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10 Surprisingly Simple Things You Can Do to Recharge Your Mind

10 Surprisingly Simple Things You Can Do to Recharge Your Mind

With the myriad of things that demand our attention in our daily lives, it is difficult to find the time to spend on keeping our minds healthy. We run our physical bodies on empty, stopping to refuel only when we can. Our minds get even less attention.

One thing we know for sure is that stress can kill us; at least it is killing our minds slowly. Results from one study examining the impact of stress on health showed that participants with the greatest stress reactions over an eight day period had the highest incidence of depression and anxiety 10 years later! So what we do now does matter for our long-term wellness. Keeping your mind healthy and running well is one of the keys to optimal health and well-being. I must admit that we are all pretty close to losing it sometimes and sometimes only self-care can help to redirect us.

Here are 10 ways to recharge your mind and return yourself to the path of optimum health and longevity in this fast-paced world.

1. Give it rest

It cannot be said enough and will continue to be a cardinal truth of wellness: your rest is the most important thing you can do for your mind. Can you imagine running 24 hours without a break? How would your body react to that? With fits of complete exhaustion and maybe even failure. We can’t imagine that unless we’re into extreme sports. Yet, we subject our minds to continuous work, never really taking any time for just rest and rejuvenation. Our best way to rest is to sleep at night. During the key hours of rejuvenation our mind gets a chance to shut down its major processes and get to the business of storing much-needed information. When we don’t allow those processes to happen as they should, we jeopardize our own well-being.

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    2. Exercise it

    It’s funny saying this after asking you to rest your mind, but after rest, exercise is the next best thing. The endorphins that you get as a result of exercising work wonders for your mind. During exercise, your body is filled with serotonin. Your blood vessels are expanding and contracting. When you are done, you feel great and your mind feels even better! University of Georgia researchers have shown that exercising improves overall brain function, long-term memory and information processing skills.

    3. Experiment with it. Push it to the limit … sometimes

    Ask your mind to remember things that you would not ordinarily try to. Do you remember reciting poetry in grade school? Recitation alone helps to build memory muscles in a way that helps our mind remain healthy. Use it to create new habits by way of 30-day or 21-day experiments. Erase some words from your vocabulary for the week, or month. Put your mind to work.

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      4. Redefine its hopes and dreams

      Creating a renewed hope in the future is another way to rejuvenate and recharge your mental systems. Hopefulness and looking forward to the future fill you with positive feelings. Developing new mental pictures of happiness and success creates new neural pathways in your brain, freeing up some of those much-overworked brain cells.

      5. Convert it to positivism

      Psychological research on positivity shows that thinking positive thoughts on a daily basis raises your energy levels. Positive thoughts energize you and help to open you up to new possibilities. When you don’t have time to engage in a lengthy exercise, thinking positive thoughts throughout your day can help to keep your mind energized and help you feel refreshed.

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        6. Fill it with gratitude

        According to neuroscientists, gratitude is one powerful act of kindness to yourself. Gratitude has been linked to decreased levels of depression, anxiety, insomnia and physical illness. Gratitude as a practice has long-ranging effects, but a brief gratitude practice is still good for your mind. One quick way to rejuvenate and re-energize your mind is to make a list of three, seven or 10 things that are positive in your day and/or your life. This could range from having a car to drive, a job, best friends, or even a latte. Being grateful for the things that you have increase your happiness levels and energize your mind to continue to do well.

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        7. Take it on a trip to the East

        The effects of mediation and, by extension, mindfulness practices are well documented and long practiced in the Eastern traditions. Lately Westerners have gotten wind of the mind-healthy benefits of meditation, tai chi and mindfulness practices. When you are running a long day and need to re-energize, take a break and go East. One quick meditation practice that I learned about recently and love is to follow the outline of a star in your mind while you deep breathe. For every point on the star, alternate your breaths, i.e., start at the top and take a deep breath, pushing your belly all the way out. For the next point, exhale deeply through your nose returning your belly to its original position. Alternate your breaths until you have drawn a complete star or stars (depending on how much you need).

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          8. Give it lots of sex

          Endorphins, endorphins, endorphins! Having lots of sex boosts the amount of feel-good hormones during the act and calming hormones after. After a good romp, your mind is not only at ease, it’s ready to tackle anything and everything. Take advantage of it.

          9. Feed it properly

          More than a physical requirement for maintaining health and wellness, feeding yourself well can have a positive, energizing effect on your mind. Mediterranean diets have been linked with decreased levels of psychological conditions. In addition, the knowledge that you are filling yourself up with healthy, wholesome foods that energize your body also serves to recharge your mind. So the next time you are running late, grab a healthy meal and experience its effects on your mind.

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            10. Challenge it to create

            When you are feeling swamped and in the middle of a stressful crisis, as counterintuitive as it sounds, one way to keep you sane is to take a break to find the creative parts of yourself. Put on some music and play air guitar and air drums to your favorite tunes. Put on a couple of Black Eyed Peas songs and go crazy dancing to them or get down on the floor and draw like you used to in preschool. It will give you a brief mental vacation and will re-energize you mentally and physically. After all, wouldn’t you prefer to be having fun?

            So there you are. Ten very simple things that you can do to recharge your  mind, no matter how busy you are. Put them into practice and you’ll be surprised how energized your mind (and body) will feel! What are some other really simple things that work to help you feel energized?

            Featured photo credit: Scent of a Woman/Flashflood via flickr.com

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            Last Updated on July 17, 2019

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            What happens in our heads when we set goals?

            Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

            Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

            According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

            Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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            Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

            Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

            The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

            Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

            So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

            Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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            One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

            Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

            Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

            The Neurology of Ownership

            Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

            In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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            But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

            This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

            Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

            The Upshot for Goal-Setters

            So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

            On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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            It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

            On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

            But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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            Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

            Reference

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