Don’t let your brain sidetrack your future.
When talking about inside out thinking I am referring to managing the root of the behavior in order to manage risk not necessary eliminate risk. Deepak Chopra, a prominent figure in the New Age movement is quoted as saying, “To think is to practice brain chemistry.”
How you think is just as important as how you feel. In other words, your mental health is equally as important as your physical health.
Until recently, however, there seemed to be no guidelines for active efforts you could make to stay mentally healthy. There were no brain exercises—no mental push-ups—you could do to stave off the loss of memory and analytic acuity that comes as you grow older. In the worst-case scenario, you could end up with Alzheimer’s disease, for which there are no proven treatments. What can you do now?
RETHINKING OLD THINKING
The brain does not necessarily diminish with age. It turns out that neurons, the basic cells that allow information transfer to support the brain’s computing power, do not have to die off as we get older. In fact, a number of regions of the brain important to functions such as motor behavior and memory can actually expand their complement of neurons as we age. This process, called neurogenesis, used to be unthinkable in mainstream neuroscience.
The process of neurogenesis is profoundly affected by the way you live your life. The brain’s anatomy, neural networks, and cognitive abilities can all be strengthened and improved through your experiences and interactions with your environment.
In other words, you can make physical changes in your brain by learning new skills. You can even make changes in how your brain functions by exercising conscious thinking. The conscious competent theory states becoming a conscious thinker means you are fully aware of the right analysis. The conscious thinker is a conscious learner who understands and can perform a skill reliably at will. And more importantly, these individuals know exactly “what” they did and “how” to repeat success and demonstrate the skill to another, eventually becoming “unconsciously committed” or internalizing the new skill.
Practice is the single most effective way to consign new thinking to the unconscious part of your brain. Common examples are driving, sports activities, and manual dexterity tasks like coding or word processing, listening and communicating. This automatic unconscious brain can now multitask; for example, by working out on the treadmill while watching TV.
Be present and aware of others. Good or bad we need connect with our environment and other people to see our life circumstances more clearly. Instead of texting 24/7 or emailing, spend time face-to-face with people. Become a good listener, ask more questions, and probe for deep answers. Mastering these skills are often accompanied by the feeling of awakening.
Reset your self-awareness by practicing some mindful reflection. A few minutes a day of mindful thinking will help you approach each moment with greater self-awareness and mental flexibility. The idea is to reset your brain through restful self-guided thinking. This daily practice will actually help you learn about how your mind, thoughts and feelings really work. We each possess natural strengths and preferences due to brain-type, personality, and life-stage/experience, which affect our attitudes and commitment to learning and the development of different disciplines.
Live each day well. Eat well, sleep well, get daily exercise and be active. Being present and living well means engaging all your senses. Engagement is an important psychological construct that helps measure a person’s purpose in life. Engagement can be a predictor of various health outcomes, both physical and psychological and is an important factor to improve in people.
Before you start this INSIDE OUT approach to wellness follow the first rule, “your worth is not defined by the slippery slope of perceptions.”
Because the brain is an interactive system, any activities that stimulate one part of your brain will easily stimulate the other areas of the brain. Therefore, our cognitive fitness is like training your core. This means although some stimuli may initially create greater activation in the right hemisphere, both hemispheres will ultimately be involved in the process of mastering the new challenges – as is seen in the development of an abdominal-strong core or achieving the infamous six-pack.
MANAGE BY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Exercise builds brain muscle through a process called neurogenesis. Study after study touts the importance of the body needing physical activity to obtain positive effects on cognitive abilities. Research on physical exercise was shown to play a protective role against hippocampal cell injury, which produces brain memory loss.
Another positive regarding regular physical activity plays on the fact that this facilitates recovery from injury and improves cognitive functionality. This includes an increase in the expression of many neurotropic and physiological factors involved in neural survival, differentiation, and improvement of function. Some of the most recent studies reported the potential action of exercise as an antiapoptotic parameter against many brain diseases such as brain inflammatory conditions, dementia, the improvement of depressive symptoms, and alleviation of memory impairment from traumatic brain injury.
