How to Change Your Brain

Sure, you can change your mind, but can you change your brain? Science says, “Yes!”

According to a great article I read recently, there are a number of things that have been shown — through scientific studies — to make a difference. Read on for a list of seven things that may actually improve your brain:

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1) Exercise
Everyone knows that they should exercise, but most people think of their waistline, not their brain, when they hop onto the treadmill. It turns out that physical activity is a very important factor when it comes to brain health and cognitive function. In fact, exercise is linked to greater brain volume, improved thinking/memory skills, and a decreased risk of dementia! According to a study published in the journal Neurology, older people who engage in vigorous exercise tend to have similar cognitive test scores to people who are 10 years younger!

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2) Foods and Spices
Here is another aspect of our health that tends to be dictated by our waistline: our diet. Eating lots of processed carbohydrates and sugars certainly affects our figure, but it also affects our brain! In a study conducted at UCLA last year, researchers found that feeding fructose water to rats with brain damage actually impeded their recovery…and that even healthy rats experienced cognitive decline when placed on the same diet. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids (think fish, eggs, walnuts, etc.) seemed to reverse some of the damage! Another study showed that turmeric — a spice found in curry dishes that is touted for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties — may be linked to a reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

While there is probably not a single food or spice that will turn the tides, a diet that is high in whole foods and low in sugar is probably your best bet at maintaining health. Given the fact that about 1/5 of our energy resources are dedicated to powering the brain, we should give it some consideration when we reach for a snack!

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3) Vitamins and Minerals
Of course, any vitamin or mineral that is good for your body is good for your brain, too! However, there are a few that are more directly related to brain health: vitamins D and B12 and iron. Science may not be able to explain precisely why our brains need vitamin D, but it has shown that a lack of it is linked to cognitive decline. Similarly, vitamin B12 deficiency can have negative effects on the central nervous system and lead to memory loss. Iron plays an important role throughout the body because it carries oxygen to all of our cells! Keep in mind that while supplements may seem easier to take, your body is actually better able to absorb vitamins and minerals that come directly from food. Click here for an a-to-z list of vitamins and minerals and the foods that contain them.

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4) Coffee
Most of us are probably happy to think that our coffee addiction is actually doing something good for our bodies! Beyond simply keeping us alert, coffee consumption can actually reduce the risk of depression, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. Next time someone tries to hassle you about being a coffee addict, just tell them you are getting your daily dose of antioxidants!

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5) Meditation
There may be thousands of years’ worth of anecdotal evidence to prove the value of meditation, but the experimental evidence to go with it has only arisen in the last decade or so. Studies have shown that meditation may be related to increased brain volume in certain parts of the cerebral cortex. Furthermore, it is associated with decreased activity in the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for our response to fear or stress) and the default mode network (which is active when our mind is wandering). Those who practice meditation regularly can expect improvements like increased attention and concentration!

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6) Education/Mental Activity
This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when people think about “improving” their brains. Things like learning a new language, playing an instrument, or doing a crossword/sudoku puzzle are all helpful (and fun)! Not that any of these things can necessarily prevent disease, but they can reinforce our cognitive reserve — that is, the mind’s resilience or ability to function adequately in spite of damage.

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7) Sleep
We are pretty big fans of sleep here at Lifekind, so this may be my favorite thing on the list! We spend about 1/3 of our lives sleeping, so it makes sense that it would have an effect on our health. Lack of sleep has a negative effect on the body and the mind and has been associated with things like poor attention, difficulty learning, and decreased creativity. There is plenty of debate about precisely how much sleep is needed, but seven hours is a pretty good rule of thumb!

With all of the hard work that our brain does around the clock, it certainly deserves a little extra attention. Even though we might not be able to fit in all of the items on this list every day, it is at least nice to know that there is something we can do to improve our most complex (and intriguing) organ!

Are there federal requirements for calling a mattress “organic”?

Answer: Yes. And verifying these requirements is the only way to make sure you’re not falling victim to fraudulent advertising claims when shopping for an organic mattress.

The government agency that controls use of the word “organic” is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), under Title XXI of the 1990 Farm Bill, otherwise known as The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

This Act established national standards governing the marketing of certain agricultural products as organically produced products in order to assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard and to facilitate fairness within interstate commerce.

