New Year / Fresh Start
Is it even possible to have a fresh start this year? Yes – it is possible. We need to coral our mind and get it out of 2020. Enough of that already. Our circumstances haven’t changed significantly over the past week or so. But we already know what living through COVID is all about. The fresh start will guide us to look outside our lifestyles and start reigniting ourselves.
To start this process, I am going to utilize the Brain Wellness Model from the Virtual Brain Health Center. I like this because it expands each category and really covers all aspects of brain health and wellness. There are four categories: Cognitive Engagement, Personal Wellbeing, Physical Activity, and Social Connections. I am going to start with Physical Activities. Most of my readers live in the northern hemisphere and it is winter here. It becomes a bit of a challenge to get outside and exercise. And lockdowns from COVID 19 have kept us isolated and sedentary. This has resulted in weight gain, fatigue and depression. Physical activity is just the right way to initiate a new start.
It seems that we have certain DNA passed down to us from our prehistoric ancestors. They were wired to move. That was a necessity for survival – if you stopped you were eaten! So here we are with this brain wiring to move and we are languishing away in front of a computer or a TV. How do we get back to leading our lives with natural movement? Are we even doing enough during the day to classify it as physical activity? That is the first thing we need to look at. How can we incorporate natural movement into our day?
The Importance of Physical Activity During Your Day
Before COVID, you might have worked outside of your house. You drove to the office and parked far enough away from the building that you managed to get a nice morning walk in. Instead of taking elevators to get to other floors, you walked the steps. And you also kept a watch on the food that you were eating. All of these lifestyle choices kept you feeling pretty good. You can modify this scenario to fit your pre-COVID routine. After evaluating how much natural movement you incorporated into your day start to analyze where you are right now with natural movement in your life. If it is obvious that you aren’t getting any physical activity during the day, you then have to form a plan. For instance, if you sit in front of a computer all day, set a stopwatch for an hour. When your hour is over, get up and do something. Go up and downstairs a few times, have some exercises that you can do. Spend ten minutes on intentionally doing some type of physical activity. That’s your first Fresh Start idea.
The Benefits of Physical Exercise on the Brain
Why is physical exercise so important to brain health? As I mentioned before, we are hardwired to move. When we exercise, we are making our heart beat harder and faster. This drives more oxygen, carbohydrates and blood to the brain. Our prefrontal cortex (the executive function center of the brain) is an energy cannibal. It requires 20% of the oxygen, carbohydrates, and blood from each and every heartbeat in order to function. When we are laying around doing nothing our brain is doing nothing too. In order to have the energy it needs to function, we have to be up and moving. Instead of the fog, forgetfulness and frustration we feel when we can’t remember something, your brain will surprise you on how agile it is.
Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor
There is another function that physical exercise has for the brain. When we are sending more blood, oxygen and carbohydrates to the brain we are releasing BDNF – brain derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF acts as a fertilizer and stimulates new brain cells to bud from brain stem cells. We grow new brain cells when we exercise. This is Neurogenesis – the growth of new brain cells. Up until a number of years ago it was not believed that we were capable of growing new cells. The belief was that we would lose cells until we died. The discovery of neurogenesis was a game changer. And the simple act of physical exercise makes that happen.
Engaging in purposeful activity draws many benefits to you. Volunteering is a purposeful activity. You benefit your brain and your body when you are working on behalf of someone else. When you help someone learn how to use their creative brain, you also benefit. You can help someone integrate a brain healthy lifestyle into their own life. You become their exercise partner and when you do you hold accountability to them and to yourself to get out and exercise. Walking is a good way to get exercise into your life and there is nothing better than having a walking partner. You both benefit from purposeful activity.
Physical Activity is a perfect way to restart your new year. You grow new brain cells, think clearer and feel better. It is just such an easy way to create your fresh start. Make an intention that 2021 will support you in your efforts to lead a brain healthy lifestyle.