The Neuroscience Behind Training Your Brain
[Reading time: 1 minute 50 seconds]
I recently heard a fantastic talk at the Center for Brain Health by neuroscientist and professor Selena Bartlett PhD. Her information on brain plasticity as it relates to stress and resilience was so interesting and hope-filled that I wanted to share the highlights of her talk here.
Imaging technology has opened up a whole new world of understanding as it relates to the brain. Neuroscientists can now physically see how it is affected by external forces like stress, food, sleep... and internal forces like attitude and loneliness. These things can change blood flow across brain hemispheres, alter hormones, and make structural changes in brain receptors and pathways.
Sometimes these changes help us have healthy, happy lives where we can access our full, unique potential - and sometimes they don't.
So how do you change patterns and behaviors that aren't serving you?
You change your brain.
Dr. Bartlett says we need to think of the brain like a muscle that we can exercise and train every day. This taps into the concept of neuroplasticity:
The brain's ability to form and re-organize synaptic connections and re-wire itself.
Gone are the days where neuroscientists say that the brain stops developing at age 25. Brain imaging shows that we actually have lifelong brain plasticity and can epigenetically change our future. (Whew)
Here are three ways you can exercise and train your brain every day:
Work on your mindset.
Consider the enormous potential of the brain - and then think about what you'd like to do and how much you are willing to push yourself to get there.
Dr. Bartlett describes this as the "#1 thing that separates people who tap into the power of neuroplasticity vs people who don't".
Create a morning routine that lowers your autonomic nervous system.
When you wake up, don't pick up the phone and start reading email (or the news) or you will immediately impact the stress circuits in your brain.
Instead, help keep your autonomic nervous system low.
- Open your eyes.
- Look out the window.
- Find three things you are grateful for (or consider who might be grateful to you.)
Looking outward activates your panoramic vision and builds new, positive circuits in your brain about the world around you.
Start the day with a cold shower.
I had immediate resistance to this but she said you can ease into it by ending your regular shower with cold water on your feet.
A cold shower releases natural analgesics, changes the alkalinity of your blood, heightens your awareness, and re-trains your brain stem. It also energizes your body and gets you thinking "What else can I do??"
Turns out, cold water immersion is a popular thing and there's a ton of research on the benefits of it. (Who would have thought.)
Here's a link to Dr. Bartlett's complete talk: How to Have a Thriving Mind with Selena Bartlett, PhD.
What does your brain need to get things done?
Take the Quiz and find out how your brain works.
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