Stop and Smell the Flowers, Lavender Calms the Mind

Essential oils reduce stress and calm the mind.

Aromas act directly on the brain through nerve receptors in the nose.  Millions of nerve cells in our nasal passageways send impulses to the hypothalamus and limbic area, which are the brain’s emotional centers. Aroma of certain oils is linked to the amygdala and pineal gland in the brain, which are also associated with emotion, thus it can help the mind and body by reducing emotional trauma.

Lavender is associated with relaxed brain waves.  Thus, when a child is upset, deep diaphragm breathing coupled with lavender, will have a calming affect on the central nervous system.  Research demonstrates breathing exercises have been successful in reducing anxiety related to attachment disorder, agoraphobia or general anxiety disorder.

Children often need visual reminders to breathe, especially when they are upset.  I make bracelets with lavender scented flowers.  When the child is upset and breathing shallowly, I provide the cue, “Stop and smell the flowers.”  Nine deep breaths are needed to calm the central nervous system.

Additionally, I use essential oils when teaching kid’s yoga and mindfulness. When mixing essential oils, always use oils that are pure and from a respectable source, such as Young Living.  Essential oils should be mixed with a carrier oil such as sesame or olive oil in a specific ratio. So if you can’t find a flower to smell, make one.

References

Di Ciacco, J. A. (2008). The colors of grief: Understanding a child’s journey through loss from birth to adulthood. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Overholser, J.C. (2000). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of panic disorder. Psychotherapy, 37, 247-256.

Splish Splash, Put Magnesium In The Bath

Magnesium is found in dark green leafy vegetables, beans, and peas.  Dietary intake of magnesium is low in the Western diet.  Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions.  This means children need magnesium for optimal brain functioning.

Magnesium may be depleted from the body during stress; therefore, children dealing with chronic stress may be at-risk for a magnesium deficiency. Signs of magnesium deficiency include: anxiety, muscle spasms, constipation, and insomnia. Additionally, Werbach (1991) asserts magnesium has been linked to aggressive behavior.  An excess or deficiency may result in aggressive behavior.  This is hypothesized to be due to magnesium being a cofactor in the activity of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.  Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are neurotransmitters, which means they are brain chemicals that regulate mood and sleep.

Magnesium is easy and inexpensive to supplement.  Magnesium may be added to the bath and absorbed through the skin. Consequently, pouring a cup of lavender scented epsom salt in your child’s bath at bedtime is a fantastic way to supplement magnesium.  The combination of magnesium and lavender may improve sleep, especially when combined with calcium. Rub a dub, your child will be relaxing in the tub. Long about a Saturday night, yeah!

Reference

Werbach, M.R. (1991).  Nutritional Influences on Mental Illness, (2nd ed.). Tarzana, CA: Third Line Press.

Introducing JuicePlus +

Food as Medicine, Introducing Juice Plus+

For over 1,000-years it has been established that psychological functioning may be associated with nutritional deficiencies. Yes, seriously, 1,000-years! In Greece, 2,500-years ago Hippocrates described food as medicine. The body and mind are interrelated and good health maintained by an adequate intake of essential nutrients is linked with good mental health.  Consequently, anything that affects the body will affect mind. So the yummy happy meal your child just consumed will not result in a happy affect, but just the opposite! Ironic, right?

Making sure children maintain a healthy diet can be challenging.  Current data from the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) on micronutrient intake in children found deficit intakes of nearly all minerals and vitamins. How do busy families insure their children’s nutritional needs are met?  By incorporating the next best thing to fruits and vegetables, Juice Plus+, in their diets!

Juice Plus+ is whole food based nutrition with juice powder concentrates from 25 different fruits, vegetables, berries, and grains.  Juice Plus+ helps busy families insure their children eat the essential micronutrients needed for optimal brain functioning.

Juice Plus+ is backed by research from more than 20 prestigious medical and scientific journals. So put down the hoe, there is no need for a garden, simply click on my Juice Plus+ links below and decide for yourself.

Juice Plus Links

juiceplus.com

towergarden.com

Cariboo Yoga

Cariboo Yoga for Children with Autism

Children LOVE to play Cranium Cariboo.

Teaching yoga to children with autism often requires visual props.  Cariboo Yoga is a fantastic way to incorporate visual supports and take the child on a magical treasure hunt.

