Many people will spend hours in the gym, but never spend any focused time exercising their brain.
You have probably heard me say this before, but it's still true, so I'll say it again: True fitness is the ability to adapt. What has made us humans the most fit and therefore the most adaptable species on this planet, is our large sized brains. So if you really want to increase your fitness, you have got to exercise your brain.
Exercise your brain, by using your body.
Some people get old and their mental functioning declines, while others stay sharp and aware until they pass on and we don’t know how well their minds work after that.
Much research has been done by neuroscientists that proves the capacity of the brain to grow and stay healthy and functioning is based mainly on how the brain is used or misused during ones life...... So use your brain wisely.
Your brain is important so take care of it.
Your body considers your brain to be the most important part of your physiology. It has been observed that when the health of the body is in decline, resources will be withheld from other organs in the body in order to support the continued functioning of the brain.
The brain is the biggest part of the central nervous system. By weight it takes up 90% of the whole system. The brain and the central nervous system have been equated to a system of telephone wires that are carrying conversations back and forth via electrical impulses. The functioning of your body is directly dependent on those electrical impulses.
A little science.
The brain is made up of glial cells which perform all of the biochemical needs, and neurons which do the main work of processing impulses from your sensory organs. The neurons are structured in a network of branches, like a trees roots. Information in the form of electrical impulse, travels down networks that already exist called neural pathways to find it’s way to where it comfortably fits into a recognizable container.
Your brain, like the rest of your physical body is intelligent and will only use as many neural pathways as it needs to. Also like any other muscle in your body, your brain will build up and support the neural pathways that it uses often. This is the reason that habits can be so hard to change. If you have been using the neural pathway associated with a habit then the brain has a tendency to send stimulus down that pathway.
The good thing is that the brain has the ability to change. It is a quality that scientists call plasticity. It basically means that the brain will alter it’s shape to accommodate new neural pathways. The loss of plasticity is what neuroscientists are equating the loss of brain function to, in people that are aging and have symptoms of dementia, alzheimer, etc.
The more neural pathways you have then the more choice you have as to how you respond to your environment and thus the more adaptable you are.
The practice presented bellow is like the equivalent of your brain doing pushups. It will keep your brain young, healthy, and running at optimal capacity.
If you do this exercise consistently than you will be able to create new pathways to support the fitness and evolution of your human mind.
So lets begin.
This exercise is by far my favorite one of the brain exercises that I have practiced thus far. I believe it was learning the geometries that made this one so interesting to me.
The basic idea is that you draw a geometric shape with your right hand, snapping your fingers at each corner, and you draw a different shape with your left hand, snapping at each corner.
The principal is that by using the different sides of your body in different rhythms your brain has to create new neural pathways to differentiate and coordinate the two rhythms and movements.
This practice also helps coordinate creative components of multiple sensory portions of your brain. You have to be able to imagine the geometry (visual), trace the geometry with your hands (kinesthetic), and snap both fingers to the same rhythm (auditory).
When you do this practice you can feel it working. You will feel a sensation in your brain when it is being challenged. It feels to me like heat and strain. Similar to a physical workout.
Another great aspect of this exercise is that it has varying levels of difficulty. When I was first taught this practice it was done by drawing a triangle (three sides) in one hand and a square (four sides) with the other, and then switching.
This is enough to create a challenge for most people. After you get good at this level and it is no longer a challenge, you can move up to a square and a pentagram (five pointed star). From there you can incorporate six pointed star and seven pointed stars with different combinations.
When practicing this brain exercise, keep going to your edge. If you are not feeling the sensation in your brain from the shapes you are using than it’s time to move to more complex shapes.
The sensation you are feeling when practicing this exercise is actually your brain creating new neural pathways, and thus becoming more fit.
Also make sure to alternate which shape is being drawn by which hand and which direction you are drawing the shapes. Once you have done the triangle in the left hand and the square with the right, switch and do the triangle with the right hand and the square with the left before you move on to the next shape. Practice switching hands with each level you get to before moving on to the next level.
This exercise alone will help your mind to stay youthful and flexible. If you practice this consistently you will be building more and more new neural pathways and thus growing your brains capacity and your minds ability.
Tips for success
This exercise can be very challenging, especially when you get to the more complex shapes. When moving up to a new shape, you can make it easier by looking at an image of the shape you are working on. This is a bit like using training wheels on a bicycle. Once you know how to draw the shape, it's time to "put on your big kid brain" and start practicing the shapes from memory.
Remember to breath!
Holding your breath is a natural reaction to stress, strain and concentration. When you start challenging your brain with this exercise, you might notice yourself unconsciously holding your breath.
Your brain requires oxygen to function so holding your breath will only hurt your efforts. Any time you hold your breath, your body, including your brain, goes into a mild panic state because of the oxygen deprivation.
Do your best to breath calmly, in through your nose and out through your mouth. This piece of the practice will have an impact on how you deal well in stressful situations in the future. When you find yourself in other challenging situations that requires a greater level of concentration, you will have already practiced breathing during those types of challenges. This way stress will have a harder time finding you.
Now start building your brain and building your fitness
Exercise your brain as often as you would exercise your body, if you were training for the Olympics.
Yours in Health