Giving the Gift of Gratitude

The holidays are quickly approaching, which means it’s time to start thinking about giving gifts and spreading kindness. One of the best gifts we can give is that of gratitude. Gratitude, or the quality of being thankful, is something we can give without spending money, and can be just as beneficial for the giver as it is for the receiver, if not more so!

We are all familiar with how we can show gratitude for others – saying “thank you,” paying it forward, showing a random act of kindness – but we often overlook showing gratitude for our own health and well-being. Recent studies show that being grateful can improve our health, relieve depression, and broaden the mind. Experiencing positive emotions, as opposed to negative ones, leads to optimal levels of well-being, emotional wellness, and resilience.

While the “power of positive thinking” may not fix everything, it can certainly help. Acknowledging the good doesn’t mean denying the bad. Expressing gratitude for yourself can help you become more resilient, while also boosting your mood. When you feel good about yourself, others can feed off that. In addition, spreading gratitude into the world is infectious. Think of a smile – when you see someone smiling, you often smile back, don’t you? Put kindness, gratitude, and positivity out there, and you might just get it back!

Fun Fact: World Kindness Day is November 15th! Be kind to yourself and others!

Here are some ways to show gratitude and kindness for your own health and wellness:

Take a mindful walk. Spending time in nature can improve mood and memory, reduce stress, and increase levels of compassion. While on your nature walk, take in all the sights, sounds and smells around you!

Start a gratitude journal. Expressive writing can help process negative events and emotions but can also help focus on the positive ones. Becoming more aware of what you have can make you more resilient to stress and hardships. Start by making a list of the 5 things you are grateful for every day – your health, your family, your surroundings, etc.

Try a new exercise class or activity. Challenging your cognitive and physical wellness is a fantastic way to celebrate and honor yourself. What better way to show gratitude for yourself than to push to new limits? Try taking a new exercise class, learn a new skill or language, or a participate in a new activity such as wood working, gardening, playing cards or painting.

Do something for YOU! It’s easy, especially around the holidays, to get wrapped up in ensuring everyone else’s needs are highlighted. An important way of showing gratitude for yourself: Make sure you are carving out time for YOU!! This might look different for everyone – maybe it’s taking time to practice meditation, read your favorite book, walk outside, or spend time with your loved ones. Whatever it is, make sure you dedicate time for yourself.

Whatever method you choose, expressing gratitude is a win-win for your emotional and physical health and wellness! For more information on how you can improve kindness to your body and mind, contact the Functional Pathways Therapy Team!

Just as water lilies retract when sunlight fades, so do our minds when positivity fades”


The Future of Wellness… Virtual Reality

VR (Virtual Reality) is where it’s at – the newest and latest technology is being hailed as a fun and interactive way to exercise, escape, relax, travel, and even participate in group activities. 

There are multiple platforms available that offer everything from guided meditation to hip-hop and other forms of dancing, to spa treatments and traveling (virtually) to favorite/desired destinations. Virtual Reality can be highly therapeutic and impact physical, mental, and social well-being. 

VR has been shown to have a myriad of benefits to users; some of the most notable benefits include: 

Mental Stimulation

Virtual Reality systems allow for a multitude of different uses, activities, etc. This includes things like activities for attention, memory, math, and other cognitive activities. 

Enhanced Socialization

Virtual Reality can be used as a tool to encourage socialization. For example, multiple users can interact with the same movie or participate in the same events and share their experiences with one another, thus promoting socialization. 

Reduced Depression

Many people, especially in today’s somewhat isolated environment, experience feelings of depression or loneliness. The ability to “travel”, interact and experience new places, even virtually, can impact someone’s mood and overall feelings of content. 

A Therapeutic Effect

Movement is life! Just getting people to increase their movement, activity, and engagement levels can have a positive, therapeutic effect on overall well-being. 

Besides offering a fun and interactive activity, Virtual Reality users report a decrease in feelings of stress, increased relaxation, and better overall mood. VR has also been hailed as a drug-free solution to many stress/anxiety-induced conditions. 

In summary, Virtual Reality may be part of a solution in helping to stay active and engaged. With options for all fitness, functional, and mobility levels, virtual reality will likely play a major role now and in future for maintaining and improving all 7 dimensions of wellness. 

If you would like to learn more about what Virtual Reality options might be right for you, or how Virtual Reality can help to increase activity and engagement, feel free to reach out to Eric Walker, our Director of Rehabilitation at 901.366.1819. 

Jen Callahan, Clinical Outcomes and Reimbursement Specialist, Functional Pathways

There’s More To It Than Meets the Air: BREATHING

We breathe in, we breathe out, usually without even thinking about it. Most of us probably take it for granted and overlook all the benefits mindful, conscious breathing can bring to our daily lives. 

