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Cool Tricks You Can Do to Exercise Your Brain

We all know brain health is important, but as we get older and get set into a routine, we run out of opportunities to strengthen our brains. Through the years, your brain’s cognitive reserve—its ability to withstand neurological damage—diminishes. Like any other muscle, a brain needs to be exercised, stretched and challenged to stay strong and avoid atrophy.

So how can you live a brain-healthy lifestyle? By taking steps to work out your noggin! Check out these cool tricks you can practice to exercise your brain and build mental muscle.

  • Play games. Playing daily games like sudoku, crossword puzzles or chess are a simple way to give your brain some exercise. You can play these in a daily newspaper, on a mobile device or even compete with other users online.
  • Do mental math. Nowadays, everyone uses calculators on their mobile devices whenever math is necessary, but you can develop your brain by avoiding this temptation. Mental math is an easy way to give gray matter a workout. If you worry about making a mistake, you can even check the answer after computing in your head.
  • Turn off the GPS. It’s easy to rely on technology and navigate using a GPS or Maps on a mobile device. You can build up your brain, though, by navigating through your memory. Try to recall street names, directions and landmarks all through memory. Your brain gets a workout and you can always go back to the GPS if need be.
  • Switch your dominant hand. If you’re right-handed, try doing simple tasks with your left hand for a while, and vice versa. This stimulates parts of the brain that control muscle memory, giving you an all new challenge. Maybe hold off for a bit on cutting the chicken for dinner, though.
  • Change up your routine. After a time, your noggin gets used to the daily routine established, but switching it up can jog your brain enough to get it pumping and working more than it normally would. Do you shower before brushing your teeth? Try the other way around. Take a different way home from work, shift seats at the dinner table or try taking the dog for an unfamiliar walk around the park.
  • Learn a foreign language. Aprende un lenguaje extranjero. It’s never too late to try something new, and though it may be years since your last Spanish class in high school, learning a foreign language can be a fun way to keep the brain sharp. See if any classes are available at a local community center, a tutor or through an online program.
  • Try a new hobby. Hobbies are excellent mental exercises, and learning something new is a fun way to explore while strengthening your brain. Creative skills such as playing music, dancing and visual art all exercise various parts of the brain and have useful benefits. So go ahead, pick up that guitar and get playing.

When it comes to muscle strengthening, your mental matter is important. Keep your brain sharp and focused by practicing some of these exercises every day. Develop your brain and you’ll be able to continue living a positive, healthy lifestyle.

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8 Tips on Building Positive Relationships

As communal beings, humans were designed to be together. We’re made to interact with each other, to grow, love and learn together. One of the greatest ways to live a well-rounded and happy life is to focus on the relationships you surround yourself with.

Whether they’re familial, romantic or platonic, relationships are vital to beneficial and stable lives. So how can we learn to build positive and enriching relationships? Take a look at these top eight tips for some ideas.

1. Celebrate diversity.
Effective relationship builders realize not everyone has the same opinions, comes from the same background or has the same future goals. Differences like these can create some of the strongest bonds between individuals. Enrich your life by celebrating diversity, stepping out of your comfort zone and getting to know someone different from you.

2. Trust others.
The best relationships are built upon mutual trust and respect between two people. Focus your friendships and partnerships—both old and new—on strengthening trust with each other. When both people in a relationship have trust, the relationship will continue to thrive.

3. Concentrate on listening.
It’s easy to talk, but it’s not so easy to listen. When you practice effective listening in your relationships, you make the other person feel valued. Ask questions, repeat back comments and show interest in what a person says in order to show them how much you care.

4. Pay attention.
Similar to effective listening, paying attention to different aspects helps grow your relationship. Was a coworker late for work and why? How does your friend’s body language show what’s bothering them? By paying attention to the little details that make up a relationship, you validate the other person and strengthen ties between the two of you.

5. Read the room.
Everyone has different personalities, and it’s easy to assume others respond the same way to stimuli as you. When building effective relationships, it’s essential to read others’ personalities and respond to them in complementary ways. Be yourself, but center on the part of yourself which best fits the situation.

6. Put the phone away.
Technology supports our world, but when it comes to relationship building it can be detrimental. If you’re trying to build up your relationships with others, put away the phone for a bit and pay attention to the here and now. Giving people your full attention will strengthen the bonds between you.

7. Practice empathy.
When it comes to relationships, practice the golden rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Put active empathy into play, and think about how you would feel in someone else’s shoes. If a friend feels like you are fully with them in their situation, they will be grateful and the relationship will flourish.

8. Give up your time.
Time is a huge gift, and giving people your time is a valuable way to build effective relationships. Take time to concentrate on others, support them in their endeavors and help them in their struggles. When you give others your time, they will give you theirs.

Living a healthy lifestyle is important, and building strong relationships with others effectively accomplishes this. By focusing on these eight easy tips, you can create effective relationships with others and continue to enjoy a positive and happy wellbeing.

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Executive Director Karen Brown Celebrates 20 Years at Brain Injury Services

Join us in congratulating Karen Brown on her 20th anniversary with Brain Injury Services. As Executive Director she has made a tremendous impact, expanding program services and broadening the organization’s service area to include Northern Virginia communities as far south as the Rappahannock area and as far west as Winchester. During her tenure, Ms. Brown has introduced a number of innovative rehabilitation programs including the Pediatric Case Management program, which was the first of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Brain Injury Services is revered as a leader among brain injury state-funded organizations, its model for brain injury rehabilitative services has been replicated in communities across the Commonwealth of Virginia and around the world.

