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What controls your health more – your genes or your emotions?

So, is it nature or nurture that has the biggest impact on our health? This question has been around for a very long time, and I had always thought it was a combination of both.

At some point in my schooling I was taught that the genes are in the nucleus of the cell, and the nucleus runs the cell, sort of like the brain runs the body. Remove the brain, kill the person. Remove the nucleus, kill the cell? Nope!

According to biologist Bruce Lipton, if one removes the nucleus containing all the genetic material from the cell, the cell continues to function perfectly as if nothing has happened. The cell does not need the genes to function – clearly the genes are not operating the cell at all!

This interesting fact leads to 2 questions: a) if the genes do not run the cell, what is the purpose of the genes? b) What part of the cell is the control- centre for cell operations if it is not the nucleus?

The answer to the first question is that the genes provide the blueprint for the body. The architectural design. The “how to build” manual, so the proteins can refer to it to make the spare parts of the body that need to be replaced.

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Happy 2017 and floating downstream …

As I was lying relaxing in the comfort of my bed this morning, I had a realization. A realization that seemed simple enough, yet somehow profound, and one that I was surprised I had not previously fully understood.

And as the beginning of a new year is often associated with New Year’s Resolutions, I thought I would share it with you, as maybe you will find it helpful too.

I realized that whenever we are experiencing a negative feeling, we are actually coming from a place of lack. Usually we feel a negative feeling because we perceive a lack of something – money, health, thinness, time, a relationship, worthiness, confidence, security – whatever that lack is. We want something to be different than it is.

Because we are viewing our situation from the position of lack, we are pushing against and thinking more about what we don’t want – lack of money, sickness, being overweight, loneliness, overwhelm, self-doubt etc. – which is exactly what makes us feel bad.

And if we make a habit of pushing against what we don’t want, we are directing our energy in the wrong direction. Solutions to problems do not come from dwelling on the problem and agonizing about how awful the problem is.

Nobody enjoys feeling bad, so what if we were to turn our thoughts to what makes us feel good? Whenever we catch ourselves in that feeling of lack, immediately focus our thoughts to what we are grateful for instead, until the feelings of gratitude, blessing, and happiness bubble up.

Inspiration that solves problems tends to happen when we are in a happy place. And life is generally better when we are feeling happy.

So, if you are one to make New Year’s Resolutions, think about the feelings you are associating with your goals. Feelings of sacrifice? Does sacrifice feel good? No. Probably won’t work. Discipline is an external thing you are imposing on yourself, and the negative feeling will likely eventually slow progress. No point fighting upstream.

Can you find a way to look at your Resolutions from a downstream perspective? What can you do that is fun, that will take you in the direction of your resolution? For example, if you want to improve your physical fitness, maybe spending time outside going for a walk and chatting with a friend each day would be a great way to start. Or get and love a dog, who will need daily walking.

May your 2017 be filled with peace, joy and happiness, and may your life flow softly and gently downstream in the direction you want to go.

Related Tips:
Carefully tend the garden of your mind
An attitude of gratitude

Copyright Vreni Gurd 2017

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Reducing our stress with our thoughts and feelings

Control your thoughts, feel better, and that lowers your stress!

I imagine I am not the only one that agrees with Stuart Mclean when in one of his Vinyl Cafe stories he describes life as a speeding train.

A train that starts at the town of New Years, whips through Valentine’s Day, pauses briefly at Spring Break, takes forever through Income-Tax Season and Final Exam Jitters, speeds far too quickly through Summer Vacation to get to Back-To-School Shopping, winds through Halloween and Thanksgiving to rush like the bullet train through Holiday Preparations, and Parties to arrive at Christmas, Hanukkah or Ramadan (or whatever celebratory town I missed …)

And just when one thinks the trip is finally over and one is about the step off the train, one discovers the train has been yanked all the way back to New Years and the crazy trip starts all over again. And then combine the train ride with the ebb and flow of health, relationships and money, and we find ourselves stuck in a huge swirling stress-bucket. And stress has very negative consequences for our health.

Maybe it is not possible to slow the train down, but what can we do to stop the stress of the daily grind from impacting us and find more daily peace? This past year I have been experimenting with a different approach, and I think it is helping.

Firstly, I have been trying to stop the negative self-talk. It is amazing how I am my own worst enemy! I am sure you have heard it said that if someone else talked to you as harshly as you talk to yourself, you would fire them as your friend. Yet somehow it is okay to bully ourselves? This one is tough – I catch myself being mean to me fairly often still, but when I notice, I am now gentle with myself. I tell myself that it doesn’t have to be done this instant, that I am learning and I will get better, that there is only so much time in a day …

Secondly, when I am experiencing negative feelings like depression, anger, or frustration, I try to talk myself into a more positive-feeling place. My goal is to not allow myself to stay in the negative feeling for very long, as I don’t want those feelings to turn into a mood, or into a personality! Sometimes I can accomplish this in a few minutes, usually by distracting myself and thinking about another topic that makes me happy.

