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Pat Gibson

Pickleball? Seriously?

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Pickleball? Seriously?

Yes despite it’s ridiculous name it is sweeping the country and the fastest growing sport in the world. I play and as a result people frequently ask me about my experience of playing. This prompted me to use the opportunity in this month’s newsletter to expose those of you who are curious about the game and want to know more. Pickle ball is the fastest growing sport in the world for many reasons but the biggest is it is just flat out fun. Many of you may have heard of this new craze but have no idea what it is and many of you are already avid devotees. For those of you who are curious this will remove some of the mystery.

Pickleball is a combination of three sports-tennis, badminton and ping-pong. It is played indoors or outside on a court similar to a tennis court that is about two feet shorter on the ends but the same width. The paddle is flat and approximately the same size as a racquetball racquet. The ball is the size of a whiffle ball on steroids or about the size of a baseball. Tennis serving boxes are in the front while the pickball serving boxes are in the back close to the server. It can be played with two, three or four players.

Some additional information that makes pickleball an attractive exercise option include:

  1. It won’t break the bank. Most places available for play are either free or have a nominal fee of $3-$5. Paddles can be purchased from $28 to $198 at pickleballcentral.com and amazon (of course). Some facilities have extra paddles available for your use.
  2. You don’t have to coordinate everyone’s busy schedules. You simply show up any time during the predetermined time and play for as little or as long as you want.
  3. Most everyone can play. If you have a previous history of playing any of the sports involved you will pick it up in just a few minutes. For those of you with little to no racquet experience you can also learn very quickly however may take a little more practice to become proficient.
  4. You can play virtually anywhere. Whenever I travel I usually do an Internet search for local pickleball locations and simply show up at the appointed time. People are always welcoming to outsiders. For example if I travel to St. Simons Island I will do an Internet search for pickleball St. Simons and it let’s me know the details of where and when games will be played.
  5. It’s a very social game. Everybody is generally welcoming and gracious. Over time you get to know an entire new group of friends and competition can range from very competitive to social but either way you will get a good workout and get your body moving. The limited size of the court is also a big advantage for those with knee or foot issues.
  6. Games generally don’t last a long time. You play to 11 however if there are a number of people waiting games are often shortened to 7 to allow more playing time for everyone.
  7. It’s great exercise and you can get a good workout but you generally are just having fun so you don’t notice the effort it takes.

For more information check out this video on how to play. What is Pickleball? – USAPA Pickleball

If you are interested in seeing some high level play watch the championship from last year by clicking this link. Pickleball Channel – YouTube

No matter what part of the country you live in consider checking out your local pickle ball centers and give it a try. I think you’ll have fun and be glad you did.

With Gratitude,
Pat

A Gift To Yourself

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A Gift To Yourself

So here we are once again at the beginning of a new year with all the promise it holds for the upcoming year. Whether you write down goals with specific intentions, unconsciously think them through, or ignore them all together the truth is statistically 92% of us won’t win our battle.

When most of us set goals or intentions for the year they are often unrealistic and lack self-compassion. This lends itself to a fairly high probability of limited success. I am sure it comes as no surprise when you hear some one say “It’s the same every year. I want to loose weight, exercise more and sleep better. I just never seem to quite get there”. There is a reason it’s the same thing every year.

We have all made mistakes, tried and failed, done and said things that we weren’t proud of and at the end of the day usually don’t let ourselves off the hook easily. When we make a mistake or things don’t go the way we planned or in the time we allotted we often give ourselves negative messages such as I’ll never be able to do it, I don’t know why I bother, I have no will power, I’m such a looser and soon you just stop trying.

When we continually come up short in our endeavors we are usually left feeling defeated. Creating unrealistic goals such as working out 5 days a week, changing your diet and committing to sleeping at least 8 hours a night is an overwhelming amount of change. While the enthusiasm is to be admired, a total revamp of your life all at once is the perfect recipe for failure. Consider take incremental steps at whatever level of comfort seems right for you. Stretch yourself but with considerate mindfulness. It is equally important to acknowledge yourself for whatever steps you do take no matter how large or small.

