Most of us would like more energy. It’s great to wake each morning with that feeling of anticipation and having the resilience to feel energetically enthusiastic all day. Feeling alive with persistent enthusiasm is youthful. As we age it's easy to lose that capacity. This energy loss begins in our 40’s even though we don’t always notice it. Here are some simple practices to understand and ignite energy and build resilience throughout life starting at age 40 or 80.
1. Start the day right
Create a positive mind set for the day. Energy is positively correlated with a positive mood and a regular mood will rewire that mind-set. Make these activities into a daily habit and your normal mood will shift your mind permanently. In other words - don’t worry about not feeling positive – do these positive things and you will feel positive.
Emotionally you feel more stable if you plan the day and you will get a hit of positive chemicals when you achieve results. Our brains are designed to respond positively to action and results which is why good goal setting works.
Introverts and extroverts re-charge energy differently. It’s important to know what helps you to recover and plan it into your day. Failure to do this can lead to ‘burn-out’ over time. If you are feeling stressed – ask yourself if you have taken time to re-charge in the right way.
The brain works best if you use it properly. Here are some of the most common mistakes made:
5. Do it in your own way for others
You are unique. The way in which you think and value people and situations is different and knowing your personal strengths is important. Do you find numbers fascinating, or creating ideas? Do you gravitate to detail and making lists and / or do you enjoy working closely with people. Are you cautious or adventurous?
If you would like to know more about any of these, or the physical and emotional brain basics, contact Janis or ask to get the complete August Wiring Warrior newsletter.
What makes someone look older? When everyone is obsessed with looking younger and avoiding age discrimination – this is an important question. My theory is that if we behave as if we are younger – other people will see us so! Here are my three basic rules for appearing younger.
uniform! Try wearing jeans, tee-shirts and walking shoes (this will look even better if you walk regularly).
Strangely, all of the above will make you feel younger as well as look it. The fact that you brain adjusts to reflect your behaviour also means that these simple acts can improve your thinking as well. Some people are looking old by the time they are 50, others would not be classified as old well into their 70’s. Make sure that you are ‘ageless’!
Wiring Warriors nutritionist Shona has written a series of articles on this site about the importance of brain healthy food and drink. There is no doubt that certain foods can improve mental functioning and others can create ‘brain fog’, poor sleep and change of mood. OK so Christmas is only a few days right? No problem eating badly for a short time- after all it’s so good to eat all those unhealthy foods and drink too much…right? Well – firstly brain healthy food can be even more delicious. Secondly you can see the damage done to your body after the holiday by looking in the mirror. You can’t see your brain and the effects that may be accumulating and appear in future!
So I thought I’d suggest some of the recipes and a menu that I regularly use at this time of year. In most cases the food isn’t harder to prepare or more costly. Substitute a few of the worst brain foods for these rather than try to change everything. For instance, Pavlova is only fat and sugar… substitute double chocolate walnut cake with strawberries; ham is often full of preservatives and fat…substitute succulent spicy turkey.
My menus are based on using the most beneficial Brain foods. Research points clearly to foods that are brain enhancing. There are many claims about super foods – but I have curated the ones that can be used at Christmas and that most specialists agree on. Try to avoid include refined sugar, preservatives and saturated fats and include the following:
Dark chocolate – Great news but beware, not all chocolate is good for your brain! Choose one without dairy ‘fillers’, added sugar and at least 70% cocoa beans . Check the labels. I use Whitttaker’s Dark Ghana. Rich in Flavanols. https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate/
Nuts – especially walnuts. Good source of anti-oxidents and Omega-3. http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/brain-healthy-foods-nutrition/nuts-brain-health
Berries – all berries but especially Blueberries. Anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory. http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20120309/berries-boost-brain-function
Oily fish – especially Salmon and Tuna. Provides Omega-3 http://scienceline.org/2014/03/why-is-salmon-good-for-your-brain/
Olive oil – Extra virgin and uncooked. Contains powerful anti-oxidents. http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/brain-healthy-foods-nutrition/5-rules-olive-oil-and-brain-health-getting-most-out-olive-oil
Turkey – calm mood is one of the benefits of turkey. The myth about it sending people to sleep is more likely the after effects of over-eating!
Red Wine – Not too much! However, there is quite a collection of evidence that cites the Resveratrol in red wine as beneficial and even offsetting dementia and memory loss. However, more than a couple of glasses would probably negate the benefits! White wine, beer and spirits seem to have no advantages at all. If you can’t drink alcohol or don’t like wine – you can get the same effect by taking Resveratrol supplements! http://memory.foundation/2015/05/18/red-wine-good-for-the-brain/
Here are some of my ‘go to’ recipes for Christmas. The menus are outlined here and the recipes can be found on the recipes page. Note that most of these are also Gluten and dairy free.
Creamy Coconut oats with blueberries and walnuts (GF/DF)
Fresh berries with yogurt and nuts (Can be GF/DF)
Poached eggs on wholegrain toast with spinach (DF)
Lunch / dinner
Gravlax with mustard and dill sauce (GF/DF)
Succulent spicy turkey with salad or green veg (GF/DF)
Raw beetroot, orange and fennel salad (GF/DF)
Grilled steak with veg or salad (GF/DF)
Double chocolate walnut cake with strawberries (GF/DF)
Amoretti trifle (GF/DF)
Ice cream pudding and berries (Can be GF/DF)
Gluten and dairy free fruity Christmas cake (GF/DF)
Filo sweet mince plait (DF)
Under 60? You probably haven’t thought much about building your brain for the future, but did you know that starting to focus on your brain now could improve your quality of life (and that of your family) as you get older?
There is plenty of interest in brain maintenance and improvement among the 60+ age cohort. Over 60, we can start to become very conscious about deterioration, dependency and even dementia. However, even as we reach 45, parents and friends are becoming older and starting to show signs of the three D’s and most people know someone or have responsibility for someone with one of the D’s by the time they are 60.
The brain simply doesn’t come to the top of the awareness ‘pile’ when we’re younger; it’s something we can do something about when we have time – or we believe that it won’t happen to us and anyway that’s a long way off! There is so much else to focus on… it isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that most people under 60 know more about a mobile phone than their brain! But if you knew that there were some very simple things that you could do now that would make a difference later – wouldn’t you build them into your life?
I am lucky. I needed to find out about brain repair when I was in my 50’s. A tumour the size of a lemon took its toll on the frontal lobe of my brain. In the process of learning to rewire my own brain, I became amazed by its ability to rebuild and equally surprised by how few people know or care about building a strong brain. I have learned that there are three very good reasons why everyone over 45 should be putting more time and energy themselves into building a stronger brain for life:
We tend to take our brain for granted – it just works and after all, we practice by using it every day don’t we? Not really – even doing the crossword every day isn’t a road to brain health without other, integrated activities and lifestyle choices. The good news is that there are some very simple ways to maintain brain health and build strength in everyday life. We must stay relevant and adaptable as the population ages over the next 20 years. If you are 45 or older, be a role model and do it yourself and help a family member or friend to change their brain while you are at it – at least spend as much time learning about your brain as on your mobile phone!
*** If you haven’t read it yet, check out the examples in Norman Doidge’s book ‘The brain that changes itself’
Most of us were taught that the brain deteriorates as it ages…yes? We were even given statistics – the brain loses 1 million cells a day until we die. It was all pretty grim for those over 50. But hold on…we knew a few people who were old but great didn’t we? Einstein, Mandela, Churchill and even my granddad actually. About 20 years ago I was lucky enough to attend a three day workshop for 300 people led by W Edward Deming – the guy who introduced quality to Japan after the war; he was 93 at the time. He never missed a beat on that workshop and was coherent right up to his death a few years later. If these people had lost so many brain cells – how were they functioning so well?
Recently the truth has emerged. Firstly, we start with enormous numbers of cells (between 100 and 200 billion) which can be connected to each other in thousands of different ways. Imagine that number – scientists are fond of comparing this figure to the number of stars in the galaxy; it is that huge. Every one of these thousands of connections creates a thought and wires our brain for better understanding. Loss of brain cells is not the major we used to think it was years ago. It is the amount and strength in our wiring that makes a difference (‘use it or lose it’). The brain is plastic (it changes) and this wiring weaves new thoughts and memories from our experience, building a level of understanding unavailable to younger people. It isn’t until we are about 45 that our brain has enough emotional, cognitive and ethical connections to power up and become a sort of super internet highway which some call wisdom.
Secondly, recent research shows that the brain can give birth to new brain cells. It doesn’t do it in the same way that cells are created in the rest of the body – which is why experts were confused! It turns stem cells from deep in the brain into neurons (brain cells). Roughly 700 a day apparently, so even if we do lose 1 million cells a day (and that may be only those who are failing to work their brains enough)the 700 will go to the place they are needed and combine with this super internet highway that is your aging brain.
If anyone ever suggests that your brain is deteriorating with age – you can now deny that absolutely. It may be getting worse because you aren’t using it enough, but deterioration of its function is not inevitable. Do not confuse dementia with age either. Dementia is not an inevitable aspect of ageing; Even where dementia is genetically inherited, there is hope; it is a disease which, for most of us, can be improved by lifestyle factors like food, drugs and lack of exercise of the body and brain. Research is advancing and there is much that can be done to manage functionality even when physical symptoms are present.
How to start building? Learn about your brain and its potential – take it seriously. Join the Neurological Foundation of NZ where amazing research into the brain is advancing, you will hear about this through their newsletters and free seminars. Come to our Wiring Warrior inspiration and information events. Details of these will be published under 'Events'
Above all, decide to build a better brain as you get older – and know that you can!