Exercising Your Brain

20 Mar

Eight ways to enhance your physical, mental and spiritual health – according to breakthrough findings from leading neuroscientist.

#8  Smile! even if you don’t feel like it.  Smiling repetitively helps to interrupt a bad mood and strengthen your brain’s ability to maintain a positive outlook on life.  People will respond to you with more generosity and kindness, and smiles are contagious!

#7  Stay intellectually active.  Intellectual stimulation strengthens your ability to communicate, solve problems and make rational decisions.  By the way, a highly functioning frontal lobe also makes it easier to diet, exercise and avoid tempting activities that have health risks!

#6  Consciously relax.  Scan each part of your body to reduce muscle tension and fatigue, listen to pleasant music, repeat a simple meaningful activity or knit!  Relaxation lowers tension, stress and anxiety.  It also interrupts the brain’s release of harmful chemicals.

#5  Yawn!  This is my favorite!  Yawning quickly brings you into a heightened state of cognitive awareness – ridding you of sleepiness, helping you stay focused, giving you a sense of self and helping you become more introspective and self-aware.  Yawning will relax you and bring you into a state of alertness.  *how to do yawn therapy described at the end.

#4  Meditate.   Meditation or intensive prayer permanently strengthens neural functioning in the specific parts of the brain that are involved in lowering anxiety and depression and enhancing social awareness and empathy. Mediating for  10-15 minutes a day on a consistent basis has been shown to reduce smoking and binge-drinking behavior!

#3  Aerobic exercise.  All forms of exercise enhance brain performance (the more aerobic the better.)  Exercise improves academic performance, repairs and protects the effects of stress, boosts immune function, reduces anxiety, and can decrease depression.  It slows the loss of brain tissue as you age, protects you from Alzheimer’s disease and reduces vulnerability to chronic illness.  Need I say more!

#2  Dialog with others.  This is not monologues at another person, but actual social interaction (put the newspaper, phone and iPad down and converse!)  If we don’t use our language skills large portions of our brains will not effectively interconnect with other brain functions.  Isolation will damage important mechanisms in the brain leading to aggression, depression a social disorders.

#1  Faith.  In this case, faith is equivalent with hope, optimism and the belief that a positive future awaits us. Being optimistic and having faith decreases stress, helps you resist catching the common cold, reduces your risk of coronary artery disease, increases longevity and improves copying skills during hardship.

Your choice today is to try the yawning exercise – it works!!  I did this with a group of people in one of my training session, hilarious and helpful!  It was 2:00 in the afternoon, the sleepies had set in, I asked if they were up for a yawning exercise and they said yes.  Here are the steps to yawn therapy.

  1. Stand up.  (If possible) find a quite place where you won’t be disturbed  (needless to say I broke rule number one – most people chose to face the wall).
  2. Take a very deep breath and then open your mouth wide.  Exhale with a sigh.  Start yawning, even if you have to fake the first few.
  3. Yawn 12 – 15 times; this should take no more than 2 minutes.  Your eyes will probably start watering and your nose might run (that did happen for most of the people in my class so have Kleenex handy!)

It was crazy!  Within 5-10 minutes after the exercise almost everyone in the room agreed that they felt refreshed, less sleepy and more alert.  So before tackling a difficult problem, before a sporting event or when you’re tired – yawn!

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