Physical health allows us to have endurance. To be at our best, we need endurance because pushing through to the end is often when it counts the most. The great news is it doesn’t require hours in the gym. It only requires 30 to 45 minutes of your time three or four days per week. Surely you can spare 2 hours per week to increase your overall satisfaction with life. Science has proven that exercise improves our brain function, enhancing our cognitive skills, and helping retention. For many years, I did nothing for exercise. I worked all of the time and had no idea how to manage stress. One Saturday morning, my heart raced, chest hurt, and I lost my eyesight in one eye. At the time, our twin daughters were about four months old, and work was super busy. My recently hired employee, who was living in our spare bedroom at the time, drove me to the hospital. They rushed me right in and hooked me up to the EKG. All of this craziness was stress-induced. They wanted me to take medication and reduce my stress level. Instead, I bought a pair of running shoes and began to run regularly. Eventually, I ran so much that I started running marathons.
Benefits of exercise:
- Makes you smarter
- Helps you feel better about yourself
- Increases your libido
- Reduces risk of chronic disease (especially as you age because of stronger bones and muscles)
- Improves your sleep quality
Nutrition is all about the fuel that allows your engine to run smoothly. I am no expert on diets but do know that everything in moderation is a great starting point. From ice cream to alcohol, the substances we put in our bodies play a huge role in how we feel. Many of us are living every day with food allergies that we are entirely unaware of. These allergies affect our energy levels and our moods. The recommendation to all is to make a minimal investment in seeing a nutritionist to better understand how foods are impacting your health. Remember, the diet industry is 66 billion dollars, according to Marketdata. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what is the best strategy. I choose not to eat sweets because science indicates it contributes to brain health issues as we age. Otherwise, it is everything in moderation for me.
Mental health has been my most important lesson. It never occurred to me to think of the brain as a muscle (and it is) and exercise it. It took me 40 plus years to realize I had a choice of how to respond in every situation. I went to Purdue University and, as a result, have been a big fan of Purdue Sports. This is especially the case when they play against Indiana University. If they lost, I would get so angry I was ready to fight. How ridiculous was I being! I was raging mad about something I could not affect. Looking back now, I am utterly embarrassed about this irrational behavior. My lesson was to understand my emotions, recognize them, and ask myself the best way to respond. Now when that driver cuts me off, I am better able to avoid the anger or rage that used to well up. I might ask myself at the end of the day, am I going to remember this incident? The answer is no, so then I move on.
The trigger for me to get control occurred when my twins were two years old. We were on the back porch one beautiful spring day. I had a glass of wine on a side table. One of my daughters, Margo, kept messing with it even after repeated requests for her to leave it alone. As I was helping her sister with something, I heard a crash. It was the wine glass shattered with wine everywhere. She had used her little golf club to push it off the table. I lost it, grabbed the golf club out of her hand, and broke it over my knee. By this time, my wife, who had been inside, slid the sliding door open and stared at me with tears in her eyes. That was my turning point. I began to study the brain and better understand that in every situation, I have the ability to control my response. I used meditation and trained myself to think before I respond emotionally. Total game-changer for me! If you take nothing else from this article, my hope is this plants the seed for you to better understand your triggers, so you respond in a way that does not compromise you.
Here are some ways to enhance your brain function:
Meditation – the best workout ever for your brain.
Exercise – cardiovascular health improves brain health.
Journaling -This triggers the reticular activating system, which has proven particularly helpful in achieving goals. Struggling for words is a form of exercise for your brain. It is the mental equivalent of a workout. Journaling will also boost your self-confidence and increase your discipline. For me, it has been a wonderful tool for shaping my life and behavior. My strategy for writing has varied over the years. It started with writing my goals down daily and what actions were necessary to achieve them. It then went to more of a day-to-day account of what I was up to and recording my thoughts. Now I focus on gratitude – writing a paragraph about someone I am grateful for having in my life.