How writing can improve your mood and keep your brain moving forward…

In the process of writing my last post about AI and writing, I learned quite a bit about exactly how good writing is for our brains. First of all I learned that writing by hand is better for the brain than typing. Although a slower task, research indicates that physically writing things down appears to make the writer become more selective in what they write. What’s more, when you pen words on paper, the neurons in your brain fire signals at rapid speed, enabling you to make more neural connections.

Writing is a stimulating yet strenuous activity for the brain. When you write, all parts of your brain are actively engaged. Thanks to the brain’s neuroplasticity, it can grow and change over time. Just as athletes train their bodies, writers can do the same with their brains.

The process of recalling something, writing it down, and reading it back on paper boosts memory and comprehension, leading to improved cognitive processing. Given that many areas of the brain are engaged, the more you write, the more neural connections are formed within your brain.

Writing every day can benefit everyone, not only professional writers. It improves your memory, builds vocabulary, and refines your communication skills. Writing can also be very relaxing, especially if you lead a busy or stressful life.

When it comes to emotional stability and development, writing can be quite therapeutic. Writing gives some structure and organization to anxious thoughts and feelings. It can help the writer feel more in control of their negative moods, thus helping them get past suppressed difficult or traumatic events.

I have always been a avid writer since I first learned how. Writing is my way to have someone to talk to about difficult thoughts or feelings, a way to process my feelings to make me feel better. These days I find writing to be essential to both my mental health and brain health. Although I sometimes find it quite challenging for my brain, I do need this challenge to keep moving forward after a few serious head injuries.

5 Surprising Benefits of Writing by Hand

Will new AI programs replace the art of writing?

OpenAI’s artificial intelligence writing program ChatGPT can compose poetry, prose, song lyrics, essays, even news articles. That has ethicists and educators worried about the program’s ease at replacing human ideas with chatbot-generated words. I can already hear the concerns of educators. What about the process of writing your first term paper? Isn’t that an important part of learning?

In the history of our species there have been a number of reasons to create writing so we could record history. The first hieroglyphics were used by Egyptian priests to record important events like wars or stories about their gods and Pharaohs. These were also used to decorate temples and tombs. Writing has been used to communicate with future generations, entertain others as art (poetry, plays, prose, stories), for history and business. For most of these purposes an AI program would have sufficed to communicate. Most of us may not need to learn how to write a poem, an essay or a term paper if we have no interest and we will never need that skill again. The skill we all need and seems to be sorely lacking in our world today is critical thinking.

For most, writing a term paper may be a useless exercise, but for some of us, writing is a lifeline to sanity. I have made a practice of keeping journals my entire life. This practice of self-analysis has always helped me think through what I am experiencing and process the reasoning behind my choices, my way of delving into something I want to know more about within myself.

Now, after a few serious brain injuries, writing is my lifeline to my former self; how I connect the two worlds, the person I used to be and who I am today. My fine mind has served me well, but now it is exhausting and confusing for me to sit down at my computer and put ideas and feelings together in writing, and yet I believe this is an essential exercise in me still being me. No AI program can do this for me, and it is so worth the effort.

The process of creating is vital to the human brain. Films, music, books, poems, works of art can all be programmed into AI today, but should they be? What about the lived experience of each of us? What about the emotions of living a life?

Writing was created for a purpose, and it has served humanity in so many ways. I feel certain that will continue.

What is great about Spanish Peaks Living?

Nine years ago this month, Mike and I drove down from Fort Collins to choose a few acres in Navajo to buy. We didn’t know much about this area, only that we loved how it felt to our suburban souls. It took us another year to build our passive solar home facing the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with Mount Mestas to our west.

I was reminded again early this morning why I love living here. I woke up around 6:30 AM to see an unobstructed view of a bright red sunrise to our southeast. This is BIG SKY country to me, where the landscape and the silence are the main characters! Every time I go outside in the morning I stop and feel astounded by the silence. This is what the earth used to be like. Maybe a few bird sounds, but otherwise perfect silence…

Sure there are also unattractive features to this area, but the land is encouraging and haunting all at once, and the summers are glorious!

Our first summer here we had so much fun exploring the back roads and back stories, like this dilapidated adobe schoolhouse slowly sinking back into the earth west of here…

or taking the train up to Fir to hear the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band play in a big mountain meadow.

When I first met Mike he said he wasn’t moving again until he could look at something besides the house across the street.

We found this cartoon in a magazine and laughed together about it. Then we went in search of someplace with truly ‘spectacular views.’

