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Neuroscientists Explain How Running Changes Our Brains And Affects Our Thinking

Neuroscientists Explain How Running Changes Our Brains And Affects Our Thinking

“Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance – you can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet.” by Doris Brown Heritage. Are you familiar with this feeling? Do you gain insight into your emotional and physical self while you run? Do you enjoy the feeling of the wind against your face and the freedom of being outdoors alone with your thoughts? You may feel that after a good run your mind is clear and ready to absorb information. You can also find that your outlook is more positive after a run and that things that were troubling you no longer feel so bad. Well, your feelings have a scientific basis. Research conducted in the field of neuroscience shows the effects aerobic exercise have on cognitive clarity and emotional well-being.

New Neurons Would Be Created

It used to be accepted that we were born with a certain amount of neurons and that by the time we became an adult no new neurons would be created. This however, has been proven to be incorrect. Through research on animals it has been discovered that new neurons are continually produced in the brain throughout our entire life. Karen Postal, president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology says that the only activity that is shown to trigger the birth of these new neurons is vigorous aerobic exercise. “If you are exercising so that you sweat – about 30 to 40 minutes – new brain cells are being born” says Postal. So sweating it out on the treadmill or out in the open is doing your brain a lot of good and helping it stay mentally healthy for years to come.

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People Who Run Can Recover From Negative Emotions More Quickly

In a study by Emily Bernstein and Richard McNally it was found that aerobic exercise may help reduce negative emotions. Bernstein is a runner and she said “I notice in myself that I just feel better when I’m active”. She wanted to find out why this was the case and to know exactly the effect that exercise has on us. The study set out to look at the way exercise changes the way people react to their emotions. Participants were told to stretch or jog for 30 minutes and were then were shown a sad movie; the final scene of the 1979 film The Champ. The participants then reported their emotional responses. It was found that those who had run for 30 minutes recovered more quickly from their sad emotional experience than those who had just stretched.

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Working Memory Would Be Enhanced

A recent study by Lin Li et al titled: “Acute Aerobic Exercise Increases Cortical Activity during Working Memory: A Functional MRI Study in Female College Students”  looks at the effect of acute aerobic exercise on cognitive function. Their study looked at the effect of a session of acute aerobic exercise on working memory. Fifteen young females participated in the study. There were scanned, after an acute exercise session, using a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) while they performed a working memory task. It was found that the cortex and the left frontal hemisphere showed signs of improvement of control processes. From these findings the researchers noted that this indicates: “acute exercise could benefit working memory at a macro-neural level.” Thus, the study shows a connection between aerobic exercise and improvement in memory.

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Summation

Next time you are out for a run know that you are doing yourself a world of good. Not only are you aiding your brain on a neurological level you are also working to improve your emotional health. Your cognitive abilities such as memory will be improved and your outlook on life will probably be more positive. If you don’t already run, then you may want to take out those old running shoes and give them a try.

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More by this author

Rebecca Beris

Rebecca is a wellness and lifestyle writer at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 18, 2019

What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

Some people just seem to float through life with a relentless sense of happiness – through the toughest of times, they’re unfazed and aloof, stopping to smell the roses and drinking out of a glass half full.

They may not have much to be happy about, but the simplicity behind that fact itself may make them happy.

It’s all a matter of perspective, conscious effort and self-awareness. Listed below are a number of reasons why some people are always happy.

1. They Manage Their Expectations

They’re not crushed when they don’t get what they want – or misled into expecting to get the most out of every situation. They approach every situation pragmatically, hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst.

2. They Don’t Set Unrealistic Standards

Similar to the last point, they don’t live their lives in a constant pursuit towards impossible visions of perfection, only to always find themselves falling short of what they want.

3. They Don’t Take Anything for Granted

Happiness rests with feeling fulfilled – those who fail to stop and appreciate what they have every now and again will never experience true fulfillment.

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4. They’re Not Materialistic

There are arguing viewpoints on whether or not money can really buy happiness; if it can, then we know from experience that we can never be satisfied because there will always be something newer or better that we want. Who has ever had enough money?

5. They Don’t Dwell

They don’t sweat the small things or waste time worrying about things that don’t really matter at the end of the day. They don’t let negative thoughts latch onto them and drain them or distract them. Life’s too short to worry.

6. They Care About Themselves First

They’re independent, care for themselves and understand that they must put their needs first in order to accommodate the needs of others.

They indulge, aim to get what they want, make time for themselves and are extremely self-reliant.

7. They Enjoy the Little Things

They stop to smell the roses. They’re accustomed to find serenity when it’s available, to welcome entertainment or a stimulating discussion with a stranger when it crosses their path. They don’t overlook the small things in life that can be just as important.

8. They Can Adapt

They’re not afraid of change and they work to make the most out of new circumstances, good or bad. They thrive under pressure, are not overwhelmed easily and always embrace a change of pace.

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9. They Experiment

They try new things, experience new flavors and never shy away from something they have yet to experience. They never order twice from the same menu.

10. They Take Their Time

They don’t unnecessarily rush through life. They work on their own schedule to the extent that they can and maneuver through life at their own relaxing pace.

11. They Employ Different Perspectives

They’re not stuck in one perspective; a loss can result in a new opportunity, hitting rock bottom can mean that there’s no where to go but up.

12. They Seek to Learn

Their constant pursuit of knowledge keeps them inspired and interested in life. They cherish information and are on a life-long quest to learn as much as they can.

13. They Always Have a Plan

They don’t find themselves drifting without purpose. When something doesn’t go as planned, they have a plan for every letter in the alphabet to fall back on.

14. They Give Respect to Get It

They are respectful and, in turn, are seen as respectable; the respect they exude earns them the respect they deserve.

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15. They Consider Every Opportunity

They always have their eyes open for a new road, a new avenue worth exploring. They know how to recognize opportune moments and pounce on them to make the most of every situation. Success is inevitable for them.

16. They Always Seek to Improve

Perpetual self-improvement is the key towards their ongoing thirst for success. Whatever it is they do, they take pride in getting better and better, from social interactions to mundane tasks. Their pursuit at being the best eventually materializes.

17. They Don’t Take Life Too Seriously

They’re not ones to get offended easily over-analyze or complicate matters. They laugh at their own faults and misfortunes.

18. They Live in the Moment

They don’t live for tomorrow or dwell on what may have happened yesterday. Every day is a new opportunity, a new chapter. They live in the now, and in doing so, get the most out of every moment.

You can learn how to do so too: How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future

19. They Say Yes

Much more often than they say no. They don’t have to be badgered to go out, don’t shy away from new opportunities or anything that may seem inconvenient.

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20. They’re Self-Aware

Most important, they’re wholly aware of themselves. They self-reflect and are conscious of their states of mind. If somethings bothering them, they fix it.

We’re all susceptible to feeling down every now and again, but we are all equipped with the necessary solutions that just have to be discovered.

Lack of confidence, inability to feel fulfilled, and susceptibility to stress are all matters that can be controlled through the way we handle our lives and perceive our circumstances.

Learn about How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life.

Final Thoughts

The main philosophy employed by the happiest includes the idea that life’s simply too short: life’s too short to let things get you down, to take things for granted, to pursue absolute and unrealistic perfection.

For some, employing these characteristics is a second nature – they do it without knowing. For others, a conscious effort must be put forth every now and again. Self-Awareness is key.

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Featured photo credit: Charles Postiaux via unsplash.com

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