“The brain – that’s my second most favorite organ!”
– Woody Allen
Based on scores of neurological studies, Dr. Andrew Newberg, Director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania, recommends eight habits that improve brain health. Here are the top four from his book, How God Changes Your Brain. How many are part of your routine?
If you stay in a contemplative state for twenty minutes to an hour … antistress hormones and neurochemicals are released throughout the body, as well as pleasure-enhancing and depression-decreasing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Even ten to fifteen minutes of meditation appears to have significantly positive effects on cognition, relaxation, and psychological health.
3: Aerobic exercise
Exercise improves cognition and academic performance. It repairs and protects you from the neurological damage caused by stress. It enhances brain plasticity. It boosts immune function. It reduces anxiety. … It slows down the loss of brain tissue as you age, protects you from Alzheimer’s disease, and reduces your vulnerability to chronic illness.
2: Dialogue with others
(I)f we don’t exercise our language skills, large portions of the brain will not effectively interconnect with other neural structures. Dialogue requires social interaction, and the more social ties we have, the less our cognitive abilities will decline. In fact, any form of social isolation will damage important mechanisms in the brain leading to aggression, depression, and various neuropsychiatric disorders.
Faith is equivalent with hope, optimism, and the belief that a positive future awaits us. … They (Mayo Clinic) found that positive thinking decreases stress, helps you resist catching the common cold, reduces your risk of coronary artery disease, eases breathing if you have certain respiratory diseases, and improves your coping skills during hardships. An optimistic attitude specifically reduces the stress-eliciting cortisol levels in your body.
Newberg doesn’t distinguish between the brain and the mind here, but they are separate entities cocooned in an exquisite Ivory Box—the subject of my next post.