I asked a group of some the most knowledgeable leaders in the brain fitness movement — I mean these guys are at the forefront of educating us on brain health and using our brains to achieve wellness and happiness — what their #1 advice would be to someone about taking care of their brain.
You might expect their answers would include serious diet modifications, major lifestyle changes, or a rigorous mental exercise program, eh? But no. I think their responses will surprise you because every single one is something you can easily do today, on your own, without making drastic changes, or spending money.
Dr. Michael Merzenich, PhD is the brain behind BrainHQ and the author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. For nearly five decades, he has been a leading pioneer in brain plasticity research. As co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science, Dr. Merzenich heads the company’s science team.
First, you have to BELIEVE you can change for the better, and you have to believe that your brain is plastic. Second, you have to live your life with your brain turned ON. Engage with the world, challenge yourself, choose activities that benefit the brain like those that engage multiple modalities at a time. You can be better, stronger, and more effective, regardless of your current neurological status. Dr. Michael Merzenich
Dr. Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a neuropsychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best-selling author. His books include Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.
Our brains are naturally wired to focus on bad news and are very good at building structure from negative experiences. While our brains can change for the better from beneficial experiences, it generally increases this encoding process to deliberately sustain, intensify, and highlight the emotional and sensate aspects of these experiences. By training the brain to look for good facts, turn these into good experiences, and then – most important – really internalize these experiences, a person will steepen their growth curve in life, and develop more happiness, love, confidence, and peace. Dr. Rick Hanson
Barbara Arrowsmith Young is Founder and Director of the Arrowsmith Program, a cognitive program utilizing neuroplasticity for students with learning disabilities. The program is based on Arrowsmith Young’s personal experience of living with learning disabilities which she details in her book, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: How I Left My Learning Disability Behind and Other Stories of Cognitive Transformation.
The importance of reducing stress on brain health needs to be understood – if people can do one thing a day to reduce stress – from meditation, giving gratitude, walking in nature, getting a good night’s sleep – research has demonstrated that this has significant positive benefits on brain health and function.
Also I would encourage people to work on improving their cognitive abilities through practice – it is possible – and current research is pointing to the importance of keeping our brains stimulated and active over our lifespan in order to reduce the cognitive decline that impacts us as we age. Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change as a result of cognitive stimulation occurs across our lifespan – so continued exercise of the brain can keep our cognitive functions healthy. Barbara Arrowsmith Young.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist who experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996. Dr. Taylor studied her own stroke as it happened and chronicles the experience and her recovery in My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey.
Sleep is everything. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
Dr. Marie Pasinski, M.D., Harvard neurologist, brain health expert and author of Beautiful Brain, Beautiful You: Look Radiant from the Inside Out by Empowering Your Mind writes a regular column in the health section of The Huffington Post.
Prolonged sitting takes a profound toll on your brain – simply getting up every half hour for 2 min improves brain blood flow and metabolism, promoting new connections and new neurons. Set a timer or a fitness band ‘idle alert’ to keep you on your toes! Dr. Marie Pasinski, M.D.
Alvaro Fernandez is the CEO and Co-founder of SharpBrains and author of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age.
Don’t outsource your brain. Not to media personalities, not to experts, not to your smart neighbor… Make your own decisions, and mistakes. And learn from them. That way, you are training your brain, not your neighbor’s. The same way everyone with a car needs to learn the basics on how to drive and maintain a car…everyone with a brain needs to learn the basics on how our brains and minds work and how to maintain, if not enhance, them. Alvaro Fernandez
Dr. Jeff Browne is Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and co-author of The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success. Please visit the website for his son’s memorial scholarship.
Quit looking in all the same places for success. Your brain is capable of so much more than routine. Use your opportunity radar to find your own road to success don’t be an imitator or wanna-be. Believe your brain has the capacity and components necessary to achieve your goals—particularly when you feed it and exercise it well. Dr. Jeffrey L. Brown