We found those here and so much more…

Create Your Own “Lifetime Achievement Award”

While watching the Golden Globes last night, I decided it was time for me to create my own lifetime achievement award. While watching so many ‘stars’ in their fancy outfits, it becomes too easy to undervalue our own achievements, but only we know how difficult it may have been for us to choose a certain life path and achieve what we have in our own chosen endeavors.

Only we know what struggles we have endured to overcome major obstacles to be where we are today.

To identify our own achievements we must first ignore any outside opinions and judgments, because no one knows like we do how hard we may have fought to overcome major fears just to become our best selves today. I know for myself I often wonder why I could not have been more fearless in the choices I have made, and yet I’m sure there are plenty of good reasons for that.

For now just focus on your achievements instead of what you may perceive as your failures. For example, instead of only seeing the failures you have had in your past, focus on the fact that you now enjoy a few wonderful, genuine love relationships.

My list of lifetime achievements includes the fact that I did finally find love, I have put up a valiant fight to be nothing but myself and celebrate that, I have generally followed my dreams, I’ve seen much of the world, and I’m proud and happy with myself at age 67.

If I continue to focus on that, and not on what I haven’t done, than I am indeed a success in my own mind

Ice Dancing is the Perfect Sport (for me!)

If any of you were able to watch the finals of the Free Skate competition this weekend in Finland, you were very lucky! The winning Canadian couple, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, absolutely took my breathe away when they skated their final program to the music from Evita. This was the epitome of artistic beauty completed with amazing ice skating skills. I had it on Peacock so I could watch it over and over again. Such perfection!

I’ll let you in on a secret few know about me. I have absolutely loved ice skating for as long as I can remember. My brother John and I began skating in junior high school. Colorado College had their own ice rink and we got to skate there for free, because my Dad worked at the college. I would go skating as often as I could in high school with my friend Linda Cook, spending hours perfecting our balance, coordination, figures, spins, jumps and hockey stops. In high school during boring classes (like chemistry!), I would dream up skating routines, escaping into dreamy dance routines, music, etc. It was a major focus for my teenage brain and body.

Why? Because I loved the freedom and versatility of skating. After I got good at it I loved to work on skating figures on my edges. The fine tuning required to lean into an edge just the right amount without overdoing it fascinated me. It seemed like the perfect sport, requiring great strength, control and artistry.

Only later I learned about ice dancing. Recently I signed up for Peacock streaming just so I can enjoy all of the international ice skating competitions at length. I especially love that I can watch the skating without all the interruptions of commentators. How rude to talk during these amazing performances! I like the individual events too, but the concentrated coordination of the pairs and ice dancers blow me away.

Now I know I am a true romantic. When I watch them I sometimes feel like I have escaped to the land of sprites and fairies. It is almost unbelievable how the ice dancers swoop and swirl like snow flakes across the ice. If only I could have been an ice dancer!

A new stage of life: Becoming a caregiver!

There are many whom we love, but not all of us are willing to become a caregiver to them. Since I became a caregiver, that distinction interests me. I do understand the urge to avoid taking time out of your own life to be available to help a loved one, but I believe the main reason many of us do not choose to become caregivers is because of the sometimes confusing emotional demands of keeping a loved one going from day to day. Sure most would offer to pick up some groceries or provide other services to their Mom or Dad or sibling, but what about the activities of daily living? What about managing their prescriptions for them or helping them cleanse themselves?

My sister Diane, John and me around 1957 or 1958…

After years of training in emotional caregiving, I am now called to use that training in service to my brother John. My greatest fear at first was to overstep his boundaries by offering more help than he wanted or needed. Just this past week I realized that he so appreciates anything I do for him as his energy and memory continue to fail him. For example, I learned that he can no longer manage his prescriptions and take his drugs on time. I didn’t notice that until he stopped taking his thyroid med and he had all the problems related to that including fatigue, brain fog and severe depression. I got him back on that med as soon as I realized what was going on.

It feels like a lot of responsibility to manage someone else’s life, but I love my brother and I want him to feel better. I can’t imagine not helping him at this point in time. He says he would never go into assisted living or some other care setting like that, so I will continue to help him as best I can.

Here are a few things I have learned about being a caregiver:

Caregivers value and appreciate help from others.

Caregivers take into account their own needs, the persons being cared for, and the other family members involved.

They respect other people’s opinions.

They appreciate the strengths and positive attributes in others and themselves.

They understand that caring for another person consists of letting that person make their own choices without ultimatums.

They wait to be asked for advice.

They are enthusiastic about their role as a caregiver.

They are empathetic and feel love towards the person they are caring for.

They don’t take other person’s words or actions personally.

This is not a job I ever expected to find myself in. I do know it requires patience, compassion, attentiveness, dependability and trustworthiness. I can do that. In fact I cannot imagine not doing it. I just appreciate even more that I’m here to help.