Article after article; report after report maintains the good effects of physical exercise on cognitive abilities as a non-drug and non-invasive essential ,targeting long term health for all ages. The benefits of regular physical exercise as a health-ensuring necessity over age, gender, occupation, and status cannot be overestimated.
An easy real life fix would be to simply get up from your sofa and/or desk and take a walk. The act of walking and movement invigorates the brain. That’s why when you have a mental block or recall problem, getting up and changing your environment can lead to that “aha” moment.
Watching a comedian on Netflix, reading a funny book, watching a hilarious movie or simply finding humor in any given situation promotes insights and enhances health. One of the most valuable things I have gained during my years as a coach has been the ability to laugh at myself. I would see each situation as my own reality T.V. show. Don’t take life too seriously; remember to focus on the lighter side of life. Take time to enjoy your friends and spend time with family. Laughter promotes relaxation, boosts your immune system, and improves mood. Laughter shifts your perspective, and laughing together with other people fosters emotional connections, improves cooperation, communication and, best yet, your desirability and chances for romance.
Activities like bridge, chess, Sudoku, and the New York Times crossword puzzle all provide good neural workouts. There are ever more possibilities online, too, with the growing popularity of role-playing games. Try new games that challenge your left hemisphere, such as pool.
Take an acting class or an improvisation workshop. This type of play allows you to expand your behavioral repertoire. Your brain has an expansive imaginary warehouse stored with immense information. Enhance your personality by trying out new ways of interacting with friends and colleagues.
CHANGE YOUR POINT OF REFERENCE
Become more aware of your tendencies, how you typically think and respond. Listen to yourself and figure out what you don’t seek. For example, if your tendency is to watch “Sci-Fi,” switch to “Documentaries.”
Short trips, long trips, shopping in a different part of town, going overseas or watching the Travel Channel is an amazing brain infusion. Look for local art shows, visit a gallery or see a new exhibition at a museum. These activities boost your IQ and your EQ (emotional intelligence).
BE PRESENT AND TAKE NOTE
Be curious and listen without judgement to what you hear, whether it is a TED TALK, NPR piece, a friend ranting passionately about something, or a comedian on NETFLIX. Active listening has become a rare gift. Genuine listening builds relationships, solves problems, ensures understanding, resolves conflict and improves quality of an outcome. It also helps build friendships and careers.
CONNECT- SHARE- LEARN
Facebook, Instagram, Tweet, LinkedIn, or email – talking about it and sharing your emotional energy with your friends will extend the activity throughout the brain. Even your brain stem, which keeps you wakeful and engaged, will get a workout. Try face-to-face every once in a while. In face-to-face meetings, our brains process the continual cascade of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and personal/professional intimacy. Face-to-face interaction is information-rich. We get most of the message and the entire emotional nuance behind the words from vocal tone, pacing, facial expressions and body language. You don’t get that from a voicemail, email, or text. The instantaneous responses of a face-to-face with others saves time, allowing better understanding, the ability to ask questions, and helps us gauge how well our ideas are being accepted.
Take up painting, learn a new language, become a sommelier or join a wine club, take singing lessons or go to a Karaoke club. The world is yours to engage. You know the old saying, if you give a person a fish, they’ll eat for a day, yet if you teach them to fish, they’ll eat for a lifetime. Learning something new allows you to gain and share knowledge, empowering you to learn from others and understand the world in new ways. Learning is simply what the brain does, whether you’re studying math, refining your golf swing, or remembering a recipe. It all comes down to learning.
REGULAR EXERCISE and BALANCED NUTRITION
Your brain is part of a larger system that requires cardiovascular exercise, healthy diet, and proper sleep habits. One of the most consistently identified defenses against developing dementia is a good exercise regimen. Very specific beneficial biochemical changes, such as increases in endorphins and cortisol, result from both cardiovascular and strength training. Those benefits literally flow through your blood vessels and reach your muscles, your joints, your bones, and, yes, your brain.
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