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Bullet Proof Your Brain

This page has been set up as a blog with new material being added each Monday. You will see tips and suggestions on how to develop your own unique operating manual for your brain, and in so doing, you will learn more about how to bullet proof your brain. If you like what you read, feel free to bookmark this page so that you can return to it on a regular basis. And for now, you can scroll down to learn about:

Exercises for Your Mind

Operating System for Your Brain

Operating Manual for Your Brain

We are not born with our own operating manual to our brains, but wouldn't it be nice if were. Our brains are the most powerful computer known to ... well, us!

Our brains have given us everything we have, everything we see, everything we use --- from sliced cheese to university courses. Everything around us first had its origins in someone's brain.

We can spend a lifetime getting to know who we are and what we can do. We can also spend a lifetime figuring out how to get the most out of ourselves.

So how can we start figuring out our unique operating system for our own brains? One simple solution is to take notice of when you are able to accomplish the things you set out to achieve. Take notice of what you did, or refrained from doing in the moment. Whatever it is, introduce it as a helpful habit that you can tap into whenever you have something similar to accomplish.

The Power of You

We can all be more of who we can be, across our lifespans and in each area of our lives. We have an amazing capacity to reach and exceed our own goals. Sometimes, there may be something holding us back or holding us down. It helps to know our own life purpose. From there, it is a matter of honing and directing our energies towards that purpose. It may also be a matter of identifying relevant habits and hooking those habits onto existing routines. And, if you do not like a particular habit, or it does not work for you, just change it for one that does.

Finding Your Life Purpose

Search for Meaning In The Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl speaks to our innate search for meaning - our life purpose. Some of us know our life purpose early on in life while others constantly tweak their activities so as to progressively identify more of their life purpose.

In The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, we learn that the meaning of life, the universe and everything has a simple answer: 42. It would be wonderful if it was that easy to find answers to such deep questions. However, we can use some simple strategies in our journey towards our life purpose. Here are four tips to help you on your way:

Tip 1: One of the best ways of identifying your life purpose is to consider what you are most passionate about. In this regard, you may like to consider what you would choose to talk about if you had 30 seconds of prime time T.V. You may also like to think about your core values, beliefs and what you might choose to advocate for.

Tip 2: If you come up with several things for which you are passionate about, you may like to consider which one you feel most strongly about. The narrower your focus, the more able you will be to serve your life purpose.

Tip 3: Imagine yourself living an idyllic life; one where you get to contribute an amazing legacy: Personally, professionally, entrepreneurially and money-wise. Consider where you might be in 20 years time, 10 years time, 5 years time and 12 months time in that life. For each milestone, be sure to engage each of your five senses. Doing so will enrich your sense of what life would be like for you at each milestone. If you do not like anything you experience at any milestone, feel free to tweak it until it is exactly the way you want it to be. Then be sure to visualise it once again.

Tip 4: From there, you can work backwards from the 20 year milestone through to present day, making a note of what you might need to do, be or have in order to have reached each milestone. You may also like to consider any potential setbacks that might occur along the way and how you might address them as needed. The more you plan, the easier it will be to pursue your life purpose. And for the rest, just enjoy your journey. It is, after all, your life purpose.

Healthy, Helpful Habits

Rewire Your Brain

Habits are formed naturally and we may not even notice exactly when that new habit was formed. Healthy, helpful habits can be formed just as easily as unhelpful ones. We may develop a new habit or continue performing an existing one by simply desiring to do so. That desire is an outcome of recognising that the new (or existing) habit serves some positive purpose. An example of this may be a teenager who decides to try smoking and then continues smoking because it is cool, friends do it or they like the sensation of smoking. As can be seen from this example, not all habits are purely good or bad. However, for a habit to be formed, the positives will outweigh the negatives.

We can also stop engaging in a particular habit with equal ease. We might do so because the habit no longer serves a positive purpose or its discontinuance may serve a positive purpose. We have all seen smokers who have just decided to quit smoking and do exactly that.

When you find it difficult to just start engaging in a new habit or discontinue an existing habit, it is time to look at what is behind the block. In some cases, you will find that something important to you is being threatened. In the case of smoking, it may be that you feel that you can no longer mix with your smoking friends or it may be that you are getting a relaxation benefit out of the smoking activity itself. Once you know what is being threatened, you can find more healthy helpful alternatives to the habit you would like to drop.

In other cases, you may find that the habit-to-be-discontinued is deeply intertwined with other activities (such as smoking while driving, studying, socializing, drinking or having coffee). The more deeply intertwined the habit with other activities, the harder it is to discontinue the habit. And, in the case of smoking, there may also be an underlying nicotine craving as well. In such cases, you can identify each activity that accompanies the habit-to-be-discontinued to find the more healthful, healthy alternative you can engage in with those same activities.

So, if you don't like a habit, it is just a matter of deciding on a more healthy, helpful habit and then do the new habit. And while you are at it, make sure you know the reasons why you want to do the new healthful, helpful habit.

