Brainy Choices for Brain Health

I don’t do a lot of book reviews now that I’m not hosting a radio show. It was always such a blast to talk to the people who are smart and passionate enough to create something of value to read. These days I’m relegated to the armchair, only able to judge the book, well, by the book…not how entertaining the author is to chat with.

I do want to share some of my thoughts on The Brain Warrior’s Way by Daniel and Tana Amen. (What a great last name!)

This book isn’t a boring reference tool. It’s easy to read and engaging. The authors set out to inspire and motivate us to do better. Look at the first two sentences on page one:

“The war for your health is won or lost between your ears, in the moment-by-moment decisions your brain makes every day. When your brain works right your decisions are much more likely to be effective and add laser-like focus, energy and health to your life.”

That sure got my attention, even with my limited-focused brain. They say if your brain is functioning at its best, just about everything in your life will get better: mood, memory, weight, relationships, work… I’m listening.

The authors want us to understand that everyone has a “brain type” and that it’s really helpful to know what yours is. You might want to start by visiting the site to help you figure yours out. Once you know, it will probably make you want this book even more.

What I especially appreciate about the way it’s written is that after (or even before) you read the book, you can flip to practical tips and actions to take to improve your brain battle.

If you haven’t heard how important it is to drink water, you haven’t been paying attention. The Amens spell it out and help us realize this is a critical part of brain health. (Diet Dr. Pepper doesn’t enhance brain function.)

There is a section on how the glycemic load impacts your brain and which foods will hurt or help the effort. They talk about the value of eating good stuff during the day to avoid low blood sugar, then fasting for 12 hours at night.

The list of foods to help mental, emotional and cognitive abilities is long and full of stuff you like to eat. It’s not all hemp seeds and kombucha.

Training your brain includes taking some intentional actions like starting the day with gratitude, getting plenty of sleep,  physical exercise, and stretching your mind. There is also a spiritual component to improving your brain function; the authors recognize who created it.

Some of these changes might be challenging at first if you’re not in the habit now, but the stories of people who’ve started these practices and dramatically repaired their brains will let you see how it’s done.

With the pervasive number of people dealing with depression, anxiety, ADHD and complete exhaustion, this book can be a life-line. When you feel bad enough, you begin looking for help and are willing to make necessary changes. The Brain Warrior’s Way is a great place to start (even better for those who aren’t suffering but want to be their best).

The truly great news I got out of this book is that we aren’t stuck with the brains we’ve got. We can heal and re-train them to be amazing by making brainy choices.

12 Tips for a Vacation Plan with Less Stress

*Re-blogged from previous post

Whether you’re young and single, married with children or empty-nesters with loads of money there are a few basic things you can do to make your trip much more fun. Here are 12 tips for a vacation plan with less stress.

12 Strategize- Ponder your destination in advance. What are your preferences? (Sunny beaches, cool pine forests, active night life) Once you’ve decided where to go, check out what there is to do there so you don’t miss anything or waste your precious vacation time researching. Get individual input from others joining you so everyone feels satisfied, including the kids. Determine how you’ll arrive at your destination and the best lodging options to meet your needs. Vacation Rentals By is a great site to investigate.

*For free travel guides check this out: click here.

11 Fully Medicated- Pack a little kit with any meds you might need (Children’s Tylenol, Ibuprophen for hangover, Band-Aids for blisters from new shoes, antacid tablets for the rich food). Your doctor may even be willing to give you a prescription for an antibiotic if you are prone to sinus or ear infections—”just in case” –it stinks to spend half a day at the beach clinic. Been there!

10 Vehicle Maintenance- Have the mechanic do a once-over on you car. Check hoses, tires, belts and fluids. A break-down means a stalled vacation. Been there too!

9 Coupons, Bargain Days- Major attractions and museums sometimes offer discount days, local restaurants may offer early-bird specials and always look online prior to your trip for coupons. Google: “coupons” plus your destination city.