Other times this can be very difficult, as usually there is a story attached to those feelings. Since it is often next to impossible to detach an entrenched story from a feeling, the easiest option is to diffuse the story enough to get to feel better. Maybe not to joy and happiness, but it might be possible to talk oneself from depression to anger. Or from overwhelm to disappointment.

Any relief from the negative feeling even if it is to another feeling that is less negative, is moving downstream towards a happier place.

I am not talking about “positive thinking”, as the thought must ring true, or at least feel better. Saying “I am rich”, when you actually feel poor will make you feel worse, not better. Yet acknowledging that there are many opportunities out there and you just haven’t found the right fit yet, may be a more downstream thought.

One of my wisest friends, Mary Ann Gillies, told me that the best approach is to allow oneself to feel the feelings while ignoring the story. If parents made a concerted effort to avoid attaching a story to an incident with their children, their children would grow up with less self-doubt, less fear, more self-confidence, more optimism, and more self-empowerment.

As she puts it, “Think of kids who fall down and bump their knee. It hurts, they cry and if the parent acknowledges the hurt but doesn’t add a story to it by saying “You always fall down, you klutz.”, or “You poor baby – you need to move more carefully so you don’t get hurt”, the kid gets up, stops crying and in short time has forgotten all about the bump and the fear or anger or whatever feeling it generated in addition to the physical pain.”

The bottom line is that our thoughts and our feelings are inextricably linked, and since our feelings determine which neurotransmitters, hormones or peptides are created, our feelings largely determine our health status.

Our mind is the only place we are truly free. No matter what is going on in our lives, it is possible to imagine anything we want with our mind. We can let our minds drift to worst case scenario thoughts, doubt thoughts, generally negative thoughts, or we can actively shift our thoughts to solutions, to fun, to our dreams, thereby infusing ourselves with good feelings, which will improve our happiness and our health.

Please do keep the comments coming on my blog. If you want to share this article, scroll to the very bottom and click the “share” icon to post on Facebook, Twitter etc. If you want to subscribe or search for other posts by title or by topic, go to

Related Tips:
Carefully tend the garden of your mind
An attitude of gratitude
Mind and body, psyche and soma

Gillies, Mary Ann, personal communication, December 2016.

Hicks, Jerry & Esther The Law of Attraction Hay House, 2006.

Copyright Vreni Gurd 2016

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8 Ways to Remove Negativity From Your Life


This post was written by the insightful psychic mediums at Hollywood Psychics. They use their ability and insight into the human psyche to help people with their troubles in life and find balance with a variety of different psychic readings available.

The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.” – Sophocles

It is typically advised that we all find solace in our most negative of situations; but as time goes by, one must wonder: why go through the negativity in the first place? Finding light in the darkness will never be a problem if you can manage to ensure that the room is constantly lit at a level of brightness that keeps you content, happy, and devoid of the negativity that can so often consume lives. Let’s take a look at ways to remove negativity from your life once and for all.

  1. 1. Eliminate relationships that make you feel bad about yourself in unnecessary ways. Though you may feel that keeping these people around will benefit you in some way, you’re more than likely perpetuating a rationale that centers around sought approval. It is natural to want to be liked, but this should never dictate the dynamics of your relationship with someone. What does it matter if someone likes you, if you don’t even like them yourself? Stop seeking approval of those who don’t seek yours.
  2. 2. Think good thoughts. Positivity can only be obtained through your own mental perseverance. In all actuality, positivity is something that needs to be forced if you’re looking to make a significant transition from negativity. Your life is not going to magically turn out positive if you don’t make the conscious effort to try. When you find yourself about to open your mouth to complain about something, think twice and reconsider your phrasing, or whether what you’re about to say is at all productive. Remember that there is a fine line between constructive criticism and just being mean. Negativity from outward environments can only have an impact on you if you allow your inner negativity to embrace it.
  3. 3. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary. Your life is yours to narrate and navigate, and no one else’s. What other people expect of you is irrelevant, especially if it makes you unhappy. Focus more on the “coulds” in your life.
  4. 4. Take the career path that truly grants you fulfillment. Yes, we all have to pay the bills, but that doesn’t mean you need to suffer in the process. Consider that you spend an incredibly large chunk of your day working and focusing on your career, and consider what that may mean for your life outside of work. Like it or not, there is a direct correlation between the two, even if it doesn’t appear to be right in front of your face. Eliminate those mental barriers and take a look at some career options you may have always wanted to pursue but never had the courage to do so.
  5. 5. Location, location, location. Let’s be honest, you’re not going to find happiness if you’re an anxious city dweller living a white picket fence lifestyle in rural America. We like to believe that happiness can be found just about anywhere (which is partially true), but finding a happiness that brings out the best version of you can only be accomplished if you’re genuinely content with where you live and the types of people you surround yourself with. Environment goes a long way in building good character and, more importantly, good moods.
  6. 6. Give it away. All of that negative anxiety needs to be channeled somewhere, so why not be productive about it? Give back to your community; you might be surprised by how wholeheartedly good it feels to do something for someone else without expecting anything in return. A wise woman once told me that the key to a euphoric happiness is to be able to give love without ever expecting anything in return.
  7. 7. Stop listening to power ballads about heartbreak and self-wallowing. It may sound simple, but it goes a long way. After all, what purpose do these things serve other than to evoke our own pain and insecurities? A positive playlist makes for a positive attitude.
  8. 8. Exercise the negative away. Take a yoga class, meditate, or start working out. A lot of our anxiety can be worked out through physical activity. It also allows for healthy self-reflection, as these physical activities are typically done alone. (But feel free to bring someone along as a work-out buddy to lift the mood!) Or if physical exercise isn’t your thing, take up a new hobby. The first step to positivity comes in the form of taking an active step forward to drowning out the negativity.

