Lifestyle and the Brain
©Arlene R. Taylor PhD
High-level-wellness living is important because your lifestyle actually changes your brain. Some have compared that to laying down footprints in your brain that correspond to your experiences, actions taken, and behaviors exhibited. Every positive change, however small, can make an impact in the long term. This has been called the age of the brain and studies have revealed some good news. More than half the factors that influence the health of your brain are believed to be within your partial, if not complete control. That’s where you need to put your time, attention, and money—on factors that you can do something about.
Dr. Kenneth Guiffre, in The Care and Feeding of Your Brain, wrote about some of these factors:
Lifestyle choices, foods, common drugs, and supplements have a profound effect on when and to what degree your mind can “boot up” to full capacity. Sometimes it receives what it needs to boot up efficiently and sometimes it doesn’t.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to separate brain health from body health. Brain and body work nonstop from conception to death, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Your quality of life and health is profoundly impacted by the way you feed and care for your brain and body.
When writing about a concept known as remembered wellness, Dr. Benson indicated that self-care is the first and most important strategy. In his book, Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief, he listed components of a self-care strategy suchas:
- Developing a positive mind set
- Regularly using affirmations and visualizations
- Honing a sense of humor and laughing a lot
- Knowing how to implement healthy distractions
- Incorporating music into your life
- Developing close friendships
- Using meditation/prayer and healthy rituals
- Doing something for others as in volunteer work
I encourage people to learn all they can about lifestyle choices and their relative impact on brain function, and to apply the knowledge they gain to their own lives on a daily basis. Because it is often easier to start from something than from nothing, I have prepared these summaries related to lifestyle and the brain.
My goal is to stimulate thinking and observation, trigger increased awareness at an individual level, jumpstart applications for everyday living, and provide options for behaviors. Although I have relied heavily on brain function research, a plethora of studies, and discussions with brain researchers and other experts, the summaries represent my own brain’s considered opinion.
Typically, conclusions from research projects and studies are presented in the form of generalizations that apply to nearly 70% of the population (to the first standard deviation on either side of the mean). There are always exceptions based on individuality, because each human brain develops uniquely If some of your personal characteristics or typical behaviors don’t match a specific generalization, it doesn’t invalidate the research/studies. It does exemplify individual uniqueness.