10 Ways You Can Increase Your Brain Power
The top ten actions to take care of your brain. Hang in and you’ll be rewarded.
10. The hippocampus is essential to our ability to learn. However we can support the hippocampus will help in many areas of our life. Inversely, avoid doing things that make the hippocampus shrink. Keep this in mind as we go along.
9. The amygdala is constantly on the alert for danger. This obviously serves a useful function, unless it’s overstimulated. Then it can be harmful, affecting our blood pressure and our interpersonal relationships. And it also affects our brain.
8. Aerobic exercise increases BDNF, which stands for “brain-derived neurotrophic factor.” When BDNF is released into the system, brain growth and neural connections are enhanced – it’s great for the brain. Research indicates that for roughly 24 hours after exercise, it’s easier to grow new neurons and to make new neural connections.
7. Weight training not only builds muscles and contributes to bone health, but it also improves cognitive functioning. Improvements are in areas that include:
- Heightened ability to make decisions,
- Greater ability to resolve conflict
- Improved focus.
6. Meditation quiets the amygdala and activates the hippocampus. (See take-away number ten: Anything that supports the hippocampus is good for you.)
5. The cerebral cortex thins with age. Researchers are finding that a consistent practice of meditation helps to thicken cell walls in the brain.
4. Stress can be as harmful to your brain as is it to the cardiovascular system. In studies done on rats, it was shown that when corticosteroids (hormones released by the adrenals in response to stress) were increased, brain growth decreased. So, when stress went up, brain growth went down. In fact, chronic stress can shrink the brain, making it hard to learn new information, or to even simply retain the information you already have.
3. Most new learning takes place when the brain has an optimal amount of arousal. Too much arousal and the brain shuts down, not enough and it gets distracted and lazy. It’s important to keep this in mind during times when you are most, or least, engaged.
2. We normally think of brain growth and change as a positive thing, but there can also be a dark side to this quality. For instance, when we are experiencing trauma, we are also in ‘learning mode.’ In such times, the brain is laying down neural connections, even though they may include negative memories and sensations of negative experiences. Children and adults both are susceptible to this. The good news is this can be reversed.
1. We all have the capacity to change how our brains function. We can also strengthen our brain’s ability to remain elastic. How do we do this? This is key: We start by biasing our brain in favor of increasing our hippocampus growth and decreasing our amygdala learning.
How Do We Increase the Growth of our Hippocampus?
We can help our brains grow simply by exercising and meditating. If doing those two things sounds like a chore—and at times one or the other might feel like one—all we can say is, how much more of a chore is the alternative? Because no one can tell me that living with diminished brain power and muscles, added stress, lessened memory and ability to function don’t add up to a huge chore—at precisely the time when we least need it. The flip side of this is that we will feel so much better in the short and long run with these two small additions to our daily routine.
Let’s take a gentle approach and start with one action a day, and then build from there.
Day 1. Five minutes of sitting quietly and counting our breath (or any other form of meditation—look online for a method that suits you), + 5 minutes of light exercise.
Day 2. Six minutes + 5 minutes
Day 3. Repeat.
Day 4: 7 minutes + 5 minutes
Day 5: Repeat (or add one minute to each)
Day 6. 8 minutes + 6 minutes
Day 7. Repeat.
Day 8. 9 minutes + 7 minutes
Day 9. 1- minutes + 8 minutes.
And so on, until you can reach 20 minutes of meditating and 20+ minutes of cardio.
Keep at it: You’ll feel great, look great and stay young for much longer.
Daniel at Blue Phoenix Wellness