Humans experience a myriad of emotions – up to 27 and counting!
Here I draw from various research pieces, to make a point that it’s not just mechanical exercise but a healthy social sport amongst supportive people that has a massive impact on our brain and mind set.
In a 2020 article by Scientific American1, which prompted this blog, the authors deconstruct how evolutionary history explains why physical activity is important not only for brain health, but to help us understand the workings of our emotions!
After over 3 decades of vetted research evidence was building that the adult brain could, in fact, generate new neurons. In one particularly striking experiment with mice, scientists found that simply running on a wheel led to the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a brain structure that is associated with memory and emotions!2
A scientific study in Stockholm3 uncovered that exercise draws oxygen and blood flow into an area of the brain that is typically suppressed with low cell growth during depression.
The brain actually is wired to promote “forgetting”, and that’s a good thing. Important new memories grow stronger through neuronal changes and emotional resonance, while unimportant ones are weakened.
The brain promotes “forgetting”, and that’s a good thing
You don’t need to remember where the car keys were last week – but the name of your new boss, burned into your brain by new connections (fear of a demotion? Hope for a promotion?), is another matter.
A recent article by National Geographic4 documents that the brain creates new neurons all through adulthood in the hippocampus. The precursors of neurons (bright blue area) travel to the olfactory bulb, or scent-processing center (purple), to form sensory neurons.
Hence adults can sprout hot-off-the-press neurons as well! Only in the hippocampus… Here memory and emotions are processed!
The hippocampus is being studied in relation to depression. This region maybe more likely to hold negative memories in people with depression
Things like stress slow neurogenesis, whereas novelty (for example, traveling to a new place) and exercise boost it. Aerobic options are known to enhance memory – biking, running, swimming or rock climbing!
Exercise is the only way blood get’s access to the human brain
Another excerpt from Scientific American claims that scientists continue to show that everything from the “runner’s high” to the “yogi’s tranquility” can have profound effects on your brain
So, sitting at your desk doing math problems or crunching numbers is futile if not combined with an aerobic activity. The same tasks can be done more productively if coupled with an aerobic physical activity.
Socially structured sports have an added benefit of releasing endorphins and de-stressors in kids in particular who are exposed to a relatively stressful and competitive environment in the current days.
Now combine this with a social-aerobic physical activity and you are now entering brain-elixir territory!
What is especially attractive about outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing for instance is the social aspect – Dopamine, widely labeled as the pleasure chemical, gets into a feedback loop to lift your mood when you plan to head toward a hike or a climb with a group of friends – a brain induced Motivator!
Martin Sligman’s PERMA Model for authentic happiness:
Our brains, unfortunately, are wired to attend to and learn from negative experience more than positive ones, kind of a survival kit for keeping us from danger
This tendency at times might be responsible for unnecessary fixation over the negatives such as obsessing over a colleague’s put-down or a natural disaster in the news.
Experts recommend creating a daily diet of happy micro-moments
“Therapy and exercise needn’t be mutually exclusive” as quoted by the American Psychology Association.
A practicing psychologist with training in sport psychology, Michelle Joshua, PhD foundedWork it Out LLC, a clinic with offices in Raleigh and Carrboro, N.C., that provides health and behavior interventions to people with conditions including diabetes and obesity.
“Science's Newest Miracle Drug Is Free: | Aaron Reuben| Outsideonline | May 1, 2019 | 21 minute read
Katie Asmus, a licensed psychotherapist and wilderness guide in Boulder, Colo. Firmly believes that here is something about the environment that helps our nervous systems unwind.
A grassroots movement of physicians are prescribing time outdoors as the best possible cure for a growing list of ailments. If prescribers can change patient behavior via nature prescribed programs there is a growing line of evidence that could support reimbursement for such programs complementary to a pill.
The term “Nature Rx” was originally developed by writer/director Justin Bogardus and Dream Tree Film as a part of a viral comedy series on the power of reconnecting with nature at nature-rx.org. Outside Magazine has since hosted some of these award-winning films on its website since 2015.