Make friends with self-compassion as a companion in your desire to create something new in this year. Whether you want to loose weight, start a relationship, getting a new job, being a better parent or partner or whatever else you may want to change recognize that inherent in that will be opportunity for growth and inevitably some amount of discomfort and struggle. However, it doesn’t need to be a battle.

Supporting ourselves by reminding and equally acknowledging what we did well instead of tearing ourselves down with what we didn’t do is what self -compassion looks like. In all likelihood most of us will not make changes perfectly but that doesn’t mean we stop doing it. Assess what is working and give yourself a hand and carry on. For the things that aren’t going quite as planned have some patience and compassion for yourself and start again. You are much more likely to have success in whatever changes you are trying to make.

As you journey on the path to the newer year I ask you to consciously consider acknowledging as many things as you can that you are doing well. Consider grace and self-compassion as a gift to yourself.

With Gratitude,
Pat

Exercise and Your Brain

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Exercise and Your Brain

It turns out that exercise is good for more than just looking good in a bathing suit and fighting off heart disease. Research shows it is significantly important for our brain health. In an era where Alzheimer’s is growing at an alarming rate any thing that we can do to help our brain health is not only advisable but also essential.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association findings for 2017 more than 5.5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and that number is growing rapidly. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and 1in 3 seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Since 2000 deaths from heart disease have decreased by 14 % while deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased 89%! In addition it kills more than breast cancer and prostrate cancer combined.

So how does exercise help your brain? Initially we believed that our brains were static with little ability to change but now we know that the brain has neuroplasticity, which means that the brain has the ability to create new neurological patterns. It creates these new neurons and patterns through a process called neurogenesis. Dr. Gage at the Salk institute for Biological Studies along with a multitude of other studies has shown that through increased blood flow to the brain through exercise triggers biomechanical changes that spur neuroplasticity and generates new brain cells even in the aging brain.

The significance of this is that we have the ability to consciously and purposely have an effect on our brains ability to create these new neurons. Thus far the research has primarily been proven with aerobic exercises and to date it has been unclear whether anaerobic resistance training has the same effect. It turns out that as little as three hours of brisk walking a week has been shown to halt and even reverse the brain atrophy that starts somewhere in our forties. Aerobic exercise is especially helpful in the regions of the brain responsible for memory and higher cognition.

We all know that exercise is helpful in many other ways aside from creating neurogenesis in our brain. Exercise lowers blood pressure, maintains cardiovascular health, increases muscle mass and has been helpful in addressing depression as well as many other issues. My hope for each of us is to age gracefully and enjoy all of life we can. To that end I encourage you to get up, get moving and stay smart.

With Gratitude,
Pat

Take A Mini-Vacation Every Day

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Take A Mini-Vacation Every Day

Despite the continued warm temperatures the summer is beginning to wind down, students are slowly making their way back to the classrooms and others will be heading back to college soon. There is a different kind of energy in the summer that lends itself to a more relaxed atmosphere. Traffic is lighter, schedules are a little freer, kids stay up later but underlying that the continual stresses of life remain the same.

With any luck you have had an opportunity to take a break from work and go away on a vacation somewhere or have had some time off to have a “staycation” at home. Typically vacations involve a lot of time and energy to plan, sometimes we create expectations, the day finally comes, we get there, have a great time, come back relaxed and rejuvenated and then its effects vanish by the second or third day back at work.

We all have some kind of stress but how we manage the stress is the critical difference that determines whether stress is in control of us or we are in control of it. Vacations are wonderful but whatever positive effects we receive rarely lasts long so developing a way to incorporate consistent daily down time is critical. To help with this I often recommend that people intentionally create time to take a mini-vacation everyday. Developing a pattern of taking a daily mini-vacation is a choice we make and a gift we give ourselves and essential to creating balance in our life.