If you want to share this article, scroll to the very bottom and click the “share” icon to post on Facebook, Twitter etc. If you want to subscribe or search for other posts by title or by topic, go to

Related tips:
Carefully tend the garden of your mind
Stress reduction through heart coherence
Make happiness your New Year’s Resolution this year

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De-stress by writing down your next actions


If you have a busy life, keeping up can seem an impossible task and can create a lot of stress. Writing down your next actions in all projects can help.

I know I am not the only one that has a hard time keeping up with everything that needs to get done on a daily or weekly basis. And I am probably not the only one that creates daily to-do lists. I would find at the end of the day I would often have only accomplished about half what I was hoping to do, despite feeling like I was working hard, and running about like a chicken with its head cut off.

Other times, I would forget about something important that would suddenly appear on my agenda as an urgent matter, which would mean I would have to drop everything to address it. Often it’s little stuff that falls through the cracks, like emailing the phone number of the chiro to a client as promised. Important, but little.

Often when I did have a good chunk of time, I would start working on one thing, then something else would flit into my mind and I would decide that was more important, so I would start working on that, often resulting in neither project getting completed.

Sometimes my brain would be doing gymnastics telling me all the things I need to do, and I would wind up feeling paralyzed trying to figure out what to work on. This indecision as well as the feeling of overwhelm I found to be quite stressful. Furthermore, I would often forget to ask myself if this item could be done by someone else.

Each year as I reflect back, I think that somehow there has got to be a way to be more efficient and get more done. And how can one possibly think about long-term goals and how to move towards them when there is so much going on day-to-day that needs to be taken care of?

Over the holiday, I read a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen, and I thought I would give his method a try. He thinks that until you “clear the runway” as he puts it, or at least feel like you are in control everything on your radar and nothing is falling through the cracks, it is very tough to consider the bigger picture except in very abstract terms.

We all may want that house on the beach, but the steps to get there might be pretty murky when we are trying to get the kids to soccer practice on time, fulfill our day-to-day work responsibilities, get that appointment in with the dentist, get groceries, remember to phone Pierre and wish him a happy birthday, clean up after the cat that just puked on the carpet – you get the picture.

I am far from implementing his entire system, but already after just doing the first step, I have noticed my head is more clear and that I am far less stressed. And I have done way more in the first two weeks of January than I would have thought possible. So, so far so good!

The first thing Allen suggests we do is “collect 100% of our incompletes”, referring to everything that you at some point might have to do both at work and at home. It doesn’t matter if it is urgent or not, big or not, important or not. Everything must be collected so that your brain can feel confident that nothing will fall through the cracks. In your “mind sweep” you gather or write down everything that you think should be different than it is right now, or needs to be processed and completed.

This includes your mail, email, voicemail etc., any current or pending projects, and also includes dead gadgets that need to be fixed or recycled, ideas that you might want to move forward either professionally (work on merger proposal) or personally (spend more time with Timmy), vacation thoughts (is that why that magazine is still hanging around?)

If you think you “should” or “ought to” do something about it, it needs to be in your collection basket or on a list, as it is considered an open loop that your brain will throw back at you again in the future. By creating external baskets for all your stuff and thoughts that were in the past ricocheting through your internal in-basket called the brain, your brain can quieten down as it won’t be preoccupied with trying to remember everything for you.

Allen suggests walking through each room in your home and writing down stuff that you think needs to be different than it is, as well as going through all your drawers and file cabinets in your office, and collecting 100% of everything that needs to be addressed.  This can take from several hours to several days. 

You can use a physical “in basket” and/or your smart phone or computer to capture any information, commitments or agreements that you have made to yourself or others for action. Once absolutely everything is captured, it will be out of your head.

If you have a collection method wherever you are, (pad of paper in the car, smart phone that you have with you at all times), you can note down any valuable thought that pops into your mind, or if your partner phones you to tell you to pick up butter on the way home, you won’t forget.

You will probably need an “in basket” at work, as well as one at home. I’ve been using my phone for most of my collecting, but I still need to set up a physical “in basket” to put in mail and other physical stuff that needs addressing, like my camera if it needs batteries or if I have to download pics.

