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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Stepping along ancient cobbled stones, your senses flood with differing shades of ochre-painted houses and rainbows of flowers pouring from clay pots outside each doorway.  Winding your way to the town center you anticipate the scrumptious meal and delicious wine that awaits you. You are captivated by this community full of work, play, art and life at its fullest.  It’s hard to imagine that in the darkness of the middle ages, the world’s most visionary planners built towns like this one to promote health, happiness and productivity. As you stroll through the arched passageways of this beautiful Italian village you confirm their wisdom, as healthy and happy are exactly how you feel.

Whether this adventure is on your bucket list or conjures up an actual memory, you no doubt have experienced the amazing power of travel to literally light up your brain.  Neuroscience research is revealing how profoundly health-giving travel can be, both in the moment and for years to come.  And surprisingly, how you feel when you travel is a simple barometer for whether it is having a beneficial impact on your brain.  The more you love what you are doing, the more you light up your brain.

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Because the brain is a ‘use it or lose it’ proposition, cognitive function is highly dependent on whether we engage in a variety of interesting, fun, challenging activities that protect our brains from decline and disease.   Travel enables us to do just that.  Given that adult lives are often full of stress and everyday demands, travel becomes the perfect antidote.   It provides a welcome change from routine, new places and people to spark our curiosity, and we can take time out to rest and relax.  These positive experiences create powerful biological responses:

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  1. Feeling good releases chemical neurotransmitters that result in lower heart rate, higher heart rate variability, lower stress hormones, better sleep, and lower risk for heart attacks and strokes.
  1. Travel by its very nature taps a wide range of challenges and experiences. When we explore a variety of activities, particularly if different from everyday life, new brain cells are built and all sorts of new connections occur between brain “networks”. These help us learn to speak a new language, play a new game, enjoy different foods, or figure out which train to catch.  Drawing upon multiple and varied networks can even improve our senses, sharpen our thinking, improve decision-making, and enhance memory and resiliency.
  1. Through travel we have the opportunity to craft and enjoy activities and experiences that we love. But it’s important to go beyond the familiar.  The deeper, richer, more emotionally meaningful the experience, the greater positive impact it has on your health and wellbeing.  Activities that broaden or challenge our perspectives, that engage us with others in important ways, that drive empathy and caring – these are the gold nuggets waiting for discovery during our travels.  If you are loving what you are doing you can be assured your brain is enjoying the rewards.

Perhaps the most potent health benefit from travel occurs after you get home! Travel is the gift that keeps on giving, because the brain prioritizes positive, meaningful experiences when choosing what to remember – and the more emotional, the more powerful is our memory of it.  These memories last longer and trigger memories of other similar experiences.  So we can relive our wonderful travel adventures over and over again with the same boost of feel good neurotransmitters. In fact, these biological boosts are so powerful they can overcome future stress and even reverse depression.

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The combination of loving what you’re doing, exploring a variety of activities and deeply meaningful experiences while tapping multiple brain networks – these all add up to a virtual health bonanza in every travel adventure.  Building a rich store of happy memories is a sign of both a well-lived life and a resilient brain.

So, before you take your next vacation do your brain a huge favor:

  • Think carefully about your next travel adventure
  • Choose places you love or are excited to go to
  • Plan and anticipate with excitement and joy
  • Find a balance between new, different and challenging activities, and those that create peace and restful relaxation
  • Be curious, playful, caring
  • Make real connections with your environment and its people
  • Build empathy with others through acts of caring and service
  • Most of all, love what you do and look for the joy in every moment
  • Then when you get home, sit back and enjoy the memories as often as possible
  • Repeat

Featured photo credit: JeniFoto via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

1. Cat Camel Stretch

Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

Here’s a video to guide you through:

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2. Go for a Walk or a Run

This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

3. Jumping Jacks

Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

4. Abductor Side Lifts

Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

5. Balancing Table Pose

This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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    6. Leg Squats

    Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

    Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

    The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

    7. Push Ups

    You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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    An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

    Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

    This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

    8. Bicycle Crunches

    There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

    Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

    9. Lunges

    Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

    Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

    This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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    10. Bicep Curls

    You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

    Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

    Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

    Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

    Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

    These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

    You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

    Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

    More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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