Did you know that every experience we have changes our brains in some way?
Even simple acts like reading or walking in nature physically changes the neurological connections of our amazing brains. In fact, this is the premise of new theories that support the notion that stimulating your brain with new and interesting experiences will make for a healthier and happier brain! Who’da thunk it?
Our Brains On Autopilot
Everyday life can sometimes leave us stuck in a rut – at least as far as our brain health is concerned. Routines associated with work, kids, chores, bills, etc. can condition our brains to run on autopilot and coast through life instead of engaging in it. In autopilot mode, our brains track along the same old neural pathways over and over like a hamster on a wheel. BORING!
In order to increase brain health, our goal should be to build new neural connections and that involves getting out of the neurological ruts we find ourselves in.
Interestingly, scientists now know that our brains are hard-wired to respond to novel activities. We are simply and marvelously built to thrive in a learning environment filled with stimulating things to do. If you can open yourself to new ideas, concepts, and activities then you might just give your brain the makeover it needs to carry you into old age.
Keeping Your Brain in Shape
The physiological changes that happen to the human brain when it is exposed to new information are fascinating. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that continuously monitors the environment. The hippocampus is the area responsible for memories. When presented with new and challenging stimuli, these two areas of the brain begin to come alive. (I sound like I know what I’m talking about right? Thanks goes to medical shows I watch! LOL)
Why is this important?
Because the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus are the two areas of the brain that are the most vulnerable to damage caused by normal aging.
“The brain is like a muscle, we need to exercise it,” - Arne May (assistant professor of neurology at the University of Regensburg in Germany)
An interesting study conducted by the International University in Bremen, Germany illustrates just how resilient the human brain is. Researchers brought in healthy children and elderly people between the ages of six and eighty-nine and taught them how to juggle. After seven days of juggling school, the researchers measured the gray matter in the subjects’ brains. All of the subjects had a substantial increase in the volume of gray matter in the area of visual tracking. This study illustrates how your brain can be shaped and reshaped by our activities and experiences.
That’s right folks, juggling is not just a performance act anymore!
Giving Your Brain Something Else to Do
The human brain has evolved into a computer-like learning machine that is not really made to relax and take it easy. New experiences and stimulation make us feel alive and vibrant. Seeing new places, learning about new topics, and doing new things work to build fresh neural pathways that not only sharpen our intelligence, but build our self-confidence as well. Here are some small changes that can transform your brain in a big way:
- Listen to a new radio station.
- Study a new language or watch television in a different language.
- Spend part of your lunch hour walking in nature.
- Doodle or draw with your non-dominant hand.
- Drive a different route to and from work or other routine locations .
Over to you…
Simple activities like the ones above can change the dynamics of how you think. New and different experiences are like vitamins for your brain leaving it healthier and more active and less vulnerable to cognitive decline.
We can only hope that these brain boosters can help with disease prevention and management!
How do you boost your brain?