So what does a daily vacation look like? Consider the following:

  • Take a walk at lunch
  • Shut your door, shut your eyes and just breath for five minutes
  • Take a bath
  • Take an hour break from all electronics
  • Read or listen to a book
  • Download a meditation app and plug your headphones in an meditate for 10 or 15 minutes
  • Sit on a bench or at a coffee shop and people watch
  • Spend ten minutes actively relaxing you body starting with your feet and working up. (Don’t forget to relax your eyes)

It doesn’t matter what activity you choose and I encourage you to mix it up and be creative in finding ways that work best for you. This can sometimes be difficult especially for those who feel guilty “wasting time”. The only requirement is that it works as a time out for you. Taking time out for your self every day is critical. Not just a week or two out of the year but everyday. It has been shown to be a significant factor in increasing creativity, deeper sleep, increased immunity, lower blood pressure and increased presence and clarity just to name a few.

I encourage you to give it a try in whatever way works for you. I am confident you won’t be disappointed.

With Gratitude,
Pat

A Breath of Fresh Air

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A Breath of Fresh Air

There is nothing more relaxing than a good deep breath. It is one of the most highly utilized techniques employed in any setting to assist you to calm down, relax and get focused. So why write a newsletter about your breath? I am sure you have been successfully breathing for as long as you can remember. Interestingly, however, you may be surprised to find that a large number of people don’t breath correctly and this can actually create more stress than relaxation. Justifiably most people rarely pay attention to their breath but with a slight modification you can optimize your breathing to significantly produce increased relaxation for your mind and body.

Take a second and take a good deep breath. Did you find that as you inhaled deeply your chest and shoulders lifted filling your lungs with air? This actually creates what I refer to as an “anxiety breath”. It makes sense if you think about it. When you get startled or taken by surprise you breath in the same way by inhaling a large amount of air as your chest rises.

Creating a calming breath still involves inhaling through your nose and mouth, however instead of filling your lungs by lifting your shoulders and ribcage as you breath in push out your lower abdomen with as little movement in the upper body as possible. Try practicing this by placing a hand on your stomach and as you inhale attempt to push on your hand as you fill the lower abdomen. As you exhale passively allow your belly to relax. Although it may feel awkward at first with just a few practice breaths it becomes more natural.

Breath is one of the only conscious connections between the mind and the body and can be valuable not only to relieve stress but also to calm and center you before a test, a big meeting, working on a project or to be in the moment and enjoy the day. If you have children I encourage you to share this techniques with them. We often overlook the stress they are under and teaching them techniques such as this at an early age will serve them for years to come.

Practicing proper breaths will assist you to stay calm especially in more stressful moments. When you are calm you think better and make clearer decisions. As trivial as it may sound consider evaluating your breathing and measure how effectively it is working for you. You won’t be disappointed.

With Gratitude,
Pat

Practicing Presence

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Practicing Presence

At a recent dinner party I was hosting for some friends I listened to one of my besties as she related her experience of walking on the Camino trail for 8 weeks 2 years ago. I have heard her talk about this many times but this time something she said really triggered me. She was explaining that with all the incessant input from the world with everything from cell phones, TV, movies, emails, news, employees etc. that she initially found it extremely difficult to turn off her brain and just walk. She said, “It felt almost as if she was withdrawing from a drug.” She related that at times she even found herself making up conversations in her head just to feel the stimulation.

What she realized was the thing that was uncomfortable was that all she had was the present. She was completely present to everything around her because that is all there was. Most of us spend a very small percentage of our day being completely present and you could understand how this would take some getting used to.

As I listened I found myself longing for what it would be like to totally turn my brain off and just be so totally immersed in the present. I am a regular meditator and meditation does indeed help to turn down this noise but this seemed like so much more. My current life situation isn’t conducive to a 2-month absence so I started thinking about how I could create that feeling on a smaller daily scale.

I began practicing and devoting minutes and then hours to being 100 percent present to everything I could pay attention to without external influences. After practicing a bit and getting more efficient at it I decided I would have a “practicing presence day”. I picked a beautiful sunny Sunday that was 75 sunny and a light breeze and a Sunday and it was a rare day that I just happened to have all to myself. Since it was my trial run I wanted to set myself up for success as much as I could.

It wasn’t about sitting in meditation for a day but living 100 percent in the world in presence while I moved through it. Instead of taking my dog for a walk with headphones and listening to a podcast I went technology free and focused on a much as I could take in at once to all the things going on around me. I felt the wind on my face, heard the birds, appreciated the movement in my body, heard kids squealing in the background and was filled with gratitude for my goofy, happy love muffin of a dog.

I had to run a few errands and instead of driving I got on my bike and again drank in everything around me. With my intention focused on the present I was more attentive to the people around me, had great conversations and in general was a whole lot happier. Choosing to focus on what was happening or who was in front of me made me more productive and sensitive. It was creating more space for me to live in what I call my loving supportive brain instead of my fear based limiting brain.

I found as the day went on I was feeling really relaxed and present despite getting so much done. I had thoughts and ideas about how to work differently with a client. I got clear on solutions to problems I had avoided dealing with and most of all I felt deeply connected to the people around me.

I don’t want to imply this was easy. I constantly had to reel myself in but that too got easier as the day went on. Presence is truly a muscle that needs to be developed but it is more than worth it. I encourage you to take a day or an hour or even a minute and enjoy the beauty of presence. In my experience it will be more than worth the effort.

With Gratitude,
Pat

Balance

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Balance

Aging is going to happen whether we rebel against it or not but we do have some control over aging well. Unfortunately, it is well documented that the likelihood of developing balance issues as you age is significantly high. This is because as we age we lose full balance function through a decreased or loss of sensory processing, the ability to integrate the information and issue motor commands and because we are generally weaker. Increased incidences of falls are one of those realities but with a little effort you can minimize it being your reality.

Ideally we want to begin to address these issues long before we need them however you can start at whatever level you are capable of and progress from there. Safety when performing these exercises is critical so I always insist that some one else is present especially when you first start. What we do know is that repeating specific movements will create a new neurological pattern in your brain. In addition by performing these repetitions you will strengthen the muscle utilized in balance. The more repetitive the movement the stronger the neurological connection and the easier you can access the movement.

I frequently discuss this with most of my more senior patients at some point and with a minimal amount of effort they find significant improvement and minimize the chance of injury while feeling stronger and more stable.

Consider trying the following simple exercises as recommended by the National Institute on Aging:

  1. Standing up from a seated position without pushing up with your arms. This will activate your gluteus muscles, which often don’t fire optimally as you age.
  2. Try standing in front of your kitchen counter or behind a sturdy chair. Gently place your hands out in front of you on the surface to steady yourself. Creating a slight space between your hands and the counter then lift one leg off the floor with a bent knee, look straight ahead and hold for ten seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Try to do five times each side morning and night. When you feel comfortable lift you hands up higher but keep them outstretched in case you need to catch yourself. When you are proficient try doing this with your eyes shut. (Continue to keep your hands out in front.)
  3. Placing one foot behind the heel of your front foot and perform Heel/Toe walk. (walking in a straight line) Choose a spot in front of you and keep your eyes focused on it as you take a step moving the back foot in front of the lead foot. Keep your arms out to the side to assist in your balance and repeat for twenty steps morning and evening
  4. When you have become fairly proficient with the above exercises try doing some of your regular exercises such as bicep curls or stretching on a large exercises ball. Performing exercises on the ball initiates a muscle in your abdomen called the transverse abdominus, which is a critical muscle recruited in balance.

If you are someone who likes to participate in a class experience I highly recommend Thai Chi as a safe effective gentle way to incorporate balance exercises into your life. Thai Chi can best be described as continuous flowing movement. It incorporates your whole body, is very gentle and almost anyone can participate. There are many places around town that specialize in groups specifically for the aging. Cate Morrill in Little Five Points has a company called Shoulders Down Inc., 404-525-6466 or try Jude at Decatur Healing Arts 404-378-6288.

