Look good and feel great naturally

By Devaki Parthasarathy

I have spoken time and again about the need to keep our souls and body fit, but I have rarely spoken about the necessity to nurture the brain. We often underestimate brain power.

The human brain is a thinking organ that learns and grows by interacting with the world through perception and action. It is an involuntary function of the brain that most of us take for granted. A myriad of studies show that mental stimulation improves brain function and actually protects against cognitive decline, as does physical exercise. It is now increasingly becoming common knowledge that severe mental decline is usually caused by disease, whereas most age-related losses in memory or motor skills simply result from inactivity and a lack of mental exercise and stimulation. In other words, use it or lose it.

The word exercise derives from a Latin root meaning “to maintain, to keep, to ward off”. To exercise means to practice, put into action, train, perform, use, improve. Exercise is a natural part of life, although these days we have to consciously include it in our daily routine. Biologically, it was part of survival, in the form of hunting and gathering or raising livestock and growing food. Historically, it was built into daily life, as regular hours of physical work or soldiering. What is now considered a form of exercise ”“ walking ”“was originally a form of transportation.

Walking is especially good for your brain, because it increases blood circulation and the oxygen and glucose that reach your brain. Walking is not strenuous, so your leg muscles don’t take up extra oxygen and glucose like they do during other forms of exercise. As you walk, you effectively oxygenate your brain. Maybe this is why walking can “clear your head” and help you to think better.

Travel is another good way to stimulate your brain. It worked for our ancestors, the early Homo sapiens. Their nomadic lifestyle provided a tremendous stimulation for their brains that led to the development of superior tools and survival skills. Early humans gained a crucial evolutionary edge from the flexibility and innovation required by their strategic lifestyle which also led to a more diverse diet that allowed their brains to rapidly evolve.

A new and rather innovative way to trigger the brain into activity is the concept of Neurobicsâ„¢. It is a unique system of brain exercises using five physical senses and emotional sense in unexpected ways that encourage you to shake up your everyday routines. They are designed to help your brain manufacture its own nutrients that strengthen, preserve, and grow brain cells. What I like about neurobics is that they can be done anywhere, anytime, in offbeat, fun and easy ways. Nevertheless, these exercises can activate underused nerve pathways and connections, helping one to achieve a fit and flexible mind.

Try to include one or more of your senses in an everyday task:
Get dressed with your eyes closed
Wash your hair with your eyes closed
Share a meal and use only visual cues to communicate. No talking.

Combine two senses:
Listen to music and smell flowers
Listen to the rain and tap your fingers
Watch clouds and play with modeling clay at the same time

Break routines:
Go to work on a new route
Eat with your opposite hand
Shop at new grocery store

“Read, read, read,” says Dr. Amir Soas of Case Western Reserve University Medical School in Cleveland. Do crossword puzzles. Play Scrabble. Rubik’s cube, Sudoku, write poetry, maintain a daily journal, start a new hobby or learn to speak a foreign language – anything that stimulates the brain to think. It is important to challenge your brain to learn new and novel tasks, especially processes that you’ve never done before. Examples include square-dancing, salsa, chess, tai chi, yoga, or sculpture.  Above all guys, watch less television, because “your brain goes into neutral”. Playing a fast and furious computer game can be extremely stimulating to those good old brain cells, as long as it’s done in the right proportion.

Challenging the brain early in life is crucial to building up more “cognitive reserve” to counter brain-damaging disease, according to Dr. David Bennett of Chicago’s Rush University. And, reading-habits prior to age 18 are a key predictor of later cognitive function. Many preschools have started to include working with modeling clay or playdough as part of their curriculum after studies have shown that it is an especially good way for children to grow neuron cells. It helps develop agility and hand-brain coordination (like controlling the computer mouse with your opposite hand).

The phrase “mind-body connection” was not merely someone’s figment of imagination. It is a well-known fact that physical exercise is good for our general health, but now we know that physical exercise is also good for the brain. If you think you’re going to get smarter sitting in front of your computer or watching television, think again. At least it will help the brain cells to grow! And next time don’t stop your teenager from day-dreaming, it’s far better than watching TV. So make it a New Year’s resolution to learn a new skill, read one book a month, do a puzzle each day. Have a great festive season and see you all in the New Year!!!!

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