8 Local Cuisine- Find out where the locals eat and go there. Chains are fine because you know what you’re getting but it’s fun to venture out. Locals won’t keep a place open if it isn’t good. Avoid tourist trap eateries. Check out the Food Network for regional dining options. Burgers at Hodads , Ocean Beach…mmm!

7 Think: Action!- Some sitting around and enjoying the scenery is fine, bus tours are great for an over-view but unless you have a disability get out and move! Most of us pack on the pounds while traveling. To prevent this and enhance your trip try hiking the local trails; renting a bike to cruise the boardwalk, do a Segway tour; paddle boats, kayaks and canoes for a water experience.

6 Give Me A Break!- I believe that parents and children need a break from each other. If possible, bring along a teenager or grandma to help with those breaks or contact a local service with great credentials to hire childcare for a romantic night out. Parents (single or married) need a little adult time, so include this in your plan.

5 Efficient Packing- Know the climate and suitable attire. Wear things more than once, find a laundry service and layer up. Avoid checking luggage on planes to prevent losing bags and delays at the terminal.

4 Pace Yourself – While it’s tempting to try to see and do everything, if you pack too much in you’ll be exhausted, have less in your bank account and won’t likely remember all of it. Prioritize your activities and plan to come again if you don’t see everything. Get a little rest. Each activity will be more fun if you’re refreshed.

3 The More The Merrier- Unless you’re on a honeymoon it can add a fun dimension to travel with friends. Another couple allows for women to have a little girl time, maybe getting a pedicure while the guys catch a game on TV at the local pub. Another family provides children with a new friend instead of just a sibling. Conversations are more lively and fresh when additional folks are involved.

2 Be Flexible- Travel delays, bad weather, illness, sold-out events and more happen in life and on vacation. Expect it and roll with it. Don’t let the little things ruin your trip. Your attitude is contagious. If you can bounce back from unexpected challenges or disappointments, so will the rest of your group.

Numer Ono: PRAY-  Ask for wisdom as you plan, safety as you travel, provision to stretch you dollars, patience in big measure and that you’ll be blessed with a lasting precious memory…don’t forget to say thanks that you’re even able to take a vacation, because not everyone can. Any Chevy Chase “Vacation” Experiences to share? More suggestions?

Cheers To Your Health

Maybe you have room for one more toast to the new year? If so, cheers to your health. Managing polypharmacy can be an overwhelming piece of the puzzle but Dr. Cathy Rosenbaum has some helpful tips in this post. She also talks about the relationship between faith and fitness.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

Cheers To Your Health

Excerpts from “Don’t Sweep It Under the Drug! Integrating Evidence-Based Body Mind and Spiritual Practices into Your Health and Wellness Tool Kit”
by Dr. Cathy Rosenbaum

The Prescription Drug Industry.  Who Moved the FDA’s Cheese?

The time is right for doctors to consider different ways to reduce the need for drugs (e.g., drug holidays, alternate drug regimens) as well as encourage their patients to try noninvasive, evidence-based, holistic regimens including lifestyle changes, stress management, and good nutrition and exercise programs.

Herbs, Other Dietary Supplements, and Nutrition.  Dance partners or Double Edged Swords?

Herbs and other dietary supplements can be found easily at health food stores, grocery stores, retail pharmacies, gas stations, chiropractic offices, some doctors’ offices, and online.  In addition, commercially grown or homegrown herbs and their active constituents are used as medicine in the forms of teas, cooking spices, whole foods, herbal butter, herb-infused oils, topical creams, decoctions, tinctures, extracts, and essential oils for topical aromatherapy.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Brave New World

Here are some things to remember when selecting a CAM practitioner:

*       Gather information on CAM practitioners in your area before you visit one.
*       Contact a national or state professional organization for the type of practitioner you are seeking.
*       List questions you wish to ask your CAM practitioner at your first visit.  Examples include the benefits and risks you could expect from the therapy, how long you would need to undergo treatment, whether the practitioner has scientific literature supporting the therapy, and how many patients the practitioner has treated with the same type of symptoms as yours.