Of course, the only way to keep the brain trusting your new system is to process your in basket very regularly – say a minimum once a week. I'll get into this in more detail another time, but here are a couple of quick tricks. The key to clearing in basket is to ask yourself "Is there a next action that can be done to move this forward? If so, what exactly is the very next action to be done?" Write down that next action.

You can create a "calls" list, a "computer" list, an "out and about" list etc. so the next time you are at your computer you can do the actions on your computer list. If there is no action, but you want to keep something for reference, you can file it appropriately.

Process each thing one at a time – nothing goes back in the in-basket and nothing remains in the in-basket. You can keep files for various projects, next actions, items you are waiting on, sometime maybe, etc. Create whatever files you need and keep them in alphabetical order.

My to-do lists USED TO have stuff like “eye appt”, “advertise workshop”, “buy more weight plates for studio” etc. None of those are listed in a way that helps me get started. Taking the extra moment to figure out exactly what my next action would be makes all the difference. “Email Janice for number of good optometrist”, “call location to see what night I can run the workshop”, or “research weight plates online for best price” encourages action.

So, each week when going through the inbox, part of the job is thinking through what the very next action is, and noting that on the appropriate context list (calls, computer, at home, out and about etc.). Thinking of the next action needed on each project is helpful in keeping all projects moving forward.

I have found that just noting down all my "open loops" has helped me focus on the projects at hand. My brain is no longer flitting all over the place. And because I feel I am gaining control of "my runway" and am less worried I am going to forget something important, I feel more relaxed and less stressed.

I also think I will do a better job staying on top of all my projects, which will hopefully mean that I will move further towards my goals this year. I would highly recommend David Allen's book. Read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and have your most productive and least stressful year ever!

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Related tips:
Creating new habits
Acute vs. Chronic Stress

Allen, David Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity Penguin Books, New York, New York, 2001.

Copyright 2010 Vreni Gurd

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Being present


Being present with family and friends is probably the most precious gift of all.

The holiday season is in full swing, and many of us are enjoying time with family and friends. Personally I find it a real challenge to unplug from my chaotic life to fully be with people that are important to me. Why is it that I seem to prioritize what I need to do ahead of my relationships? Maybe that sounds crazy. But goal-oriented thoughts seem to keep rushing through my head. What do I need to get done today? What is next on the agenda? Sometimes I feel like my life is one huge, endless “to do list” that I can’t possibly keep up with. And when I decide to stop and just be, I feel bored. I find myself looking around for something to do. Or I feel guilty for “wasting my time”. How crazy is that!! Clearly I need a huge attitude adjustment, and I need to take up meditation to stop being run ragged by my thoughts.

So, I’m writing this today as a reminder for myself to enjoy a break without pressuring myself to get all kinds of stuff done now that my day-job is on hold until the new year. To avoid reading my email and other work-related stuff, and if I use technology at all, to use it for stuff that is not work-related.

I want to still my run-on thoughts, relax and really be present with my family and friends this Christmas. I want to truly listen, and not be always immediately thinking of a response to what the other person is saying. I want the other person to feel heard. I want to ask questions rather than have all the answers. This may seem simple for many of you, but it won’t be for me. Getting good at being present and living in the now is an ongoing challenge. And hopefully as I focus on this over the next couple of weeks, it will be easier to stay present when I return to my life in the New Year.

Thank you all for letting me into your lives on Sunday mornings, and for listening to my various ramblings. I am most grateful to have such a kind, thoughtful and loyal readership. May your holiday season be peaceful and happy. And may you find your own way to be present.

If you want to share this article, scroll to the very bottom and click the “share” icon to post on Facebook, Twitter etc. If you want to subscribe or search for other posts by title or by topic, go to

Related tips:
An attitude of gratitude
Musings on giving and receiving

Copyright 2010 Vreni Gurd

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How to recover mobility and speech after a stroke


A stroke occurs when there is a disruption of blood flow to the brain which starves the brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients, and causes that part of the brain to die. A disruption can be caused by either a rupture of the blood vessel (an aneurism) or a blockage within the vessel.  The larger the blood vessel that is involved, the larger the area of the brain that is affected. Strokes cause speech impediments, paralysis, unconsciousness and even death. Because the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and vice versa, dysfunction as a result of a stroke occurs on the opposite side of the body. A heart attack is essentially the same thing, but the blood vessel that is blocked is in the heart, causing a part of the heart to die.

Before the discovery and understanding of the implications of neuroplasticity, the belief was that recovery from a major stroke or other brain lesion would only be minimal, since it was believed that certain parts of the brain controlled certain functions, and once a control centre for a particular function was disabled, nothing much could be done about it. Now we know that the brain is capable of reorganizing itself to such a great extent that remarkable recovery of movement as well as speech function is possible with the right therapy.

Edward Taub, a behavioural neuroscientist pioneered a method of stroke rehabilitation called “Constraint Induced Movement Therapy”, and thousands of stroke patients have recovered function to the point of being able to care for themselves and continue their careers.