Cariboo Yoga for Children with Autism

Before starting the game, I read a simple social story that describes the rules and the number of breaths each pose will be held.  (Unsure how to write a social story? Check out this article.)

I choose 15 poses that I want the child to learn.

  • The child must perform each pose for a specified number of breaths, starting with 5 and working up to 10 breaths.
  • I count the breaths out loud with each pose.
  • Before the child can unlock the door to see if a treasure ball is hidden inside, he or she must do the pose with me. While holding the yoga pose, I state the name of the pose several times so the name is associated with the pose. For example, if we are in down dog, I say statements such as “I’m a happy dog.” or Let’s wag our dog tails.”
  • I constantly repeat the name of the pose.
  • Once the child feels comfortable and knows the names of the poses you can slowly integrate flowing between poses and fade the game out.

This is a great way to not only build rapport, but strength, flexibility, and working memory.  Put in a great sea faring playlist and have a good time. After all a pirate’s life is a happy life.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirates life for me!

Fish Oil, Really?

When fish oil is typed into a search engine phrases, including curbs Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms, is the key to unlocking the ADHD brain, and is more effective than Ritalin appear.  But does fish oil really improve attention?  Unlock the brain? Improve autism symptoms?

This is what can be conclusively said about omega-3 fatty acids.  Children with ADHD and autism have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood.  This is believed to be due to an inability to metabolize and absorb some micronutrients. Cognitive and neural growth depends on omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are often lacking in the child’s diet.  A deficit of omega-3 fatty acids may result in not only atypical behaviors, but chronic health problems as well.  When there is an imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats the body has increased inflammation and it changes the balance of fats available to the brain and nervous system, which hinders the child’s brain function.  Recent evidence demonstrates that this imbalance may be associated with a variety of physical and mental health disorders, such as ADHD and autism (Montgomery et al., 2013).

So yes, while it may not entirely unlock the brain.  Fish oil can supplement psychotropic drugs and improve brain functioning in children with a deficit of omega-3 fatty acids.  No need for a fishing pole, just head to a reputable source such as Whole Foods.  After all who wants to take rancid fish oil high in mercury? Happy fishing.

Reference

Montgomery, P., Burton, J. R., Sewell, R. P., Spreckelsen, T. F., & Richardson, A. J. (2013). Low blood long chain omega-3 fatty acids in UK children are associated with poor cognitive performance and behavior: A cross-sectional analysis from the DOLAB study. PLoS One, 8(6) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0066697

Autism and Yoga presentation

Yoga Reduces Core Features of Autism

April is autism awareness month. What better way to spread awareness than sharing great research? I recently presented at the Eastern Psychological Association (EPA) conference in Boston, Massachusetts on yoga as a treatment for autism. I was shocked by the warm reception and positive feedback. After all don’t most psychologists prefer to write on clipboards instead of hanging upside down pretending to be a dog?

Recent research has linked yoga with reducing symptoms related to autism. Rosenblatt et al. (2011) conducted a study with twenty-four children aged 3-16 to determine the efficacy of a relaxation response based-yoga program for eight-weeks. All participants had a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Researchers found yoga improved behavioral and some core features of autism. The improvements are hypothesized to be due to yoga’s ability to target unique sensory symptoms found in children with autism spectrum disorder. Yoga incorporates the proprioceptive and vestibular sensory systems through movement and holding poses, which, in turn, calms overactive central nervous systems. Even though additional studies are needed to conclusively provide evidence of efficacy, research is predominately positive regarding yoga as an adjunct treatment modality for autism.

This is OM-azing news to aide in the treatment of autism! So look for a qualified instructor who has worked with children with autism and release your inner down dog. Namaste.

Reference

Rosenblatt, L., Gorantla, S., Torres, J., Yarmush, R., Rao, S., Park, E., Denninger, J., Benson, H., Fricchione, G.,  Bernstein, B., & Levine. J., (2011). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 17(11): 1029-1035. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0834.

Key Terms

Proprioceptive and Vestibular: These hidden senses give children perceptions of movement and speed, pressure on joints and muscles, and position of our bodies.

Teaching fun, therapeutic, aerial yoga and mindfulness to children