When people join their voices in song, their hearts speed up, slow down and (figuratively) swell in unison while much of the brain activity synchronizes as well. It’s probably the same phenomenon experienced by field workers, worshipers, soldiers, and attendees of sport-ing events through the ages. But it might also be harnessed for strengthening working relationships in teams and at schools, say the Swedish researchers who explored the effect of choral singing on cardiac synchrony. Released recently in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience is the latest research to explore the health benefits of making music. Cognitive scientists have found that learning to play a musical instrument can have long-term cognitive benefits, and listening to music can lower blood pressure, ease pain, and provide connections to happier, healthier times and memories.
The Swedish researchers found that in individuals, singing of several different kinds imposes a calm breathing pattern, and increases heart rate variability – the routine changes in heart rate that are considered a measure of “good autonomic tone.” The long exhalations that singers use to sing long phrases appears to stimulate the vagus nerve, slowing the heart and achieving the kind of relaxation seen in practitioners of yoga.
The researchers explored the heart rate variability of 15 healthy 18-year-olds with choral experience who sat in a circle and, between reading emotionally-neutral material, sang together. For five minutes, they hummed, maintaining a single tone and breathing at will. For another five minutes, they sang “Fairest Lord Jesus” accompanied by a pianist. And for another five minutes, they repeatedly sang 10-second relaxation mantras, with instructions to inhale only between mantras. While humming together did little to unify their heartbeats, singing “Fairest Lord Jesus” and singing mantras together very quickly brought the group members’ heart rates into virtual synchrony compared to the reading period.
Based on this study, it would seem that music and singing are beneficial to our health and well-being. Also singing in a group provides entertainment and companionship among people as well as the benefits listed.
This would be a good reason to consider singing in the Mount Calvary choir. If you are interested in joining our church choir, please let it be known to Pastor Diehl, Roger Rudy, Karen Estep, or any choir member. I know they would be happy to have you join the group. Let us make a joyful noise unto the Lord. (Don’t forget the bell choir!)
Gloria L. Chambers, RN, FCN
May 2015: Spring Allergies
With allergy season starting early in some parts of the United States, and pollen counts higher than normal in others, you may be hearing more allergy related complaints than usual. Common allergy symptoms noticed in the spring include a runny nose and frequent sneezing. You can’t completely avoid seasonal allergens, but you can reduce your signs and symptoms and minimize your exposure with these simple reminders:
Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
Gloria L. Chambers, RN, FCN, Parish Nurse
Concerned about memory loss? Everyone forgets things occasionally. Each day, we can do simple things to improve our memory. The Mayo Clinic offers these seven tips to improve memory.
1. Stay mentally active. Mentally stimulating activities help keep the brain in shape and memory loss at bay. Completing cross-word puzzles, reading a section of the newspaper we normally skip, taking alternative routes when driving – each of these simple things stimulate the brain. Learning to play a musical instrument and volunteering at church or in a local community organization can also contribute to better memory.
2. Socialize regularly. Social interaction helps ward off depression and reduces stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Get together with family and friends. When we’re invited somewhere, don’t say “no” – GO!
3. Get organized. We’re more likely to forget things if our home is cluttered and in disarray. Jot down tasks, appointments, and other events in a note-book or calendar. Set aside a certain place for the wallet, purse, keys, etc.
4 .Focus. Limit distractions; don’t try to do too many things at once. If we focus more on information we’re trying to remember, we’ll be more likely to recall it.
5. Eat a healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet is as good for our brain as it is for our heart. Focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources such as lean meat, skinless poultry, and fish.
6. Include physical activity in daily routines. Physical activity increases blood flow to our whole body, including the brain, and may help sharpen our memory.
7. Manage chronic conditions. Follow the doctor’s treatment recommendations for any chronic conditions: thyroid problems, high blood pressure, depression, etc. The better we take care of ourselves, the better our memory is likely to be.
If memory loss is a worry – especially if it affects the ability to complete usual daily activities – consult a doctor. Responsive treatment will depend on what’s contributing to the loss of memory.
All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made.
August 2015 - Making the Most of Your Doctor Visit… and Your Doctor’s Time
With the newest technology and changes in health care deliverance, a doctor’s time is stretched very thin. It can be helpful and to your advantage to take an active role in your health care. Here are some tips to help.
List any symptoms that are bothering you. Have these symptoms changed since your last visit? Note when the symptoms started and what seems to help.
Make a list of all medications you take, including vitamins and over-the-counter drugs. Many doctors prefer you actually bring your medications with you to your appointment.
Know what your allergies are and how they affect you.
If you don’t understand your health care provider, ask questions until you do understand. Be sure to understand your diagnosis and prescribed treatments. Ask your provider to write down instructions. (I find I have to write everything down these days.) What is your diagnosis? What is the cause? Can it be treated? Should you watch for any particular symptoms and notify the doctor if they occur? Should you make life-style changes?
Understand any testing which is recommended. What kinds of tests do you need? What does the doctor expect to learn? When will you know the results? How must you prepare for these tests? Are there any risks or side effects? Will you need more tests later?
What is the treatment for your condition? When will it start and how long will it last? What are risks and side effects of treatment? What foods and/or activities should you avoid during treatment? What should you do if you miss a dose of medicine? Are other treatments available?
Writing down things to tell your doctor and things to ask your doctor, then asking those questions makes for better use of time with your doctor. Writing down things you need to remember from the appointment or having a trusted advocate with you also makes for better use of the appointment time.
To your good health!
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.
Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing songs.
Gloria L. Chambers, RN, FCNback to top
October 2015 - THE SKIN YOU’RE IN*
[A few months ago, Pastor Diehl came across this article. I’m happy to share it with you here.]
Your skin covers every inch of you, keeping you at a comfortable temperature and allowing you to enjoy the sensation of touch. Without it, you would literally evaporate! A miracle of engineering, your skin is an insulating shield that stretches
for some 20 square feet and weighs a total of 8 pounds. Caring for yourself (and your skin) is an important part of caring for part of God’s creation. Here are some hints for caring for the skin you’re in.
▪ Keep it clean. There’s no substitute for daily cleansing and hydrating.
▪ Moisturize. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but a good quality moisturizer applied just after bathing can help seal in the water your skin needs
▪ Eat smart. Five weekly servings of fish (high in Omega-three fatty acids) and five daily servings of fruits and vegetables (high in Vitamin C) are recommended.
▪ Skip the tanning. One in five American women develops skin cancer. When you’re outside, apply and re-apply 15 or higher SPF sun screen.
▪ Get examined.
*Adapted from “The Skin You Are In,” Molly M. Ginty, Lutheran Women Today (now Gather), July/August 2010.
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.
– Proverbs 3:7b-8
December 2015 - Balancing Your Stress
Stress is a daily part of our lives. This month can be especially stressful for us as we prepare for the holidays. Some stress keeps us on our toes. Too much stress is bad for our health. Here are ten tips for getting rid of excess stress.
1. Get enough rest
2. Cling to your friends.
3. Laugh a lot.
4. Believe in yourself! You can do it!
5. Show love freely.
6. Know that sometimes, it’s ok to give up.
7. Be comfy.
8. Understand that everyone is scared sometimes!
9. Don’t over eat.
10. Accept help graciously when needed.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand .
– Isaiah 41:10 (KJV)
I wish a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year
to my Mount Calvary church family.
Gloria L. Chambers, RN, FCN