I encourage you to try a number of these options and decided what works best for you. The sooner you begin the less likely you are to develop problems in the future so please get busy now!

I Can’t Meditate

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I Can't Meditate

As humans we are wired for mastery and generally don’t like to fail. For some, when they have tried something new and have limited success they often give up and move on to something else. Meditation frequently falls into this category.

At least every other day someone tells me, “I can’t meditate! I want to and I’ve tried but I‘m just no good at it!” What I have discovered is that there is frequently a misunderstanding of what mediation is, accompanied by a belief that the only way to meditate is to sit in an incredibly uncomfortable cross-legged position, be really quiet and still then clear your mind. Meditation is not about clearing your mind; it is about being in charge of it. It is learning how to control and manage the incessant mindless chatter that goes on all day long.

During a workshop I taught a few years ago I had a room full of people who believed they couldn’t meditate. I had to be creatively instructive to get them to recognize that they could easily meditate if they chose to so I deceived them into meditating by first discussing that as we age we loose the acuity of our hearing especially in the low and high registers. Then I asked if they wanted to try an experiment to help improve their hearing and all readily agreed.

I asked everyone in the room to raise one hand and instructed them to put their hand down only when they could no longer hear the sound I was going to make. I then struck a metal meditation bowl with a wood dowel. As the pleasant ringing sound emanated forth each participant listened with intense focus and one by one after about 1 1/2 minutes all the hands were down. I looked at my non-meditators and asked, “How was that meditation?”. The surprised looks of confusion were priceless. “Yes”, that is a form of meditation. By focusing on the sound they were controlling their mind and their ability to stay present. Try meditating yourself by listening to the hum of your refrigerator, a clock ticking or simply the breath going in and out of your lungs. As your mind wanders gently bring your focus back to the present.

Getting better at meditation just takes practice. There are many ways to meditate and I suggest you explore different methods to discover what works best for you. One thing you can count on is your mind will wander especially initially. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It is normal for this to occur. When you find you have drifted a little, don’t judge it. Just bring yourself back to the present and start over.

Begin with smaller amounts of time initially. Trying to meditate for a half hour or more with no experience is a sure way to defeat yourself before you even get started. Try 5-10 minutes at first then gradually increase your time. Practice anywhere you have a few minutes. Car pool lines, waiting for the coffee to brew, waiting for an appointment or waiting for friends to arrive are just a few that come to mind.

If you have a brain you can meditate. Give it a try. The benefits are numerous and controlling your mind……priceless.

Got Water?

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Got Water?

Summer is upon us and with that an increased need for hydration. It may surprise you that many people drink virtually no water at all and believe they get a sufficient amount in their coffee or tea. Aside from water, coffee and tea each contain caffeine which actually contributes to dehydration instead of resolving it.

This occurs simply by loosing more water than you take in. Each day we diminish our water by evaporating it through our skin, breathing as we exhale, urinating and through fecal material in our stool.

This loss of water can be caused by many things such as:

  1. Heat exposure especially during exercise
  2. Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  3. Burns
  4. Urinary tract infections
  5. Limited water and/or drinking dehydrating beverages such as coffee, tea etc
  6. Fever

Dehydration leads to a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Being thirsty or having a dry mouth is obvious but some symptoms are not so apparent and often go unrecognized. Headache, rapid heart rate, dizziness, rapid breathing, irritabilty and/or confusion, listlessness, muscle cramping, delerium and in a severe state loss of consciousness can all be caused by dehydration. Urine color is also a tell tale sign. Urine color should be pale yellow to clear. Darker urine is indicative of dehydration, but be aware that taking Vitamin B can also create a darker urine color even when you are well hydrated.

While prevention is obviously the best choice, remedying dehydration is fairly simple. Drink plenty of water or drinks with electolytes. Stay away from soda, caffeine and sugar laden energy or sport drinks. While Gatorade is a good hydration source its cousin, G2 contains half the carbs and calories but has the same electolytes for hydration making it a much better choice.

The amount of water we need depends on our weight and the eight glasses/day that you may have heard is not true for everyone. Larger people need more water. Sixty Four to 100 ounces a day is a good rule of thumb for most average weights with increasing amounts during times of exessive perspration, workouts, sickness or burns. If you allow yourself to get dehydrated know that it can take a day or so of consistent hydrating to get back to a proper level of hydration. Alcohol will also dehydrate you. If you are drinking alcohol make sure you drink additonal water. Not only will it keep you hydrated you will drink less alcohol and consume fewer empty calories.

Lastly, let’s not forget our pets. They get dehydrated just as easily so keep their bowls full of fresh water especially if they spend time outside. Fortunately they aren’t nearly as resistant as some of us are and will drink when they are thirsty. As long as the water is available they will generally self regulate well.

If I haven’t convinced you yet that drinking water is critical to virtually every aspect of maintaining a healthy body consider that drinking the proper amount of water water will keep your skin moist, plumped and younger looking. So, please be mindful, good to yourself, drink enough water and stay healthy.

Offense or Defense

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Sports minded or not, most can discern the difference between offense and defense in the sports arena. However, the offense and defense I am referring to is more about how you run your life than how you play on the field. Consider the day-to-day interactions that you have with the people in your life. Ask yourself, are you someone who is prepared for the day or consistently trying to keep up? When having a conversation with someone, are you present and in the moment, or do you find yourself drifting, half listening, half thinking what you will respond with or what they might say next? When there is a problem, is your first response to figure out where the problem is, or to worry, hope and create that it’s not your fault? The answers to these questions can reveal a good bit about how you are running your life.

A while ago my coach had me fill out a questionnaire designed to help me assess how I was running my life. Aside from the intended outcome, that simple exercise revealed much more than I could have imagined. She gave me 8-10 provocative questions, most of which I answered fairly easily but the first, which theoretically should have been pretty easy, was the most significant. She asked me to name 10 things that I had wanted to do in the past year but hadn’t done. Initially, this stumped me because for the most part I pretty much do the things that I want to do, but wanting to be a good student I thought about it for days. Then, I walked into my office at home to get something, looked around and it dawned on me now here is something I have wanted to do for at least five years and haven’t…organize my office. Then I got on a roll answering the question…organize my home office, organize my office at work, clean the garage, go through the old clothes that no longer fit my daughter, organize my closet, etc. I am guessing this may be a common list for many of us.

Later she asked what I felt was the significance of this organizational issue was and after a few excuses I explained that every morning I thought about what absolutely had to be done and if I completed those tasks, I counted the day as a success. So, what kind of energy do you think that generates, she gently prodded. Then I got it! When you run your life by the seat of your pants, you are saying to the universe I am full with all I can handle. Don’t give me one more thing to deal with. Now for some, that may be fine but if you are someone who is trying to create your dreams, living your life on the defense leaves no room for creating what you want. You end up pedaling as fast as you can just to keep up. I was living my life on the defense and totally unaware of it. So, I went on an organizational binge- mostly on trust. The effects were so unusual that if I weren’t experiencing them, you would have had a hard time convincing me that they were happening. My life went from consistently worrying about what I was forgetting to having time to create, spend more time with my family and friends, and feeling a whole lot more peaceful despite the same hectic schedule that I have always had. It was like magic. Then something even better began to happen. I seemed that my whole world was on my team. I went on vacation and when I came back one of the women on my staff greeted me with having cleaned and organized the entire x-ray storage room (also one of those projects that was 5+ years overdue). The thing that was significant about that was that my staff had absolutely no idea that I was doing this “organize my life” project.

So, if it feels appropriate I would ask you to take some time and evaluate what side of the field you are on. Are you playing offense and at ease or defensively stressed? The rewards have been incredible for me and it has afforded me the time to write articles like this and a whole lot more.