Did you know??

  • Breathing is the only bodily function you can perform consciously as well as unconsciously.
  • The average person takes about 8.5 million breaths per year.
  • Breathing slowly with longer breaths can reduce food cravings.
  • The world record for breath holding is over 24 minutes!!
  • Emotions are regulated by how you breathe.
  • Everyone can improve how they breathe.

Considering the monumental number of breaths we take, ensuring they are as effective as possible is important to everything we do. Outside of supplying oxygen, effective breathing provides better food digestion, increased immune response, reduced stress and blood pressure, better sleep and mental clarity, pain relief, increased energy, and improved balance, just to name a few! 

To determine if you are a “good” breather or a “poor” breather, try this:

  • Put your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath as you count to three. When you do this, which hand do you feel moving the most?
  • If it’s your right hand (the one on your chest), you’re breathing from your chest. If it’s your left hand (the one on your stomach), you are breathing from your abdomen. You want to do the latter— breathe from your abdomen. 

No matter what your activity level, even if you are relaxing in the chair watching your favorite program, take a few minutes 3-4 times a day to be conscious of your breathing and try this exercise:

  1. Sit or stand comfortably with your back straight.
  2. Open the palm of one hand as wide as you can.
  3. Now with the pointer finger of the opposite hand, slowly trace your fingers while breathing.
  4. Breath in and trace up one side of your thumb, 1, 2, 3. Breathe out and trace down the other side of your thumb, 1, 2, 3.
  5. Repeat for all five fingers.

If you would like to learn more about how to utilize this and other effective breathing techniques, feel free to reach out to Eric Walker, Director of Rehabilitation at 901-366-1819. 

The Effectiveness of Multidimensional Programs – Brain Power

Food for thought: when is the last time you did something that truly challenged your brain? Perhaps the Sunday crossword puzzle, a game of chess, or learned a new skill, like how to speak a new language? In today’s world, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the minutiae of everyday life, sucked into the world of television and social media, and forget about the things that are mentally, physically, and emotionally stimulating. 

Did you know that some of our body systems start to age as early as 30 years old? As part of the normal aging process, we tend to experience slower processing speed, increased difficulty with multi-tasking, occasional forgetfulness, and decreased memory of things that are newly learned. While some cognitive decline is normal, severe decline is not. Just like exercise and strength training can help stave off decline in muscle mass, there are things you can do to maintain a healthy brain and ward off cognitive decline. Your brain is like any other muscle, and it must be challenged regularly. A recent study through The Mather Institute showed that having a multi-faceted approach to cognitive training can have more of a positive impact than just the cognitive training itself. Participating in events that are cognitively stimulating has many benefits, but it’s even more effective when it’s partnered with stress management (emotional wellness), good sleep habits (Physical wellness), social engagement (social wellness), and brain health education (cognitive wellness). 

Kirby Pines has many activities and events that can be cognitively stimulating, such as Game Play, Poetry Group, Bridge, Line Dancing and Book Baggers to name a few. In addition to these activities, consider adding elements of emotional, physical, social, and cognitive wellness, to truly provide the best “nutrient-rich soil” for a healthy mind to grow and thrive. 

Here are some ways incorporate some of the other elements of wellness into your brain health approach: 

Stress Management: Being able to manage stress in healthy ways helps to create balance in life. Learning skills to manage one’s stress can be found through peer counseling, participating in relaxing activities, such as Water Aerobics or Worship Service, or connecting with nature. 

Healthy Sleep Habits: Remember the article a few months back about successful sleep? Sleep is restorative, and lack of sleep interferes with memory and learning. Your brain moves slower without sleep, and therefore you’re more forgetful and your attention declines. 

Social Engagement: Being involved with others is strongly linked to better brain function, so stay connected! Participate in a group event, like Group Exercise, a Travelers outing, or any other social event offered by Kirby Pines, or just connect with a friend for lunch. Whatever you choose, staying socially engaged is good for your mental and emotional health. 

Brain Health Education: Knowing ABOUT brain health is an important part OF brain health! Learning about the best foods to eat, the best things to do to stay cognitively intact, and what to look for in terms of decline are all important. There are many wonderful resources out there, like The National Institute on Aging, The Center for Disease Control, and even the Functional Pathways Therapy Team! 

For more information on how Functional Pathway’s Therapy Team can help you with your cognitive goals, please contact us! Remember: When all dimensions of our life are balanced, we thrive!

