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Mentalrobics™

You exercise your body to stay physically in shape, so why shouldn't you exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? With these daily exercises you will learn how to flex your mind, improve your creativity and boost your memory. As with any exercise, repetition is necessary for you to see improvement, so pick your favorite exercises from our daily suggestions and repeat them as desired. Try to do some mentalrobics every single day!

Similar to how Pavlov's dog had associated food with the sound of a bell, it's possible to program your mind to associate some stimuli with being in a relaxed and calm state. This can be a very effect way of coping with stress.

The first step is to find a trigger that you can use on yourself. It should be something that doesn't happen in a normal day. Maybe it could be sticking a finger in your ear, pinching the back of your hand, or taking a whiff from one of your scent canisters.

The second step is to associate this trigger with the state of being calm and relaxed. Try to conjure up a vivid memory of a time in the past when you were totally at peace. Try to recreate all the sounds, smells and images. Once you think you have a good visualization, program it into your mind by sticking your finger in your ear, or whatever else you have chosen to be your trigger. In the future, whenever you are naturally feeling calm and relaxed you should reinforce your trigger by doing it.

Now that you have programmed your mind to associate the trigger with a relaxed state, you can use it whenever you feel stressed. Simply activate your trigger and you will immediately start feeling more relaxed.

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Chronic stress can cause an imbalance in the neurochemicals that contribute to elevating our mood and reducing anxiety. Fortunately, research has shown that you can reduce the imbalance simply by smiling or laughing, regardless of your actually mood. When you smile or laugh, your brain gets fooled into thinking that it is happy, and releases the corresponding neurochemicals. Laughter has been shown to have the following benefits.

1. Lowering levels of the stress hormone, cortisol
2. Reducing blood pressure
3. Boosting the immune system
4. Improving respiration and circulation
5. Reducing pain
6. Reducing depression and improving mood

If you are having a hard time getting motivated to do something and you need a pick me up, try smiling or laughing out loud. It may sound silly, but it can actually improve your mood and get you thinking more creatively. So, when life gives you a frown, turn it upside down!

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Worrying about a problem reduces our ability to focus 100% of our attention on the task. One way to focus your attention is to answer the following questions.

1. What exactly is the problem? There is no sense in worrying about something if you do not know exactly what you are worrying about. Take some time to write down specifically what the problem is that you are trying to solve.

2. What caused the problem? Sometimes solving the immediate problem is not the correct solution because it does not fix the root causes. Try to determine if this problem was caused by something else.

3. What are all the possible solutions? Too often, one solution is proposed and time is wasted arguing about that one solution. Try having a brainstorm to find every possible solution before you argue about the merits of each one.

4. What solution is best? Once all the solutions have been laid out, it should be a pretty easy task to pick the best one and move forward with it.

If you are in a position where people bring their problems to you for help, this is a great strategy to help them solve their own problems. Simply, ask each person to answer these four questions before coming to you. It is likely that they will solve their own problem, but if not, it will make your job much easier.

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Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by exposure to a highly traumatic experience. Symptoms usually include nightmares and flashbacks where the event is re-experienced over and over again. These recurring memories can become overbearing and interfere with the brain's ability to learn and consolidate new information.

PTSD is considered to be primarily an anxiety disorder that should subside after several months, but in extreme cases symptoms can last much longer. Long term stress like this can cause permanent damage to the brain due to the build up of the stress hormone, cortisol.

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Cortisol is a hormone that is release by the body in response to stress. Its effect on the body is to increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It also causes the immune system to get weaker, bone formation to decrease and inflammation to lessen. In fact, artificial cortisol, called hydrocortisone, is intentionally used to fight inflammation.

Short-term exposure to cortisol can actually improve memory. This is the method by which flashbulb memories are believed to be formed. Additionally, a small amount of stress can increase the mind's ability to focus on a task. However, long-term exposure to high levels of cortisol can damage the hippocampus which can cause serious memory problems. It is unclear how much time it takes to cause permanent memory impairment, but finding ways to reduce stress in your life is always a good idea.

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