In a nutshell, a healthy combo of low-conflict and high quality relationships while sharing in an engaging activity will not disappoint!
Upper left: a cheerful street vendor at Margao. Upper right: two pretty ladies in traditional outfit from am church. Lower left: Only the best tailors here. Lower right: me by a chapel in historic Panjim
The Portuguese in India? Yes they colonized the state of Goa for over 400 years
Goa, the smallest of the 30 states of India and home to over 55 beaches, has been through a dizzying array of rulers from Hindu Kings in the 3rd century BC through the 3rd century AD and over 600 years of Muslim rule in the 15th century. But it was the arrival of the Portuguese in 1510 that changed the course of Goan history, religion and culture forever. The 450-year Portuguese occupation only came to an end in 1961 with the intervention of the Indian Army.
Goa is to a large part, shaped by Portuguese culture. Most Goan ancestry dates back to the Spanish Inquisition, largely driven by Jesuits.
The indigenous population of this part of the country went through a large scape conversion to Christianity during the 16th century Spanish inquisition where most of the people got their Portuguese surnames, mainly of Jesuit origin. Before the Portuguese, Goan history was mainly comprised of Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists as well and hence an existing minority population in Goa of these religions.
Looking into a traditional Indian Almirah (cupboard) at an antique museum called Goa Chitra, founded by Goan artist-curator-restorer Victor-Hugo Gomes in the Coastal village of Benaulim. With over 4000 artefacts—focusing on Goa's traditional agrarian technology and lifestyle, this is one of Goa’s charming attractions with great insights into its culture from coconut farming to “Toddy” making (Pictured at the Bottom).
Goa's famous Latin Quarter in capital city Panjim, is abundant with old Portuguese mansions that once belonged to rulers and administrators. This district was declared a UNESCO Heritage Zone in 1984. My Pic opportunity with a Vespa to the right!
A group of Fishermen eagerly bait their early morning catch by the Arabian Sea at Dusk .
Traditional mansions in the quarter are known for their intricate "oyster-shell mirrors" where the oyster shells are flattened to let in sunlight while keeping your privacy. I remember having oyster shell curtains around in the house - pretty fragile. They didn't last too long around us kids back then!
Why Goa? With 3 Naval bases in Goa, my father, a Naval Aviator, was posted there for several years. And therefore most of my formative years were spent in this state.
The art of Mario Miranda, known as one of India’s most famous cartoonists from Loutolim known for his creative genius in translating ordinary Goan life into magical vignettes like no other. Miranda's galleries can be found in 5 different locations in Gia including the Airport and the capital city of Panjim where you can find everything from picture frames to lampshades, clutches and fashion bags with his unique caricatures. More on the story and genius behind his art can be read here : https://engrave.in/blog/indian-art-mario-miranda/
When in Goa, I highly recommend Goa Walking tours for local exploration. @goawalkingtours. An exceptional tourist guidebook is "100 Goan Experiences" by Pantaleo Fernandes published by the department of tourism Govt. of Goa. The book captures a comprehensive overview of various options from swimming with Dolphins to wilderness elephant tours to serene Yoga ashrams - Your Eat, Pray, Love guidebook to this beautiful state!
I hope you enjoyed my little snippet on Goa, one of India's coastal states with a unique mix of Portuguese, Deccan and South Indian culture. Here the natives take great pride in their heritage, opening their doors to you and finding their way into your heart.
The word ‘Vegas” for me went hand-hand with bright lights, the Bellagio Fountain and yes “Thunder from Down Under, the spirited male review team from Australia!
A few weeks ago, a climbing adventure with friends exposed me to a whole new side of Vegas. Well known to seasoned climbers as Red Rock Canyon, about 15 miles West of Vegas are bright Red Sandstone mountains and rocks offering up a wealth of adventure activities.
Image that doesn’t do justice – beautiful landscapes riddled with Joshua trees and red rocks in the horizon
Visited by over 2 million people every year, the roughly 3000 feet tall red sandstone canyons are marked as a National Conservation Area (NCA). What does that mean? NCA areas are nature conservation areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Black Rock Desert, a popular destination for The Burning Man, is one other NCA. Interestingly Red Rock Canyon has been rumored to be the next destination for this rendezvous!