USDA control over use of the word “organic” extends to non-edible agricultural crops such as cotton and rubber trees, and further extends to non-edible products derived from livestock, such as wool.

To call any of these raw materials “organic,” each producer must meet the requirements listed in the Act and subject its facility and products to annual audit by a USDA-approved “certifying agent.”

Furthermore, for a complex finished textile product, such as a mattress, to be called organic it must be composed of a minimum of 95% certified raw materials as listed above. Then independently, the company manufacturing the mattress must also meet the requirements as listed in the Act and to subject its facility and finished products to an independent annual textile audit to standards such as GOTS, by a USDA-approved certifying agent.

Therefore, to call a mattress “organic” or to sell it as such, the company producing the mattress must earn independent organic status and be awarded an organic certificate annually in their name. This means that a mattress cannot be called organic simply because it is made up of one, some, or even all organic raw materials. It is the “certifying agent” that substantiates that the organic claim being made is actually true. It must be a USDA-approved certifying agent, who through an audit process can give a company legitimate claim or right to use the term “organic.”

Legislation in the United States established the Federal Trade Commission Act in1914. Under this Act, the Commission is empowered to, among other things, prevent unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive consumer acts or representations affecting commerce.

If a company calls its product “organic” and its facility, methods, and specific products have not been awarded organic status by a USDA-approved certifying agent, that claim is deceptive, and constitutes an unfair method of competition in the marketplace. Unfair marketing claims fall under the purview of the FTC.

Specific to environmental claims, the FTC has published the “Green Guide.” While the guide defines a number of environmental terms and correct use and association of logos and seals, the primary emphasis of the document is substantiation. Environmental marketing claims must be substantiated.

Section 5 of the FTC Act prohibits deceptive acts and practices in or affecting commerce. A representation, omission, or practice is deceptive if it is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances and is material to consumers’ decisions. See FTC Policy Statement on Deception, 103 FTC 174 (1983). To determine if an advertisement is deceptive, marketers must identify all express and implied claims that the advertisement reasonably conveys. Marketers must ensure that all reasonable interpretations of their claims are truthful, not misleading, and supported by a reasonable basis before they make the claims. See FTC Policy Statement Regarding Advertising Substantiation, 104 FTC 839 (1984).

In the context of environmental marketing claims, a reasonable basis often requires competent and reliable scientific evidence. Such evidence consists of tests, analyses, research, or studies that have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons and are generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results. Such evidence should be sufficient in quality and quantity based on standards generally accepted in the relevant scientific fields, when considered in light of the entire body of relevant and reliable scientific evidence, to substantiate that each of the marketing claims is true.

James Kohm is the Associate Director for the Enforcement Division of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. In that capacity, he oversees enforcement of all consumer protection orders and the Commission’s Green Marketing program. When Mr. Kohm spoke on January 27, 2013 at the World Market Center, he made clear that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does not define what is or can be called organic. The FTC can conduct investigations relating to the organization, business, practices, and management of entities engaged in commerce and seek monetary redress and other relief for conduct injurious to consumers and other businesses from unsubstantiated environmental claims. Review the following links that report FTC investigation of unsubstantiated claims:

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2013/07/three-companies-barred-advertising-mattresses-free-volatile

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2011/01/ftc-settlement-ends-tested-green-certifications-were-neither

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2009/08/ftc-charges-companies-bamboo-zling-consumers-false-product-claims

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/01/ftc-approves-final-orders-settling-charges-three-companies-made

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/06/ftc-brings-second-case-year-against-plastic-lumber-products?utm_source=govdelivery

 

At Lifekind, we’ve worked hard to establish and maintain a comprehensive organic program. This ensures the creation and assurance of certified organic goods. Testing, quality assurance, lot tracking, purchasing organic raw materials (despite the higher cost), and spending thousands annually on auditing are just a few of the ways in which we keep our rigorous organic program in place. Third-party certification is the only thing protecting us from companies that do none of these things, but would try nevertheless to reap marketing dollars by fraudulently associating the term “organic” with their products.

It does not fall to the consumer or retailer to judge what is or is not organic. For a company to call its products “organic” it must have been granted organic status by a USDA-approved “certifying agent.” The consumer need only confirm a valid certificate with the company’s name and products listed, not a certification showing he name of a grower or producer. At Lifekind, we’ve covered all the bases, so you can “rest” assured you’re purchasing a TRULY organic mattress.

