Recommendations For A Healthier Lifestyle (2017)
Exercise is certainly something an important activity to help improve physical health in terms of cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility and conditioning. However, the effects it has on the brain are incredible as physical movement and routine can change the physical structure of it; in essence, the brain is a muscle that can be exercised and conditioned. Optimum conditions for brain plasticity can be achieved through physical exercise. Of course, much like physical exercise on muscles, the brain also requires rest.
Physical exercise can increase neurogenesis as well as increase an individual’s cognitive functions such as learning and memory. Increases in heart rate will pump more oxygen around the body and to the brain, which in conjunction with a good diet can help to promote a healthy environment for the growth of new brain cells. As exercise increases the level of brain plasticity, it also has a positive effect on neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, which would be advisable for those at a more advanced age. It is not a myth that people feel good after exercising; doing so stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, which can raise our mood as well as promoting a positive sense of well being.
Everyone can benefit from physical exercise. It is important to identify the benefits, physically, neurologically but also socially; social benefits may be something an individual would identify better with than the complexities of neurological explanations. Of course, like with everything else in terms of moderation, exercise can also be addictive, which can not only cause addictive patterns in the brain, but can also lead to physical injury, which often leads to feelings of depression. It is not uncommon for exercise to be a solution to depression only to be injured and to fall back into depression.
Deep Breathing and Meditation
From ancient times around the world to this day, cultures and groups of people such as Buddhist monks often emphasise the importance of meditation and how it it brings about peace to a chaotic and troubled min to bring attention to external stimuli through our sensory perceptions. As such, practitioners are generally regarded to be more calm, peaceful and composed even during stressful times. The benefits of meditation have been confirmed with fMRI and EEG methods, which show enhanced connections within the brain, which therefore lead to improved concentration, attention as well as a general sense of well being. It has also been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression; meditation also regulates the amygdala functions regarding fear and stress. Mindfulness is the awareness of one's thoughts and feelings and can be used therapeutically. Being conscious of the sensations of things that may be taken for granted, such as sitting down on a chair, the feeling of our clothes touching our skin.
Of course, deep breathing is an essential part of meditation and mindfulness. Deep breathing has a calming effect, which studies at Stanford and California (Knapton, 2017) have shown; '175 brain cells spy on the breath and alter state of mind accordingly', which suggests that it is entirely possible to change one’s mood and frame of being from breathing. Disorders such as anxiety may even be triggered by hyperventilation; therefore, slowing down one's breathing can have the opposite effect.
Deep breathing and meditative exercises can be hugely beneficial towards a individual's mental (and physical) well being. Often, an individual may suffer from a lack of sleep, which could be from overthinking; meditation would be able to help calm cognitive functions. Results of meditation may vary day by day; it can take longer to reach a certain state than usual depending on the circumstances of that day. Patience is therefore greatly advised. Almost everybody with different motives can benefit from these practices. Teaching children to meditate can result in a higher rate of attention and promote learning in schools.
Further to this, molecular hydrogen inhalation also offers benefits in terms of physical and mental well being.
Knapton, S. (2017) Deep breathing calms you down because brain cells spy on your breath [ONLINE] Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/03/30/deep-breathing-calms-brain-cell-spy-breath/
(Accessed on 10th September 2017)
It is important to understand the different types of food, such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats, which make up the macronutrients that are required for bodily and neurological function. Healthy balance of the 3 can allow for better connectivity of the brain through our neurotransmitters, which can regulate our levels of concentration, mood, cravings as well as sleep and recovery. Too much carbohydrates and sugar, for instance can be stored as body fat, which not only cause stress on the body and the brain, but will have negative overall effects on our wellbeing. What must also be taken into account are the micronutrients such as the vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B, for instance helps to prevent memory loss, depression and can prevent brain shrinkage. Diet plans may be devised, but must also take into account metabolic rate as well as body types.
Eating disorders may not just be about the quantities of food consumption, but also the types of food in conjunction with it. For example, only eating fast food, which will contain artificial ingredients; whilst fast food can leave us feeling hungry still, we may simply be malnourished and seek to satisfy this feeling by eating more. Not getting the right amounts of macro and micronutrients can lead to the body as whole to function poorly, leading to extreme weight gain (and in some cases, weight loss), which can lead to depression.
It is important for people to understand what disorders they may be going through and how good nutrition can benefit them. Socially, most people have been taught that it is important to eat fruit and vegetables, but the very act of doing it is not something that is always prioritised. It may therefore be advisable to identify current priorities and how they correlate and align with future plans and from there, begin to form new neural connections toward a healthier change. Even if a individual has a good exercise regime, it is near impossible to out-train a poor diet. Understanding that body fat in many cases is unburnt calories can be beneficial to know during meal times.
In addition to this, it is also important to understand hydration and the different types of water filtration.