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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Positive Mind Stimulation

Continuing with my favorite books related to positive mind stimulation:

Anyone who has attended one of my seminars knows that I put a heavy emphasis on building self-esteem through brain aerobics, rather than tearing it down. Too many of us grew up thinking we were terrible at _______ (math, English, science – fill in the subject of your choice) and as a consequence, doubted our intelligence forever after. Howard Gardner is an educator who long ago wrote that standardized tests missed many of our individualized strengths. He came up with a theory of multiple intelligences, suggesting that we ought to recognize that people who can’t diagram a sentence may be outstanding in other areas, such as music, language, interpersonal skills, or communing with nature. Here are two of Howard Gardner’s books that will help you to recognize other strengths in yourself and your fellow human beings:

  • Five Minds of the Future, © 2007. To order, click here.
  • Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons, © 2006 (This is an update of his original 1993 book on his theory of multiple intelligences.) To order, click here.

One of the authors who was an early inspiration to me is Marge Engelman, who was herself inspired by older women who had thought they were less able to learn than their younger counterparts. After working with older women for many years – when she herself could be considered to be getting on in years herself – she wrote Aerobics of the Mind, which is a delightful book of brain exercises gleaned from many resources. There are word games, optical illusions and games for sharpening the senses, to name just a few. Later, she condensed the exercises to 100 4X6” laminated cards – draw a card and try the exercise. Then in 2006, she produced WholeBrain Workouts – even more brain exercises. There is something here for everyone.

  • Aerobics of the Mind – To order click here.
  • Aerobics of the Mind Cards: 100 Exercises for a Healthy Brain – To order click here.
  • WholeBrain Workouts – To order click here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Brain Humor

So far, much of this blog consists of resources for people who are interested in keeping their minds active, and I suspect that’s going to continue for awhile because the resources are vast. Here are some separated by topic that I think you might enjoy:

Humor and your brain
Humor is a great way to keep your mind strong.
  1. Laughter brings oxygen to your brain to freshen your thinking.
  2. It lowers your cortisol levels, thus lowering your stress levels, and relaxed learners learn more.
  3. It unleashes creativity, because finding the funny side of anything requires a new way of seeing the situation.
  4. It builds rapport, and our social ties broaden our horizons and lift our spirits.

Anyone who tickles your funny bone is good to hang around, whether through a live performance, a book, TV program or video. Seek out what makes you laugh.

Here are a few book recommendations that are just for fun:

  • Everything I Need to Know I Learned From My Cat, by Suzy Becker (A funnily illustrated spoof on Roger Fulgham’s famous book) – To order, click here.
  • Life Laughs Last – To order, click here.
  • Life Smiles Back (These two books are compilations of the amusing final photos in old Life magazines) – To order, click here.
  • The Official Rules and Explanations, The Original Guide to Surviving the Electronic Age with Wit, Wisdom, and Laughter, by Paul Dickson (The rules of our perverse universe that take readers far beyond Murphy’s Law) – To order, click here.
  • Reader’s Digest’s Life in These United States (Excerpted stories from many years of this popular magazine column) – To order, click here.
  • What’s in a Name? Reflections of an Irrepressible Name Collector, also by Paul Dickson – To order, click here.

And here are books for having fun with the English language

These are both prolific authors with a great sense of humor; almost anything you pick up of theirs is likely to be fun.

  • Crazy English, by Richard Lederer – To order, click here.
  • Fractured English, also by Richard Lederer – To order, click here.
  • Made In America, An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, by Bill Bryson – To order, click here.
  • The Mother Tongue, English and How It Got That Way, also by Bill Bryson – To order, click here.


More Resources

One of the hallmarks of my writing has always been to provide practical advice for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in an upbeat manner. When I first started writing about AD, there was essentially only one book that was widely available, and I found it too depressing to be borne. It is still widely distributed, but you won’t find it here, because its ability to instill depression hasn’t changed. But here are four books on Alzheimer’s disease and several related to caregivers’ journeys that are much more helpful:

If you’re looking for basic caregiving books on Alzheimer’s disease, of course I recommend my own. Alzheimer’s Basic Caregiving – an ABC Guide covers:
  • the essential background on the disease
  • the braided elements of AD, depression and pain
  • the basic patterns of progression
  • the logic behind behaviors
  • the real messages behind attempts to communicate

Activities of Daily Living – an ADL Guide for Alzheimer’s Care covers:

  • bathing
  • dressing
  • grooming
  • continence care
  • nutrition and hydration

And how to do it all with relative ease.

