The brain remains plastic throughout life and can rewire itself in response to your experiences. Sanjay Gupta, MD
Think you’re an “old dog” who can’t learn new tricks? Think again!
Up to the mid-1990s, we believed that brain cells died over time, never to be replaced. Sanjay Gupta, MD, author of “Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age,” says, “Now we know differently. The brain remains plastic throughout life and can rewire itself in response to your experiences.”
In other words, mentally challenging yourself creates new neurons and neural connections. Always wanted to take ballet lessons, learn how to speak Spanish, play the piano, or write a novel? It’s never too late. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s worth the effort—you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and build a better brain!
Affirmation: I will challenge myself to learn something new.
Coaching questions: Is there anything you’d like to learn or experience? What’s holding you back? Imagine yourself mastering a new skill.
Aerobic exercise can change the brain’s anatomy, physiology and function. Wendy Suzuki, PhD, author of Healthy Brain, Happy Life.
Perhaps you think exercise is all about your body—building muscles, conditioning your heart, circulatory systems, etc. You’re right, of course, but exercise is also about your brain. Exercise, along with fresh food, adequate sleep, and socialization, helps keep your brain healthy. “What virtually no one recognizes,” warns John Rately, MD, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “is that inactivity is killing our brains.”
Scientists believe that physical activity stresses our brains similarly to how it works our muscles. Neurons break down, then recover, becoming stronger and more resilient. The good news is that exercise keeps our brains young. Rately adds, “Everything we’ve learned continues to confirm that exercise helps prevent cognitive decline as we age.” Exercise makes our brain stronger and protects it from a variety of diseases including dementia. If this doesn’t motivate us to exercise, what will?
Affirmation: I exercise regularly.
Coaching questions: How much do you value your physical and mental health? What steps will you take this week to honor this value?
Forgetfulness is a form of freedom. Kahill Gibran, Lebanese-American writer, poet.
How often do we say, I forgot….the keys, the sweater, the name, the birthday, the number? For most of us of a certain age, some forgetfulness is routine. But what about those whose past has slipped away, those whose last five minutes are gone?
As I interviewed daughters for my book on mother loss, I found it particularly heart-rending when I talked to daughters who are losing or have lost their mothers to Alzheimer’s disease. One woman said, “My mother is lost but not gone.” This mother has forgotten her daughter and everyone else who was important to her yet she is still alive and may live for many more years. One daughter’s story exemplified Gibran’s quote. She said, “My mother used to have great anxiety and worry. As a result, she was often angry and depressed. Now, because of her dementia, she is free of worry and is experiencing joy.” This daughter knows her mother’s situation will worsen but in the meantime she is embracing the moment.
Perhaps you have lost or are losing your mother or other loved one to this terrible disease. I can’t imagine what pain you’re experiencing but I can stand beside you and support you through it.
Affirmation: My brain is alive and well.
Coaching question: What does your ability to think, remember, reason mean to you? Don’t take it for granted, be grateful.
Changing your mindset can change everything. Jen Sinero, author of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.
I include an affirmation with each blog post because I know they make a difference. Even if you don’t quite buy your affirming words, your brain believes them. For instance, Sinero, executive coach with the long book title above, suggests changing a message like, “I’m so nervous about this presentation” to “I’m so excited to be doing this.”
Affirm yourself with positive language. Not, “I hope I don’t get sick” but rather, “I am healthy.” Affirming yourself may sound hookey but, believe me, it will make a difference in your life because your brain is listening.
Affirmation: My brain is listening, I know how to change my mindset.
Coaching requests: Think of one thing you want to change or attract into your life. Now, write a positive statement about this. Post your message on the bathroom mirror and repeat it out loud to yourself twice a day for a week.