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways

Staying Safe – Summer Travel Tips

It’s summer! Your plans may include driving out of town to visit family or friends for a long weekend, or something local like going to see the Memphis Redbirds play a game or heading to your favorite restaurant for a night of fine dining. Unlike in the winter, we tend not to think about weather conditions and travel safety as much. In the colder months, we are typically more cognizant of the weather forecast and freezing temperatures because they can hinder our ability to get to where we want to go. There’s nothing like a huge snowstorm in the forecast to ruin your travel plans or delay a trip! Although the heat may not seem like it’s as dangerous as the cold, it certainly brings its own potential challenges. Extreme heat can affect your car, and if your car should break down while you are traveling, the occupants can be at risk of heat-related illnesses, such as sunburn, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. 

With the summer in full swing, it’s a great time to talk about travel safety and what can be done to ensure you are as prepared as possible when you get behind the wheel or climb into a car, no matter how long or short your trip might be. If you plan to travel, or even head out for a simple trip to Kroger this summer, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind. 

Check Your Vehicle. It is important to make sure your car is in tip-top shape. You can run a recall check through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to see if your vehicle has any critical safety issues here: You will also want to make sure your tires, cooling system, fluid levels, batteries, lights, and wiper blades are all functioning properly. Motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power-steering fluid, and windshield wiper fluid can all be at risk of running dry in hot weather. Keep them topped off and double-check them before any long trips. And don’t forget to fuel up! 

Avoid Risky Behaviors. Don’t text and drive or drive distracted. Pick your music before you start to drive. Set your GPS and know where you are going before you put your foot on the gas. Limit your distractions as much as possible. Make sure you wear your seat belt, every trip, every time. 

Plan Ahead. Before you leave, make sure your vehicle is stocked. Even a well-maintained vehicle can break down, so it’s smart to have an emergency roadside kit in your car. This can help keep you safe, should you find yourself stranded. You can keep the kit in your trunk, and make sure it stays stocked! Some of the things to keep in your kit can include: 

Battery pack and charger cable for your cell phone • First aid kit
Flashlight and spare batteries • Flares and a white flag
Jumper cables • Tire pressure gauge Jack (for changing tires)
Nonperishable food, drinking water, and medicines 
Maps Notepad and paper

Take Care of Yourself. As the driver, it is important to make sure you are safe behind the wheel. Driving relies heavily on vision and response time, so it’s critical that those skills are intact. Visual acuity, or how clearly you can see, and field of vision, or how wide of an area your eye can see when you focus on a central point, are the two most important factors in terms of vision for safe driving. Vision screens and cognitive assessments are offered through the Therapy Department and can be a great tool to help ensure driver safety. 

For more information on how Functional Pathways could help you travel safely this summer, please contact our Therapy Team! 

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways

The Magic of Water

“There’s plenty of water in the universe without life, but nowhere is there life without water.” ― Sylvia A. Earle

The summer season is one of cool breezes, longer days, outdoor events, trips to the beach, and time in the pool. As we inch closer and closer to summer months, we have an opportunity to celebrate our post-pandemic freedom and spend some much-needed time in the water. Although the pool is indoors at Kirby Pines, there tends to be an uptick in pool usage during summer months, no matter where you live. Time in the water … whether a pool, ocean, river, or lake, provides a sense of joy, laughter, and play, much like that from our childhood. 

Did you know that water has many known benefits for health and wellness? Hydrostatic pressure is pressure that is exerted by or existing within a liquid at rest with respect to adjacent bodies. When you are in a pool, that hydrostatic pressure compresses your skin, muscles, and joints, which can provide a wonderful cardiopulmonary workout, without adding stress or tension to your joints. The buoyancy and resistance of the water can help tone and build muscles while reducing pain. The natural viscosity forces you to move more slowly helping to rebuild muscle memory while also adding an overall sense of relaxation. The lighthearted atmosphere that water promotes is vital to the healing process for both body and mind. 

Kirby Pines has many water classes to choose from, such as Aerobics, Advanced Water Aerobics, and Men’s Water Aerobics. In addition, Functional Pathways is excited to announce the addition of water-based interventions as part of a comprehensive therapy care plan in a 1:1 setting. 

Some of these interventions include: 

  • Aqua Stretch (water based myofascial and manual treatment) 
  • Ai Chi (Tai Chi in water) 
  • How to Fall Safely (water-based) 
  • Stability, Mobility and Function (water-based) 

For more information on Functional Pathway’s aquatics programming and how it can benefit you, please contact our Therapy Team! At the very least, consider dipping your toes (and body) into the water for some quality time with family and friends this summer. 

