Variety - the Key to a Healthy Brain
by Carolin Bruederle - Writer, Artist and Therapist
How does our brain influence our experience of stress, and how are we able to influence our brain in its way to deal with stress?
Our brain is like a super computer – there are around 100 trillion neurons (nerve pathways) working together, and though its weight is just about 3% of our body weight, it requires around 15% of our entire energy each day. On top of this, several thousands of new neurons are produced each day – as long as it is stimulated by different activities and challenged by learning new things.
If our brain follows the same routine each day, without any contact with new or unexpected things, it stagnates and becomes inflexible. The nerve pathways can be compared with streets, used by the neurotransmitters to transport and forward information from one part of the brain to another. Repeating the same activities each day means the very same streets are used and therefore get enlarged, like very well constructed highways. For the brain this is easier; in the same way it is probably easier for you to take the fast and straight highway instead of a small country road. The catch is that your brain becomes lazy and kind of stuck in old patterns.
On the contrary, a “well-trained” brain aids stress reduction and recovery. If our brain has to stay active and flexible it can easily internalize new things and adapt to new situations; this also includes dealing with negative influences. It is challenged to create new “roads” (nerve pathways) out of nowhere and starting to use them, while deconstructing old, no longer useful ones.
Here is how to keep your brain healthy and “young”:
Our brain loves to deal with new situations and activities. Remember when you were a child – were you not naturally curious? Were you not wandering through your life with open eyes and willing to experiment and try yourself out at all kinds of different things? Have you already judged so much as you do now, and have you already used so many easy-to-live-with patterns?
Variety in our daily life, activities and ways to handle things is like an energy drink for our brain, like a fountain of youth. You don’t have to give up everything of your daily routine, but try out what happens if you add new ways to your everyday life: switch between things you like, try out new things you’ve always wanted to do but never done so far, be playful and have fun!
You’ll get in contact with a vast amount of ways to be and things to do in this world and your brain will thank you for it. It will adopt the new ways and start to use them; and you will notice it in a gain of new possibilities to act and deal with situations.
- Bilateral hemispheric stimulation:
Our cerebrum is divided into two hemispheres, the right and the left one, both of which are connected tightly and work together closely. The left hemisphere is mostly specialized to language and analytical processes, the right one to creativity and orientation. Only with a healthy and well working nervous connection between both hemispheres our brain will be able to work at its full potential.
There are certain situations in life, such as traumatic situations or just situations where we feel great stress or fear, when the connection between both hemispheres gets shut down and the brain is only able to react with the right hemisphere. It feels as if we are literally speechless. In this state information can’t be internalized and we can’t react efficiently.
To reactivate this vital connection you can use the so called bilateral hemispheric stimulation, which simply means to give your brain switching right and left stimuli for a certain time (like 10 to 30 minutes a day).
4 simple ways for bilateral hemispheric stimulation:
- Cross your arms in front of your chest and then alternately tap your shoulders with your hands.
- You can also use rapid eye movement by following a point or finger in front of your eyes from one side to the other and back.
- Audible stimuli: there are special audio files created for bilateral stimulation.
- And last but not least there is a bilateral stimulating effect by doing sports; one of the best-known and common ways is to go for a run.
Read more a about the influence of stress on our body and how to deal with it by using the REWARD Method here.