Does brain gym exercises bring a funny picture to mind, your brain at the gym doing some curls, sit-ups, perhaps jogging, or perhaps your brain has taken itself to the library to read some interesting material on...brains, or maybe your brain is saying that it needs to exercise some sleep?
Well, actually all of those activities and more are required in your brain gym to effectively exercise your brain.
If you have been following the emerging information on brain fitness, you will have seen reference to the pillars of brain fitness, and how to take care of them for maximized neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, two recently discovered capacities of the the human brain.
Neurogenesis means that we grow new brain cells daily, and if they are encouraged to survive, most writers are saying they migrate to the hippocampal area of the brain, an area very important to human memory.
Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe how neurons form new connections, sometimes within minutes, when exposed to a novel learning experience.
Our brain will be larger and more successful at guiding us through the decisions we need to make every day if our brain gym exercises maximize our neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
If you are curious about the concept of brain fitness and want an excellent over view of brain fitness then I suggest that you read Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan.
Evans and Burghardt have culled the neuroscientific research for tools, concepts, and ideas that we can use in our brain gym.
The pillars of brain fitness are physical exercise, nutrition, including lots of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid, stress management, good and regular sleep, and novel learning experiences.
It I am building attention to those issues into my life, then I am going to maximize neurogenesis and neuroplasticity in my brain.
The most important brain gym exercise turns out to be ...physical activity/exercise, according to Evans and Burghardt and your brain fitness gym exercises must be of the deep breathing kind.
Fortunately, you do not have to undertake an Olympic kind of training regimen to max out your neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, nor do you have to buy an expensive club membership or hire a trainer.
You can get a very excellent workout at home using tools no more sophisticated than an exercise ball and/or dumb bells, and lasting no more than ten minutes following the HIIT or high intensity interval training protocol.
For me, what that means is that I do 30 second intervals of calesthenics like the ones I did in grade school for ten minutes, and believe me, you will be winded.
Here is a program that works for 89 year old Bill and 82 year old Pat.
How about a computerized brain fitness program, like the one that Evans and Burghardt discuss in their book?
Most of the brain gym exercises writers say that the kind of novel learning experience we need to do for our neurogenesis and neuroplasticity is the kind experienced in learning a new language or a new instrument, because of the increasing level of complexity and the opportunity for successful feedback from practice, which means you get the right answer about 80% of the time.
Not sure about you, but even with retirement looming in my life, I do not have time to learn a new language or new instrument, so I am going to take a look at tools like the dual n back task, that I can do on my computer at home, in about 1/2 hour over the course of 19 days, with maintenance sessions as required.
And it appears the dual n back task has an interesting side effect, increased IQ.
It you try the dual n back task, you will at first be frustrated, then you will catch on, and as you improve your score, you will find yourself working out with this brain gym exercise very frequently because it really works.
And there are some other computerized brain fitness programs you can include in your brain gym exercise routine, like the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, which had excellent results for its users in the IMPACT study, and the Lumosity program, which is in online program availble for use on demand, between clients and phone calls.
Brain gym exercises can be done effectively in brief, frequent intervals. So you have done your physical exercise for the day, and practiced your novel learning experience, perhaps taken a nap, filled your stomach with good food, and good food of the non-processed, non-high fructose corn syrup kind, which means as grown for the most part, and now you are ready to learn an effective stress management program, one that you can do fast and effectively because you are now aware that unnecessary stress hormones kill those new neurons before they can go to work for you.
You know now that stress is a physiological process that it is normal for the human animal to have when it perceives that it is in danger, not when the January natural gas bill is larger than expected.
In the latter circumstance, a moments surprise should give way to your Heartmath or heart rate variability biofeedback practice to ensure that you have a maximum number of neurons available to solve the problem. You know now that relaxation is actually the key to opening your higher perceptual centers, so you do your Heartmath cue thought and breathing pattern and within a heart beat your body returns to a balance internally which ensures continued neurogenesis and neuroplasticity and excellent problem solving.
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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