What’s the Technical Difference Between a National Park and a National Conservation Area?
Americans inherited 623 million acres of land which came in four varieties:
Image to the left: At the Black Corridor Crag at Red Rock
We noticed parts of Red Rock Canyon's neighboring areas were marked as Wilderness points.
These areas then belong to not only, say, Yosemite National Park but to the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS), as well. What difference does it make? If land inside Yosemite becomes a wilderness area, it must remain free of roads and structures. The gorgeous colors?
Millions of years ago Red Rock was under an ocean basin and limey deposits resulted in limestone sediments – now still seen as limestone rocks around the canyon. Oxidation of the iron minerals in the rocks resulted in the red formations. Years of streams and water flows then gave the rocks those crevices and holds for adventure sports!
A bit north of Red Rock are the Limestone formations at Mt. Charleston. At 7-8,000 feet elevation, the temperatures here tend to be up to 20 degrees lower than the hot red rock valley. Offering up cooler conditions for climbers and hikers in the summer time, there are several cave formations of hard limestone that make for a very different climbing experience.
Also, Mt.Charleston, happens to be an "Unincorporated Town" of Nevada which means they are provided extra services by the county, paid for by property taxes or other revenue sources from the town. Apparently a rich tourist destination!
My buddies belaying and climbing the limestone formations at Mt. Charleston
The caves at Mt. Charleston
15 miles West of Vegas was a whole new experience…Not So Vegas!
Dara Torres, arguably the fastest female swimmer in America, captured the hearts and minds of all ages when she launched her Olympic comeback as a new mother at the age of 41. She took three silver medals in Beijing, including a heartbreaking .01-second finish behind the gold medalist in the women's 50-meter freestyle!
Dara spoke candidly about being an older female athlete in a young athlete’s game. Her doubts, her belief in fitness, the ins and out of the competition, about how she worked through the pain and uncertainty, about seizing the moment, and about never once giving up. She had dared to entertain a seemingly impossible dream.
After my first child was born, I had my first major surgery with about 8 weeks to recover before I had to go back to a 9-5 corporate world. All this while adapting to being a new mother in an entirely new body contributed to my doubts of being up for the challenge of just being fit at a very basic level.
15 months into this new lifestyle, I gave birth to my second child and underwent yet another C-section. During this phase I began noticing symptoms like muscle weakness and a significant loss of energy, which negatively impacted everything.
They say “it takes a village” but my husband and I, we really had each other.
Over the years, I remember hearing people question why staying fit was so important. I will admit, I have 99 problems and flaws but having the energy and drive to do more with less is not one of them and I credit a fit lifestyle to that.
At 38, after my second C-section, I was juggling family life all while transferring to another corporate firm. By the time my 40th birthday came around, drained despite alternating my exercises, I realized that the game was up to a whole new level.
Soon things would change.
Around this time I joined a company that promoted health & wellness. Two years into my role at this place, I learned about their fitness reimbursement program. I was paired with a fitness trainer, who at 5 feet 2 inches towered maybe 2 inches over me and had a similar physique to mine and to the most part a similar lifestyle. We connected immediately!
I learned the truth in the saying, “Choose Your Coach, Change Your Life!”
I started my program with her just once a week. She gauged my workstyle, life, fitness goals and my overall body type and customized a 30-minute workout, helping me get the most out of a limited time.
Within the first quarter, I could not only feel a notable increase in energy but there was a significant improvement in how I showed up for my hobbies. Whether it was climbing, hiking or any other of my favorite outdoor activities, my energy was upward and I could focus on work, kid’s curriculum and their sports activities.
Here’s what I want you to take away from this – If you have the true desire to maintain your personal fitness all while managing a family and career, it doesn't hurt to be ready for a Triathlon. Dare to entertain a seemingly impossible dream because eventually you will have one less problem to deal with.
