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.
If you have a gambling problem, then don’t go to Las Vegas even if the best show in the world is playing on the strip.
If you can’t say no to that last drink, then stay away from bars.
If you are addicted to nicotine, then don’t hang out in the smoking lounge.
If you are trying to kick caffeine, then stay away from coffee shops.
If you are addicted to the endorphin kick from social media, then delete the apps like Facebook or Instagram that suck you in. Turn off push notifications and opt out of the email. There are brilliant people at these companies whose sole job, compensation and bonuses are centered on getting you to spend more time scrolling through the feed. Sadly a lot of them could be applying that same expertise to nobler causes, but money talks and principles walk out the door.
If there are people you follow on Twitter who spew negativity, hate, and decisiveness and in the process make you feel pretty shitty then unfollow them.
Don’t try to control these vices; you need to flee from them. Keep away from the hooks, and you won’t get sucked in. Addictive vices are seductive, so to counter the gravitational pull you have to engineer your life and habits to avoid them. Associate with people that reinforce good habits and keep you on track. Sometimes the best way to beat something is to run away.
Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.
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.
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.
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.
People tend to slump over when they meditate. The head drops and shoulders slump. This posture closes the chest and throat in a moment where you want maximum airflow.
Here’s a quick tip:
Halfway through the session take a moment to check in with your posture and body position. After the check-in, if you are feeling constricted then imagine a soft claw coming down from the ceiling. It’s the same kind of claw that you see in the arcade machine that grabs toys, but the grip is so delicate that the toys end up falling.
Imagine the claw slowly grabs your head and starts lifting you up. Your neck extends, your chest opens up, and your spine straightens. Just like in the arcade the claw slips off your head and retracts away. Your posture is now open, upright and relaxed.
Have you found that you can hardly get through a long news article these days? Reading a multipage document or an op-ed probably means skimming through the highlights before you click on a link, switch tabs in the browser or context shifting to another app. Reading a legal document is even more challenging. We’ve started to browse and snack through information versus sitting with it and digesting the message. It’s like fast food vs. a home-cooked meal. The home cooked meal takes longer, is more work and washing up, but it’s better for you and you understand the ingredients. Fast food with a quick bite and probably followed by a sugar high.
Concentrating takes practice. It’s a muscle. Fight the urge to context shift. Notifications on your phone are probably the most significant culprits. How many times have you been deep into something and are yanked out of the flow by a text message or a phone call? Start using Airplane mode and the Do Not Disturb function on your phone.
The stronger the muscle tissue becomes, the longer you can concentrate. This means getting more out of activities you enjoy, but it also means you can spend more time on things that don’t interest you but are essential like a tedious legal contract, safety manuals, assembly instructions.
Carve out the time and get into the flow.