• lynneeveratt

7 tips to maximize your brainpower

“Some people like skiing, or mountain climbing, or playing poker. I like operating on people’s brains.” - Dr. Rahul Jandial Dr. Rahul Jandial is a brain surgeon and neuroscientist who has studied the brain both academically and up close, sticking his talented fingers into its fleshy tissue that floats like a big white jellyfish inside the skull’s bony aquarium. He is among the world’s leading experts on the brain and the author of Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon. When Rahul Jandial talks about how to care for this delicate, mind-bogglingly magnificent organ of flesh, chemicals, and electricity, we all should listen. Using the metaphor of a garden that’s more pleasing than pondering a jellyfish, here are seven of his best proven and practical tips to improve your brain’s fitness: 1. Wander through your garden. “The brain is a living thing, much more like an overgrown garden than an orderly filing cabinet. And mind wandering through your own garden of thoughts, memories, feelings, and desires is a sure way to discover your inner creative self.” Go for a walk in nature, or simply take a break to stare out the window and let your mind wander to creative places where new life adventures are waiting to be discovered. Dr. Jandial also recommends taking advantage of the highly creative hypnagogic state between wakefulness and sleep when the gates to your garden spring wide open. Keep a pen and notebook by your bed, so you can harvest the bounty of your imagination. 2. Reduce the stress on your garden. Before going into surgery, Dr. Jandial does what he calls “deep meditative breathing.” It doesn’t really matter how you do it—inhale to the count of 3, hold for 4, and exhale for 5 is as good as any—just breathe deeply and mindfully for a few minutes a few times each day. Deep breathing sends a calming signal to both your body and brain. 3. Make sure your garden is well irrigated. The brain is flesh that requires irrigation with blood. Blood vessels deliver oxygen and nutrients to your brain, and if your vessels are clogged, parts of the brain can wither and die. Therefore good vascular health means good brain health, and the best non-pharmaceutical way to improve your vascular health is through, you guessed it, exercise. 4. Feed your garden. Yes, there is such a thing as brain food. Your brain’s billions of neurons transmit information via electricity and chemicals. Like the insulation that protects an electrical wire, your neurons have a myelin sheath that transmits electrical charges. You can keep your myelin in good repair so that it transmits information quickly with a diet rich in omega-3 fat that comes from food such as salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds. Dr. Jandial recommends that you swap red meat, fried food, and processed foods with beans, yogurt and fresh fruit and veggies from the brain-friendly Mediterranean diet. 5. Fertilize your garden. The best fertilizer for your garden is exercise. The brain has its own pharmacy and rewards itself whenever you move. Even moving from sitting to standing counts. Think of exercise as spraying your brain with growth factors. 6. Don’t let your garden shrink! Your brain weighs three pounds, yet it contains 20 percent of your body's blood flow. It’s an energy hog, yet it strives for efficiency: your brain would prefer that you stay in a rut so that it can shut down unused areas and conserve energy. “Use it or lose it" is written into your brain’s operating code. You have to override this efficiency programming by making a conscious decision to experience new things and keep learning. Think and challenge yourself with new experiences and new skills. You don’t need to become a maestro. Even trying to learn to speak a new language, playing a musical instrument, or reading something in an area unfamiliar to you will help make your garden thrive. 7. Cultivate a happy garden. Depression makes your inner and outer worlds smaller and negatively affects your brain. Dr. Jandial prescribes doing things that make you happy. The Harvard Study—the longest research study of adult life ever undertaken—has shown that the best way to cultivate a happy garden is through high-quality relationships that bring you joy, enrich your life through new experiences, and expand your range of thought.

Links that will give you tasty food for thought:

  • The Anxiety of Influencers Harpers

  • Don't Approach Life Like a Picky Eater. The Atlantic

  • This Is The #1 Ritual You Need To Do Every Day Eric Barker

  • The Relatable Emotions of Depressed People From 3,000 Years Ago Vice

  • Take a Gratitude Photo The New York Times

May your brainy garden flourish, Lynne

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