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Understanding Your Child’s Neuroplastic Brain

As a parent, you, of course, want the best for your children. And often this means that you find yourself worrying day-in and out as to whether you are helping them to get that.

Is your child well-fed? Are they happy at school? Are they developing the way they should?

But perhaps none of these concerns is as big as our concern for our child’s mental health. We all want our children to be capable and intelligent.

We all hope and pray that they are developing at the right pace and we all dream that they’ll be the top of their class.

And we all know that we play a very big part in that: in helping our children’s brains to grow and develop as they get older.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have degrees in psychology and that makes it hard to know where to start.

In fact, it places tremendous pressure on us as we find ourselves asking whether each interaction is helping or hindering their development.

Our worst fear is to learn that something we did in some way stunted our child’s psychological development.

An Introduction to Your Child’s Brain

While most of us don’t need to worry as much as we do; we’re right nonetheless to be cautious during our interactions with our children.

The reason for this is that they are highly suggestible at this age and incredibly malleable.

That’s because a child’s brain is incredibly ‘plastic’. Neuroplasticity is a relatively new concept in psychology that describes the brain’s ability to change its shape in response to the demands we place on it.

Just as lifting weights can cause your muscles to get larger, so too can crunching numbers increase the size of certain brain areas.

This isn’t only true of infant brains but also of fully grown adults. Studies show that if you learn an instrument using your fingers as an adult, then the areas of your motor cortex corresponding to your fingers will grow.

Likewise, if you stop using certain mental faculties, the relevant brain areas will atrophy and shrink. You are constantly growing new neurons and new connections between those neurons and that is how you are able to learn and develop.

The difference though is that the child’s brain is doing this at a much higher rate. Neurons are being born wholesale and new connections are formed and cemented in no time at all.

That’s why a child is able to learn to walk and to pick up new languages at such astonishing speed. And it’s also why they can pick up bad habits, phobias and other less desirable traits at this age too.

How Your Child Learns

So why is it that the child’s brain is so much more plastic than an adult? What is chemically different?

The answer may surprise you: it is nothing.

For both adults and children, neuroplasticity is dictated by a number of neurotransmitters (chemicals that affect the state of our brain and also our mood).

When something is interesting and novel, our brains tend to respond by producing dopamine – a neurochemical that is associated with reward.

This increases our attention and focus, thereby helping us better retain new information.

That increase in dopamine is then accompanied by an increase in ‘BDNF’ or ‘Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor’, as well as more ‘nerve growth factor’.

Together, these encourage the growth of new dendrites and axons, which form the connections throughout the brain.

But it is the novel stimulus and the learning opportunity that triggers all this. When something seems important and new, the brain wakes up and pays attention. The more this happens, the more plastic the brain becomes.

And in children, this is happening all the time.

If you make an effort to learn more, to travel and see new places, to pick up new languages, to try dancing; then your brain will become much more plastic and your brain power will grow.

For a newborn baby, everything is novel, exciting and new. They’ve never walked before, never talked before and never seen the sky before.

Their brain is therefore flooded with infinite new stimuli all the time and is awash with chemicals encouraging growth.

And all this learning then makes it easier for you to help your baby learn other new things too.

How to Help Your Baby’s Brain Grow

The first thing to take away from all this, is that your baby is going through a magical period where it’s personality and mental skill is being formed. Don’t miss this incredible window of opportunity.

The other thing to recognize is that the brain loves to learn. In fact, we like games because games create learning situations.

Even computer games usually involve learning new rules and then honing our reflexes and attention.

When you play catch with your child, you are helping them to learn better coordination and motor skills. And they will love this because their brain will be telling them that what is happening is exciting, novel and noteworthy.

Likewise, when you let your child balance along your legs, their brain is learning to better use their body. When you get them to place blocks in coloured slots, you help them to associate colours and shapes.

Turn play into a learning experience and try to find the value in every movement and interaction. That way, learning becomes fun.

Learning isn’t just math and spelling; it is an opportunity for them to explore the space they’re in and to solve problems.

And as they age, make sure you keep their brain growing for as long as possible: help them to enjoy new experiences, take them travelling, get them to meet other children, take them to classes.

