New Year, New Decade, Neuroplasticity and New You

Happy 2020!
Everyone’s brain health matters. Make brain health a top priority in 2020 and lead a happy, healthy and fulfilling life! Our brain is a highly complex organ and yet the most precious gift ever received by humankind. Treasure it, nurture it! Research suggests lifestyle modifications like mental and physical exercises, healthy diet, stress management adequate sleep and good social support are the main pillars of attaining optimum health. All of these have been deemed to have a positive impact on improving brain health! Brain health is for everyone. No matter at what stage of life you are- whether a successful professional, charting a new chapter in life, a student or embarking on retirement. Optimum brain health leads to improved whole body functioning.
Everything we do in our life, our brain tells us to do so. It is the high command of body functioning. Brain is involved in thinking, decision making, feeling, moving, every step we take, every action we carry out, speaking, learning, pretty much every aspect of our living.
Is it any wonder then our behaviours, habits, patterns, actions, things we do or don’t do are all under the influence of this relatively small organ we carry on our shoulders? Our brain tells us to make choices in our lives. It helps us decide what jobs we do, chooses the cities we live in, the relations we nurture, the way we communicate and behave. It influences all aspects of our personal, professional, and social lives.
As powerful as the brain’s influential ability on our body, the external factors too have massive influence on shaping our brains. Our brains are adaptive and mouldable. The brain possesses a remarkable ability to undergo change by growing new cells and forming new neural connections.
This adaptive ability of the brain is referred to as neuroplasticity.
Gone are the days when people believed our brains stopped growing after certain age or early childhood. Neither does brain stop learning as we grow older. The latest thinking is that stimulating environment can lead to the growth of new neurons. There is emerging scientific evidence suggesting that the more we stimulate our brain, the more new neural pathways can be formed. In fact, we can take up a new challenge such as a new hobby or learn a new language or even a musical instrument at any age.
It is akin to creating a well-trodden path in a field. Imagine you are standing on one side of a large field covered by grass. You wish to go across but there is no well-formed path. You wait for a while and carve your way across. The person who follows you takes the same faintly carved path and the person after that and soon a well-trodden path is created in the middle of a field.
Similarly, learning something new plays a key role in neurogenesis, the ability of the brain to grow new cells. But only with repetition, the newly formed networks strengthen and become established pathways, similar to well-trodden paths in a field. On average, the brain takes 66 days to learn something new. This will then be reflected in well-formed habits, when only after practicing for a few weeks to months you master a new skill. Your accomplishments are demonstrated through the ability and fluency of applying the numbers of steps you have taken to learn, recalling every action step whilst applying in practice.

External stimuli help improve declining cognitive function and memory loss as we grow older. They help maintain the brain reserve. It is a fact that after 30 years of age, the brain slows down. The brain may even undergo atrophy as we age. Hence, it is imperative we counteract this wasting and increase the reserve.  And keep challenging and stimulating our brains in as many varied ways as possible, on daily basis. The more we stimulate the brain, the higher the reserve and more adaptive it gets – be it learning a new course, new dance, new instrument, new sport or solving word puzzles, jigsaw, or even something as small as taking a different route to work!
Do not let your age come in the way of mastering a new skill, gaining knowledge or anything that you wish you had taken up during younger years! It is possible to take up a new hobby and fulfil your desires at any age. No matter at what stage you are in life, do not let your age hold you back from achieving your dreams. Indeed, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Practice 7-10 minutes of meditation every day. 2-3 days spent on yoga a week and 30 minutes spent on moderate aerobic type physical activity 4-5 times a week, can do wonders to your mind and body! Take up swimming, fast walking, dancing, running, cycling, tennis, table tennis, badminton- anything you fancy but just do it!
Your brain will benefit whether you get your heart pumping outdoors, indoors or in a gym.
You’ll reap abundant health benefits of improved mind and body function and overall wellbeing, leading to a more energetic, positive, compassionate and happier you, living life to the fullest!!



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