God gave each of us a two-pound dynamo called the human brain. It’s truly the most amazing physical object in the universe. Yet, many people (and leaders) don’t take care of their brains and later in life they pay the price. However, we can keep boost our brain power and keep our brains healthy and humming along with 9 simple choices.
First, some sobering facts about the brain.
- Our brain’s overall volume decrease 5% per decade after the age of 40.
- Dendrites at the end of our brain cells (think of the roots of a tree) begin to decline starting in our twenties. The more ‘bushy’ our dendrites, the better and more efficient our brain processes information.
- Gray matter (brain cells called neurons) also begin to decline starting in our mid-20′s.
- The insulation (called myelin) that wraps around the tail of a neuron (called an axon) thins as we age. The thicker the myelin the faster the electrical impulses travel along the axon. And, faster is better.
- The receptors for the neurotransmitter chemical called dopamine decreases. This chemical plays a major role in attention, learning, and reward.
These brain changes lead to memory loss, decreased attention, slowed mental processing, and lessens our ability to learn. However, even with these sobering facts, we can reduce the rate of cognitive decline and keep our brains healthy by applying these 9 choices
9 Ways to Boost Brain Power
- Get moving.
- Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain. When we exercise, a chemical called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) is released and it keeps our neurons healthy. Some call it the brain’s Miracle Grow.
- Use it our lose it.
- Think of your brain as a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. The more we use our brain, the more we create something called cognitive reserve, the brain’s savings account. As we age, the more cognitive reserve we have developed, the more capacity the brain has to reallocate functions to other regions of the brain from regions that may not be working as well.
- Make lots of friends.
- Staying connected to others in community helps keep your brain fresh.
- Volunteer/serve others.
- People who volunteer have a much less chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and have less stress. Prolonged stress on the body can actually shrink our brain, especially in our memory center.
- Keep you devotional life strong.
- At the end of our chromosomes lie tiny end caps called telemeres, much like the plastic sleeves at the end of our shoe laces. Scientists have discovered a positive correlation to the length of these end caps and longevity. In studies of those who regularly mediate, their chromosomes consistenly have longer telemeres. So, a daily quiet time may help you live longer.
- Don’t veg in front of the TV.
- In some sobering new research, scientists have discovered that watching too much TV can alter the brain structure of children in areas related to verbal intelligence. So, monitor the amount of TV you watch.
- Eat your spinach.
- A healthy diet is crucial for brain health. Foods such as dark leafy veggies, blueberries, green tea, and those rich in omega-3 fatty acids (the brain’s building blocks) bodes well for a healthy brain. Some supplements such MCT oil, vitamins E and B, and CoQ10 may also boost brain power.
- Learn something new.
- The brain loves novelty. When we learn something new (learn a new skill or develop a new hobby), we actually encourage growth of new brain cells.
- Get adequate sleep.
- When we sleep the brain is quite active. It consolidates what we learned that day into long-term memory and helps grow new neurons in our memory center (the hippocampus). Sleep also clears out a deposit called beta amyloid that accumulates in Alzheimer’s disease.
Take care of your brain and it will serve you well. Since the brain is part of the body, we should heed the words of the Apostle Paul.
1Cor. 6.19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (NIV)
If you are interested in how brain insight can help improve leadership, watch for my new book coming out this May, Brain-Savvy Leaders: the Science of Significant Ministry. If you want a reminder when it comes out, you can join my email list here. It is now available for pre-order.