Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

Change is inevitable—except from a vending machine. —ROBERT C. GALLAGHER

Can't remember the name of your doctor when you see him at the store? Forget your standing
appointment for physical therapy? Worried about Alzheimer's?

Chances are, you're not stupid, rude, nor experiencing early dementia. Instead, your brain is
frazzled: unhealthy habits, aging, long work hours, and information overload. Even with all this
stress, you're not at a brain-dead end.

That's because your brain is changing. It changes every day, even as you read this sentence.
“The principal activities of brains are making changes in themselves,” says Dr. Marvin Minsky
in his book Society of the Mind.

You can support your brain by … changing it more. When you create new connections, your brain becomes stronger. Your neurons (brain cells) get active and your brain stays plastic, able to create new neural pathways.

How do we know this? From new technology and research. In the past decade, technology such as SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans and functional MRIs (magnetic resonance imagings) have shown brainwaves and brain function in action. Scientists have learned that the brain generates new neurons throughout life, that meditation increases gamma waves, and that movement changes thoughts.

Just reading about brain research is enough to make your neurons fire.
Researchers have also learned that stimulation keeps your brain engaged and growing. Stimulation isn't a loud disco arcade of flashing lights. It means doing something different to deepen and create new brain pathways. Otherwise known as making changes.

You can make huge changes (go back for your degree in speech pathology) or smaller ones (notice your feet in your shoes). Change what you eat, how you move, your environment, memory, learning, creativity, and emotions. They all stretch the brain and keep it active. You'll find hundreds of boosters to transform the brain in the chapters of this book, such as:

  • Using your nondominant hand (the left for most of us) to brush your teeth
  • Avoiding toxins in smelly plastics
  • Cross-crawling (touching your right hand to your left knee and vice versa several times) to link your hemispheres
  • Tapping points on your body to help emotions release
  • Eating foods that make you smarter
  • Imagining giant wacky images to remember your grocery list

Most of these changes are easy to make. However, habits, comforts, and identity may get in
the way. You could feel odd or self-conscious when you try something new. You may want to
quit before the change becomes a habit. That's just your neurons not knowing each other—yet.
Give them a little time.

Here's some help to make brain changes:

First off, you don't have time. Second, practicing one or two boosters helps deepen your knowledge and ability—a key brain stretcher.

Explore boosters that intrigue you. They'll feel right, toot your horn, send off fireworks. Stretch,
but find a stretch you'll enjoy.

Feel free to focus or pick a booster from a few different ones. While it might
be hard to practice three memory stretchers, you might enjoy adding a veggie, playing a word game, and drawing for five minutes at lunch.

To create a habit, make a note each time you practice the booster. Put a sticker on your calendar,
write about it in your blog, or form a “Brain Support” group to crow with. After twenty-one days, the wisdom goes, it will become more routine.

When that new booster becomes old hat … it's time to stretch your brain again. Find another one to engage those little neurons. Keep this book in a convenient place—the bedroom, bathroom, or the car. Then it's easy to find new ways to stretch your brain, even when you wait for your children to get out of school.

From boosters to information, this book helps the brain—it changed mine. During months of research, I studied how the emotions, meditation, memory, body-mind environment, creativity, movement, and thinking all interact. I talked to many wise scholars and authors, developing an appreciation for the amazing organ under the skull.

Before I added brain-stretchers to the book, I tried them out. While I didn't become a member of Mensa, I found I could shake up my neurons so they connected better. My family will attest to my changes:

I've become a fish oil fanatic. In fact, my kids cover their ears and say na-na-na-na-na when I talk about the power of omega-3s—again!
I leave the store when I notice an uncomfortable smell. In one case, it was the out-gassing of new
carpet, which is bad for the brain.
I pace the room to recharge my thoughts and calm stress.
I appreciate stillness in meditation, to balance the constant movement of thoughts.
As you change your brain, you'll also change your life, by becoming more connected to your senses and feeling more alive. Your awareness will grow, you'll be able to make better, more informed choices, and even appreciate the beauty you may have forgotten.

What do you change? Focus on three areas:
Body, with smart food, movement, healthy environment, and rest Emotional response, which changes your perspective on life Thoughts and beliefs, through imagining new possibilities.
You'll engage the whole function of the brain, to tap into life.
So take your brain for a ride, let it see the sights. You'll appreciate the miracle that lives under the skull. And the gift of being alive

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