- On September 22, 2014
We’ve heard it for years!
“Eat your vegetables.”
“Get enough sleep.”
“Just Do It and exercise.”
And when I followed the advice my body really DID feel better.
And now I’ve learned this motherly encouragement is just as important to our brain health as it is to our body health.
These three foundational practices—
- Regular aerobic Exercise
- 7-9 hours of Sleep
- A diet that includes mineral and vitamin rich Food
- Novelty, and
- attentive Focus
into our daily regimen will actually help grow our neural connections.
Whatever you are trying to do differently in your life—remember to listen deeper, break a pattern of smoking, change your diet, approach situations more empathetically, improve critical thinking, develop a richer communications style–all of this requires the rewiring of long-held neural pathways. This is hard work. Resorting to an old cliché, it’s like trying to turn the Titanic…with a rowboat oar.
Yesterday I made it a point to focus on Exercise by taking a brisk 5 mile walk. Running, swimming, even brisk walking, increases our oxygen intake.
Our brain consumes a disproportionally high level of energy to function properly. The brain is about 2% of body mass and uses 20% of energy and oxygen that we take in. Aerobic exercise creates higher oxygen stores and also stimulates Brain-derived Neurotropic Factorwhich is essential for the brain growth necessary to create new neural pathways that allow us to make the changes into a habit.
To add a dose of Novelty, I took a route I hadn’t used before making it difficult to just zone out. I had to be aware of what street I was on and where the next turn was coming. My brain was getting a workout as well as my body!
To the Exercise and Novelty, I added in a smidgen of Multi-Sensory Input, which according to BEabove Leadership founders Ann Betz and Ursula Pottinga, adds an extra gold star to the workout as a ‘neuroplasticity enhancer.’
As we crossed over the river I smelled the dank musk of low tide on the river, the spicy fat of a half-smoke from the food truck I passed, and the first dry whiff of fall leaves walking under the trees along the Reflecting Pool.
I felt the trickle of sweat down my cheek in the late afternoon sun, and tasted the shadow of cool mint Listerine that I had rinsed my water bottle out with earlier that day.
To cap off the multi-sensory experience of this walk, like no other, I watched two bald eagles, white head and tail, soaring and dipping right above me, their broad wing span showcased crisply against the brilliant blue sky of the late summer afternoon. Hey! This brain work can be kinda fun!
What are you using to build your brain?
Image by: ktsdesigns, Shutterstock.com