Personalized Health and Wellness:  The Eight-Balance Point Model for Healing

When you are ready to establish your health goals, the Eight-Balance-Point Model for Healing is a framework that can be used as a template to begin implementing change.  The eight balance points include interventions for physical health, healthy nutrition and supplements, exercise, restorative sleep, emotional health, relationship health, environmental health, and spiritual health.  Think of them as steps on your health ladder.  The top rung of your ladder is spiritual health.

Combating Superstress with Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery is an evidence-based CAM practice.  Guided Imagery allows the student to relax and focus on mental images associated with health issues they want to confront and move past.  People coping with stress-related
problems – such as high blood pressure and a rapid heart rate – can be asked to imagine a place where there is no stress.

Aromatherapy: Lavender’s Blue (Dilly, Dilly)

Essential oils can evoke our emotions to help us imagine a place of peace. Lavender is a versatile essential oil and can be used to enhance sleep, to relax, and to relive stress.

Spiritual Renewal: Exploring Life’s Mysteries

We will end on the aspect of spirituality – that ongoing relationship with God or a higher power, regardless of whether one is physically and emotionally healthy or unhealthy.  No universal definition for spirituality exists, yet spiritual awareness is essential to our very being.  Struve reports that patients experience healing through prayer at some time in their lives and value doctors’ inclusion of spiritual questions as a more comprehensive source of encouragement.

Empowerment, Accountability, and Belief

Chuck Swindoll writes, “The most significant decision I make each day is my choice of an attitude.  When my attitudes are right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for
me.”  Believe in the elegance of simple living.  Herbert Benson MD, professor of medicine at Harvard, states, “I am astonished that my studies have so conclusively shown that our bodies are wired to believe.  Believe in something good if you can.  Or even better, believe in something better than anything you can fathom.”

Due for an “I” Check

My amazingly gifted and successful author/friend Vicki Kuyper nails some pretty important truths in this post. Read, comment and share. You might win a copy of her book, “A Tale of Two Biddies: A New Wrinkle on Aging with Grace.”

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

Due for an “I” Check

by Vicki Kuyper

Nope. I’m not Diane. But I do know her, and having been interviewed on her radio show in the past, I feel as though I know a bit about you, as well. One thing we share in common is that we’re all older than we were last year. Aging happens. That’s what my book, “A Tale of Two Biddies: A New Wrinkle on Aging with Grace,” is all about. Here’s an excerpt I think we can all relate to:

We grow old in the blink of an eye. However, growing up takes considerably longer. Some of us never really do, even though we live into our 80s and beyond. That’s because growing up involves maturing and maturing involves change. And change is hard.

We like our ruts. We eat the same thing for breakfast. Hang out with the same friends. Wear the same mom jeans we wore when our children were young—if we’re lucky enough to not have bumped up the waist size a time or two. Our favorite songs are the same ones we played on our car radio back when those bands were actually on top of the charts, instead of touting their fourth Farewell Reunion Tour.

But what if the ruts we’ve worn into our lives are leading us somewhere we never intended to go? What if we’re selfish, mean-spirited and cynical? Not that we see ourselves that way. What we see when we look in the mirror may be an independent, truth-telling realist. Of course, if we need reading glasses to decipher a price tag, perhaps the way we see ourselves has also grown a bit fuzzy over time. We may be way past due for an “I” check.

Who are we…really?

The older we get, the more stuck in our ruts we become. That means there’s no better time to re-evaluate our habits, our worth, our faith and our future than right now. Let’s trade in that Bucket List for a Becoming List. What kind of biddy do we want to become?

Getting older is a privilege. It’s a gift not everyone receives. So how do we accept it with open arms and enjoy it with a hopeful heart in spite of the challenges it brings our way?

Deuteronomy 30:19 niv says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life.” We can’t control the aging process. But we do have a choice as to how we’re going to face each day that comes our way. Each choice we make helps shape our heart, as well as our life. We can choose what draws us closer to God and closer to becoming the women God created us to be. That’s life at it’s finest.

