Usually, when I write about our brain, I refer to mental health and how what we feel begins as a thought. If we want to be happy, peaceful, content, loving, kind, etc., our beliefs need to parallel those themes. More and more, we learn how our brains affect our mental or emotional health plus our physical, social, spiritual, and intellectual health.
A neurologist said to my husband, “Every part of your body, including nerves, gets direction from the brain. The brain operates the entire body.” For example, the pill we take to sleep quiets our brain. It’s the same with pain: Pain medication works through the brain. The root of dementia and Alzheimer’s are also in the brain.
Brain surgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta, MD, a guest on CBS Sunday Morning, reinforced the neurologist by saying, “Our three-pound brain controls all of our pain, joy, memories, and learning.” Whoa, that is a big statement, and I agree.
Some of his message:
Eat less red meat and processed foods and more vegetables and fruit, especially berries.
What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. (I like the simplicity of this — we know fat, sugar, and salt are not healthy food choices.)
Sitting is the new smoking. Move. (In other words, extreme inactivity can be as damaging as smoking. That’s a scary thought.)
Get outside your comfort zone every day because change builds resiliency. For example, eat, once in a while, with your left hand if you’re right-handed, do something that scares you (like public speaking), or learn a new skill.
If we want to increase our short-term memory, we must get enough sleep. (Lack of sleep for 48 to 96 hours can cause hallucinations, delusions, and eventual psychosis.)
Practicing acts of sympathy, empathy, kindness, and compassion are the ultimate brain nutrients. (What is good for others also benefits our entire wellness.)
Take a brisk walk with a close friend and talk about your problems. (My favorite — simple, doable, and fun.)
As we advance in this new year, thinking about contributing to a healthy brain seems reasonable and significant. For one, I will do everything I can to fight off dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Losing my ability to think is my biggest fear. It’s right up there with falling and not being able to walk.
Join me in the first step to any healthy change: thinking about it. The brain operates the entire body, and since it’s on the top of our shoulders, we own it, making its ability to function our responsibility.
Until the next time: Live while you live.
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