Did you know that these 5 habits can change your brain for good or bad?In this podcast episode, discover the top ones that make the biggest difference. In this episode discover if do any of these, and if not how to add them to your life.
Scientific research shows that you will increase your brain capacity, prevent mental deterioration, stay youthful, and be more productive and creative the rest of your life, by these simple activities.
1:05 – Number 1 – Reading Novels
4:47 – Number 2 – Learning Something New in an Embodied Way
6:00 – Number 3 – Getting a Good Night’s Sleep on a Regular Basis
9:15 – Number 4 – Lowering Your Fat Percentage
13:28 – Number 5 – Meditate Regularly
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This is Ep 68 – Five Everyday Experiences that Improve Your Brain. Did you know that certain everyday situations can change your brain-mind system for good or bad? In this episode, I’ll talk about how to establish five of them in your life, that we’ve discovered make a huge difference. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger, and this is the MindStory Speaker Podcast.
The brain-mind system is a fascinating process that can capture new data every day. And now, thanks to the latest in neuroimaging technology, scientists know that many things can change the brain and how we interact with the world around us. Those changes can either help you reach your potential or deteriorate it.
Learning about this can help you adjust your lifestyle for the better and help those you serve as well. Here are five of the top ones in no particular order.
It might not seem believable, but reading a novel with philosophical ideas that expand the mind…can change your brain-mind system. Actually, research from Emory University established that reading a novel changes the connectivity of the brain. Anecdotal research shows that enhances whole brain thinking and deepens wisdom in the body. In another study published in Psychological Science, researchers asked a group of volunteers to read the work of Franz Kafka. After they did, their cerebral parameters changed which made them more intelligent in terms of IQ. Students who read philosophical works also reported that it opened up the wisdom centre in the neo-cortex. If the book was simply a didactic, linear, logical book stating those same philosophies in concept form, they didn’t stick unless each concept was followed by a case study, story or at least an in depth example. In other words, stories change minds. That’s the mechanism at the foundation of my organization MindStory Coaching Academy. The mind organizes your core beliefs in story form. So if you want to expand your consciousness then read or learn about those concepts in story form.
A study by Keith Oatley and Raymond Mar found that reading fiction improves your ability to connect with others. The study demonstrated that people who read fiction perform better on tests of empathy. This result held up even when they controlled for the variable that empathetic people might naturally choose to read fiction. The study found that the more fiction a person read, the stronger the ability to make mental models of others. Another study in 2010 found that children who are exposed to lots of fiction material possessed a stronger ability to read the brain states of others.
Media companies know about the power of story and will use stories to sway opinion. The good news is that if you understand how the mind picks up and stores stories at the subconscious level and then starts to filter reality through the lens of that story, you can be more selective about what you focus on and absorb. As Plato once said thousands of years ago, those who control the stories, rule the world.
I also think that Those who control their own inner stories, have power over their lives like nothing else. So the next time you’re looking for a good novel to curl up on the couch with, find one that will expand the way you view the world, rather than entrench you in limiting beliefs. Of course, different stories appeal to different people, so you have to find something the works for you. You can always go to the GoodReads list of mind expanding fiction and see if any of those appeal.
Of course when the student is ready, the teacher appears. So, whether it’s a novel, a movie, a TV series, a docudrama, a podcast, or a video interview…those can act like teachers that you’re now ready for. Ask Life to bring you the right story, and it will show up on your radar. I’m sure you’ve already got a list of stories that have changed your life in power ways before, so when you’re ready, the right one will come.
Learning something new generates changes in neural connections. When you acquire new knowledge and skills, different areas of the brain activate. For example, learning a new language, taking up a musical instrument, juggling, learning a new piece of software or technology. During that process, called myelinization, nerve impulses begin to travel faster, which increases neural activity.
Myelinization is especially important during childhood. However, over the years, it becomes less frequent and slower. When you learn something new, myelinization activates again and boosts the performance of your neurons. This happens even more if it’s embodied learning meaning you both learn and practice speaking a new language, or both memorize lyrics and then sing them in a choir, or if you are an online speaker like me, you add to your knowledge of a particular subject and then teach it. So, whether it’s a hobby or part of the work you do, it’s preventing all kinds of brain-mind ailments and keeping you youthful in the mind.
Sleep greatly affects your brain-mind system. At Harvard Medical School, scientists were able to prove that sleeping only four hours a night for just three days causes the death of certain neurons. Sleep is the time you do physical, mental and emotional clear outs, so if you don’t get much time for sleep then it’s like not having taken out the trash for a few weeks. It’s also a time for connecting to your higher self and getting spiritual rejuvenation. In fact, dreaming is incredibly important. It’s a unique state of consciousness that helps you process both past and present experiences, turning them into deeper wisdom, which helps prepare you for the future.
Lack of sleep also affects the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure in the centre of the head, that serves as your emotional control center. If you’re emotionally agitated it can affect sleep. If your survival brain trigger cycle is active during the night it causes more of the stress hormones to fill your system leaching from other hormones causing hormone imbalance.
On the other hand, getting a good sleep renews all your cells and rejuvenates the system on all levels. Anything you can do to increase your length and depth of sleep is important, because most people these days are sleep deprived. Often a few night time rituals can so the trick such as yoga inversion postures where you have your head below your heart for a few minutes, breathing exercises, not watching or reading anything that gets the heart racing, essential oils like lavender or herbs for sleep such as valerian, Passion Flower or Melatonin. Also, some light sleepers find earplugs, face masks and sleeping in a quiet, cool room all very helpful.
