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Happy Valentine's Day! XOXO Be Kind to Your Brain for Stress Relief

Last weekend, I was treated to a "romantic date" with my good friend Mei Mei...Vivaldi's Four Seasons by Candlelight! Bonus: classical music increases brain function! Here's to getting smarter AND entertained at the same time!

Valentine's Day is my absolute favorite holiday! It's the perfect excuse for me to be extra gushy and sentimental! Plus, when I was growing up, my dad would set out chocolates, gifts (once, diamond earrings!) and sweet cards for my sister and me. He would do the same thing for my mom plus a dozen of the most beautiful red roses. Wow, Dad! Way to set a high standard!

And even though this is American Heart Health month according to the CDC, I'm going to talk about what I do to help my brain. Stay with me. I can explain. In Chinese medicine, the Heart is, of course, in charge of blood circulation and blood vessels but it is also the ruler of our emotional world, otherwise known as the Shen. The Shen covers a broad range of functions from our cognition, perception, creativity and reasoning...and loads more.

I have a special affinity for the Heart because my middle name means "the Fire" in Hawaiian and the Heart organ system is related to the Fire element in Chinese philosophy. I practice from my heart: I love what I do and I love my patients, so I named my practice "Keahi".

Lately, I've been studying the brain: how it wires for survival when we are children and how we can re-wire it to serve us now. Science has proven our brain is plastic; meaning it can change and improve. I feel super hopeful that I can decrease my habit of anxiety...and you can, too! Here are a few things that I've been doing to help my overworked brain:

1. Meditation: Don't stop reading when I say this but yes, I meditate! In the past, I dismissed meditation because I incorrectly assumed that I'd be forced to "clear my mind" and sit for hours a day. It seemed impossible. But new research helped me get over that barrier. You only need 2-5 minutes of meditation each day to make a difference and you don't actually have to be sitting down. You can benefit from listening to a guided meditation as you go about your day. My QiGong teacher, the world-renown Master Liu He, said that one could meditate while doing the dishes!

2. Don't stress over sleep: Give yourself a break if you don't achieve the traditional 8-hour standard. The latest science says that we might need just 6-7 hours. If you have a hard time sleeping, try listening to brain wave sounds to put you into "sleep-mode." Link at the bottom of the page. If you have insomnia, let's talk. I'm an expert at insomnia hacks...which might be my next post :)

3. Going to bed by 10pm: Our cells do the most repair between 10pm and 12am...some say until 2am. I try. I really do. It's historically hard for me to put down my work and just go to bed. And I'm getting better at it...last night I went to bed without finishing this newsletter!

4. Taking fish oil in the middle of the day: this is what I call "brain food". And trust me, I've tried all kinds. I've even taken swigs of cod liver oil (and had my little nephew doing the same thing). I've used most brands and I've settled on two that I love; one is a tiny capsule and one is a liquid. There's no fishy taste and Maya calls the liquid a "milkshake". We take fish oil around midday because patients who've taken it at night reported having vivid dreams and I don't need more of those! (Links at the bottom in case you're curious!)

5. I get down: I crawl on the floor or cross-crawl while standing up. And yes, Maya does get a kick out of watching me! Crawling and cross-crawling connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain to improve neurological function. Plus, it gives me "street-cred" with my 5-year old. I'll take what I can get!

6. I keep my head up: After a well-meaning aesthetician told me that the left side of my face had more wrinkles because I slept on it, I trained myself to sleep face up. There is data indicating that propping your pillow up a few inches can help the brain detoxify as it allows the lymphatic fluid to flow out more easily. This seems to help prevent migraines, too! And maybe I wake up more clear-headed? Let's hope so!

Thank you for doing this with me.

PS. I'm down to just drinking Swiss-filtered decaf Bulletproof Coffee and so far, there have been no casualties.

To learn more about the Heart and other organ systems in Chinese medicine, I've linked my favorite book below. It's an easy and fun read, not at all text-book style!

Secrets of Self-Healing: Harness Nature's Power to Heal Common Ailments, Boost Your Vitality,and Achieve Optimum Wellness

Sleep app recommendations from the Sleep Foundation:

To learn more about Qigong and Master Liu He:

Finally, if you're interested in the fish oil supplements, here are the links:

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