Nurture your Neurons
Simple Ways to Grow Your Brain
Organic gardening of another kind.
“The brain is brutal. Use it or you lose it.” Marissa Peer
There are numerous scientific studies over the past three decades which support that statement.
When we talk of the Mind-Body connection, we often forget that the Mind is our Brain, the largest muscle in our bodies; an engine which drives every part of us — both automatic and manual. We influence or tweak our engine’s performance with
- how we perceive ourselves
- how we perceive others
- how we behave
- the words we choose
- the language we use
- what we think
- what we believe
We are sending messages to our brains every moment of our lives, even when asleep. Your brain is listening to your body and your body is listening to your brain.
“The literature has demonstrated again and again that thoughts affect neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that allow the brain to communicate with different parts of itself and the nervous system. Neurotransmitters control pretty much all the body’s functions, from feeling happy to modulating hormones to dealing with stress. Therefore, our thoughts exert a direct influence on our bodies, because the body interprets the messages coming from the brain to prepare us for whatever is expected.” Psychology Today
A Play on Words
Here’s an example of an experiment conducted by the BBC which illustrates this concept.
They pulled random people off the street.
They asked the first group to make a sentence using the words
When they left, they were walking slower, thought they were fragile, as if they had got old.
The second group had to write a sentence using the words
They practically bounded out of the room. Why? They were young words.
Your Intention Drives Your Life
How do you talk to your brain? Do you stay stuck where you are, churning bitter butter with negative self-talk?
Me. “Oh God, I look old.”
Brain says, “Okay,” sends the message through your neural network to create physiological responses that support your words.
Or what about?
Me. “I’m a failure.”
Brain says “Okay, I’ll make sure you don’t succeed at anything.”
What is Your Intention?
Changing your self-talk as not an easy undertaking. Your brain has become accustomed to the same old messages along the same old neural pathways.
“When we are stuck in a rut, we are being invited to grow and expand.”
― Dana Arcuri, Reinventing You: Simple Steps to Transform Your Body, Mind, & Spirit
With physical exercise, your muscles become stronger. Whereas before, you wobbled all over the yoga mat (as I am doing) or could only manage a one kilometer brisk walk, as you become fitter with practice you can do all your yoga postures with ease or master a five kilometer brisk walk without collapsing in a heap. You are flexible and fit.
By the same token, you need to exercise your brain to keep it flexible and fit. “Neuroplasticity” and “rewire your brain” have become familiar words in the 21st Century. If you create new neural pathways, you are in effect finding other routes to navigate your mind rather than the well-trodden.
There are simple effortless ways to re-map your brain and enlarge your hippocampus, paving the way for new and positive self-talk to take hold as you give birth to new brain cells.
Keep your Brain Fit with Neurobics
This means (drum roll) — brain exercises. They’re fun to do and free.
No need to download an app (though there are many around), you need not go on a course or buy a book or a gym membership. You can do these anywhere, anytime. The only equipment you need is your brain and your senses.
Have you noticed when you move home, it takes a while, in your kitchen or bathroom environment, to adjust to where you put the saucepans or the shampoo? You involuntarily turn, walk and reach out to where they used to be in your previous home — it’s an old habit but you adjust because your brain has activated new nerve connections. (The innumerable times I’ve moved in my life must have helped keep my brain fit!)
I repeat — you can do these exercises anywhere anytime. (And you can make up your own.) The underlying principle is to challenge how you do things, how you engage your senses.
Some exercises to get you going:-
- If you sit with your left leg crossed over your right as I do, favour your non-dominant leg by crossing your right over your left leg. (I’ve been doing this for a month now.)
- Which leg do you favor when you stand up and take a step to go somewhere? Use the other one. (I’d never noticed until I started neurobics, that I step out with my right leg and I still get that wrong — a little two-step shuffle corrects it.)
- Do you hold your phone to your left or right ear? Try the other ear. (I’ve been battling with this as I still insist I can hear better with my right ear.)
- This is easy — brush your teeth with your eyes closed, using your non-dominant hand, while standing on one leg. (Can get messy so I only do at bedtime when I can splash the toothpaste off my face.)
- Unlock your front door with your eyes closed and use your sense of touch, smell, hearing and spatial memory to make your way through to the lounge. (I’ve got bruises on my shins — ouch!)
Make up your own and have fun.
What did I mean when I said at the beginning “organic gardening of another kind”?
Neurobics creates the fertilizer that grows your brain, keeping it fit and flexible to tackle any mental challenge. Do that, and the work of changing your beliefs, your self-talk and your habits is a smoother ride as you’ve grown new brain cells and synaptic connections that can bypass the old rutted roads.
Your brain will love you for it!