Your brain chemistry is affected by food and drink, exercise, thoughts, emotions, the air you breathe, etc. Powerful groups of chemicals in your brain react to these factors and can rev you up or slow you down accordingly. Oftentimes you get so accustomed to the way you are that you choose foods, thoughts and habits that will keep you in that state rather than change the routine and change the way you are -even to accepting negative moods as normal and positive moods as too good to last. If you moods are off balance, your intelligence, productivity and overall performance is affected. For example, when emotional interest triggers the secretion of adrenaline into the bloodstream, memory, thinking and sensory acuity is improved. Adrenaline also prompts the release of stored-up blood sugar (glucose) which neurons need for optimal performance, so avoid low blood sugar and artificial sweeteners when doing brain tasks.
Your brain grows with exercise and atrophies with lack of use. Out of the estimated 15 billion neurons of the human brain, 100,000 unused neurons deteriorate each day. By improving your brain's circulatory system, your brain cells need not deteriorate at this horrendous rate. Capillaries that supply your brain cells with oxygen and nourishment can be manufactured by your body when they are needed. An autopsy of Einstein's brain after his death revealed that there was a greater profusion of superficial capillaries interlacing his cerebral cortex than men of ordinary intellect. With a program of intensive mental exercise, your body must respond with the development of new capillaries to provide the necessary oxygen your brain is asking for.
Oxygen is the key to better brain usage. If your heart rate is increased and your blood vessels are dilated, more oxygen can reach your brain; hence moderate exercise can improve your brain's functioning. Deep, abdominal breathing is also very good, because blood favors the lower areas of your lungs due to gravity, and a more enriched mixing of blood and oxygen is achieved (see breathing exercises).
Improve your diet, and you can improve the functioning of your brain. For instance, by eating leafy vegetables, nuts, apples, pears or grapes you supply your brain with the much needed element boron that helps to increase your mental alertness. High fat foods make your brain feel sluggish. By eating low-fat poultry or fish, you charge up your bloodstream with amino acids, including tyrosine. Tyrosine is carried across the protective filter called the blood-brain barrier where it converts into the alertness chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine. If stress exhausts your supply of these neurotransmitters, the result is confusion, indecisiveness, anxiety and depression. Fish, meats, egg yolks, soy products, oatmeal, rice, peanuts and pecans contain choline which converts to the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, needed for a sharp memory.
You can further augment your ability to think and learn by taking supplemental dosages of choline (or lecithin), vitamin A, B-1, B-12, C and E. Eliminate smoking and excessive fluid intake (which is mostly habit and not thirst anyway), narcotics, alcohol, white sugar (which produces lassitude and fatigue) and excess caffeine intake (which limits the blood flow in your brain).
Coffee is an instant dopamine booster, which tends to make us think more quickly, react to stimuli more rapidly, and feel more energetic. But dopamine is a building block of another neurotransmitter, norephinephrine which converts to adrenaline. More than one or two cups of coffee often pushes the brain chemicals to excessive levels resulting in nervousness, anxiety and aggression. Mental instability is simply a chemical imbalance. To balance yourself, moderation in everything is best.
To improve hemispheric balance, cross-crawling (stomach-to-floor) is a good developmental exercise. Practice marching in place. First march in a homolateral style, moving the same side arm and leg together, and then switch to the opposite side arm and leg in a cross-marching style. Practice other cross-motor patterns like swinging both arms to one side while lifting the leg of the other side in front of you OR lifting your leg straight out to the side while raising your arm of the opposite side. Turn your head from side to side as you do these drills. Do each cross-motor pattern 25 times per day until it becomes automatic for you.
To further boost your brain power, sharpen the whole range of your senses. See, hear, taste, smell and feel the environment around you. Do things differently each day and encourage yourself with positive affirmations. Use your left hand instead of your right to open your car door or to comb your hair. Break out of the hypnotic stereotypes of taking the same roads home from work or the routines at the breakfast and lunch table, etc. At home, play thinking games like bridge, checkers, chess or go. Build up your vocabulary. Do crossword puzzles, anagrams and jumble word puzzles. Practice reading and drawing upside down or while looking through a mirror. Learn another language or how to play a musical instrument. At various points in your day, visualize in quick succession all the daily activities that happened to you up to that point. The more you use your brain, the more it will grow.
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