8 Misleading Claims about Organic Mattresses – Is Your Mattress Certified Organic?

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Misleading Claim #1: Merchants using organic logos, or statements that use the word “organic,” to describe their mattresses as “organic” or partially “organic.”
Incorrect Because: Under USDA National Organic Program regulations (USDA/NOP), there are no such categories. There is only “certified organic.”

Misleading Claim #2: Merchants claiming that since they use the same organic materials that are used in certified organic mattresses, why pay more?
Incorrect Because: Without submitting to an independent third-party audit, a consumer has no assurance that whatever organic component is claimed to be used was actually used in making a mattress.

Misleading Claim #3: Merchants claiming that since the materials they use are the same as those used by true organic manufacturers, what’s the difference?
Incorrect Because: Fast food and fine dining can include the same ingredients, but the outcomes are quite different—it’s about quality and purity, not just materials.

Misleading Claim #4: Merchants using someone else’s certification to infer it is their own, but somehow doesn’t have their name on it for a string of reasons.
Incorrect Because: USDA certification certificates are not transferable.

Misleading Claim #5: Merchants claiming their mattresses are “chemical free.”
Incorrect Because: This is scientifically impossible.

Misleading Claim #6: Merchants claiming their mattresses are “nontoxic.”
Incorrect Because: This is also scientifically impossible.

Misleading Claim #7: Merchants claiming their mattresses are “free of volatile organic compounds (VOCS)” or have no harmful outgassing.
Incorrect Because: This is also scientifically impossible, and without an independentUL/GREENGUARD™ or similar test for finished-product emissions, no one can possibly know exact outgassing levels.

Misleading Claim #8: Merchants claiming that their components have been tested for the presence of a long list of chemicals and that none were found.
Incorrect Because: What this means is that the mattress components may have been tested at one point, early in the process, by what is known as a “presence” test. True, these chemicals may not have been present at that time, but it gives absolutely no information as to what is actually emitting from the finished mattress. That is a consumer assurance UL/GREENGUARD™ testing provides.

Find out if a mattress is in fact listed on the certifier’s website.

Note: The name of the manufacturer or retailer must be entered precisely, such as “Organic Mattresses, Inc.”

http://www.global-standard.org/public-database/search.html

http://certification.controlunion.com/certified_companies_and_products.aspx

 

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The Healing Power of a Walk

“It is the best of humanity, I think, that goes out to walk.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s well documented that getting enough exercise is good for both body and spirit. There’s something special about a contemplative walk in nature that can’t be found anywhere else, however: a meditative or spiritual element that can help us find answers to life’s puzzles, a process described by the Latin phrase Solvitur ambuland: “It is solved by walking.”
Walking as a contemplative activity can seem…well, sort of pedestrian in our fast-paced, multitasking world. But it wasn’t always seen that way. In past centuries, books and essays with titles such as “In Praise of Walking,” “Walking as a Fine Art,” and “The Reveries of the Solitary Walker” encouraged participation in the “noble army of walkers,” a membership that was open to any able-bodied person, young or old, rich or poor.
Or, as Mr. Emerson puts it:
“It is a fine art; there are degrees of proficiency, and we distinguish the professors from the apprentices. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old  shoes, an eye for nature, good-humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence, and nothing too much. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals,  and if they add words, it is only when words are better than silence.”

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“Plain clothes and old shoes” and “nothing too much”: How different from today, when the highest-tech equipment can practically be a requirement before heading out. I’ll take it on faith from possibly the most profound thinker America has produced and consider it good.
When I walk alone in nature, I feel the pressures of the day melt away slowly, leaving me in a quiet, meditative state focused solely on the natural world. I find that when I avoid pondering weighty matters while walking, solutions to them are more likely to come unbidden. Sometimes I’ll realize at the end of a walk that something that’s been bothering me for days has a clear solution that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. When our busy brains are spinning the whole time, it can be difficult for that to happen.
“I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily without getting there in spirit. The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is — I am out of my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?”
— Henry David Thoreau

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Good question. It sounds to me like what we might call being “in the moment.” And that’s a good thing, no matter what we’re doing.

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