Sunday, 27 April 2014

Bravo to the brain

A little celebration  

It's been a few days since I last posted, instead of writing I have been reading! One of the books I have read recently is called In Search of my Father by Dr Helena Popovic, if you are interested in appreciating your brain, keeping it young and wanting an easy read then I'd recommend reading this. So the beauty of the human brain is my inspiration for today's post.

Our brain is about 2% of of our body weight and yet uses about 20% of the energy we consume. Food+Oxygen=Energy so what we breathe and eat is important to the brain. There are numerous experts and much research that supports dietary effects on the brain. As a classroom teacher it was obvious that for some of my little ones not having breakfast was making things harder than they needed to be so I used to have some peanut butter sandwiches available for a couple of them in the mornings just in case and it made an observable difference for their learning (obviously we had no peanut allergies in my class at the time!). Trying to think hard on an empty or poorly fed stomach is a little like pushing an empty car along the highway, sure you can get there eventually but it is going to take you a lot longer and be a whole lot harder than it needs to be.

Now, we are born with about 100 billion brain cells and over our life time they make trillions and trillions of connections. Every new experience is more connections... every time we learn something, every time we feel something there are more connections. More connections are made in our earlier years than at any other particular time in our lifespan which is why there is so much emphasis on the power of early childhood experience, bonding with significant adults and having a positive start to life.

For us older folk one great thing about the brain is this wonderful thing called plasticity- it means that the brain is changeable. In fact it continues to change and make new connections throughout our lives. Despite early childhood experiences or disasterous school records our brains are capable of change and developing new ways of thinking. We are not only a product of our past, we are also a product of every thought we have, every interpersonal connection we have and everything we do.

It is said that 5% of our brain is our conscious mind which means that the other 95% is subconscious. This is one reason why sticking to goals can be a challenge for some of us. As Cath Vincent says, if the subconscious doesn't agree with what our conscious mind has decided then it will hijack our conscious plans. A classic example is my planning to skydive to celebrate my 33rd birthday. I am a little afraid of heights (well more of the stop at the bottom to be fair, but you know what I mean) so thought this would be a real challenge and on completion a great self esteem booster (provided I survived the landing of course!). However I never booked a ticket and then got pneumonia so decided that was the universe telling me not to go there... on reflection however I am pretty sure my subconscious was adamant that we weren't throwing it out of any plane therefore the rest of me would be grounded as well. So how do we deal with this if it is something we really want to do or value? I guess awareness is a good place to start and then, as Cath suggests, making small changes to convince that subconscious that what our conscious has planned is actually not a bad idea after all.

There is so much we can do to help our brain perform at it's peak, and some of this I have talked about in previous posts (Bouncing Back, Filling Up Tanks). A rule of thumb is if something is helpful for the body, most of the time it will be helpful for the brain. There are a plethora of websites and youtube videos celebrating the brain, if you are curious (and that is a great way to be) I suggest that you do a bit of surfing and have fun learning about your brilliant brain :)

Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.


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