But the choice is up to us. Just ask my Mom.

My mother excels at choosing life. Over a decade ago she had a series of life-threatening strokes. After awaking from a coma, she had to relearn to swallow, eat, walk, read and so much more. Every day was a challenge. She spent months in a rehabilitation hospital, many more months recovering at home and years continuing to slowly regain most of the abilities she’d lost.

Now in her 80s, my mom takes line dancing classes, goes to the gym and loves to travel. Just a few months ago, last year we flew to London to take a Transatlantic cruise, just the two of us. Mom said when she told her friends at The Village (her retirement community) about her upcoming trip, not one of them wanted to go. As a matter of fact, she said they really weren’t interested in going any farther than The Village’s front door.

“They’re alive,” she said, “but they’re already dead.”

She was so right. We choose life, or death, every day. So, fellow biddy-in-training, which will you choose today?

Renewed Sense of Get-it-together

Jesus. No, that was not a cuss word. I just like to randomly throw His name out there so I remind myself to pay attention and to remind Him to pay attention to me.

While He’s supposed to be the reason for the season, I’m not sure how He’d feel about the Christmas weight I’ve gained and my depleted bank account. But that was last year. Now I’m looking in a forward direction toward 2016 with optimism and a renewed sense of get-it-together.

I’m determined not to let my stiff, flabby body get any stiffer or flabbier. Really. Watching some of the elders in my midst over the holidays I was reminded that I (and YOU) will be there one day in the future. I want to be the old woman who can get up out of a chair and walk without looking like a drunk toddler. That means right this very minute I have to be more serious about recapturing some of my escaped fitness. I wish I had a buddy to work out with…in the past that has been the butt-kicking factor to keep me faithful. Anybody? Bueller?

The next best thing would be a trainer (which is wonderful when you actually want to make your exercise excursion count for something), but second on my list of do-better-in-2016 is be wiser with my spending. Better hold off on that trainer.

I ordered a fitbit (everyone in my family has one and constantly talking about how many steps they’ve walked… blah blah blah). Maybe this ugly piece of jewelry will shame me into shape. It’s 11 AM and I’ve already hit 6200. (Oh no, I sound like them! Sorry.)

As far as over-spending goes, I’m mostly challenged on gift-giving (one of my love languages…so there’s that) and eating out. I love to eat (especially when someone else cooks and cleans up) so maybe that’s a new love language to add to the list? Something to consider.

I guess just because they are delightful to me, avoiding exercise, eating out and spending are not hobbies I should keep. Awareness is the first step to change, right? I’m going to try to leave those little habits in the archives of 2015.

What’s hard for you to give up or correct? Is it far out on the hazy horizon or smack in front of you beeping like a radar? If 2016 is truly your year to get-it-together, I pray you’ll stay committed and have bodacious bragging rights next December.



Take Five

This will only take about 12 seconds to read because I know that’s all the time you have during the busy holiday season.

I’m hoping I can encourage you to look up from this post, and out a window or at your Christmas tree and just breathe for a couple seconds. Stop the insanity of shopping, partying, cooking/eating, drinking and playing catch-up at work… and be still for a moment.

Relax your shoulders that are probably up around your ears. Open your mouth (best way to relax your clinched jaw) and let go of the stress that has crept up on your poor body over the last few weeks.

Recall something kind or funny someone said to you in the last 24 hours and savor it.

Take just a tiny bit of time to talk to God:

  • Thank Him for how you’ve been blessed (even on our worst days we can find something to be grateful for).
  • Ask Him to reveal Himself to a world that is not only busy, but lost and afraid.
  • See what He has to say about His love for you because that love is not based on how pretty your hair looks, your ugly sweater, your job performance or how expensive the gift you purchased.

Now- go back to what you were doing, but Take Five and repeat this as often as possible. Others will see the difference.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Diane Markins

Rest Up! Tips for Better Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 48% of Americans report insomnia occasionally, while 22% experience insomnia every, or almost every night.

