Dance? Reflective activity? Hot yoga?
Brain health, will power and what makes New Year resolutions succeed……
Sir Thomas E Lucas, Consulting scientist/forecaster, London, U.K. says:
“Long, long ago in a country far away …” I was working on the tech hardware for what ultimately became the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland where I became aware of the fascinating parallels between sub-atomic theory and the mystical traditions of Eastern energy medicine. So much so that I started to explore and practice the short breathing, meditation and movement exercises of Chinese Chi-Kung. That was five decades ago, but twelve years later, following a family tragedy, this new knowledge completely transformed my health and my entrepreneurial spirit. I therefore wholeheartedly urge anyone who is interested in managing their willpower via the link(s) between the mind and the body to ignore the skepticism of many doctors and medical researchers, and seriously investigate this “path less travelled” for themselves – and benefit!
Lily Anne Hillis: Yoga & Meditation Teacher Palo Alto, CA says:
As a 78-year-old yoga and meditation teacher, my passion is getting “people of a certain age” to move their bodies. In yoga I emphasize that balance work is not to prevent us from losing our balance, but to educated our bodies to know what to do to prevent falling by making sure the response is in the muscle memory.
I have had people in their 90s START yoga. It is my reason for doing what I do and what makes me happy to have my feet hit the floor every morning.
I am delighted to be able to modify ANY yoga pose for ANY kind of body. My job is to fit the yoga to the student, not the student to the pose.
How lovely that the science regarding brain health is validating what we have suspected all along.
Why The Most Popular New Year’s Resolution May Be More Important than You Think
If I was a betting person I’d be willing to wager that, if you asked around at your New Year’s party last night, you found at least one person whose resolution was to hit the gym more in the coming year.
And I’d bet that if you asked them why, they’d mentioned the extra pounds they’ve been putting on.
I think my odds of winning would be pretty good, too. Getting more exercise is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, especially after the food-fueled holidays.
But there are more benefits to exercising than just losing weight. For example, exercise can be a crucial part of maintaining a healthy brain.
In fact, in her year-end wrap up of health and fitness news, New York Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds wrote:
Certainly the most encouraging exercise research this year focused on the links between regular exercise and improvements in our thinking and the structure of our brains.
But if improving the structure of your brain isn’t enough, here’s another thing to consider.
Maintaining a healthy brain might actually help you keep making progress on some of your tougher New Year’s resolutions.
Kelly McGonigal, PhD explains why:
I was listening to NPR and a guest said, “If you want to improve the strength of your body, you exercise your body. If you want to improve the strength and health of your brain, you should exercise your brain.”
It turns out that you should flip that around: if you want to increase the health and strength of your brain, you should exercise your body.
There is probably more evidence for this than for almost any other recommendation that I make – the idea that physical exercise, particularly exercise that elevates the heart rate – cardio respiratory fitness – increases the density of the prefrontal cortex as well as the function of the prefrontal cortex.
It is not very clear why physical exercise seems to target the prefrontal cortex so much, but researchers think it has something to do with the fact that the prefrontal cortex uses more energy than other parts of the brain.
When you engage in physical exercise, it is teaching the brain and the body how to use energy more efficiently.
You see brain-derived neurotrophic factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, and all these sorts of other factors that help the brain figure out how to better use energy.
If you want to make your prefrontal cortex bigger and stronger, you really should prioritize physical health and physical activity.
So what’s so important about strengthening the prefrontal cortex along with your abs and thighs?
Well, Kelly is best known for her research on willpower. According to Kelly, the prefrontal cortex is where willpower – the ability to resist temptation and power through tough situations – comes from. That means that if you strengthen your prefrontal cortex, you’ll be better equipped to tackle more of your tough goals next year.
So, increased physical activity could be a self-sustaining New Year’s resolution. If exercise isn’t on your list of resolutions for 2016, maybe Kelly’s insights will convince you to kick off the New Year with a workout.
And, I’ll let you in on a secret – we’ll be sharing even more about willpower soon.
But first I want to hear from you. What have you learned that could help patients (or yourself) exercise greater willpower? Please share your comments below.
Carol Brown Counselor Socialworker, yoga Teacher says:
In the article you state: “the idea that physical exercise, particularly exercise that elevates the heart rate – cardio respiratory fitness – increases the density of the prefrontal cortex as well as the function of the prefrontal cortex.” is important for brain health. So, its important to note that aerobic exercise or faster “hot” yoga for example should be part of the mix of activity which may include restorative, gentle yoga and or yin for example, each important for different reasons based on different intentions for health and wellbeing.
It sounds like a balance of activity is important. Thanks for the thoughts.
Sidney padgett, MA, public health says:
Dance!! put on music that prompts you foot to tap and get up and dance. Dance alone, dance with a partner, dance with children bounce up and down standing in line to the music playing at a store. It is hard to remain miserable when one can just dance. No training or special equipment needed.
Robert Fortnry, LPC-S, Lubbock, TX says:
As a college track and life time senior running competitor/gym rat, I can concur with the will power issue. When not physically over taxed or over exercised, my self-confidence is higher. When my self-confidence is higher, my will power is stronger. The prefrontal cortex, exercise, willpower and confidence, all seem to have a useful/productive dimension of contact with each other.