Taub believes that part of the problem post stroke is learned; the patient quickly learns to stop using the limb which has lost function and relies instead on the “good” limb to do everything. If the brain is not challenged to try to use the affected limb, it will not change in order to learn to use it again. So Constraint-Induced Therapy involves immobilizing the “good” limb by using large, stiff mittens and slings so the patient is forced to use the limb affected by the stroke.

People go into therapy for two intensive weeks, and they are given simple tasks that mimic life activities starting with large motor movements, and with success moving gradually to fine motor skills. A patient may come into therapy with some ability to move an arm and extend a hand, and leave with the ability to do up buttons on a shirt. Absolutely astounding progress in just two weeks! Even people that had strokes many years ago can benefit from this kind of

Patients wear their mitts and slings on their unaffected limbs 90% of the day while in therapy, and may start with exercises like wiping pots (the pot constrains the hand initially and helps teach the circular movement), wiping a table, putting large pegs into peg boards, picking up large balls, and later they put pennies into piggy banks for example. They learn to use a fork to pick up food and bring it to their mouths. Eventually skills are timed, so patients learn to be accurate and fast. By doing intensive work over two weeks, they get mass practice with incremental increases in difficulty which causes enormous brain (cortical) reorganization or plastic change. Function may not be quite what it was before the stroke, as neurons that are learning to take over a task may not be as effective as the ones that they are replacing, but all the same, it is possible to regain function to the point of giving someone back their life.

About 40% of those that have a left hemisphere stroke have damage to Broca’s area and therefore have speech deficits. How does one put a mitten on a tongue and jaw to help those who have lost speech function? Language rules are implemented into card games. As language skills improve, the rules become more stringent. The game is something like "Go Fish" with pictures of objects on them, where each in turn asks for the card they are seeking from a particular person. They would request the card with the rock on it, for example. Initially the only rule is they cannot use hand signals but must verbally request the card somehow. If they can't think of the name of the object they want, they can describe it instead. Once they have the pair they can discard it, and the person that gets rid of all their cards first wins.

More advanced versions of the game involve precisely naming the object they are looking for, or cards including colours and numbers so more
description is required. The participants that obeyed the rules of the game 3 hours a day for 10 consecutive days had a 30% improvement in
communication compared to the control group which got conventional therapy that involved repeating words.

This therapy works best if it is done all at once – mass practice over 2 weeks – rather than less frequent therapy over a longer duration.  It seems the brain needs to be deprived of the alternatives in order to be forced to rewire itself.

This kind of therapy is useful not only for strokes, but also for those with movement and speech problems caused by cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, brain tumours, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis.

I think the concept of forcing the brain to learn to move the body differently would be useful in physiotherapy and exercise rehabilitation as
well, since poor movement patterns lead to joint problems and pain. By finding a way to completely block the unwanted movement pattern and forcing the brain to use a better movement strategy, perhaps we can more quickly and more effectively break bad habits, rehabilitate injuries and possibly prevent some from occurring in the first place. I have figured out a way to block a quadricep strategy in a lunge pattern, but still need to work out how to block other poor movement strategies and force good ones in other movement patterns like the squat, bend, upward scapular rotation and gait.

The information in this post is from the fabulous book by Norman Doidge, M.D. entitled The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.  I absolutely loved this book, as it provides so much hope for those suffering from a huge variety of problems ranging from depression and cognitive issues to balance problems, to sight impairments to motor control impairments. One learns about the scientists at the forefront of neuroplasticity research, and the patients they have helped.

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Related Tips:
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Norman Doidge, MDThe Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (James H. Silberman Books) Penguin Books, London England, 2007.

Gauthier LV et al. Improvement After Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy Is Independent of Infarct Location in Chronic Stroke Patients Stroke. 2009;40:2468.

Smania N et al. A modified constraint-induced movement therapy (CIT) program improves paretic arm use and function in children with cerebral palsy (Europa Medicophysica) 2009 December;45(4):493-500

Morris DM et al. A method for standardizing procedures in rehabilitation: use in the extremity constraint induced therapy evaluation multisite randomized controlled trial. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2009 Apr;90(4):663-8.

Mark VW et al. Constraint-Induced Movement therapy can improve hemiparetic progressive multiple sclerosis. Preliminary findings. Mult Scler. 2008 Aug;14(7):992-4. Epub 2008 Jun 23.

Mark VW et al. MRI infarction load and CI therapy outcomes for chronic post-stroke hemiparesis. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2008;26(1):13-33.

Gauthier LV et al. Remodeling the Brain: Plastic Structural Brain Changes Produced by Different Motor Therapies After Stroke (Stroke. 2008;39:1520.)

Wolf SL et al. Retention of upper limb function in stroke survivors who have received constraint-induced movement therapy: the EXCITE randomised trial. Lancet Neurol. 2008 Jan;7(1):33-40.

Mark VW et al. Poststroke cerebral peduncular atrophy correlates with a measure of corticospinal tract injury in the cerebral hemisphere. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2008 Feb;29(2):354-8. Epub 2007 Nov 16.

