“The brain is transforming itself constantly. Just as you cannot step into a river in the same place twice, you can’t step into the brain in the same place twice. Both are flowing. The brain is a process, not a thing; a verb, not a noun.”
(Super Brain by Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD)
I grew up believing that the nerve paths of my brain were fixed and immutable. Science told us brain cells died over our lifetime and could not be regenerated, period.
As it turns out, that’s just not true!
With fancy words like neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, scientists are now saying we can influence the health of our brain, with a potentially unlimited ability to change throughout our entire lifespan1.
That means the better I care for my brain, the better my brain will take care of me. My philosophy for mental fitness is based on four simple ideas: feed my brain, rest my brain, exercise my brain, and rewire my brain.
Feed My Brain
My diet is low-carb and full of healthy fats. “The brain thrives on a fat-rich low-carbohydrate diet,” says David Perlmutter, MD, “which unfortunately, is relatively uncommon in human populations today.”
I follow the dietary guidelines outlined in Grain Brain by eating healthy fats, proteins and vegetables, and limiting carbohydrates. I also take supplements designed to support healthy brain function.
Rest My Brain
I try to get 8 full hours of peaceful sleep every night. These tips help me create a healthy sleep ritual:
- Keeping the bedroom dark and cool
- Not using the phone, computer or television in bed
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
- Taking a melatonin supplement designed to achieve a restful sleep
- Drinking a glass of water during the last hour before bed
I have developed 6 ways to help make meditation a daily practice for me.
Exercise My Brain
It turns out that my practice of lifelong exercise is good for my brain. We now know that exercise promotes the process of neurogenesis, which is your brain’s ability to adapt and grow new brain cells, regardless of your age3.
My daily practice of reading provides mental stimulation to keep my brain strong and healthy. Studies have shown that staying mentally engaged can slow the progress of (or possibly prevent) Alzheimer’s and dementia, since keeping your brain active prevents it from losing power4.
Rewire My Brain
When you repeatedly align your beliefs, feelings and actions, you will experience lasting changes in your brain5.
Reflection is my practice for cultivating the inner being that is my unique soul. Reflection is a mindfulness practice that helps me slow down, quiet my mind and listen to my heart. It helps me know who I am and what is important to me. Reflection helps me to know what I love and why I love it. I call the things I love doing, my “ings”:
Loving, learning, exercising, reading, writing, cooking, meditating, thinking, boating, giving, playing, traveling, entertaining, speaking, researching, and networking
I am motivated to take excellent care of my brain because I want my brain to take excellent care of me. Happiness and mastery are two key elements that are important to how I care for, and rewire, my brain.
Happiness: The more I do the things I love, the happier I am.
Mastery: In his fantastic book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains that people don’t become “masters” at complex things until they have accrued 10,000 hours of practice. The more I do the things I love, the closer I get to mastery.
Dr. Ellen Domm explains why aligning your beliefs, feelings and actions, as I do with my practice of reflection, is so important:
The phrase, “neurons that fire together wire together” is a simplistic way of explaining that “each experience we encounter, including our feelings, thoughts, sensations, and muscle actions becomes embedded in the network of brain cells, that produce that experience. Each time you repeat a particular thought or action, you strengthen the connection between a set of brain cells or neurons.”6
Incredibly, this means, the more I do the things I love, the more I’m rewiring my brain to love the things I do, and this creates more emotional wellbeing and happiness.
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- Chopra.com: Rewire Your Brain for Happiness ↩
- Super Brain by Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD ↩
- Mercola.com: The Remarkable Effects of Exercise on Cognition and Brain Cell Regeneration ↩
- Lifehack.org: 10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day ↩
- MindBodyGreen.com: 5 Ways To Rewire Your Brain For Meaningful Life Changes ↩
- DrDomm.com: Neurons That Fire Together Wire Together ↩