagal tone. The vagus nerve is not only the longest nerve in the body but it also has one of the most important jobs – it’s the main implementer for the parasympathetic system, or our ‘rest and digest’ system. It innervates the heart and regulates many of the body’s internal organ systems, most of which operate at a subconscious level like digestion, glands, heart, lungs, etc." (Andrade, 2017)
Ways to stimulate the Vagus Nerve
"There are many ways to stimulate the vagus nerve, but one of the more effective ways is to target the stomach where there is the largest body of nerve endings. This can be done by laying on the stomach with a rolled-up blanket or using another implement, such as the Coregous ball, starting with small increments of time and building up from there. Other great ways to stimulate the nerve can be though the ocular endings with eye movements or using an app, or activating the nerve endings in the shoulder – which can be done very easily with an ALPHA ball against a column or an original Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball on a block." (Andrade, 2017)
Over the next few months we will be looking into different ways to activate your Parasympathetic System. The goal is to work with a local yoga instructor, Wendy Soper, and bring Nidra to our members.
Day, Jennifer R.; Anderson, Ruth A. (2011-09-08). "Compassion Fatigue: An Application of the Concept to Informal Caregivers of Family Members with Dementia". Nursing Research and Practice. 2011: 1–10.
Andrade, Samara(2017-04-26)."Self Care Strategies for Aid Workers and First Responders". Tuneup Fitness.com. https://www.tuneupfitness.com/blog/2017/04/26/self-care-strategies-for-aid-workers-and-first-responders/
Happy 2018! To start 2018 we will look at some social networks of a different kind, social networks of forests. Now, I know some might think this is an unlikely comparison. However, as you will see and read, forests do communicate. They communicate and create social networks much like humans. They nurture their young, they give information to other trees, and share their space. They do things very similar to human communities.
This is important to understand because humans need social networks to thrive, to be healthy, and to be happy! One researcher, Suzanne Simard, always believed trees communicated. Maybe not like humans, but she believed they communicated through their roots with help from fungi.
Heres her story,
"Two decades ago, while researching her doctoral thesis, ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered that trees communicate their needs and send each other nutrients via a network of latticed fungi buried in the soil — in other words, she found, they “talk” to each other. Since then, Simard, now at the University of British Columbia, has pioneered further research into how trees converse, including how these fungal filigrees help trees send warning signals about environmental change, search for kin, and transfer their nutrients to neighboring plants before they die."
Simard used radioactive Carbon 13 & 14 to conduct tests to see if trees communicate through these root systems. What she discovered is truly remarkable. Trees send carbon along with other vital information to other trees to help them grow and prosper. Much like human communities. See the video for full details of her experiments she has conducted.
Suzanne SimardSimard’s work has helped change how scientists define interactions between plants. “A forest is a cooperative system,” she said in an interview with Yale Environment 360. “To me, using the language of ‘communication’ made more sense because we were looking at not just resource transfers, but things like defense signaling and kin recognition signaling. We as human beings can relate to this better. If we can relate to it, then we’re going to care about it more. If we care about it more, then we’re going to do a better job of stewarding our landscapes.” "By using phrases like “forest wisdom” and “mother trees” when she speaks about this elaborate system, which she compares to neural networks in human brains,
I hope you enjoy this video and I hope you continue to build your social bonds like our forests.
Beyond the Gear is a informational place where firefighters and their families can read and take steps at living a healthier life. Healthy body starts with a healthy mind. I hope you enjoy.