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Brain Health: Healthy Aging Mentally

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I think there is a saying, “if you lose your mind, you essentially lose everything”.  Wait, maybe I made it up.  Oh well, I’m not sure, but it hints at a fundamental point.  Our mind is our perception.  Our brain perceives health and happiness.  Our mind motivates us to take action, or it can stop us no matter how physically able we are.  Keeping our brain healthy is essential for health and longevity.

Current research is coming up with some exciting developments on our brain and how it works.  It theorizes that we can re-grow neurons and brain cells.  It suggests that we routinely only use a small percentage of our brain. Here are 2 practical ways to support neuron growth:

  1. Decreasing recreational substance use: Some may boo and hiss on this one, but here is a practical way to look at it.  Brain activity is inspired by chemicals or neurotransmitters. If we seek external chemicals to influence brain activity to achieve happiness for example, the body will stop producing the chemical on its own, organically.  This is how the dependence occurs. The initial pursuit of happiness changes the need to feel normal over time.   In other words, depression and irritability increase so you feel worse than before.  Therefore, you use the drug more -a.k.a. you’re hooked.  Are there healthy limits? Perhaps, depending on the substance, but we also need to consider how much mental energy is now being consumed while pursuing the drug instead of pursuing intrinsic or inner happiness.

 

  1. Try something new: In my opinion and from years of doing therapy, nothing shows aging or a mental health rut more than the perception of seen it all, done it all, don’t need to learn. Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)  suggests that new experiences create new pathways in the brain.  They describe these new experiences as brain workouts which may include making new friends or learning a new skill.  I would add that these activities may also change the way we perceive the world – with different sensory experiences.  For my creative clientele, I would even encourage doing things with their non-dominant hand as a way to challenge the brain, tap into creativity, and stumble upon new insight.  A favorite technique of mine is writing or drawing with the non-dominant hand.

The great thing about maintaining brain health is that it can be very inexpensive.  It might feel a little awkward at first, but that may not be such a bad thing. These little challenges and stepping outside of our comfort zone are markers for brain growth and leads to a greater sense of well being and happiness.

Be tenacious -today!

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