By: Beth Reigart, Clinical Outcomes Specialist, Functional Pathways and Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

This Month Celebrate Better Hearing and Speech

As you may or may not know, May is Better Hearing and Speech Month! This provides us all with an opportunity to increase awareness about communication disorders and their respective treatments. Our speech, language, and hearing are what allow us to communicate with one another, learn more about the world we live in, and feel connected. When we struggle with our speech and language skills or our hearing, it makes everything else a little bit harder. That’s why this month is a great opportunity to talk about speech-language therapy and how it can benefit you, should you or anyone you know ever need it. 

Speech-language therapists are degreed and licensed professionals who can evaluate and treat patients for hearing, language, communication, and swallowing concerns. Their focus is on improving speech-language expression, comprehension, and oral motor skills for more accurate speech production. Another facet of speech-language therapy includes cognition. 

Cognition is something we can all work to improve daily. Studies show that brain games and activities can sharpen thinking skills. While some cognitive decline over time is normal, those who have cognitive stimulation tend to have better memory and attention. Just think of the adage: “use it or lose it!” These skills required to play brain games and cognitive activities include processing speed, planning skills, reaction time, decision making, and short-term memory. The brain is “plastic” and can continue to grow, develop, and make connections well into our lives, if we continue to challenge it!

Whether you participate in a group program, partner up with a friend, or work independently, it’s important to continuously give your mind different types of challenges and stimulation. Some ideas might include participating in the Bridge Group, Mahjong, or Game Play – it’s great to try things you haven’t done before, as that continues to engage the brain in different ways. Much like our muscles adapt to exercise, our brains adapt to cognitive tasks. 

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

Speech therapy can help with everything from the way we speak and swallow to the way we remember. Mia Fioranelli-Greer is a Speech-Language Pathologist for Functional Pathways and Kirby Pines. She was asked why she chose this field for her career. “When the ‘Dean of Undecided’ at Delta State University told me it was time to declare a major, I slightly panicked. How are you supposed to know what you want to be ‘when you grow up’ at 19 years old? I got busy and took some classes in a variety of fields, one of which was Speech-Language Pathology (SLP). After taking my first class in that field, I knew I had found my calling. Speech-Language Pathology has so many options for ages to treat, disorders to treat and most of all, helping people. As an SLP, you are required to get a master’s degree to be able to use your degree, so after graduating from Delta State University (Cleveland, MS) with a bachelor’s degree, I attended Valdosta State University (Valdosta, GA) and received my master’s degree. 

Mia Fioranelli-Greer
Speech Language Pathologist

After 20 years of working in a variety of settings and with a variety of ages, I started to get a little complacent. I was hungry to learn more and do more as an SLP. I was introduced to Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT). This type of therapy deals more specifically with swallowing, sucking, chewing, eating, breathing, lisps, tongue thrusts and tongue ties. I dove into the course, which took a year, and got my license and credentialing in Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD). The knowledge I have gained during this path of life has really helped me become more passionate about my career and look at new and exciting ways to assess and treat my patients. I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with some great clinicians and wonderful patients and Functional Pathways has allowed me to do so.”

Mia Fioranelli-Greer, M.Ed., CCC-SLP 

For more information on speech therapy and how it can benefit you, please contact the Functional Pathways Therapy Team.

What Exactly is Occupational Therapy

April is Occupational Therapy Month! But what IS Occupational Therapy (OT)? In simple terms, OT teaches you how to adapt. If your ability to perform your everyday responsibilities is ever impacted due to an illness or injury, occupational therapy can help. Those everyday responsibilities may have included going to work in earlier years, but now it may include attending exercise classes, venturing out on the walking trails, or participating in social events like the Lunch Bunch. OT is a branch of skilled therapy that helps people regain independence in all areas of their lives, and helps with barriers that impact a person’s emotional, social, and/or physical needs. So, even if you’re retired, occupational therapy can still be beneficial for you! 

OTs use their knowledge of the structure and function of the human body and the effects of illness and injury to increase your involvement in daily activities. OTs teach individuals how to manage stress and fatigue and prevent re-injury. They are also the experts in home safety and fall prevention and can advise on environmental modifications or improvements. 

During therapy sessions, OTs will also work with the wellness and activities department to determine the best programs after your therapy is completed. This may include specific exercise classes and events, personal training, home exercise programs, or a combination of these services. Therapy partners with other departments to ensure you are engaging in the most appropriate and effective exercises and programming possible. For example, if you were receiving occupational therapy for trouble with grip strength, after being discharged, your therapist may recommend you start attending Pinecone Painters or Hobby Pines Group to continue to challenge and focus on exercising your hand and grip strength. 

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

Music as Medicine

“The world’s most famous and popular language is music.”