The longer they keep experiencing new, novel challenges, the more they will keep learning, the healthier they will be and the happier they will be.

And while you’re at it, how about taking your own advice and injecting some learning opportunities into your life too? It’s never too late to learn!

Author Bio:

Dr.Vidhi Jain has over 7 years of experience as a Physiotherapist. She has a Masters in Physiotherapy in Orthopedics and is currently practicing at Vinayak Physiotherapy in Noida as HOD of the Physiotherapy Department. She has been nominated as ‘Best Physiotherapy Consultant’ in Noida and firmly believes in health care that is based on a personal commitment to meet patient needs with compassion and care. She also writes for Medlife International Private Limited, an online pharmacy store operating in India offering home delivery of authentic prescription medicines at discounted prices.

5 Essential Soft Skills For Employability And Job Success

Getting a job is more than just about a perfect cover letter, a well-drafted resume and the right references. Although all of these are indispensable, there’s more to professional success in terms of attitude, thoughts and behaviour.

Soft skills are important because they decide the nature of your success in the professional arena, and also whether it is going to be a temporary phenomenon, or a permanent pattern.

This post talks about some of the important soft skills that you should inculcate and hone, in order to deal better with daily situations at your workplace and enhance your professional life.

Most recruiters today want employees that are not only good at what they do but also have a positive influence over their environment.

A person who is good at communicating with teams, who knows how to walk the talk, and who can contribute to the company’s bottom line in a holistic manner is more valuable than a talented individual who just likes to do her work, keeps to herself and treats work like a daily chore.

Obviously, academic credentials matter and they do matter a lot. But if you think being a nerd will take you to the top, that’s wishful thinking.

Why Are Soft Skills Important?

The first test of your behavioural skills is the first face-to-face contact with the recruiter, i.e. the personal interview.

The moment you enter the door for an interview, you are being judged by the experienced eyes of the recruiter. There are a lot of subtle factors that contribute to their final perception of you.

What you communicate through words is only half the information that the recruiter uses to process your application. The other half part is communicated through your body language, the gestures, behaviour and attitude.

According to Bibi Caspari, a soft skills curriculum instructor, “Words are only seven per cent of the message. How we use our voices to say the words creates 38% of the impact. And while it is hard to believe, a whopping 55% of the impact is the visual impression.”

But how do soft skills help?  When you apply for a job, wanting it is only the first step. If through your behaviour, and attitude, you are able to convince the interviewer that this is something you are truly excited about, then you are ahead of the competition.

Learning soft skills help you develop thoughts that affect your emotions in a positive manner, which in turn, affect your behaviour and attitude and allow it to become more conducive to success.

Having discussed their importance, here are 5 soft skills employers seek in a candidate. These are the very skills that will help you get hired and help you succeed in your job.

1. Public Speaking

“If you can speak, you can influence. If you can influence, you can change lives”. ~ Rob Brown

If there’s one common trait amongst the most successful persons in the world, it’s their ability to communicate their ideas clearly. The ability to speak such that others are compelled to give you their attention is one of the most treasured skills you can have.

However, not everyone is a gifted speaker, and that is perfectly normal. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.”

So, don’t worry if you find yourself short of words, nervous while speaking to a crowd, or even with strangers. It’s only with time and practice that you’ll learn the power to influence others with your speech, dialogue, and words.

The easiest way to get going is talking with one stranger every day. Even greeting them with a simple, “Good morning,” “Have a nice day”, with a smile, can lead to the development of confidence, which is the key to making good speeches, and persuading others.

Another way to learn public speaking skills is to join the local chapter of an organisation like Toastmasters International, that provides a “supportive learn-by-doing environment that allows you to achieve your goals at your own pace.”

2. Networking

The corollary of the ability to speak at opportune moments is the ability to make new connections, business or personal. This ability has a term associated with it –  networking.

It’s more contemporary avatar is social networking, especially in the context of the digital domain, as a major part of our communication is happening over the web or mobile.

Networking is an intensely powerful tool that can help you go places, and without which professional success will remain elusive.

The most successful person of our times, a person who feeds the imaginations of many young minds, founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, got his big breakthrough networking with Sean Parker, and Paypal founder Peter Thiel.

