“Our brains are not forever stuck running an old operating system. We can update to the latest version, just like Microsoft Windows!”
–overheard at a conference
I grew up with the “truth” that once you were grown, you entered a state of neural decline. No wonder we all became Peter Pans who didn’t want to grow up. Who wants to think growing up only means a decline in brain capacity?
Before the 1980s, the general agreement among neuroscientists was that the human brain couldn’t generate new cells once it reached adulthood.
Now we know that our brains have the ability to change i.e., have neuroplasticity, we have more potential than just what we currently think and do.
You can think of it like your computer’s operating system. If you were born into Windows 95, you aren’t stuck running Windows 95 forever. You can upgrade your brain’s operating system at any time.
When I read The Brain that Changes Itself I got really excited about author Norman Doidge MD’s message and wanted more to read about the brain.
You can “update” your brain, no matter what your age
Not adequately providing for our brain will decrease its functions. This is an organ that:
- Regulates our physical health
- Plans and moves us into action in our lives
- Holds our memories and therefore informs us who we are as a person
- Guides us in the expression of emotions
You can feel better in your life if you start by paying attention to how you treat your brain. When you pay attention to the health of your brain you can really change things in your life for the better.
We think of our brains as being in charge of us, so it’s strange to say we are in fact in charge of our brains. But we are. We collect information with our entire nervous system, including the brain, and this information feeds our mind.
The better our bodies and brains are functioning the better the overall outcome.
Here is a thought….maybe those dreams didn’t work just how you planned because you were using your old operating system! Focus on your brain health and then try again. You’ll come up with a plan that feels like a better fit and leads to optimal results.
If our brain feels limited, we can stop neglecting it and give it more of what would make it healthy! We can upgrade and update it anytime.
Does your brain feel unhealthy to you?
We have all seen what the combination of what poor sleep, little or no exercise, and bad diets do to a human being. Maybe we think “that won’t happen to me. “
Oh no? Maybe you have these symptoms:
- Feeling foggy
- An inability to focus and/or complete more difficult tasks
- Feeling irritable or low in mood
- A desire to withdraw from social interactions
These could be signs you’re not treating your brain properly.
It is a known fact that diets containing processed foods and refined carbohydrates lead to chronic diseases. And that anxiety and depression are linked to poor diets over a few months.
How to keep your brain healthy
As a kid, you were probably told to:
- Drink milk so you would get strong bones
- Eat protein to build muscle
- Do ___________ to build a high-functioning brain
Why is that sentence blank? Because no one really learns to pay attention to your brain and keep it healthy. But I predict daily exercise routines for the brain will take the world by storm by the year 2050.
Here’s where we get to fill in this blank now that we know more and are grown up.
What makes a brain healthy is no longer a question without an answer. The research on brain health agrees on the foundation for providing yourself with the opportunities for a healthy brain.
- Being outside in Nature
I say if your habits are sloppy in these areas, your brain health is deteriorating as you are reading this! But it might not be until later when you feel and know the full impact.
We need to build habits that include these ingredients so we can effect a positive change in our thinking and being.
Here are the major categories with suggestions as to how to improve the health of your brain today.
Pick as many as you want from each category and begin today making new habits.
Challenge yourself mentally
- Build a web page
- Take an online course
- Join Toastmasters
- Play an instrument
- Learn a language
Engage in Social Activities
- Meet with friends
- Spend time in family activities
- Volunteer your time and skills
- Spend time with children
Improve Brain Growth with Exercise
- Do the exercise of your choice
- Exercise plus increase mental demand (skiing, orienteering, square dancing 🙂
- Exercises that require balance like tai-chi
- Meditation (download my free Yoga Nidra meditation)
Necessary Habits that Make a Healthy Brain
- 8 hours sleep
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol or other mind altering substances
- Eat healthy foods
- Wear head protection when doing activities that could hurt your brain (skiing skateboarding)
“SMALL SKETCHES” by Flickr user Bill Strain is licensed under CC BY 2.0.