That’s a lot of people staring at the ceiling or watching infomercials at 2 AM. And lack of sleep is no joke. Just a few of the effects of sleep loss include:

  • Weight gain and inability to lose weight
  • Impairs cognitive processes (makes you dumber)
  • Reduces sex drive (well that should get your attention)
  • Contributes to mood disorders (I know I’m no prize when I’m tired, but we’re talking about clinical depression and anxiety)
  • Causes poor judgement (drinking Monster at midnight is awesome!)
  • Accelerates the aging process (and it shows!)
  • Leads to serious health problems (think heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes)

The Bible talks about sleep and rest hundreds of times. It is impossible to fulfill your daily to-do list, let alone your divine calling if your body and mind aren’t fully charged. Just like a low battery, you tend to run out of juice and perform poorly. Who can rely on anything (or anyone) with a faulty battery?

I know- you’re thinking, “I’ve heard all this and don’t like watching blender commercials at 3 AM, but what can I do? I’ve tried everything.”

I doubt it. Just as with other health concerns, people don’t want to make lasting changes to their lives. They try something a time or two and revert to the same old habits.

Here are a few simple tips:

  • Walk it off. (Or run, dance, swim…) Make sure your body is as tired as your mind.
  • Limit the uppers and downers. A cup of coffee in the morning may be fine but not afternoon. It might seem like booze will make you drowsy but it can really disrupt your sleep.
  • Shut off your devices. While they charge up, so will you.
  • Pray. Turn your overactive thoughts and worries into a conversation with God.
  • Don’t nap so your body begins to really need sleep at night.
  • Use good scents. Essential oils are truly helpful. Rub on a little lavender or diffuse some Peace and Calming to unwind. If you (or the person next to you) snores, peppermint oil on the schnoz is often extremely effective.
  • When you can’t sleep, get out of bed and read (Bible is always a good choice) or bake or something that will keep you engaged (besides TV and social media interaction) for 30 minutes, then back in the sack for 30 minutes. Repeat until you fall asleep. It’s useless to stay in bed longing for sleep for more than 30 minutes. After a few nights of this (remember no naps!) you are probably going to be sleep-deprived enough to nod off during an episode of Homeland. This method can really reset your sleep pattern!

God wouldn’t include “sleep” and “rest” in so much of His book if it wasn’t important. Take it seriously and make the changes necessary to honor the sacred temple your body is meant to be.

Have you dealt with sleep problems? Do you have any stories or tips you could share?

What’s Your Addiction?

From cocaine to chimichangas, marijuana to Mercedes, heroin to Hermes, we all have addictions of sorts. Things we really like. A lot… and don’t want to do without. Some may be perfectly fine, but some may need to be left in the dust.

In order to write this I have to be really honest and humble because it may not be pretty. After doing a little soul-searching (for some people that would be spelled sole-searching), I’ve come up with a list of the things I’d rather not give up. Here’s some “addiction affliction conviction.” (I couldn’t help myself.)

Given that a big part of my purpose and platform (another shoe double entendre) is helping people discover Who they are, your identity must be ground zero for uncovering your addictions.

As a woman who likes to be clean, I’d have a hard time giving up my shower and toilet. I’ve been camping and those things aren’t optional. I’ve also visited a tribal community in Zimbabwe where the “facilities” was four aluminum walls, about 5’ high with a hole in the ground. It made me really appreciate not having to pop a squat.

Writing and communicating are a part of my DNA. Using a yellow pad and a number 2 pencil would work, but just not the same as my computer. I pound on my keyboard without giving any thought to what my hands are doing. Don’t make me go back to the dark ages of journalism.

And while we’re on it, I’d have a tough time saying adios to my cell phone. It saves me tons of time and effort to be in contact with people. I’d rather not have to stash my quarters and search for pay phones… wait, do they still make those?