Had it not been for his networking skills, we would not have had Facebook, the Big Daddy of all social networks. The incentive of being a good networker is the ability to use the energy and resources of others, instead of just your own to fuel your dreams.

3. Resilience

The ability to take negative feedback and failure in your stride will help you go a long way.

Those who do not allow setbacks to slow them down and remain buoyant, in spite of all the negativity surrounding them, are a special breed of humans and any employer would treasure such employees.

If, through any example you could suggest situations where you showed resilience, it would help you create a far better impression with your interviewer.  Setbacks are a part and parcel of this life. What’s important is how you respond to them.

Hope and despair go hand in hand, and we all have the power to not let the latter overcome us.  Being honest with yourself, identifying the problem, and working steadily towards creating a solution is the best recourse.

4. Acceptance

Being accepting of others differences, or being more tolerant to the points of view others is an important life skill that ensures, at the very least, that you are a good team player at work.

Unless you are tolerant and accepting of the opinions of others, collaborating with others across different projects would not only be hard but also impossible.

Be someone who celebrates differences as the uniqueness of opinions and not as dissent. Teams that work well despite differences are the ones that remain at the front of the pack.

5. Time Management

A lot has been said about the value of time and its importance in one’s life. However, the majority of us lack even basic time management skills and often end up wasting a lot of this invaluable resource.

If you want to tackle this fast moving world, time management is the only way to do it. Not only should you not waste your time, but also be able to make the best possible use of it to ensure the desired outcome.

Prioritizing activities in your daily life, tasks at workplace and responsibilities in your personal life will, not only save you a lot of time, but also reduce the stress involved with all these activities.

There are many who complain about not being able to focus on one thing at a time. Prioritizing your tasks, as per their deadlines, and then set aside time to accomplish them can help.

Learn to outsource your work whenever necessary, delegate tasks and accept help to accomplish something when strict deadlines are involved.

Author Bio:

Saurabh Tyagi is a blogger and a professional career author with proven expertise in writing for topics related to jobs, job trends, different job opportunities, various workplace and industry information, tips and strategies for job seekers. You can follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Soft Skills For Employability

7 Tips For Achieving A Work-Life Balance For Working Mothers

For women at work, striking the right balance between pushing your career forward while raising a family is a popular struggle. The dream of “having it all” is one that many women strive for, but the reality is much more difficult to grasp.

Just when you think one part of your life is under control, another part of it falls to pieces, and you’re left feeling like you are constantly juggling too many tasks.

One minute your career is going great and you are spending plenty of quality time with your kids, but then your health suffers as a result.

Or you might feel like mother of the year by taking your kids to all their extra-curricular activities, but then your work starts to suffer because you are distracted by your home life.

For mothers who also want to work, this struggle is all too real, but it doesn’t have to be this way. By achieving and maintaining a good work-life balance, you can keep everyone in your life happy while fulfilling all of your own goals.

1. Learn To Work Smarter

The simplest way to free up more hours in the day and put an end to late nights in the office is to learn how to work smarter rather than longer.

Take some time to identify areas that could be more efficient in your working day. This can involve anything from cutting down your time spent on email to outsourcing some of the more time-consuming tasks that you have to do on a daily basis.

You will have to prioritise your workload and ensure that tasks are completed within a set duration – this means you will stop letting tasks drag on for longer than necessary.

Another way to work smarter is to accept that finishing a task in enough, and not everything has to be perfect.

If you are the kind of person to stress about formatting things in a certain way, or combing over your work looking for errors, it might be time to try being less of a perfectionist.

While some tasks will require a little extra attention, there are also some tasks that are sufficient when finished.

2. Set Aside Time For Yourself

This might seem counterintuitive, but setting aside time for yourself in your busy life is the best way to ensure you don’t burnout.

This can be as simple as making time to attend your favourite fitness class with a friend. It’s important that this is treated as a priority, one that cannot be cancelled, pushed back, or set aside.

You owe it to yourself to ensure your mind and body are in good shape, and putting aside time for yourself is the best way to achieve this.

You can’t be a caring mother and a successful business person without keeping yourself healthy and mentally strong.

