What’s good for the heart is good for the brain

I picked out some gems from a Terry Gross interview with British neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli first set out to study Alzheimer’s because of his grandfather died of the disease. It’s worth a listen.

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. When we exercise, the brain releases a protein called Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF. BDNF acts as a fertilizer for the mind and can aid the growth of new neurons and new synapses. Next time you work out you are doing some gardening on your brain.

A Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s. So eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Cook with olive oil and cut back on the red meat.

The spice turmeric has been seen to be a super good for brain health. Get going with the turmeric lattes and learn to cook with the spice. It pops up in a lot of Indian food staples. Another natural reason to eat more Indian food.

Compounded benefits

Nine women can’t make a baby in one month. It’s an overused phrase in business, but it’s still a goodie. The sentence is typically a response when someone on the project team asks if more people will accelerate the timing of the project. More doesn’t always equal faster.

Got a beach holiday planned this summer? Doing 200 sit-ups the day before you hit the beach isn’t going to get you that flat tummy. You’ll probably strain a back muscle in the process though.

Want to get a clean bill of health during your annual physical? Staying off sugar, not drinking booze and cutting back on red meat for one week before the blood test isn’t going to help your cholesterol levels.

Are you saving for retirement? Living large and waiting for a liquidity pop or a lottery ticket to play catch up when you are older is a risky move.

Some things you have to do every day. Slow and steady. Be patient and find joy in the day to day rituals. Most things in life compound over time. Start with a little bit every day, and it’ll grow over time.

Mushin

The difference between the first time you do something and the next time is incredible. Muscle memory kicks in after a couple of times. Repetition increases confidence and creativity, and it’s easier to get into the concentration flow. With enough repetition you don’t think anymore you just do. In martial arts, this mind state is called Mushin. It comes from the term mushin no shin which means the mind without mind. This flow state is possible anywhere whether it’s hiking, exercising, working, playing. Rinse and repeat.

Blue fire belly breathing

Here’s a breathing tip

Sit in lotus pose or if it’s more comfortable then kneel on the floor. Relax your body from head to toe, and slowly start belly breathing. Inhale and exhale through your nose.

Imagine a small fire at the base of your belly. Every inhale of fresh oxygen fuels the flames. The exhale relaxes your tummy and lets the light expand. Inhaled fuel the fire and exhales loosen up the body. Grow the fire by inhaling until changes from yellow to orange to blue. The flame is so big now that it needs more space. Your exhales are turn blue as the heat escapes your body and fight more space around you. Keep feeding the fires and feeling you tummy becomes warmer and looser. Wind it down slowly with slower, and longer inhale. Expel the blue flame with your last exhalation. Sit and feel the warm afterglow permeate through your body.

Done.

There’s no shortcut to mastery

A black belt in martial arts is earned.

I don’t know if it’s a myth, or there’s truth to the evolution of the black belt…but I like the legend better.  All masters begin their training with a white belt. The belt starts out white, but over time it gets dirtier, and stained with sweat and blood, and eventually it becomes stained black from years of training. In a lot of dojos, you don’t get to train until you’ve proved you are worthy of instruction. Sometimes that means volunteering in other areas and being invited to train after first demonstrating your commitment. It’s not “a pay to play” system. There’s no shortcut to mastery.

Mastering any art is the same. The answer is in the dirt. There’s no shortcut to mastery. Get in there and start practicing. Anyone can buy a black belt, but only some will earn it.

The good night sleep recipe

Avoid caffeine after lunch. Take it easy on the wine.

Avoid screen time before bed. No Netflix, no Twitter, no email, no Book of Face, no quick flip through Instagram.

Don’t binge watch Netflix in bed.

If you wake up in the middle of the night, resist the urge to fire up your phone. Reading the news, catching up on work, looking at a picture is an adrenalin injection. Not useful if you want to get back into a deep sleep.

Read a book, even if it’s one chapter before bed. Do paper, not Kindle.

Download your brain before bed.

Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock. Get one of those old-school clock radios with a dim light.

Turn your phone on airplane mode. It removes all the vibrating and alerts.

Stick to the same routine. Get up at the same time, go to bed at the same time. Keep the schedule on weekends and vacation.

Dark rooms equal better sleep.

Keep the room cool. Your body temperature drops at night, and it’s confusing if the heat is cranking.

Stretch before bed. The ritual will get you back into your body and start the wind-down.

Exercise daily. Keep a routine.

Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper. Large dinner will keep you up at night. Don’t eat right before bed either. Give your body some time to settle before getting into bed.

If you can’t sleep then surrender to it. Give up, get up and out of bed.  Fold laundry, clean the house, wash dishes, write, feed the cat. Don’t just lie there and fight insomnia. You’ll only get anxious.