The Athlete's Way: 2013 in Review

Christopher Bergland's top ten Psychology Today blog posts from 2013.

Posted Dec 30, 2013

Happy New Year! Thank you to everyone at Psychology Today and to all the readers who have followed The Athlete’s Way blog posts over the past year. I really appreciate that so many people have taken the time to read these posts and share them with friends and family.

The ultimate goal of The Athlete’s Way—and my personal mission in life—is to identify daily habits that optimize the function of the brain, body, and mind throughout a person’s lifespan and to communicate these findings to a large audience. Thank you to everyone for helping make this dream a reality in 2013. 

Below is a compilation of my top ten Psychology Today blog posts from 2013 based on post views. I was curious to see which posts had reached the most readers over the past year and also thought it would be helpful for readers to have an index of the most popular posts in one place.

Thank you again for your readership and support. Wishing you all the very best in 2014!! Christopher Bergland

1. Cortisol: Why “The Stress Hormone” Is Public Enemy No. 1

Cortisol is public health enemy number one. Scientists have known for years that chronic stress and elevated cortisol: weakens memory, lowers immune function, increases weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease. Two new studies revealed dramatic psychological impacts of high cortisol. In this entry I offer 5 simple ways to lower your cortisol levels.

2. The Neuroscience of Calming a Baby

Neuroscientists have discovered the brain system that calms babies down when they are being carried. Interestingly, it is the same brain system that gives people athletic prowess and grace under pressure.

3. Neuroscientists Confirm That Our Loved Ones Become Ourselves

A new study has confirmed that humankind's capacity for love and friendship sets us apart from all other species. Researchers have found that humans are hardwired to empathize with those close to them at a neural level. Interestingly, the ability to put yourselves in another person’s shoes depends drastically on whether the person is a stranger or someone you know.

4. Can Oxytocin Improve Brain Function in Children With Autism?

A new study from the Yale School of Medicine has found that a single dose of the hormone oxytocin, delivered via nasal spray, can enhance brain activity while processing social information in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, there is an ongoing debate on the efficacy of oxytocin nasal spray for treating autism.

5. The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure

Stimulating your vagus nerve creates a neurobiological snowball effect that will give you grace under pressure in any stressful situation. In this entry I offer 8 habits that will stimulate your vagus nerve and promote healthy "vagal tone" which produces a calm, confident, and optimal state of mind and body for peak performance...and many other health benefits.

6. Why Is Dancing So Good For Your Brain?

Dancing improves brain function on a variety of levels. Two recent studies show how different types of practice allow dancers to achieve peak performance by blending cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory held in the cerebellum.

7. How Does Meditation Reduce Anxiety at a Neural Level?

In recent years there has been a steady stream of research showing the power of mindfulness meditation to reduce anxiety. Until now, the specific brain mechanisms of how meditation relieves anxiety at a neural level were unknown.

8. Social Media’s Dual Edged Sword: Narcissism vs. Self-Esteem

How often do you check your Facebook account? After you post something, do you check back to see how many people ‘Like' it? Does your ego inflate or deflate based on how many 'Likes' you get? Researchers have confirmed that the desire to be ‘Liked’ on Facebook is a universal phenomenon.

9. Why Do Adult Dogs Become Like Human Children to Owners?

What are the roots of the intense bonding that occurs between humans and dogs? Scientists at the University of Veterinary medicine in Vienna have found that the bond between dogs and their owners shares striking similarities to the relationship between human parents and their children.

10. The Neuroscience of Speaking With Your Hands

Scientists have found that the evolution of the control of speech and hand movements can be traced back to the same place in the brain, which could explain why we use hand gestures when we are speaking. How much do you use your hands when communicating?

Below are some of my Psychology Today blog posts that were bubbling under the Top 10 in 2013:

Follow me on Twitter @ckbergland for updates on The Athlete’s Way blog posts.

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