3. Learn To Say ‘No’

It’s a common myth that you have to always be available in order to excel in a professional environment. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In reality, always saying yes to the extra work will mean your work suffers, and you could soon be known as the office pushover.

Learning to say no to extra work will show that you have a realistic view about how valuable your work is, and will prevent you from getting snowed under with extra requests.

Obviously, you can’t just start saying no to everything, but you should start holding out for the opportunities that can actually help your career.

4. Get Your Partner Involved

Unless you are a single mother, then you aren’t raising your children alone, and your partner should respect this.

Getting your partner involved shouldn’t be limited to things like sharing the housework in the evening. Your partner should help with everything from the school run to taking time off work when your children are sick.

Companies are starting to come around to the idea that parental responsibilities are best shared between both parents, so this should be met with a more understanding tone from your partner’s employer.

Split all parenting tasks down the middle and you will be surprised how much time this frees up, not only for your work, but to spend more quality time with your family, friends and partner.

5. Request Flexible Working

Flexible working can take on a variety of different forms, from shifting your hours to work around the school run, to working from home a few days a week so you can help with childcare duties.

Working from home can be a huge help for parents as you will save so much time by not committing to the office. Being able to work from home at short notice is also ideal if you have to deal with a sick child, as you might have to take a vacation day or a sick day to care for them.

Flexible working is on its way to becoming a standard right for all workers, and the process should soon be much easier to navigate. Employers are starting to wake up to the idea that keeping their employees happy means they will be much more productive.

The idea of flexible working is that you are able to establish a flexible working schedule that allows you to fulfill all of your work duties while also being able to take care of your family at home.

6. Don’t Be Afraid To Hire Help

A lot of women fear hiring someone to help them with things around the home as they worry that it will make them seem like they cannot manage a household.

You need to silence your inner critic and remember that no one needs to know if you’ve hired a cleaner or if you have help with childcare during the week. There’s nothing wrong with saving yourself some time by getting some help around the home.

This could be anything from hiring a weekly cleaner to help keep on top of the ironing, or even signing up to a meal delivery service so you don’t have to worry about putting a healthy and nutritious meal on the table every night.

You can hire people to help you with everything from walking your dog to filing your taxes, so there’s nothing wrong with picking one household chore that you hate doing and then outsourcing it.

7. Try A Different Career

If your current career choice doesn’t create the right work-life balance, then it might be time to consider a new career.

There are so many careers that will allow you to have a good work-life balance, so it might be that all you need to do is train in a different area. Teaching is a good option, as you will have a similar schedule to your children, meaning that you will always be at home when they have vacations.

You could also foster a child, as this will allow you to combine your parenting expertise in an altruistic role. You could also consider starting your own business, as this will allow you to have complete flexibility and to set your own schedule.

However, a word of warning, the early stages of starting a business will likely be very time consuming, so this might not be a quick fix but more a long-term option to allow you to take control of your own life.

Author bio:

Ryan Duffy is a freelance writer who is a recent university graduate in Media Studies. His passion for people and writing has encouraged him to pursue this career full-time. Writing on behalf of Lorimer Fostering, he enjoys writing about lifestyle topics and this is where most of his work has taken him.

Just when you think one part of your life is under control, another part of it falls to pieces, and you’re left feeling like you are constantly juggling too many tasks. For mothers who also want to work, this struggle is all too real, but it doesn’t have to be this way. By achieving and maintaining a good work-life balance, you can keep everyone in your life happy while fulfilling all of your own goals. #worklifebalance #thestruggleisreal #careeradvice #momadvice

Destroying The Stigma Of Periods With The ‘Gift A Menstrual Cup’ Campaign

Ever since I can remember being a part of this world, I have always been reminded repeatedly that I was born a girl.

“A girl shouldn’t sit like that” my 3rd grade teacher once told me, before proceeding on to demonstrate how a straight back with crossed legs was the ‘lady-like’ way to sit.

I never noticed any teacher telling a boy how to sit or to not be loud, whereas girls were policed about how they should talk, be non-disruptive and behave like ‘ladies’ in general.

As I grew up and feminism rescued me from a very dangerous thought process, I realised the fact that everything a girl does is seen as explicit by the society (a society that we contribute to, by the way).

We have been systematically taught that it is shameful to be a girl. Everything should happen behind closed doors and yet is secretly lusted after anyway in public. Naturally it escalates into full-blown misogyny towards even the most natural of things, like menstruation.

God forbid a tampon falls out of our bag in a metro or we carry Pads without the black polythene the shopkeeper so kindly offers. All this is necessary, believe me, or otherwise the world might just find out that half of its population bleeds every 28 days.

The shame and stigma that we associate with Periods (yes I said the word) is blatantly obvious in the euphemisms we use, ‘chumming’, ‘on the rag’, ‘I’m down’.. a few of at least 5,000 such slang words that we chose to use instead of just calling them periods.

And let’s not even touch upon the subject of period taboos, a whole thesis on how a woman is impure and what she should or should not do during her cycle. And all of this dictated by a handful of people, who sit hiding behind the veil of privilege and ‘good sense’.

Just when we think there is no end to this regressive mindset, we have non-profits and activists actively propagating women’s safety, rights and sanitation (while also restoring our faith into humanity).

There have been age-old movements and rebellions that have successfully enabled the world to move on from the times when women weren’t even allowed to vote or have a voice.

One such modern-day initiative, #Letstalkperiod – Gift a Menstrual Cup, is challenging the very ground of ignorance for menstrual health.

Created by Woman Endangered and Stone Soup, it challenges period taboos and superstitions while addressing the issue of human health crisis that stems from repeated use of commercial pads or tampons over decades. It does this by distributing menstrual cups free-of-cost.

Why Menstrual Cups?

Studies have found that a woman uses a pad or a tampon for more than 100,000 hours in a lifetime. And that’s just the minimum estimate!

Yet we don’t talk about the chemical residue these products leave on the vaginal walls which can cause serious diseases such as cancer.

India accounts for 27 percent of deaths caused by cervical cancer, which is twice the global average. And the study links the cause partly to poor menstrual hygiene.

Amidst all of this, menstrual cups provide a safer, eco-friendly and economical option for women all over. It simply holds the period fluid, which can be emptied, and cup can be reused again.

The medical grade silicone used to make these cups, is infection-free and does not irritate the vaginal walls or pose any health risk by leaving residue.

After a one-time cost, it can be washed and reused for up to 10 years. Since, a single cup lasts that long, it greatly reduces the amount of menstrual waste generated to be disposed-off.

Benefits Of Using A Menstrual Cup

  • Made from medical grade silicone which reduces risk of infection since it is also anti-bacterial – a quality otherwise not seen in other materials.
  • It is bell-shaped and does not irritate the vaginal walls, as it is adjustable and easy to insert/remove.
  • Simply holds period fluid and can be washed to be reused 2 to 3 times a day and is easy to store.
  • Lasts from 8 to 10 years and reduces the hassle of disposing of used menstrual materials
  • Reduces the burden on environment by reducing waste generation.

Menstruation health issues are probably the most stigmatized and ignored topic, even in the 21st Century. And this is exactly what the #LetsTalkPeriod campaign aims to destroy.

The agenda is simple:

  • Provide a sustainable menstrual alternative to pads and tampons which is a silicone menstrual cup
  • Distribute these medical grade silicone cups free-of-cost to the most marginalized sections of women
  • Address the ignorance and stigma around periods which has forced women to suffer in silence for years.

Joining hands with the crowdfunding platform, WE and Stone Soup have launched a crowdfunding campaign that aims to raise enough funds to organize a free-of-cost distribution of menstrual cups in Azadpur in New Delhi.

Aiming to distribute 1000 cups to 1000 women or even more, they want to target this health, environment and mental crisis at the grass root level.

In a time where period blood is still depicted as a ‘blue liquid’ gently splashed upon fluffy pads and any close-to-reality depiction is deemed inappropriate (not a family dinner conversation apparently), we need to stand up for menstrual health.

It’s time each of us contribute to the Gift A Menstrual Cup – Let’s Talk Period campaign, and destroy a few stereotypes ourselves!

About the Author:

A feminist at heart, Tarushi Varma believes change starts with just one person. So, raise your voice, stand up for yourself because you have it in you to make the world a better place.