Maria’s Sunday Paper: Finding the Light in the Cracks
This week, I found myself really trying to find the light in the cracks.
That’s not always an easy thing to do, especially if you focus your attention on the blame game coming out of Washington right now with regards to the government shutdown. I mean, really? Who cares? Just fix it.
To me, though, there was a lot of light to be seen this week. I saw the light shine through in the women’s marches that were held around the world on Saturday, and which continue today. People are using their voices to stand up for their rights, and for those of others, and that’s a powerful thing.
I also saw the light this week coming from voices like Olympian Michael Phelps, who bravely opened up to CNN’s David Axelrod about his battle with depression and thoughts of suicide. That sort of honesty and truth will hopefully help many people who are suffering from the same thing know that they are not alone.I also saw the light this week in the news about our president taking a test to assess his cognitive health. I was especially pleased that his doctor spoke about the test and even directed people to take it.
I’m not being facetious about this one. I’m serious. Getting people to pay attention to their cognitive health, and getting people to take a cognitive test so they can get a baseline, is a big component of the work we do at my nonprofit, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. I founded WAM to try and understand why Alzheimer’s discriminates against women and to help educate more people about what we can do starting today to save our minds and keep our brains healthy with age.
Turns out, there is a lot we can do today to support our cognitive health, but first, we have to get a read on it. The test the president took is one example (you can check it out here), but there are many other tests available as well.
A few years ago, I took a cognitive test of my own. I’m not going to lie. I was nervous to do it. In fact, I worked myself up into a frenzy before I did it. (That comes as no surprise to those who know me well.) “What if I fail?” I thought. “What if I don’t do well?” “What if they discover this or that?” It was like I was back in high school and about to take the SAT.
But, every doctor I had met through my Alzheimer’s work had spoken to me about the importance of spreading the word about cognitive health. How could I spread the word if I was too scared to even take a test?
Lord, have mercy.
And so, in I went. I counted backward by 7’s. I listened to stories and tried to remember facts, names and faces. At the end, voila! I had my baseline and information from which to move forward.
Today, I pay a lot of attention to my cognitive health. I think about how the food I eat and the exercises I do affect my brain. I think about how certain types of people affect my brain, and I develop boundaries for those types in my life. (Yes, I do.)
I also think about my sleep and view it as time spent clearing out my brain, which science backs up. (This helps me go to sleep earlier.) I think about how stress impacts my cognitive health. I now remove myself from situations that I’ve deemed bad for my brain. And, I stay committed to my meditation practice each morning because I know that it serves not just to quiet my mind, but to help preserve my brain as well. (Science backs me up here, too.)
My curiosity about Alzheimer’s and my work in this space has led me to take care of my brain in a way I never even thought about before. Today when I look in the mirror, I try and look beyond my own image. I try to look deep into my brain. I tell my brain how grateful I am for the work that it does, for the memories that it holds, and for the dreams that it still formulates. I assure my brain that I don’t take it for granted. I also read up on the latest research and I do whatever else I can to care for this intricate, highly-tuned machine.
Talking about cognitive health is a conversation that we need to start having in our country, across all ages. It doesn’t matter if you’re the parent of a kid playing football, the parent of someone with special needs, a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s, or just a person with a brain and a commitment to staying healthy… Making cognitive health a part of everyday health is a place we need to get as a society. I, for one, am grateful that the president took a cognitive test. If that helps jump-start the conversation, then that’s a good thing.
In fact, if anything in the news — good or bad — ignites us to want to do something that’s good for us, or good for the greater world, then that’s a step in the right direction. That’s why it’s so important to me to look for the light these days and see how I can use it in a positive and purposeful way.
So, the next time you go to the doctor’s office (or the next time you take a parent or a loved one to the doctor), ask them to do a cognitive test. Doing so might shift our conversation from that of the president’s cognitive health to that of our own.
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P.S. My new book “I’ve Been Thinking… Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life” is coming out 2/27/2018. Pre-Order Now
VIEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
HOW USING THE RIGHT WORDS CAN MAKE IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIPS LAST LONGER
New York Times bestselling author Kelly Corrigan has been hailed the “poet laureate of the ordinary.” I truly enjoyed my Architects of Change LIVE conversation with her this week, in which we discussed her new book “Tell Me More” and had an enlightening discussion about the powerful phrases we can use to sustain our most important relationships.
HOW TO FIND OUT WHAT PEOPLE REALLY THINK OF YOU
Do you understand who you really are? Or how others really see you? Psychologist and bestselling author Tasha Eurich says that more often than not, we are poor judges of how we’re perceived by others. In a compelling excerpt from her latest book, “Insight,” Tara explains why candid, objective feedback from others is so necessary for deepening our self-awareness.
THREE TIPS FOR RECONNECTING WITH YOUR SPIRIT
Continuing our New Year’s “Health Reboot” series from our friends at ph360, spirituality expert Erin Kyna tells us how to become aware of our true spirit, and explains how doing so will help lead us to our purpose and passion and help us feel worthy each and every day.
THE POWER OF A MENTAL CLEANSE
Famed spiritual advisor Dr. Habib Sadeghi stopped by Architects of Change LIVE this week to talk about his book, “The Clarity Cleanse.” The purpose of his life’s work has been to help his clients release emotions that hold them back. In this discussion, he offers his advice on how to cleanse the mind and body in order to reawaken and renew our spirit.
CHANGEMAKERS MOVING HUMANITY FORWARD
HOW ONE WOMAN IS TRANSFORMING HER CRUMBLING DETROIT NEIGHBORHOOD INTO A THRIVING, GREEN COMMUNITY: This week, we honor Shamayim “Shu” Harris as our Architect of Change of the Week. “Mama Shu,” as she is affectionately called by friends and family, has made it her passion and purpose to turn blight into beauty by developing Avalon Village, a sustainable eco-village in the heart of Detroit.
NEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
1. One Year Later, Women March and a New Feminist Movement Is Born: As I wrote earlier, I was so proud to see the millions of women and men who came out on Saturday for the second annual Women’s March. Read why Time Magazine says the Women’s March is turning into a “true political force” and also check out this compelling New York Times piece that explores how Clinton’s election loss has prompted all levels of feminist fervor in today’s society.
2. Two Prominent Republicans Speak Out Against President’s Repeated Attacks of the Press: As a journalist, I was thrilled to see Republican senators taking a stand on behalf of the free press. Sen. Jeff Flake took to the Senate floor this week to rebuke not only the president for his attacks on the press, but his colleagues for failing to be a check on him.
Also this week, Sen. John McCain wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post addressing the president’s “fake news awards. “Whether Trump knows it or not,” McCain wrote, “these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.”
3. What Happened When a School Replaced Detention With Meditation: I wish more schools would try this. A school in Baltimore is using a unique method to deal with disruptive kids–meditation instead of punishment.
4. CVS Meets the #MeToo Movement by Banning Airbrushing of Models: This a major breakthrough for the growing “MeToo Movement. The pharmaceutical giant has pledged to stop retouching its beauty product imagery.
5. Time Magazine Cover Features First-Time Female Candidates: I was blown away by this amazing Time Magazine cover. Entitled “The Avengers,” this cover story features women running for office for the first time nationwide.
INSPIRING SPEECHES FROM LEADERS AMONG US
This week, we share Architect of Change Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University who has written for us before. In her fascinating TED Talk, Lisa explains that we may have more control over our emotions than we think. Lisa has spent the past 25 years mapping facial expressions, reviewing scanned brains and analyzing hundreds of physiology studies. Her results are very insightful.
Have you heard a speech in your community or online that you think we should share? Write to us.
Especially during these divisive times, this moving poem by the great human rights activist and author Maya Angelou reminds us that all of us, not just a select few, are part of one single family, a human family.
INSPIRATION FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
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We’re so excited to announce that we’ve added a few new items to our shop! Check out our stylish apparel to fight Alzheimer’s, created in partnership with Art With a Purpose. You can also order our newest product, the “Maria” candle – the same scent used in her office and home. Visit the shop on MariaShriver.com to learn more.