Be the Boss of your Mind After 40
Beyond nurturing food, your brain needs YOU and YOUR BODY.
As you move forward in life, you may notice your brain becomes foggy, your mood changes, and your memory and performance are no longer what they used to be.
It’s time to look at the “mind” side of your brain. By definition, the mind is what keeps us “aware of the world and our experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought”
If you have been following me for some time, you know that my Vitality-After-40 system is based on four pillars: Food, Fast, Mindfulness and Movement. The same goes for your brain. You not only need to nourish your brain with good food, but you also need to serve and care for your mind.
Relax your brain
Stress, over time, can change your brain. If stress represents a broad array of experiences, the biochemistry of stress is the same whether your experience physical, mental, environmental, or trauma-induced stress. All those stressors create an allostatic load – a cumulative stress burden.
Biochemical and structural changes in the brain happen over time when the brain has no time for recovery or if the stress stays constant and chronic. Hence, your symptoms worsen after 40.
When do you need to relax your brain?
Fatigue, nervousness, irritability, anger, lethargy, headache, gastrointestinal upset, sadness or depression are the most common symptoms reported. Don’t think these things happen because you are busy. Start to reflect on the more profound effect these symptoms may have on your brain.
What can you do to relax your brain?
Become familiar with a mindfulness practice.
Many studies show the benefits of mindfulness practice to improve your stress resilience – your aptitude to deal with stress – and help with low mood, performance and memory. Regular mindfulness practice also enhances your ability to keep your healthy eating habits in the long run.
Ask yourself if you are ready to take on board a mindfulness practice over time. If you are ready, you don’t necessarily need to reach your meditation cushion for forty-five minutes a day. Mindfulness is a state of mind. Mindfulness is a cultivated awareness of your inner state in the present moment. It means “knowing what you are doing”, as stated by Jon Kabat Zin, the guru of mindfulness practice. So, everybody (can) practice mindfulness.
Start increasing your ability to cope with stress with mindful eating. One of the favourite games I share with clients is the “Eating Meditation” exercise. Find it here. In just two minutes, the experience of eating changes. And with it, your approach to mindfulness.
Move your body
By exercising your muscles and moving your body, you strengthen your brain through oxygenation and nourishment of your brain cells.
One of my favourite movement practice is yoga*. This is confirmed by a 2019 systematic review. This review concludes that regular yoga has a positive effect on the structure and function of your brain. Less than fifteen minutes of regular yoga practice increases your focus, improves your concentration, and elevates your mood.
You don’t need your lycra or go to a crowded studio to achieve those results for yourself.
Start with lying down, your legs up on a chair for 15 minutes daily, over the next week. Place an eye pillow over your eyes and make sure you stay warm. Just stay there, breathing slowly and mindfully. After a week, check in with yourself and observe if you experience changes in your sleep, digestion, mood etc.
If it does not sound like movement, it actually is. Your legs are never above your chest and brain during daily life. Gravity leads the movement, changing the circulation in your body and your brain. Think of yoga as a gentle exercise that strengthens your brain and your bones.
Any outdoor activities – think walking, swimming, playing – are beneficial also. The natural light reinforces the circadian rhythms in your brain, leading to better sleep and better recovery of your brain, so you end up with a sharper and clearer mind.
Your brain is like your body. It requires whole, balanced meals, mindfulness and movement, the four pillars of the Vitality-After-40 system.