We often forget that we are amazing beings loaded with incredible energy, intelligence and healing powers. We are gifted with a brain that is nothing short of a miracle. If something potentially harmful happens, it springs swiftly into action. Say, you slip on wet tiles, it immediately directs you to regain your balance, and if you keep falling, it signals your arms to break the fall. If you hit the ground, it sends pain to inform you that you’re injured. And it memorises this event to remind you to walk gingerly on wet, slippery tiles the next time.
Experts are concerned that we may be overloading this priceless organ with unnecessary information, stress and toxic substances. We could be beset with moodiness, weakness, tingling or numbness in limbs, headaches, vision loss, memory and cognitive dysfunction, depression, flu-like symptoms, imbalance or chronic fatigue. It is essential not to ignore and neglect our body’s SOS, but to tend to its natural need for good health.
Sleep like a baby
The most effective way to optimise detoxification and lighten the brain is to get a good night’s sleep. To ensure deep sleep, on waking allow the morning sun to bathe the body. It sets the body clock by lowering the sleep hormone melatonin and making the brain awake, alert and clear. It ensures you fall asleep naturally at night as the melatonin rises in the dark. And you sleep like a baby for the optimum six to eight hours. Sleep on your left side as it helps the glymphatic system work better, say experts.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
- Berries top the list — blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, amla, bel and karonda contain antioxidants that cross the blood-brain barrier successfully and nourish the brain. The blood-brain barrier is a network of blood vessels and tissue cells that prevent harmful substances from reaching the brain. It however allows water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, general anaesthetics and glucose to penetrate its protective shield. Leafy greens, beetroot, broccoli, bell peppers and carrots fight free radical damage. Free radicals are generated by our body when exposed to harmful chemicals that stress the brain.
- A ginger-garlic combination lowers levels of pro-inflammatory proteins and keeps the brain clear and healthy.
- Nuts and seeds generally improve memory and prevent inflammation. Studies show that the brain exhibits positive changes in certain areas dealing with emotion, after eating yogurt.
- Beans, being rich in fibre, B vitamins, omega fatty acids regulate blood-sugar release, help concentration and memory that helps us work steadily in a flow through the day without any lapses. Oats and brown rice are anti-inflammatory, increase our serotonin and melatonin levels that promote calmness and sleep respectively.
- Boiled or filtered water hydrates the brain and helps its cognitive and motor skills. Avoid processed meats, transfats and white sugar.
Exercise away dullness
What’s good for your heart is good for your brain. Physical activities like walking, cycling and yoga promote healthy synapses — the small pockets of space between the neurons that allow them to communicate. “They are where the magic happens when it comes to cognition,” says Kaitlin Casaletto, a neuropsychologist. Also, these exercises, by boosting oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain, increase the size of the hippocampus which is involved in verbal memory and learning.
Daily exercise lightens the brain — you can actually experience the clouds disperse, the wooziness vanish and an all’s-well-with-the-world luminosity sets in. Yoga teachers recommend the plough pose and kapalbhaati to detoxify the brain.
Plough pose: Lie on your back, palms down. Raise legs 90 degrees from floor. Lift hips with your hands and slowly move both legs up and over your head until your toes touch the floor. Hold for 30 seconds.
Kapalbhaati: Sit with spine erect. Breathe in deeply. As you exhale forcefully, pull navel back towards spine. Relax navel and abdomen and allow breath to flow into your lungs naturally. One round is 20 such breaths.
Don’t think unnecessarily
You will know when you are indulging in overthinking when your thoughts begin on the lines of ‘What if…’ It comes from a constant inner tension. Apart from physical exercises discussed above, it’s important to disperse tension with non-physical techniques to relax the mind. It needs an inner environment of recreation, restfulness and well-being.
Ask, ‘How do I invite joy into my life?’ Hobbies such as singing, gardening, sports, dancing, writing positive stuff, meditation, cooking, hiking, etc are great tension dispensers.
There have been some interesting experiments that could resonate with you and keep your brain relaxed and quietly joyous as it engages in certain activities.
The Mozart effect: In 1993, Professor Francis Rauscher felt his memory and smartness improve by listening to Mozart. He gathered together 36 college students and played them a Mozart Piano Sonata for 10 minutes. The students felt relaxed and restful. However, the peaceful effects did not last! Where the effect was found lasting was in what has been termed as the Sanskrit effect by Dr James Hartzell who writes in Scientific American. His research shows that memorising Vedic mantras increases the size of brain regions associated with cognitive functions such as short-term memory. Apparently, 21 chanters had denser grey matter and a thicker cortex than 21 non-chanters. These changes — better memory, decision-making, sensory perception — stay. When there is clarity, there is less vulnerability to stress. I prefer to chant silently in the mind and find it dispels moodiness. Gregorian chants and rhythmic poetry are effective too.
Finally, keep track of things. Have a handy calendar. Keep a written schedule. Jot things down so you don’t forget. Unfollow anyone who doesn’t add positivity to your life. Unsubscribe from websites that waste brain time. Spend time outdoors. These little practices keep the brain free and clear. ‘Relate to your brain in a new way by understanding that positive inputs evolve, negative inputs destroy.’ In sum: re-enchant the mind and nourish the brain.
The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme