There’s a fabulous Gary Larson cartoon titled “Midway through the exam Allen pulls out a bigger brain”. It’s one of my favourites and I often think of it when my brain is tired and I have no ideas left.
Wouldn’t it be handy if we could reach in and pull out another brain at those times?
In the absence of that bigger brain how can we help our brains recover from strain?
There are simple, everyday things we can do that have a beneficial effect on our brain health. Set yourself a personal challenge to make sure you tick these off each day, or set up a challenge with your team.
- Exercise as often as you can: Vital for our physical wellbeing, being active on a regular basis is also essential for our mental wellbeing. Exercise helps our brains work at optimum capacity by helping nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage. Exercise also helps boost blood flow to our brain, and encourages neurogenesis (new brain cell growth) to help our brains work faster and more efficiently. For more examples of how exercise is important for our brain see the excellent book “Spark” by John Ratey http://www.amazon.com/Spark-Revolutionary-Science-Exercise-Brain/dp/0316113514
- Sleep well. Quality sleep helps to “reset” our brains so we can look at challenges and problems from different perspectives and generate more creative solutions. The functions of learning and memory are also improved while we sleep, probably because the connections between the neural pathways that help us perform these tasks are strenghtened as we sleep. For some tips on sleeping better remind yourself of these strategies: http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips
- Relax. Relaxation is important as the neurochemical cortisol which our body produces under high levels of stress damages and can kill brain neurons. Cortisol is a handy neurochemical in short sharp doses but causes damages if present at high levels for long periods of time. Diaphragmatic breathing exercises and different forms of meditation have both been found to have significant relaxation effects. Try out some exercises on this site: http://www.calm.auckland.ac.nz/20.html
- Challenge. Many neuroscience studies have shown that participating in activities that require significant mental effort (it can’t be easy!), and is sufficiently complex helps to create new neural circuits in our brain. Experiment with learning a new language or a musical instrument, practice Sudoku or tricky crossword puzzles or enrol in a new training program in a skill that doesn’t come easily for you.