While I value a good session at the gym, I usually look for a close parking spot so I don’t have to walk very far to get inside. (Oh, stop it! I can feel your eye rolls.) I confess, I really really really enjoy driving a comfortable vehicle. I often say a prayer of thanks when I think of the pioneers who traveled to the sweltering desert I live in via covered wagon. I also say prayers for (and hand out water bottles to) those who aren’t blessed with the same means of transportation as me.

Air conditioning in my house is also high on my list. Temperatures can reach 120 degrees and a person can only sweat so much. In Phoenix, AC is not luxury, it’s a must-have.

If I were to create a much longer list, you might see TV shows like Nashville and Modern Family or foods like dark chocolate and enchiladas. I can live without those but I sure do enjoy them.

If we’re honest, we all have addictions. For the most part, mine aren’t too unhealthy, but still, they are things– material objections that I’m pretty attached to. Maybe we all need to do a little inventory of our addictions and make sure we aren’t being defined by them. Even more importantly, that no material thing becomes an idol. It could be time to step away if so. When things begin to enslave you, even the most wonderful of them will rob your freedom.

Are you willing to give it up here and share your guilty pleasures or addictions?


Worry is a Killer

Did you know that about 40 million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety disorder and that surveys say 80% of people feel stress about their jobs? When you add the worry of parenting, driving, paying bills and home repair, it can become a pressure cooker in your brain.

Stress will (not might) impact your physical health. From weight (loss/gain), interest in sex and sleep patterns to serious illness, stress can kill you. Relationships, job performance and joy are often impacted as well. Even your relationship with God can take a big hit.

While most people don’t have to fend off wild beasts like our Neanderthal ancestors, the “fight or flight” response is a part of our genetic makeup. A strong-willed toddler, a demanding boss or an unkind neighbor can trigger a massive surge in adrenal glands, leaving you depleted and exhausted.

Now for the good news. You don’t have to live like this. Michael Ross (award-winning journalist and editor formerly with Focus on the Family) shared some great tips on how to make transformative choices based on medical, as well as Biblical research. His book (coauthored with Dr. Arnie Cole) is called Worry Free Living; Finding Relief from Anxiety and Stress for You and Your Family. This might be the prescription you’ve been waiting for… and you can win a copy if you comment below. How do you manage stress? What toll has it taken on your family?

Listen to my interview with Michael Ross. Bold Living airs Saturdays at 11:05 AM MST on FaithTalk 1360 AM and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and from my website.  Diane Markins 

Myths about Dietary Supplements

There is an ongoing debate about whether “alternative” and naturopathic treatments are valid. Holistic clinical pharmacist, Founder & CEO of Rx Integrative Solutions Dr. Cathy Rosenbaum joins me on August 9th. Hear a unique, refreshing, and thought provoking discussion on debunking myths about herbs, vitamins, and other dietary supplements from the perspective of a pharmacist.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

Debunking Myths about Herbs, Vitamins, and Other Dietary Supplements

by Dr. Cathy Rosenbaum

Dr. Rosenbaum is a traditionally trained pharmacist with practice experience in the pharmaceutical industry, academia, hospital based practice, medication quality and safety, and holistic medicine consulting. In 2002, Dr. Cathy had the privilege of traveling to China to study herbal research and global health care solutions. This was a trip that would change her professional life & mission forever and bring her closer to Christ in the workplace.

She believes that Americans are worshiping at the prescription drug altar and that there is a more scriptural based path to healing through back to basics living and through Christ! There are many types of interventions including supplements and medications for the body, but that’s only the beginning. Emotional and spiritual healing must be addressed as well.

Dr. Cathy works with traditionally trained physicians and non traditional medicine practitioners in helping people navigate through the health care maze. She stands in the gap between both professional worlds as a patient and physician advocate. Please visit Dr. Cathy’s website at for more information on her private wellness consultations.

*Share your thoughts on vitamins, herbs and other natural remedies. Ask Dr. Cathy a question you’ve been trying to get answered.