Weekly Health Tip: The best things in life are free

As the holidays approach, money is at the top of most people's worry lists. If you are looking for ways to have fun without going broke, scour your local paper or electronic bulletin board for free or inexpensive events you can attend with friends. Readings, art shows, crafty gift making parties, film screenings are just some of the things that you can do to make the holidays bright on a budget.

Women's Wellness Workshop

Recess, Lucy activewear and Whole Foods bring you a workshop for women in positions of power. In Recess’ polls, 70% of respondents say they would like be more active and eat better, but that they lack the time. This seminar addresses the challenge of making time for these healthy choices. It is a fun, inspiring way to integrate wellness into your home and work life.

Have more time with family and friends without sacrificing strength, flexibility and good physical health. Included in this session is the ever-popular workshop: Attack of the 2000 Calorie Burrito!

Seats are limited so sign up today. This event is a benefit for the Software Association of Oregon Foundation. To purchase a seat click here.

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Whaddaya say?

See what our customers have to say about us in their own words:

"A Recess speaker came and spoke at our Sales meeting and was very well received. Most of the staff and our general business manager have put into practice a lot of her suggestions about good diet plans that include getting more "green" into our daily meals.

We have scheduled her to come again in January with more great information about stress."

- Realty Trust in Portland, OR

Healthy lifestyle D.I.Y. - Communication crash test dummies?

And they're off!

Let's face it. They taught us a lot of really useful information in school. Thanks to Driver's Education at least some of us remember to turn on our blinker as we merge into traffic.

The fact remains that despite all of the useful information we learned in school, few of us ever received any formal education in one skill that we rely on in nearly every aspect of our lives: the ability to communicate.

Imagine if everyone on the road just watched their parents, then a few friends, and then hopped behind the wheel. Utter chaos, right? What if after watching all of the bedlam unfold we were involuntarily stuffed into the driver's seat of our own car and unleashed? Yikes!

Some research suggests that perhaps our adaptive neurology has done just that and that our reactions, once learned, can be triggered simply by observing others.

Buckle up!

Have you ever noticed how one person's bad mood can spill like ink in water, contaminating everyone else's good mood? What about when two people seem very much "in sync" - how they use similar expressions, gesture, posture and vocalizations? Ever laughed or cried as you watched an actor's character in a moving film?

'Mirror neurons' may be at the root of why observing others' strong emotional expression affects us. The stronger the expression or emotion the more likely it is that we show a similarly strong reaction.

"This brain-to-brain link may also account for feelings of rapport," writes Daniel Goleman, the author of Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, "which research finds depend in part on extremely rapid synchronization of people’s posture, vocal pacing and movements as they interact. In short, these brain cells seem to allow the interpersonal orchestration of shifts in physiology,"

Rules of the road

Fundamentally, we are wired to 'relate.' About ten years ago, scientific studies of macaque monkeys were some of the first to explore the properties of what are broadly called "mirror neurons." These premotor neurons fired when monkeys executed goal-related hand actions, such as grasping an object, but also when the monkey simply observed humans or other monkeys carrying out similar actions.

Recent studies hint at the broader significance of the mirror neurons' role in affecting an individual's behavior through a whole host of other observed phenomena. For those skills already in the observer's repertoire, the human brains showed activity in those areas of the motor system responsible for producing similar behaviors. That is to say that once an "observer's" brain has learned a behavior, it may simulate that behavior through observation.

Putting on the brakes

The more we understand about the increasingly complex intermingling of evolution, environment, genetics and biology that goes on in our body, the harder it becomes to really puzzle together all that is going on out there and in here. Study of how perception affects physiology is growing and the introduction of mirror neurons' role only throws another ingredient in the soup. For those who are not trained medical professionals or scientific researchers, understanding the implications of such phenomenon may seem Sisyphean at best.

Mirroring itself is not healthy or unhealthy, but simply one way we learn and reinforce skills through observation. Nonetheless, researchers from respected institutions ranging from M.I.T. to U.C.L.A. are producing studies that underscore that simply minding our emotions, interactions, and reactions is a powerful way to contribute to our greater health. Consciously understanding this mechanism and how it might trigger our own emotions means that we can observe and practice our application where it is advantageous (for example, rapport building) and alter our patterns where it is not (for example, getting "sucked in" to an argument).

Here are some suggested ways to apply this knowledge to your own interactions:

Build awareness around your reactions: If you notice yourself beginning to unwillingly mirror a friend, coworker, or partner's emotions, do something that will momentarily break the connection. Take a walk. Grab a glass of water. Walk to the bathroom for a minute. When you return you can try to do something to lighten the mood, or, address the subject directly.

The graceful exit: There comes a time in some discussions where we have reached a point of no progress. Creating a way temporarily suspend the discussion, without focusing on destructive comments or actions, helps us regain emotional and physiological equilibrium. Practice making and accepting simple statements such as, "I am feeling overwhelmed, can we come back to this in twenty minutes?",or,"I'm really too upset to listen right now." Take a break. Take a walk. Calm your mind and then, as promised, come back to the issue with a cool head.

If you have a health topic that interests you and you would like to see it in the next D.I.Y. Healthy Lifestyle then write to recess@recessfitness.com with your request.