Meinzer M et al. Extending the Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) approach to cognitive functions: Constraint-Induced Aphasia Therapy (CIAT) of chronic aphasia. NeuroRehabilitation. 2007;22(4):311-8.

Taub E et al. Pediatric CI therapy for stroke-induced hemiparesis in young children. Dev Neurorehabil. 2007 Jan-Mar;10(1):3-18.

Boake C et al. Constraint-induced movement therapy during early stroke rehabilitation. Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2007 Jan-Feb;21(1):14-24.

Wolf SL et al. Effect of constraint-induced movement therapy on upper extremity function 3 to 9 months after stroke: the EXCITE randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2006 Nov 1;296(17):2095-104.

Lum PS et al. A telerehabilitation approach to delivery of constraint-induced movement therapy. J Rehabil Res Dev. 2006 May-Jun;43(3):391-400.

Mark VW et al. Neuroplasticity and constraint-induced movement therapy.Eura Medicophys. 2006 Sep;42(3):269-84.

Morris DM, et al. Constraint-induced movement therapy: characterizing the intervention protocol. Eura Medicophys. 2006 Sep;42(3):257-68.

Taub E et al. The learned nonuse phenomenon: implications for rehabilitation. Eura Medicophys. 2006 Sep;42(3):241-56.

Taub, E. et al.(2006). A placebo controlled trial of Constraint-Induced Movement therapy for upper extremity after stroke. Stroke, 37, 1045-1049.

Copyright 2010 Vreni Gurd

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Goal-setting for the new decade and the new year


This is the perfect time to reflect back on the past decade to acknowledge what went right, and to flesh out our dreams for the upcoming decade.

Although this kind of exercise can be done any time, it seems to come more naturally for me at least, when the decade turns over. Remember how as the year clicked over from 1999 to 2000, we were all worried about the Y2K disaster? A decade ago the ipod and the Wii were not a part of our consciousness, and no one had heard of Susan Boyle.

What will the next decade bring? I hope that we will come together as a people and do what we need to do to protect our shared home from the ravages of global warming. Hopefully there will be lots of cool inventions that will help us do that. I think it is possible that "localization" will become the trend and "globalization" will wane, because the cost of shipping stuff around the world may become too expensive, and more and more people will seek out local alternatives for food and products, which will have the side benefit of helping local economies.

I think gardening will continue to grow in popularity as more people will want to grow at least some of their own food. Hopefully as food-quality consciousness grows, smaller farms that have a variety of crops and animals will make a comeback, and as a result we will finally be increasing and improving topsoil again, and pesticide run-offs into waterways will reduce.

I’m hoping that every one of us will have a way of generating our own power via solar panels, wind or whatever, and what we don’t use will be plugged into the grid for others to use. We will pay for the power we use, and power companies will pay us for the power we provide the grid.

GOAL-SETTING GUIDE: Enough of my thoughts. What about you? Time to get out any goals you have previously written down and review and update them, and if you do not have anything written down, get yourself a pad of paper. Got it? Okay.

  • What is your dream?
  • What makes you happy? 
  • What were you put on this world to do? (What will be your legacy?)
  • What are the 5 things you want to do in life before you die?
  • What values are important to you?

Write down any thoughts that come to you and flesh them out with as much detail as possible. Goal-setting requires a lot of time, soul searching, and understanding of self. A question like "what is your dream?" or "what makes you happy?" can be surprisingly difficult to answer. It might help to think about what you liked to do and what made you happy as a kid before responsibility and "reasonableness" took over. It might help to take some walks alone in nature to ponder these questions. But it is worth taking the time to sort those questions out, because once you know the answers everything else in life will probably fall into place. You will know what you want, and the path to your destination will be clear.

Now let's look at where you are now by creating a Wheel of Life. So draw a big circle on the piece of paper and divide the circle into an 8 piece pie. Label each piece as follows:

  • Personal Growth (continuing education, improving your relationship with yourself, self image, creativity etc.
  • Health (fitness, nutrition and wellbeing)
  • relationships (family and friends)
  • career
  • financial
  • community (giving back, volunteering etc.)
  • spiritual
  • recreation

The centre of the circle can be given the number "0" meaning completely unsatisfied, and the outside of the circle can be given the number "10" meaning extremely satisfied. Keeping in mind your dream and your legacy, look at each piece of the pie and think about how happy you are with that aspect of your life, and try to give each section a number. Put a dot in the center of each pie piece corresponding with the number you gave it. Connect the dots. How round is your pie? Most of us have areas in our life that we feel great about, and others that we feel far less good about. This will give you a visual on not only how balanced your life is, but also on which areas of your life can use a commitment in order to improve. Now you have a starting point from which to set some goals.

Each component of the Wheel of Life has a role to play in your dream. For example, is your current career taking you towards your dream? Does it fit with your values? If not, perhaps making a change in career path will make you happier. Start with the section that you feel is the most at odds with your dream or the section you feel needs the most work. Think about and write down what it would take for you to be able to label it a 10. Keeping in mind your ultimate dream and what makes you happy, where do you want to be in 10 years with this aspect of your life?

