Our brains are fascinating to say the least. Not only are there more than 100 billion neurons actively analysing and transporting information, each neuron has 100 times more microtubules within it — blows your mind, right?
Last week was Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to raise public awareness of the benefits and advancements of brain research. And there are many.
One of the major advancements in the study of the brain is the new knowledge that the brain is plastic, in that it continually changes and grows according to environmental, neural and behavioural processes. The previously held belief that the brain is a physiologically static organ has been replaced by the study of neuroplasticity. In other words, whatever you choose to do that will benefit and grow the brain can only be a good thing.
So what can we do to look after our one and only brain?
- Minimise stress
When we are stressed our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol (among other things) in response. Chronic stress and related levels of cortisol can lead to an increase of fat around organs (visceral fat). The accumulation of this type of fat can disrupt the functioning of the liver, the pancreas and the brain. This is just one of the negative impacts of stress on the body, there are many more. It makes absolute sense to manage your life so that stress is not a constant component of every day.
- Learn something new
I try to learn something new each year. It’s not only fun, it’s my Alzheimer’s prevention strategy! When we learn new things, our brains fire off new neural pathways in response. Simple.
- Allow yourself time to think
When do you have your most creative ideas? Why is it always in the shower, or going for a walk, or sitting on the beach on holidays? Allow your brain some time to rest and let those creative juices flow.
- Think good things
Our minds are not our brains, but our mind does instruct our brain how to react and consequently creates a physiological response. Just think about why you cry when simply reminded of an emotionally traumatic experience. Switch off the negative mind monkey chatter and replace with good and positive thoughts. Being angry and negative just surrounds us with angry and negative experiences. Find the good or the lesson in every experience. Your brain will respond accordingly.
- Have a laugh
Laughter is essential for optimal health and brain function (don’t believe me? Just google “gelotology”). When we laugh, endorphins are released which have a protective effect on the brain. A good old belly laugh is a fabulous stress buster too!
It makes sense that we look after our brains. It is a pretty sophisticated piece of machinery and we only have one. By keeping tabs on our stress levels and regularly relaxing our brains we will be more productive, more clever and happier! Seems like a no-brainer to me…