David Lama was quite literally born to climb. The son of a Nepali mountain guide and a nurse from Austria, David was known as one of the best all around alpinists in the world.
I first learnt about David when the Dec 2016 cover of Outside magazine captured my attention. A talented mountaineer, only in his 20’s, he had a goal and a vision to expand the sport for the next generation.
David, only 28 and a former teenage prodigy was quoted as outside magazines 30 under 30 athletes who were actively shaping the sport for the future generation. He was so young and inspiring, I had hoped to introduce my kids to him someday.
Mountaineering is not just a thing people do to find themselves, it is a sport just like Lacrosse or Soccer or anything else out there. I recollect my first glacial hike in the Himalayas in Kashmir, when I was 13 and when I returned with frost bitten toes! Mountaineering is a skilled sport and some people simply have the talent for it. David used drones and video footage to bring this adventure sport closer to everyday people. He found climbing partners and ascended some of the toughest routes while being mindful of the locals.
Not to take away from anybody’s accomplishments but there are folks who ascend Mt.Everest as a mission to change their lives, with less insight (not by any fault on their part), into how this shapes local life. If you find a minute, watch Discovery channel’s SHERPA. It tells the horrowing story of the 2014 tragedy on Mt.Everest through their eyes.
Earlier this week, David along with 2 fellow world class mountaineers, were attempting a difficult climb up the 10,810-foot Peak in the Canadian Rockies, when a large avalanche swept down the mountain, killing all three climbers.
These days, with the instant success of social media stars, finding good quality role models for ourselves and our kids is close to impossible. David was a hope for his generation and had established a legacy for mountaineers everywhere.
His first agent to Lunag Ri (Nepal) with Conrad Anker : Annapurna III – Unclimbed” is an award-winning 12-min documentary featuring the 2016 expedition to the Himalayas of Nepal led by David Lama together with Austrian alpinists Hansjörg Auer and Alex Blümel : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp72WjMVhTQ
I cannot even imagine what it must have taken for his parents to live through this week. Their heart wrenching note on Instagram linked here :
My second time at the Grand Canyon, 15 years later was a 3 day camping trip to the majestic part of the Grand Canyon called the Havasu Falls: A series of beautiful and photogenic waterfalls on the Havasu Creek, a tributary to the Grand Canyon. The water flows out of limestone, which gives it a pleasing blue-green hue.
I remember traveling down the north rim 15 years ago with 40 lbs on my back and I thought I had seen it all. Was I mistaken!
This marvel has so much to offer and more. This time around we backpacked down to the Havasupai reservation land, camping at there for two nights and three days. This paradise land has about 3-4 beautiful green-blue waterfalls, each tremendously stunning. If this isn’t in your bucket list, I would recommend it. The best part - Zero internet connection and memories of a lifetime! The waterfalls end in large plunge pools - clear, deep and inviting. People come from around the world to view the waterfalls and Grand Canyon scenery, and swim in the pools. The area is part of the Havasupai Indian Reservation and is managed by the tribe. The number of visitors is restricted and reservations are required. See the tribe's website for contact numbers and info about making reservations. You must apply for reservations months in advance for trips during the tourism season : http://theofficialhavasupaitribe.com/Havasupai-Camping/havasupai-camping.html
To the left is the picture I took on Day 1 at base camp and to the right was Day 3 when we were leaving of the same falls after a mudslide and floods. These parts are prone to flash floods.
Half way down the hike to base, we were at the Havasupai village. Deep inside a 3000 foot-deep hole and home to the Havasupai Tribe “People of the blue green water”, this is the ONLY town in the Grand Canyon. This Supai village is home to America’s only Mule Run Mail Stop. With a total population of about 280 people as recorded by the US Census in 2010, —a series of linked mules carrying packages and letters. Each parcel that makes it out of Supai has a special postmark—one that’s well known to backpackers, who often mail out (or mule out) their heavy packs via the postal service rather than drag them back up eight steep miles
When Europeans and later the U.S. government began to grab Native land, they considered the unusual beauty and rich mineral content of the Havasupai region especially worth taking. By the late 19th century, tribal lands dwindled from 1.6 million acres to just 518. Havasupais were confined to the bottom of a small canyon without the plateau lands they traditionally used in winter.
The tribe appealed to Congress seven different times over the course of 66 years—until President Ford finally signed an important bill into law. As the National Park Service writes, the U.S. government added 185,000 acres to the Havasupai reservation, along with 95,000 acres of access to traditional-use lands within Grand Canyon National Park. Some areas are still under National Park Service operation, but the Havasupais can once again access some of their original plateau areas. The joyful moment when Havasupai lands were restored in 1975 remains an important one in modern Native American legal history.
Right in the center of the village is a helipad for hikers who decide to get airlifted. Getting to base camp after this was a beautiful experience! Just the views of the gorgeous and the blue waterfalls were memories to keep.
Once you set base camp, and collect your bags from the Mule train, you can walk down to the Havasu falls and spend the evening there just walking through the falls, pitch a tent at the top or just hang out for a sunset dinner. Over the next few days we trekked through the tributaries that give life to the Colorado. I was told this has the elements of a documentary where the wildlife is rich, the grass is green and you are in this gorgeous outer space world. This much exceeded all of that! The striking mixture of dry mountain air combined with tropical lush foliage is something out of this world
We embraced the walk back, switch back and all, grateful for the experience we just had. Like all things beautiful, glad to have been there!
Back past Supai village where its residents carried their weekly groceries, kids walked around the new school that they just put together for the tribe. One of us stopped to get a picture of a group of men carrying large gallons of water to the only grocery store/restaurant in the village. “Yeah get a picture of the Real People”, he said. One can only hope that all of nature’s beauty, saved for us to experience, brings the residents a piece of what they deserve, what they might want…the real people of the Canyon!
The views in this article and the rest of the site are mine and not of any organization I am affiliated with. I hope you enjoy reading this.
A personal win and a great feeling when I got featured as a fitness ambassador at my companies Heath and Fitness center.
Yes, there is never enough time and I multitask as it is! It is true that a traditional working lifestyle can take away from having quality personal-life .
As an active, busy mother of two, there never seemed to be enough room for my own hobbies, while still juggling my daily routine. The “how” was the tough part.
Robert Moor, author of On Trails: An exploration wrote, “As a species we’ve evolved a curved and forgiving spine, a skull set straight and upright, an efficient metabolism – all uniquely suited to propel us long distances. But it wasn’t until the advent of the automobile that we began hiking long distances recreationally.”
Growing up, I enjoyed hiking and mountaineering with my father, a military man. My outdoor life, and many other hobbies, came to screeching halt when I finished graduate school and immersed myself in my career. Married with two wonderful sons, I would take the little ones on nature walks. However, between a demanding job and motherhood, there was really no time for any sort of adventure sport.
At some point you realize that taking time aside to do something that helps you bring your best self to the table is critical for high performance in any craft.
A few years ago I was introduced to rock-climbing by my neighbor. The perfect climbing partner, she was encouraging, yet pushed me to reach beyond my self-imposed limits. We made it our Monday evening routine to climb at the local rock-climbing gym.
I assumed that focussing on career and family meant that it was normal for your own hobbies to take a back seat. I wish someone had told me that when life-changes occur (a new role, a child or a new city etc), it gets that much more important to turn to your passions.
The outdoors serve as fuel for many successful people. Celebrated adventure photographer Chris Burkhard wrote in Outside magazine, “I have a hard time focusing, but all I need to do is jump in the ocean.”
I now spend a good part of my weekends and weekdays, either climbing, hiking or going outdoors with my sons. When they’re older, I would love to take them to Yosemite, and hopefully keep up with them!
Yes, there’s never enough time, and yes, we already multitask – but there’s always time to pursue a hobby or a passion.
Now more than ever, our kids are over-scheduled and too addicted to screens. It really is about time to set them free into the outdoors.
Give it a try - go outside on a regular, weekly basis, get away from your desk, your meeting room or your laptop and see what the world has to offer!
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