Our brains are often overlooked when it comes to nutrition and exercise. Most consider these purely for the physical benefits and not the mental. But each time that we are overly stressed ( which is often in our society ), our brains, particularly the frontal cortex and the hippocampus, are bombarded by glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are hormones that assist us in prioritizing during extremely stressful times. This changes the communication, or rather the connections or pathways between neurons. Instead of organizing our thoughts or memories, our brains re-connect different pathways to deal with the stressful stimuli.
Continuous bombardment of stress may cause a cognitive decline over time. Sometimes, stress may be unavoidable, but we often have the ability to control it. I’m a “Type A” personality, and I take on too many tasks at a time, but certain things have helped me to keep my brain pathways clear and healthy. Nutrition is helpful for proper brain function, but so are mental exercises such as meditation, reading, deep breathing, positive affirmations ( yes, talk to yourself! ), and organization & preparation of your thought patterns ( Being prepared is half the battle ). Other applied practices such as painting, drawing, writing, horseback riding, kayaking, paddle boarding, archery, and shooting can all be ways to engage those neural pathways and allow our brains to achieve focus and peace. Yoga, martial arts, Pilates, weight training, cardiovascular exercise, and many other physical outlets are there for us as well. Try to make the time to recover & clear your neural pathways with any one of these, at least for 30 minutes per day, and when time allows, go for the full hour. Find the focus and the peace. It’s something that you must force at times, but if you do it often enough, you will create a good habit, one that will reward you cognitively.
Until next month, John D.