Just know that months or even years of chronic lack of sleep can age you faster than anything else. I had a colleague over a 15 year period who did regular exercise, ate well, took supplements, did all the right things. But he thought that sleeping was a waste of time. All those extra hours while everyone else is sleeping, he could be up late working. It aged him before his time, and led to a series of chronic health problems. Those health problems got in the way of growing his business more than anything else. When he changed his habits and got 8 hours of restful sleep every night, it youthified him and helped relieve the health issues. Instead he focused his time more, prioritized and got much more done in less time.
Gaining fat is another situation that changes your brain-mind system in a negative way. Paul Thompson is a researcher at the University of California, discovered that a large percentage of body fat actually reduces the size of the brain in older adults. After a certain age, overweight people seem to have a brain that’s 16 years older than it should be according to their chronological age. Fat tends to clog arteries, which means that less oxygen reaches the brain.
On the other hand, losing fat percentage to a more normal level, affects your brain-mind system in a positive way. It increases the size of the brain in adults. The brain and all other parts of the body receive far more oxygen.
One trick I’ve used to take off and keep off 20 lbs is this. It’s also worked for many of my clients, by the way. Create a positive MindStory. Imagine yourself stepping on the scale weighing what you want to weigh. Imagine yourself measuring your waist or hips or wherever your body tends to store fat, and seeing the measuring tape at the number you want. Imagine yourself being able to wear a piece of clothing that you cannot fit into now, but that, if you lost the weight, would fit just right. Imagine wearing it and it fits easily. Imagine moving in your body at the lower weight. Imagine seeing yourself in the mirror at the lower weight. This changes your reticular activation system, the way your brain filters what you see and experience day to day. It wants to match that with the images you feed your brain, so you will more naturally change life habits to reach your goal. The trick is to not keep changing the images. Keep the same images and repeat the imagination exercise regularly for a few months, and then it will go on autopilot. So the next time you’re complaining about your excess weight, try doing a few visualizations like this instead.
A final practical piece of advice on this that is strangely mind-blowing to people is, find out your resting metabolic rate, also known as basal metabolic rate. It’s the rate at which your body burns energy when it is completely at rest, like if you stayed in bed all day. Don’t go by what the charts say for people of your age, height, weight and gender. Go to a place that does fitness testing. There’s a system for getting an accurate reading. Then find out how many active calories you burn during a typical day. Add that to your basal metabolic rate. Most people are shocked to see how few calories their body actually uses per day. Then add up the calories of a typical day of eating. Almost everyone I’ve seen do this discover they are eating 500-1500 more calories a day than their body needs. Most people eat huge portions of food. Try eating half of what you normally eat. You’ll be amazed. At first you might feel deprived, but after a while you get used to it, and eating more feels like too much. That said, cutting out foods and drinks that trigger cravings makes a huge difference. This is easier said than done, but once you’re off these substances, you will naturally consume far less, for example sugar, flour, alcohol and caffeine. Those have been out of life for a long time now and I don’t miss them at all. For some people, they say that would be impossible, but remember that’s only a trick of the mind.
Many studies prove the excellent effect that meditation has on brain-mind functioning. Actually, research conducted by Dr. Sara Lazar of Massachusetts General Hospital proved that half an hour of meditation for eight weeks produces lasting positive effects on the brain.
The clinical trials demonstrated that meditation increases the density of grey matter, the hippocampus, and other areas. In addition to this, it leads to higher learning capacity, less stress, more capacity for introspection, among other things. Now meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting in the lotus position having no thoughts, that’s actually quite tricky for someone who grew up in a western culture. However, meditation is really about any time you’re focused in the present moment. It could be on a walk in nature, playing music, dancing, or any type of creative endeavor. It could be listening to your child with all your senses. It could be doing a project around the house and totally focusing on it.
It’s when our minds are focused in several directions at the same time that it’s hard on the brain-mind system. For example, you’re listening to your spouse while looking at texts. Or you’re doing the dishes and thinking about something you need to do tomorrow. Or you start on a cleaning task, then abandon it half way through and get on the phone, then start on a work task, then get pulled into a social media conversation. You’re just darting from one thing to the other. A part of your mind is still on the previous task, and so you’re diluting your mind energy and it fractures the mind and makes your whole system go on overload.
In summary, it’s important to be aware of the situations that can change your brain-mind system for good or bad. Stories, learning, sleep, fat percentage and meditation. I had a client who worked as a consultant in a very rarified technical niche in engineering. He only read non fiction, worked 12 hours a day in his business doing the same thing day after day, never learning anything new, slept about 4-5 hours a night, was 80 lbs overweight and felt scattered and distracted most of the day. This is common for a lot of people. But all he did was change a few habits in his life over a six month period. He read a new novel every two weeks, started learning Spanish, slept more like 7 hours a night, ate half the amount of food, cutting out sugar and flour, and went for a 30 minute walk in nature every morning. His entire life changed. If you look at a before and after picture, he looks 10 years younger, and even though he works far less, he’s got better clients who pay him more and he offers far better service because of it.
So that’s it for today…Do post a review of this podcast if you like it – on iTunes or youTube or wherever you listen. It makes a big difference to helping others find out about it.
I hope that was helpful. Until next time, I’m Carla Rieger, thanks for listening.