The food we ingest is fuel for our body and our brain. Glutathione is an important antioxidant found in the mitochondria (energy producers) of our cells which supports the production of ATP aiding in the transportation of energy throughout our cells. Research has shown our levels of glutathione decrease in our body by about 10-15% per decade; therefore we need to eat foods that increase glutathione production to keep our brains and bodies healthy and resistant to disease as we age. These foods also help to inhibit mitochondrial dysfunction which can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome and other depleting diseases.
Here is a list of some of the foods rich in nutrients for overall brain and cellular health that you can add into your diet to fuel your brain to sustain and thrive: Coconut oil, fish oil (or vegetarian form of DHA), blueberries, cherries, broccoli, dark chocolate, eggs, walnuts, cocoa, sunflower seeds, green tea, turmeric, rosemary, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, and in small amounts red wine and coffee. Also, it is very important to drink plenty of water as our brains function optimally when we are sufficiently hydrated.
Neuroscientists have found that multi-tasking between similar cognitive tasks, like checking Facebook while completing a work assignment, is not conducive to optimum brain function. The part of the brain that facilitates this type of multi-tasking is responsible for surface learning; therefore frequent multi-tasking strengthens this part of our brain rather than balancing the part of our brain that supports one pointed focus and deep learning.
In addition, splitting our attention between various cognitive activities has been shown to stimulate the limbic system which activates our flight or fight survival response and deeply impacts our autonomic nervous system. This activation produces an imbalance of stress hormones, such as cortisol, being dumped into our system. Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to cortisol actually damages our brain cells breaking down the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the region of our brain responsible for a great deal of our memories.
Mindfulness practices such as meditation and conscious breathing are associated with stress reduction as well as shifts in specific brain areas that are essential for focused attention, learning, and the regulation of emotion.
In the yogic tradition, we have been using conscious breathing (pranayma) techniques for thousands of years to support our ability to focus and to balance our nervous system reducing stress and increasing overall wellness.
There are several brain balancing breathing techniques we can use to train our brain and balance our nervous system.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) is one of my favorites and one of the easiest to learn.
Step one: Use right thumb to close off your right nostril. Step two: Inhale slowly and deeply through left nostril. Step three: Retain at the top of the inhale (if you do not have high blood pressure) for a few second or longer if you wish. Step four: Close the left nostril with your ring finger and release thumb off right nostril. Step five: Exhale through your right nostril. Step six: Inhale through right nostril. Step seven: Pause again at the top of the inhale. Step eight: Use thumb to close of right nostril. Step nine: Exhale through the left nostril. Step ten: Repeat this full round. Start slowly with 1 or 2 rounds and gradually increase to several minutes. Never force conscious breathing techniques.Sit quietly for a few moments after you have finished to focus on your body and how it feels from your conscious breathing.
Research in neuroscience indicates that exercise stimulates new cell growth in the brain increasing mental capabilities by 20% to 30%. The brain benefits of resistance training, such as weight lifting, seems to differ from the benefits we get from aerobic exercise. According to Michelle Voss, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Iowa and lead author on a 2011 review of the effect of exercise on cognition, “Aerobic exercise improves our ability to coordinate multiple things, long-term planning and our ability to stay on task for extended periods of time.” Resistance training (or anaerobic training), which is much less studied than the aerobic side of things, seems to improve our ability to focus clearly amidst distractions.
A tip to train your brain is to experience new things! Each time you learn a new activity your brain builds new pathways. An easy way to prime new neural pathways this way through fitness is to try new forms of exercise or to explore a different walking, running, hiking or cycling route.
Finally, aerobic exercise actually supports us in releasing harmful stress hormones which helps in resolving the stress response produced when our brain thinks we are in a flee to survive situation. If there is nothing to run from, the stress response simply remains in our system forming conditioning and unhealthy patterns which fuel more feelings of unease and create disease.Exercises that gets your heart rate up into your aerobic training zone supports the release of the stress response in the body and the brain. Following a balanced and fun fitness routine will promote systemic health, a balanced brain and overall well-being!
Please feel free to contact me at Shanti@EnergizeShanti.com for a private session if you need support in designing a brain and body balanced fitness routine.