The Director of the Brain Injury Unit with the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services Patti Goodall had the following to say about working with Karen Brown: “I have enjoyed a long and productive relationship with Brain Injury Services and with Karen Brown in particular. Although DARS has enjoyed a mutually productive relationship with Brain Injury Services since its inception, it was when Karen Brown assumed leadership as Executive Director that we truly came to understand the meaning of ‘working effectively with community partners.’ As a leader, Karen is always seeking new and innovative ways of serving individuals with brain injury. She encourages and supports her staff to be creative, forward-thinking change agents. She often steps outside of her own comfort zone to move Brain Injury Services forward in serving consumers, family members and professionals more effectively. Virginia’s brain injury community has benefited from Karen’s strength, knowledge, expertise, and fearlessness in serving individuals with brain injury and their families.”

With over 40 years dedicated to the rehabilitative field, Karen Brown has worked at the state level and local level to ensure families connect with the services and resources needed. She has hosted multiple regional health conferences and has been involved with more than 20 professional organizations. She serves on George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services Advisory Board and Ohio Valley Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council. She has served as adjunct faculty at George Washington University, teaching several courses as well as supervising practicum and internship students in their master’s level counseling program.

Under Ms. Brown’s leadership, Brain Injury Services has acquired and maintained accreditation through CARF (Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities). This accreditation is awarded to organizations whose programs focus on results and service delivery. Moreover, in 2014 Brain Injury Services was awarded the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Nonprofit of the Year’ award. Ms. Brown’s work at Brain Injury Services has helped to ensure that survivors are given opportunities to build the skills and confidence needed to lead a fulfilling and productive life.

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Meditation and How It Can Improve Your Life

We’ve all heard of meditation before. The technique is deep mental reflection used for relaxation, heightened energy and developed well-being. Meditation has existed for centuries, but just recently have researchers begun to truly understand the benefits it can give us.

What used to be considered a strange and unreliable exercise has now grown in popularity to impact all of society; Oprah, NFL players, even the U.S. Marine Corps have tried it.

Truth is, meditation is powerful. If you’re still unsure whether or not the practice is worth looking into, check out these top ways meditation can help improve your life.

Mental Merit

  • Decreased levels of anxiety.
  • Improved processing of information.
  • Preserved brain matter during the aging process.
  • Heightened concentration ability.
  • Stronger memory retention and recall.
  • Better problem solving and decision making abilities.
  • Increased clarity and peace of mind.

Physical Fitness

  • Strengthened immune system.
  • Lowered blood pressure.
  • Heightened energy level through an inner source of energy.
  • Decreased tension-related pains, such as headaches, muscle and joint problems.
  • Improved breathing and heart rates.
  • Slowed aging process.
  • Lessened premenstrual and menopausal pain.

Emotional Excellence

  • Increased serotonin production for improved mood.
  • Expanded levels of optimism and awareness.
  • Improved emotional steadiness and harmony.
  • Enhanced self-esteem and self-acceptance.
  • Decreased levels of depression.
  • Heightened resilience against pain and adversity.
  • Prevented self-destructive emotional activities, such as eating or smoking.

When it comes to meditation, these benefits are only the tip of the iceberg. The practice has been shown to drastically improve quality of life, and studies have just begun to research it.

Try it out for yourself by taking a short time each day in the morning or evening to practice deep breathing, quiet mental activity and self-reflection. Let your thoughts go without having to react to them. Once meditation becomes a part of your daily routine, you’ll see its benefits become a regular part of your life.

So next time you’re feeling stressed out, physically exhausted or emotionally deprived, try meditating for a little while. You may be surprised at just how great you’ll feel.

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5 Ideas to Honor Our Troops on the Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day! Today be sure to grill out, eat lots of food and light off incredible fireworks. Yet the Fourth of July can also be a time for self-reflection and honoring the servicemen and women who have given themselves for our country.

Independence Day celebrates the United States’ sovereignty, culture and freedom. You can be a part of that by taking advantage of these 5 ideas to honor our nation’s troops.

1. Help out a military family.
When it comes to freedom, our military families know the cost. They’ve given up their loved ones to stand on the front lines and protect us. This Fourth of July, let a military family in your community know that their sacrifice is valued and appreciated.

Find a family near you to help out and give back to through food, time or basic essentials. Let this be a chance to connect with those in your community and celebrate with the families who understand that freedom isn’t free.

2. Send a soldier a care package.
Sending care packages and letters to our troops overseas is a great way to celebrate U.S. independence and give back. Our soldiers have given so much of themselves for us; now is the time to share our gratefulness with them.

Different organizations that help send troops letters and care packages include anysoldier.com, adoptaplatoon.org and thehugsproject.com. Instill in your family a sense of gratitude and patriotism, while brightening the day of those who need it most.

3. Explore United States history.
A lot has happened in the U.S. since the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. As Abraham Lincoln said, “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.”

This Independence Day, take time to explore some of the history in the United States. Not only will you learn more about where we come from, but you’ll gain a higher sense of patriotism, respect and honor for where we are and where we’re going.

4. Volunteer for a local cause.
There are a variety of volunteering opportunities available during the Fourth of July season. Whether it’s as simple as running a fireworks stand, or helping to host a parade in your community, getting involved locally honors those around you and those overseas.

By volunteering, not only do you give back to fellow community members, but you respect the cause and mission our troops support. If you’re looking for something to get involved in, try checking out volunteermatch.org for Independence Day ideas.

5. Spend time with your family.
Finally, be sure to spend quality time with your family this Fourth of July. There are many servicemen and women who can’t be with their families today, or who never made it home. You can honor them by valuing the time that you have with your loved ones.

Celebrate the holiday with those you care about by doing more than lighting off fireworks. Read a short story about the origin of Independence Day, give gratitudes for what you’re most thankful for and talk about how you can continue to live a patriotic life.

The Fourth of July is a uniquely American tradition. Today, celebrate our freedom by honoring those who payed the price for us. Give back and commemorate the United States’ life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.