These books are available by clicking here. Call 800-999-0795 or write to Kathy@wisernow.com if you are interested in quantity discounts or imprinting your own company information.

But the next question is, who has informed my thinking? The June 12, 2008 blog entry lists some of the books and people whom I most admire in this field and whose books I highly recommend. Here are some more:

People with Alzheimer’s disease speaking their own minds

Over the years there have been dozens of books written (with assistance) by people with Alzheimer’s disease. I highly recommend talking directly to people with AD to get a sense of what that person is experiencing and how he or she wants to be treated, and a number of these are highly informative. It’s always important to keep in mind, “When you’ve met one person with Alzheimer’s disease, you’ve met one person with Alzheimer’s disease.” In other words, each person’s life and experiences are unique. Nevertheless, two of the books which I think provide the best insights are the oldest.

Robert Davis wrote My Journey into Alzheimer’s Disease, almost 20 years ago (© 1989) but the 20 pages of chapter 7, “The Abnormal Changes So Far” are still among the most enlightening I have ever read. Robert Davis was a Presbyterian minister and the rest of the book is heavily weighted with his religious views, which may not be appealing to people whose faith is less intense, but chapter 7 is worth the price of the book. An excerpt:

I have lost my ability to fit patterns and pictures together. . . A jigsaw
puzzle is impossible for me. . . I cannot pack a car trunk. I can’t figure out
how to screw a nut onto a bolt . . . This ability to see spatial relationships
is gone. I sometimes find the same difficulty relating verbal things as well.

Cary Smith Henderson tape recorded his thoughts for Partial View, an Alzheimer’s Journal that was published in 1998. His wonderful insights are interspersed with photographs taken of him by Nancy Andrews, which not only help to break up the dialog, but enrich our vision of the author. An excerpt:

When someone wants me to hurry up, I can’t hurry up – there’s no way to hurry
up. The hurrier I get, the behinder I go, and I think that’s pretty much for
anybody with Alzheimer’s. We can’t be rushed because we get so doggone confused
we don’t know what we’re rushing about.

Finding humor in sorrow

The idea that humor is healing has been around for at least a few thousand years, but the father of the modern movement was Norman Cousins who published Anatomy of an Illness in 1979 about his experiences with using humor to help cure his serious condition. A tidal wave of books and conferences followed.

More than 20 years ago, I attended a conference in Saratoga Springs, NY put on by The Humor Project (http://www.humorproject.com/) which provided many new ideas for getting through tough times with a sense of humor. In recent years I have become active in AATH – The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (http://www.aath.org/) which has enabled me to actually be mentored by some of my heroes in this field. Two of those – whose work I use consistently in my seminars – are Allen Klein and Patty Wooten.

Patty Wooten is a successful nurse, wonderful, worldwide speaker and an actress who becomes funnily immersed in her roles as Nancy Nurse and Nurse Kindheart. Check her out at http://www.jesthealth.com/. She gained notoriety as a serious author on healthy humor by writing Compassionate Laughter in 1996, but I most often quote the book she edited in 1994, Heart Humor and Healing. The latter is a collection of short quotes, such as Helen Lerner’s advice to “Give yourself permission to take an intermission,” and one-page stories that alternate between the heartwarmingly poignant and hilarious. I highly recommend it.

Allen Klein has also written a number of books which are collections of uplifting quotes, as well as serious books on humor’s healing effects. He is most famous for his 1989 book, the Healing Power of Humor, but I most often quote and recommend his 1998 book, The Courage to Laugh, which talks about the use of humor in the face of the most serious illnesses. Here, for example, is a quote by Peter Weingold, M.D. from Allen’s book:

Finding humor in a tragic situation is an extremely healthy step. It is a way of
looking toward the future and of saying that this suffering can be put behind us
. . . Humor is something to strive for and embrace. It is a way of saying
“The tragedy has happened to us, but it does not define us. . . We are still
here. We are still laughing. And therefore we have life and hope.”
  • To order Anatomy of an Illness, , click here.
  • To order Heart Humor and Healing, click here.
  • To order The Courage to Laugh, click here.
  • To order The Healing Power of Humor, click here.
  • To order Lift Your Spirits Quote Book (© 2001), click here.
  • To order Quotations to Cheer You Up (© 2006), click here.
  • To order Up Words, for Down Days (© 1998), click here.