Once you know your destination, break it down. What can you do this year to move towards your goal? What can you do this week? Today? Write down specific, measurable baby steps that you can take to move you towards your goal, and set deadlines for those baby steps. Put them in your day-timer. Focus on doing the baby steps and over time you will make big strides towards your goal. Repeat the process with each section of your pie.

I did better with my goals last year, because I met up with a friend of mine once a month in order to review our goals, and set targets for the following month. We would acknowledge our successes and refocus if we slipped up. When we got stuck, we would call each other to get a pep talk. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, and completely lose sight of the big picture. So having someone to be accountable to on a very regular basis is extremely helpful.

When setting goals that seem to be no fun, like starting an exercise program for example, I think it is really important to keep in mind the big reason WHY you want to be successful at achieving that goal. If you succeeded in creating that exercise habit, what would you be able to do that you now cannot? Be around for your kids? Pick up and run after your grand kids? Hike Machu Picchu? Pull off wearing that nice outfit to the reunion?

Lastly, schedule the time needed to accomplish weekly goals into your daytimer. You are far more likely to do something you have made time for. By scheduling it you are focusing on it, and it will get done.

Look below for books on achieving your goals, and I also included and fitness/nutrition log that may make staying motivated easier. Happy New Year, everyone!

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Related Tips:
Make happiness a New Year’s Resolution this year
Creating new habits
Courage and persistence
An attitude of gratitude

Strelecky, John P The Why Cafe: A Story Da Capo Press, Cambridge MA, 2006.

Chek, Paul The Last 4 Doctors You Will Ever Need The Chek Institute, Vista California, 2008.

Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Fireside, New York NY, 1989.

Bach, David The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich Doubleday Canada, 2005.

Canfield, Jack; Hanson, Mark Victor: Hewitt, Les The Power of Focus Health Communications Inc. Deer Beach FL, 2000.

Covey, Stephen R. Principle Centred Leadership Fireside, New York, NY, 1992.

Covey, Stephen R. Living the 7 Habits : The Courage to Change Fireside, New York, NY, 1999.

Robbins, Anthony Unlimited Power : The New Science Of Personal Achievement Fawcett Columbine,
NY, 1986.

Cheng, Emily FLogg DAILY Food and Fitness Journal, classic black

Copyright 2010 Vreni Gurd

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Comments (2)

Musings on giving and receiving


As the season of giving and receiving comes to a close for another year, looking back, I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds Christmas (in addition to its religious significance) to be the obligatory giving day, just as Valentine’s Day is the obligatory romance day. The mad rush to shop for everyone on the list – to find that perfect gift and often somewhat guessing just to have SOMETHING. I’m not suggesting that giving is bad – on the contrary. I just want my giving to be from the heart. I love to give quality food as gifts because I see huge value in the enhanced health that quality food can provide. So my poor family receives gifts like raw pasture-fed butter, air-dried unrefined organic sea salt, raw organic honey, high vitamin cod-liver oil etc. Those gifts are truly from the heart, but I’m not sure they are what my family wants … maybe I’m giving those gifts more for my benefit than theirs. So, is that authentic giving or selfish giving?

Have you ever given someone a gift, and seen the look of horror in their eyes when they don’t have anything for you in return? Often those gifts are the most authentic and happily given and nothing is expected in return, yet instead of being received with joy, they can cause embarrassment. Have you ever felt badly when you received an unexpected gift? Often when I ask for gift ideas, the response is that nothing is wanted but time together, and although I know that that answer is a sincere one, I still seem to feel the need to purchase something. Why? Many of us in the Western world have so much stuff that we really don’t need or want anything more. I think that the pressure of needing a gift to give because of the cultural / social expectations of the season may take away from the meaning of the occasion.

Giving is not something that needs to be saved for special occasions. Giving should not cause financial strain or regret on the part of the giver, and it should not create obligation of any kind in the recipient. Often generosity requires practice and a belief in abundance. An exercise to help oneself feel more generous, might be to give something small away every day for a week or two, and notice our feelings around giving. Recognize any discomfort around giving and continue giving despite of the discomfort, and that comfort zone will expand with practice. As you give away to others, you will notice how it comes back to you 100 fold.

As the years go by, I find that more and more, the most precious thing I have is time. My time is worth far more to me than money, probably because I don’t seem to feel that I have enough of it. My time is probably the gift that my family and friends would appreciate the most, but it is also the gift that seems the hardest for me to give. Not because I don’t want to – I have to continue to work on re-arranging my life to make more time available. My goal for this next year is to be more generous with my time, and to be fully present with my friends and family without feeling anxious about the work that is not being completed while I am in their company. Hopefully as I change my belief about my lack of time into a more useful belief about having an abundance of time, the balance in my life that I am seeking will finally materialize.

