5 Unexpected Strategies to Creating an Amazing Brain
It’s official, the word brain is the new buzzword. It seems like everyone is talking about brain development, brain health, neuroscience, mind mapping, brain games and more. And yet, with all the information what have we really learned? How has your life been directly impacted by all of this buzz? Amazing Brains has done the work for you to cut through the hype and offer you research based information that is interesting, easy to read, directly helpful and written by masters and doctorate level clinicians with their new blog series to help you create an amazing brain. Topics will include parenting, sport psychology, positive psychology, relationships, attachment, peak performance and more. To kick off the series, here are five unexpected strategies to creating an amazing brain.
- Tap into your inherent tendency toward growth. As part of the human species, we all have an inherent tendency to move toward growth and optimal functioning and health. This motivation happens when the right conditions are present in your life. When certain needs are met, humans will have the motivation to master their inner forces such as drives and emotions. However, this motivation does not happen automatically. To actualize ones full potential you need nurturing from your social environment. This nurturing comes in the form of three important needs being met. These needs are competence, relatedness and autonomy, all originating from a theory called social determination theory. To begin with, people have an inherent need to feel and be competent in their life. Work, school, sports, hobbies are all areas one can be competent in. If this is missing, adopt an area in life you can feel competent in. Next, we need to relate to others. Relatedness is key! If you are finding yourself isolated and not experiencing a strong social network, take the steps to start to build one. Join a club you are interested in such as a ski club, hiking club, book club or mountain biking group. Anything counts. Make the commitment to start by creating action. Finally, autonomy is crucial. You are the causal agent of your life and you have to act in harmony with your own integrated self. If you are a parent helicoptering your kid or micromanaging your child’s life, STOP. Let them drive their own bus. If you find family members trying to micromanage your life, set a boundary, kindly and directly. You have to drive your own bus and you have to have the autonomy to manage your own life in a way that feels right for you. Exercise this for yourself, support this for your kids and support this for your spouse. These are the factors that will support your inherent tendency toward growth.
- Good nutrition. It’s a given that good nutrition is important for brain health. While there is plenty of information on nutrition all over the media there are a few points to keep in mind. Without good nutrition, you don’t have a shot. If you are interested in this subject, there are lots of experts that can assist in drilling down the right nutrition plan to your goals. What I see stand out in the area of nutrition are the following. Many kids do not get enough protein. Whether attentional deficits are present or not, the brain needs sufficient protein to create the neurotransmitters it needs to get us through what the day calls of us. For kids with focus issues, 40 grams of protein is a minimum before 3 PM. Nix the cereal for breakfast, replace it with a protein shake, eggs, ground turkey or any protein that sounds good! Hydration is also important, as a dehydrated brain will feel foggy and fuzzy. Tracking your micronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) is easy to do and surprising information is revealed when it is tracked. Before I tracked my micronutrients I thought I was eating a relatively low carbohydrate diet. What I found after tracking was that I was getting plenty of carbohydrates in the form of fruits and vegetables and not even close to enough protein. Track it. It’s easy, eye opening and sets your diet up to support your brain. There are many free apps available. I use My Net Diary on my iPhone.
- Create a healthy nervous system. This is a topic is a big one and can’t even be close to being unpacked here. Near and dear to my heart, creating a healthy nervous system is paramount to a healthy brain and happy life. It has been theorized that most people are walking around with fragile nervous systems. If you were one of the lucky ones that had attuned parents, a secure a positive upbringing full of love and attachment, good for you. If you, like the rest of us had any adverse childhood experiences like divorce or neglect just to name two, welcome to the club. When good attunement takes place in the first 24-36 months of life the connections between the limbic region and middle prefrontal cortex have a greater chance of being strong. Dan Siegel identified nine capacities that result in a strong connection. These are bodily regulation, attuned communication, emotional balance, response flexibility, mitigation of fear, empathy, self-knowing awareness connecting the past/present/future into a meaningful whole, intuition, and moral development. These connections underlie personal well-being and relational goodness. If this did not happen for you, luckily there is something called neuroplasticity in your brain that can still allow for you to create change. The change can be created through mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, and completive prayer. Yes, it’s true, just by creating a daily meditation practice the neuroplasticity in your brain can create a stronger connection between the middle prefrontal cortex and the limbic region. There are also many experts in this area that can guide you. I like to keep it simple and meditate daily to my iPhone app called Insight Timer. I love the over six thousand guided meditations I have access to. And I love the way I feel after I have meditated.
- Therapy. Of course I was going to mention this being a therapist. Therapy is a favorite of mine because personally it has made a huge impact on my life as a human being and healing. In the era of self-help books, social media posts, coaches, articles, and psychology posts reflecting on ones life has never been easier. Working with a therapist allows you to go much further however, as the therapist is able to see a part of you that you are unable to recognize or identify due to whatever family system you were brought up in or what feels and seems normal to you. There are many types of therapists out there. This is not important. The most important part of working with a therapist is that you like them, relate to them, feel like they get you and they are attune with you. Therapy should not always feel like a warm massage, it should reveal information to you and be like jumping into a cold lake, gaining the clarity and awareness to develop the tools needed.
- Neurofeedback. Sometimes more is needed. Neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback is brainwave training. It is a noninvasive, painless, researched computer-based therapy developed out of UCLA School of medicine in the 1960’s by Dr. Barry Sternman. It has been named as level one, best support for attentional issues by American Academy of Pediatrics and is used to treat concussions, traumatic brain injuries, depression, anxiety, ADHD, ADD, autism symptoms, seizure disorders, behavioral issues, learning disorders, attachment disorders, trauma and anything that is manifested physiologically. It is used by elite athletes all over the world in peak performance and athlete’s going through the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs all do neurofeedback. With a 75-90% success rate, neurofeedback benefits anyone that wants an amazing brain.
Did you like what you read? Like our Facebook page, join our mailing list, and visit our website at amazingbrains.com. Make the intention to move toward creating a healthier brain through setting your life up in areas you can feel competent in, have people you relate to and have fun with and create the autonomy in your life to drive your own bus, your way. This is where the magic happens. Create good nutrition by tracking your micronutrients and develop a stronger nervous system through mindfulness practices. Meditate every day! It can be for one minute! Finally, if you find you’d like more support, explore therapy and neurofeedback. If we can be a resource, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Steamboat Springs, Frisco, or Vail office. We’d love to hear from you.