Music is medicine. Music has been shown to boost the immune system, reduce stress, build self-confidence, improve learning, enhance physical exercise, reduce blood pressure, decrease heart rate, reduce anxiety, bring back memories, and manage moods, just to name a few of its benefits. Music has also been shown to help improve sleep quality, especially in older adults. 

So, why are there all these positive benefits? Dopamine is released when the brain hears comfortable music (think classical, not heavy metal). The body feels at ease and can begin to relax. We can then connect with positive memories, and we feel more peaceful and engaged with the world. 

I think it’s safe to say that most of us enjoy listening to music, and it’s common to listen to our favorite tunes as we drive, clean the house, or go for a walk. As we just learned, listening to music can have a much bigger impact than just helping to pass the time. 

Here are a few different ways to reap just a few of the benefits of music: 

Listen to New Music.

We tend to listen to the same music, or at least the same genre of music, that we did in our teens and 20s. New music challenges the brain in a way that old music doesn’t. It might not feel pleasurable at first, but unfamiliarity forces the brain to struggle to understand the new sound. Try listening to a different type of music than what you are used to or try listening to music your kids or grandkids enjoy. 

Turn on Ambient Noise for Creativity. 

If you have an important project you are working on or need to boost creativity, try listening to ambient noise (like white noise) instead. This can help to boost creativity. It sounds counterintuitive, but according to a Journal of Consumer Research study, a moderate noise volume makes processing more difficult, which in turn will promote abstract processing, which leads to higher creativity. When we struggle to process our thoughts, we turn to more creative ways to make sense of the world. 

Give Classical Music a Try. 

Classical music can improve visual attention. Studies have shown that those who listened to classical music showed better signs of visual attention than those who listened to white noise or silence. 

Move with the Music. 

Music helps us move. Throw on your favorite tunes the next time you exercise. It can help distract you, drown out any thoughts of fatigue or boredom, and even encourage you to speed up or go a little bit longer. Music clearly has a positive effect on both the brain and the body. You may find the addition of music can have a positive impact on your pain management, motivation, and mental clarity. Our therapy team at Kirby Pines can bring music into your rehabilitation experience. The next time you are sitting or working in silence, turn on your favorite radio station, ask Alexa to “play your favorite song” or pick a playlist from Spotify. There is an endless supply of musical options at your fingertips – take advantage and enjoy! For more information on the benefits of music or to learn more about music therapy and how it can benefit you, please contact the Functional Pathways Therapy Team. 

Where words fail, music speaks.

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

The Heart, Mind, Body Connection

February is, of course, Valentine’s Day! With that, comes chocolate, roses, candy, and all sorts of other heart-themed treats! It seems only fitting that February is also American Heart Month; a time when we can focus on heart healthy lifestyle choices and practices. I think we are all familiar with some of the things we can do to promote heart health – eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight – but did you know that thankfulness has also been shown to help your heart stay healthy?

The connection between our mind and bodies has been the topic of conversation for quite some time, and many forms of exercise, such as Yoga and Meditation, center around that connection. However, there is also a strong connection between the mind and the heart, and this connection has been the subject of recent studies, showing that a healthy heart may lower the risk of dementia and memory loss. Heart disease and dementia share several risk factors, so protecting the heart can also help protect the brain. Thankfulness and positive reactions can help foster heart health. Furthermore, if we can train our brains to turn negative thought processes around and focus on positive ones, we can have a greater positive impact on our heart and mental health.

So, we know thankfulness and gratitude are good for us, but how can we cultivate those positive thoughts? Just like many things, gratitude is a learned behavior, so we can train ourselves to be thankful!

Here are a few ways to start incorporating thankfulness into your lives:

Make it a Habit 

They say it takes 30 days to turn something into a habit. Say “thank you” whenever possible. From the minute you wake up in the morning until you climb back into bed at night, say “thanks” whenever possible. Take notice of all the opportunities to show your gratitude.

Keep a Journal

Create a “Thankfulness Journal” to keep track of all the things you are thankful for. Keeping a written note not only serves as a great reminder to be positive, but it helps reinforce that positivity! And you can choose to keep your journal in an actual journal, or on your smartphone so you can always keep it with you.

Be Present

It is very easy to get lost in “what’s next” and worry about what’s happening next. Instead, try and focus on the present. Enjoy the “now” and be thankful for the little things. Whether you’re enjoying a delicious meal, spending time with loved ones, or enjoying a lovely conversation, focus on being completely present in the moment and appreciate each experience. 

Try incorporating thankfulness into your lifestyle and help support that healthy mind, body, heart connection!

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways