Reprogram Your Genes For Health, Happiness And Vitality
Part 5: Engage your brain
If you want to optimise your brain, two key areas to get familiar with are neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. The former is about creating new brain cells, where the latter is about changing, or adapting your brain. In this regard the brain, essentially, acts like a muscle in that it changes depending on what stimulation you give it.
To optimise neurogenesis, regular exercise (especially vigorous) and good nutrition (see next month’s article) are critical, as is dealing effectively with stress (see last month’s article).
For neuroplasticity, we need to give the brain a reason to adapt. In this sense, routine is not a good thing for your brain – rewiring your brain is all about novelty. Here are some top tips for optimising neuroplasticity as well as enhancing mood and overall brain function:
1. Get learning – a new language or a musical instrument are two of the best ways to future-proof your brain, but you could also enrol in a TAFE or University course, or scout around for some of the brilliant free short courses that are available online (www.coursera.com).
2. Novelty – get a new job, visit new places, go to work different ways and just introduce a whole heap of novelty into your life. Every little bit helps to build new networks in the brain.
3. Meditation – far from being the preserve of monks and tree-hugging hippies, meditation (especially mindfulness) is now a firmly established way to improve your brain. The last decade has shown that mindfulness meditation can improve mood and emotional regulation, reduce stress and even increase brain volume. Recent research has even shown it actually changes gene expression.
4. Gratitude ritual – get a piece of paper and write down all the things you are grateful for in your life. Martin Seligman has shown that if you spend two minutes a day being grateful, your mood will improve for 24 hours. Ideally, make this part of your daily morning routine.
5. Kind acts – research has shown that when we do kind acts for others (this can be random or structured as in joining a volunteer group), it improves our mood and outlook on life – so get giving!
Click the links below to read the previously published articles in this series: