The human brain is the most complex thing ever discovered, rocketing information through its neural path ways at more than 150 mph!
Besides being responsible for managing all the complexities of our body, the brain is the hub for all thoughts, learning, memory and emotion. But for all this hard work, it saps only about 20 percent of our energy.
Every time a new thought or memory is generated, the brain’s structure changes as new connections are formed in the neural network. Neural pathways are reinforced when a thought or sensory input is repeated. In a sense, the groove gets deeper with each repetition. This is one reason it is so critical to be aware of what is travelling through our senses and into our brain, and this is why our thoughts are vitally important.
Our brain is an amazing gift, and it is just common sense to take good care of this incredible miracle of engineering. It is in the brain that we enjoy life and relate to others, and it is through our intellect that our Creator speaks to us.
Unfortunately, our brain is the target of a negative barrage that can leave it spinning out of control. And there are other ways we abuse our brain, often without realizing the impact of our choices. We can end up making poor decisions, reacting improperly to life events and damaging relationships. We can become moody and miserable. A gloomy mental state will negatively affect our physical, mental and spiritual health as well.
But is does not need to be this way! Here are some simple things we can do at almost any time to boost our mood and our thinking ability which will help our body, mind and spirit too:
Exercise – Research has shown that regular exercise increases blood flow to the brain, enhancing its abilities. Outdoor exercise has the added benefit of sunlight and fresh air, both of which are beneficial to brain function. Right after exercise your body produces special chemicals that make it easier to learn. Good time to study!
In a 1999 study by Duke University researchers James A. Blumenthal and Michael A. Babyak, published in the “Archives of Internal Medicine,” it was found that those who exercised at a moderate intensity of 40 minutes, three to five days per week, experienced the greatest mood-boosting benefits. The release of these chemicals into the brain varies between individuals who exercise at the same intensity. Aerobic exercise performed regularly at a comfortable and consistent level, was also linked to increased chemical release.
Endorphins are released by the pituitary gland in the brain during sustained, vigorous exercise. Thought to be released in response to painful or stressful stimuli, endorphins diminish the pain associated with exercise, allowing you to exercise longer and at higher intensities. Other endorphin effects include decreased stress; euphoric feelings often referred to as a post-exercise high, decreased appetite and improved immune response.
Serotonin is another neurochemical released during exercise. Serotonin is a natural mood enhancer. When levels of serotonin are increased, symptoms of depression can be decreased. Simon N. Young, editor in chief of the “Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience,” reports that people with lower levels of serotonin may experience negative physical effects in addition to depressed mood, such as increased risk for heart disease.
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor known as BDNF, is a neurotransmitter also found to be released into the brain in response to exercise. This chemical has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of depression. Dr. Gary Small, writing for PsychologyToday.com, reports that this substance can also enhance brain health and memory.
The number of positive emotional effects gained from regular exercise is surprising. These effects include improved self-esteem, enhanced mood, better memory and mental functioning, and decreased stress. Dr. Small cites evidence that shows similar decreases in depression between groups that exercised and groups that took anti-depressant medication. More research is being done on these effects.
Get plenty of sleep – A tired, sleep-deprived brain functions very much as if it were intoxicated , resulting to poor judgment, reduced willpower, foggy thinking and impaired motor skills; learning and memory are also negatively affected.
Eat healthy, whole foods – Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function.
Drink enough water. Science has shown that even mild dehydration can lower your cognitive function.
Relax – Take a quiet stroll out in nature, enjoy some soft music, or soak away your cares in a warm bath. Anything you can do to lower your stress will help your brain work better.
Avoid chemical stimulants – Instead, stimulate your brain by working crosswords or logic puzzles, playing word games or reading a good book. Take a new hobby to challenge your brain! Memorize Bible verses.
Get your “kindness fix” – Do nice things for others. Among other benefits, helping others releases pleasure-producing hormones in the brain. Spending quality time with friends and family enhances your feelings of well-being and their too!
Guard your senses – Think positive thoughts; don’t let anything into your brain that could affect your well-being.