Related tips:
An attitude of gratitude

Copyright 2006 Vreni Gurd

Comments (3)

Exercise and learning


Maybe we should start each school day (and work day) with at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise – it improves concentration, comprehension and learning.

This week CBC news (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) put out a very interesting story about City Park High School in Saskatoon, that put treadmills and exercise bikes into a math classroom, and before doing any math, the kids strapped on their heart-rate monitors and did 20 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise. This is an alternative school for those with learning difficulties, and over half the students have ADHD. They couldn't sit still, many had behavioural problems, and they couldn't learn. Well, the cardio equipment went in the classroom in February, and by June, pretty much all the kids had jumped a full grade in reading, writing and math. After doing the exercise the kids were suddenly able to sit still and focus on what they were learning, and they were able to understand what they were being taught. The exercise altered their brain chemistry enough to make learning possible, AND it greatly improved their behaviour.

With physical education frequently being cut out of curriculums to make time for academics, this should give pause for thought. Taking 20 to 40 minutes a day for sustained physical activity improves learning and grades in academic subjects more than actually using that time for the academic subjects themselves. Sustained aerobic exercise of between 65 to 75% of one's max heart rate wakes up the frontal cortex of the brain, the part that is needed for behavioural control. (To figure out your child's correct heart-rate zone, subtract his/her age from 220, and take 65 to 75% of that to get the target heart beats per minute.) Exercise causes the brain to create more nerve cells (neurogenesis), makes those nerves stronger, and helps them withstand stress, and improves neurotransmitter function, which helps the brain work better. Dr. Ratey, one of the key researchers in this area, noted not only improvements in those with ADHD, but also in those with bipolar disorder and schitzophrenia as well.

Alison Cameron, the grade 8 teacher at City Park School, noted that between February and June, the attention span of her students increased from 10 minutes to 3 hours. Many of the kids got off ritalin, and the kids were coming to school every day so she had the opportunity to actually teach them, which also improved learning. The students reported feeling happier, less angry, and definitely smarter, which improved their confidence levels, and made them realize that they would be capable of succeeding in life if they applied themselves.

In this day and age where we are moving less and less, sitting at the computer more and more, and children are less frequently allowed outside to play on their own, we need to ensure that kids get daily physical education, and beyond that, we need to make sure that every child and teen is actually moving enough during PE. In most PE classes, 80% of the kids are standing around waiting for their turn, or simply trying to avoid participating. It takes at least 20 minutes of sustained activity three times a week to make the difference in behavioural and academic performance, and that should be an important focus of school PE class in my opinion.

We are meant to move, and if we don’t we are not as resilient and we can’t use our brains maximally. So parents, if you want your kids to be smarter and better behaved and your school does not provide adequate movement time for your kids, perhaps family-based physical activity should become a priority. Creating the exercise habit young will also help them maintain a healthy body weight, and set them up for a life of good health.

If you would like to see the CBC documentary, click here. I think it is an amazing, hopeful story.

If you want to search for other posts by title or by topic, go to

Related Tips:
Heart-rate training
Our bodies are meant to move!
More gym class does not lower child obesity

Joan Leishman Brain Gains CBC News.

Ratey John MD. SPARK – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain Little, Brown and Company, New York NY, 2008.

Jacob Sattelmair and John J. Ratey Physically Active Play and Cognition. An Academic Matter? Exercise Revolution – The new science of exercise and the brain., John J Ratey blog.

Hobson, Katherine How exercise revs up your brain US News, April 17, 2008

PE4Life – Building Healthy Studen Bodies – One at a Time A U.S. organization dedicated to inspiring active, healthy living by advancing the development of quality, daily physical education programs for all children.

Buck SM et al. The relation of aerobic fitness to stroop task performance in preadolescent children. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jan;40(1):166-72.

Hillman CH et al. Aerobic fitness and cognitive development: Event-related brain potential and task performance indices of executive control in preadolescent children. Dev Psychol. 2009 Jan;45(1):114-29.

van Praag H. Exercise and the brain: something to chew on. Trends Neurosci. 2009 Apr 4. [Epub ahead of print]

Ploughman M. Exercise is brain food: the effects of physical activity on cognitive function. Dev Neurorehabil. 2008 Jul-Sep;11(3):236-40.

Reynolds D, Nicolson RI. Follow-up of an exercise-based treatment for children with reading difficulties.
Dyslexia. 2007 May;13(2):78-96.

Schneider S et al. EEG activity and mood in health orientated runners after different exercise intensities. Physiol Behav. 2009 Mar 23;96(4-5):709-16.

Bugg JM, Head D. Exercise moderates age-related atrophy of the medial temporal lobe. Neurobiol Aging. 2009 Apr 20. [Epub ahead of print]

Smiley-Oyen AL et al. Exercise, fitness, and neurocognitive function in older adults: the “selective improvement” and “cardiovascular fitness” hypotheses. Ann Behav Med. 2008 Dec;36(3):280-91. Epub 2008 Sep 30.

Copyright 2009 Vreni Gurd

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