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Science Shows How Crossing Your Arms And Legs Can Hugely Change Your Brain

Science Shows How Crossing Your Arms And Legs Can Hugely Change Your Brain

The human brain is fascinating and mysterious. It rules our very existence.

We can participate in a number of actions and activities to enhance our brain function, which influences our health and wellbeing — physically, emotionally, and mentally. These days, there are a number of brain-training methods to promote mental fitness. Lumosity is one of the best and most well-known programs. But, did you know that the simple act of crossing your arms and legs can have actual health benefits and change how your brain functions?

We know a fair bit about how the human brain works and how it governs our bodies, emotions, and our psychology. There is still so much that we have yet to learn. It was once thought that we only used 10% of our brain function because it is made up of 10% nerve cells called neurons, which direct our behaviors and thoughts. However, recent research has shown that glial cells, which make up around 90% of our brains, have a lot more influence on our neurons than previously thought. So, in actual fact, we do use more than 10% of our brains.

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We also know that the brain is divided into two hemispheres — the right brain and the left brain. The right brain is associated with emotion and creativity and governs the left side of the body. The left brain focuses more on logic and details and controls the right side of the body. Down the center runs the mid line of the central nervous system, or CNS.

”Research has found that when you move your extremities across this mid line, the opposite-sided brain will start to help regulate its movement, meaning both brain hemispheres are now activated and functioning simultaneously,” says Seth M., who wrote on the subject for ExpandedConsciousness.com.

The ambidexterity achieved while crossing your arms and legs can cause your brain to function optimally. It can dramatically reduce stress and help you to learn and cognate more clearly because it synchronizes both hemispheres of the brain and both sides of the body simultaneously.

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“Bringing both hemispheres in sync with one another allows you to achieve a sort of ‘super learning’ state of being where you are able to think with both logic and emotion.”

Humans are creatures of habit

We get accustomed to doing the same things over and over again. We live our daily lives doing repetitive rituals and we don’t challenge our brains to function in new and different ways very often. This is why it was thought that we use only 10% of our brains — because that is all it takes to fall into a comfortable pattern of behavior and thought, which is what humans tend to do.

Inviting ourselves to use our brains in ways that we aren’t used to can fire up neurons and their pathways that we don’t use often and can change our habits. This, in turn, can have psychological and physiological benefits. This is why people engage in activities like painting, writing, cooking, running, rock climbing, and yoga. These activities teach us to see the world differently. They force us to think outside of our habits.

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The ancient art of yoga has gained popularity in modern times

Yoga involves doing both simple and challenging physical postures called asanas that require flexibility, balance, and focus. It also entails mindfulness and concentration to achieve these postures and keep you in the present moment. It relies on the regulation of breathing to reduce the mind and body’s natural stress response to difficult stimuli. The interaction between your mind, body, and breath can have profound impacts on your health and well being.

“The fascinating thing about the mind-body interaction is that it works both ways. For example, if you’re stressed, your muscles will tense (preparing to run away from a lion), and this will lead to more negative thinking. Relaxing those muscles, particularly the facial muscles, will push the brain in the other direction, away from stress, and toward more relaxed thoughts. Similarly, under stress, your breathing rate increases. Slowing down your breathing pushes the brain away from the stress response, and again toward more relaxed thinking,” says neuroscientist Alex Korb.

The Eagle Pose, or Garudasana, is a perfect example of a pose that crosses the CNS. It can have excellent effects on the body and mind. It requires a fair bit of balance, focus, and flexibility and involves crossing your arms and legs — first to the right side, then the left and balancing on one foot. This pose can take a bit of practice.

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garudasana

    Keep it simple

    Crossing your arms and legs the ordinary way can have just as many health benefits as doing it in the opposite way to what you are used to. This means both in terms of increasing your ambidexterity and brain function. You don’t have to be a yoga master to do that.

    So remember, next time you are bored in a meeting or waiting for a bus, start crossing your arms and legs and know that you are doing something positive for your health. Just make sure your facial expression is serene and not impatient to avoid giving the wrong message — both to others and to your brain.

    Featured photo credit: wavebreakmedia via shutterstock.com

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    Diane Koopman

    Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2018

    The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

    The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

    It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

    If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

    One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

    Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

    In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

    Why you can’t sleep through the night

    The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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    Stress

    If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

    Exposure to blue light before sleep time

    We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

    While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

    Eating close to bedtime

    Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

    Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

    Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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    Medical conditions

    In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

    The vicious sleep cycle

    The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

    Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

    You get a bad night’s sleep
    –> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
    –> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
    –> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

      You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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      How to sleep better (throughout the night)

      To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

      1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

      What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

      Here are a few suggestions:

      • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
      • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
      • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
      • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
      • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

      2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

      What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

      • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
      • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
      • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
      • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

      3. Adjust your sleep temperature

      Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

      Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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      Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

      Sleep better form now on

      Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

      I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

      As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

      Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

      Reference

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