There are a plethora of things we can do to increase our level of wellbeing this Brain Awareness Month - and all are easily achieveable in your day to day life.
Inspired by Dr Andrew Huberman, Sam the Neuroscientist takes us through 10 ways you can love your brain.
So one of the most effective things you can do to assist your level of flourishing is to expose your eyes to light for 10 mins within the first 30 mins upon waking.
Light needs to get into your eyes, so take off those sunglasses first thing in the morning. If you are up before the sun, artificial light is fine and just get out into the sunshine as soon as you can.
No surprises here but we don’t always breathe in a way that is most helpful to our wellbeing. To get the most out of our breath, we need to control it. As breathing is controlled by our diaphragm and intercostal muscles (muscles between our ribs), we need to learn how to engage them properly.
When inhaling, focus on expanding your lungs and notice how your diaphragm goes down. When exhaling, focus on contracting your lungs and notice how your diaphragm comes up.
How do we optimise our breath? Aim for completing a 5 minute breathing exercise each day or take 5 minutes at least three days a week to build direct and deliberate control of breathing.
Options for exercises:
Ensure you do 150- 180 minutes of Zone 2 exercise per week. Exercise physiologists divide exercise efforts into “zones” – there are 5 heart rate (HR) “zones” based on a percentage of maximum HR.
Zone 2 is generally recognized as 60% to 70% of HR max. At this pace you should be able to hold a conversation easily. For many people, this might look like a couple of runs and a couple of fast paced walks per week.
Get romantic, turn off screens and turn down the lights. No bright lights between 10pm – 4am. Bright lights during this time blunts the amount of dopamine released (the chemical that helps us seek reward, our motivation chemical).
Strength training will elevate your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), which lift energy levels and improve mood and there’s evidence strength training may help you sleep better, too.
Other reasons why strength training is a winner:
When we eat is as important as what or how much we eat. According to Dr Satchin Panda’s research, we need to eat within a 10-12 hour time frame. Here’s why:
Every organ and even every cell in our body has a circadian or 24-hour clock. This means these organs and cells have times of the day when they are active and when they must rest and rejuvenate.
If we don’t sleep, our brain does not get to clean out the toxins built up from the day and we develop ill mental health. If we eat within a pro-longed 15 hour time frame, meaning our first bite of food is at 7am and our last sip of wine at 10pm, we are not allowing our gut to rejuvenate and we are letting ourselves become susceptible to a variety of diseases.
If we choose to ensure our daily habits of eating and sleeping sustains our circadian rhythms, we will see the health benefits.
It is recommended we aim to fast for 12-16 hours per every 24 hour cycles. A great book for further detail on this (recommended by Dr Huberman) is ‘Warrior Diet’ by Ori Hofmekler.
We'd like to add the caveat that the fasting experience is different for everybody and you need to start slowly. I encourage the collaboration with an accredited nutritionist or dietitian for the safest and most tailored approach to your fasting.
Non-sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) is hypnosis, (you can google this in YouTube) is a science supported tool for de-stress and relaxation. Brain scans show that hypnosis activates areas of the brain that enhances focus and relaxation. A free App that Huberman recommends is, ‘Reverie’. I listen to Reverie before I sleep and it has (among other good habits) been a helpful addition to my sleep routine. NSDR can help mitigate some of the negative impacts of a poor night of sleep.
Ensure you have 1000 mg of EFAs – essential fatty acids. They are essential because your body cannot produce them on its own so they must come from your diet. The two primary EFAs are known as linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3).
These EFAs are necessary for the following processes:
Sources of Omega 3’s include flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, soybean and its products such as tofu and tempeh. Walnuts, and dark green veggies, such as kale, collards, chard, parsley, and cereal grasses (wheat & barley grasses), are also good sources. This is because all green (chlorophyll-rich) foods contain Omega-3 FA in their chloroplasts.
Sources of Omega-6 fatty acids include nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, and dairy.
This involves an alternating hot and cold water treatment. Different water temperatures affects your blood vessels and how fast your heart beats. These circulatory changes can help relieve various injury symptoms and reduce post-exercise fatigue for example.
In one session aim for:
Delay caffeine for the first 90 mins – 2 hours after waking. This helps you avoid the afternoon slump.
Why do we slump? Adenosine, in normal conditions promotes sleep and suppresses arousal. During the day, the levels of adenosine in the brain rise each hour. If you have caffeine, the caffeine molecule blocks adenosine from attaching to its receptors in the brain. Adenosine continues to build in the brain and once the caffeine wears off, the adenosine floods the brain’s receptors, hence the slump. Because of the adenosine dump, we think it’s time for sleep.
Initially, try to just introduce one new habit into your daily routine. This can make a profound difference to your overall health and wellbeing and make it easier to instil more new positive habits.
Comments will be approved before showing up.