Hooking Healthy, Helpful Habits

When the Old Habit Remains

The previous section discussed the concept of forming healthy, helpful habits and how you can tweak existing habits to be more healthy and more helpful. This section shares some examples of how you can hook new healthy, helpful habits onto existing routines. Doing so will help you form new routines that you can do in a block and in so doing, help form new healthy, helpful habits.

Here are some healthy, helpful habits you can hook onto your daily bath or shower routine:

Here are some healthy, helpful habits you can include over meals or tea breaks. In each case, doing so will help you fold a healthy, helpful habit for relaxation, stress management and/or quitting smoking into your existing routines:

Here are some helpful, healthful habits you can include while travelling by car or public transport:

At the end of the day, you can easily introduce new helpful, healthful habits into your existing routine. Just reflect on what those helpful, healthful habits might be for you and where they may best fit into your daily routine. And the rest, is just habit.

Healthy Aging

Healthy Aging

As a health psychologist, I have taken an active interest in how to age well, while enhancing our quality of life. Here are four simple ways we can enhance the quality of our life as we age:

[1] Exercise

We live in a sedentary world - especially compared to the lifestyles of our caveman ancestors. It is thus important that we make the time to move. As a rule of thumb, we want to be moving 30-120 minutes daily, interspersing that movement throughout our day. Movement needs to combine aerobic and muscle-toning activities. To be sustainable, that movement needs to be of a form that we enjoy doing and, if it naturally fits into our lifestyle, so much the better. We all know that we can exercise at the gym (aerobically and muscle-toning). Much of the kinds of exercise we might do at a gym, we can also do in the home. You can also dance, garden, ride your bicycle, take the stairs, swim or go for a walk.

It is also important to exercise our brains. Exercising our minds can be as simple as doing a crossword puzzle, playing sudoko or scrabble as well as learning a new dance or foreign language. You will be exercising your mind any time you extend your mind into new territory. You will also be exercising your mind any time you are faced with a technical challenge or a complex problem to solve.

[2] Healthy Eating.

Healthy aging means healthy eating. And, healthy eating means eating protein, complex (unprocessed) carbohydrates, minimal sugar, fresh fruit and vegetables as well as unsaturated oils (as found in fish, olive oil and avocados). A simple rule of thumb is to eat across the colour spectrum for fruit and vegetables. Another simple rule of thumb is to focus your attention on the end aisles in supermarkets as this is where supermarkets stock their unprocessed, fresh foods.

[3] Omega III.

Omega III is very important for joint, brain and heart health. You can get your Omega III through a range of sources, including fish, flaxseed (aka linseed) and chia seed.

[4] Social Interactions.

Finally, we are a social species. It is really important for us to maintain our social connections as we age. It does not matter whether we engage in one-on-one interactions or one-to-group (partying). As long as we find the time to get out there and socialise.

So, in order to age well, remember to exercise mind and body, eat healthily, incorporate Omega III into your diet as well as be social.

Importance of Sleep

Why Sleep Important We all need our beauty sleep. Did you know that we have three stages of sleep? The first stage is known as a light wave stage of sleep (LWS). The second stage is the REM stage (where we dream). The third stage is known as the slow wave stage (SWS). The third stage is also the deepest stage of sleep and is characterised by the presence of delta waves.

The third stage of sleep is thus the most restorative stage of sleep. It is in this stage when our minds and bodies repair themselves. It is also where our brains can process daily events (stored as memories). If we have not had enough sleep for a few days, it is in the third sleep stage that we spend most of our restorative sleep.

The proportion of our sleep time spent in the third sleep stage decreases as we age. So much so that infants spend most of their sleep time in the third stage of sleep while the elderly may not spend any of their sleep time in this stage of sleep.

So, why is all this important? We all need our sleep. With the restorative effects of stage 3 sleep, it is indeed our beauty sleep. It is the space in which both our minds and bodies can fully heal themselves. So, why not make sure you get a good night's sleep, each and every night. And, fully enjoy your beauty sleep.

Hypnosis and Beauty Sleep

Did you know that hypnosis mirrors the stages of sleep?

Hypnotic trances fall along a continuum. At the light end of the hypnotic continuum, you may be aware of your surroundings while your body is totally relaxed. At the deep end of the continuum, you may be less consciously aware of your surroundings while your body is even more deeply relaxed. The deeper the trance experience, the more refreshed you will feel upon returning from trance. As such, a light hypnotic trance is akin to the first stage of sleep while a deep hypnotic trance is akin to the third stage of sleep. Hypnosis is thus a source of beauty sleep.

So, if you find yourself short on beauty sleep, why not spend up to 30 minutes in hypnosis? You can enhance your natural sleep cycles by having self-hypnosis first thing in the morning (upon awakening) and last thing at night (before drifting off into sleep).

Healthy Weight management

Weight CycleMany people focus on counting calories and, in so doing, put themselves up for a mindset of restriction. Our subconscious minds don't like that idea and will rebel.

You don't have to worry about "dieting", counting calories or refraining from your favourite treats. It is far better to focus on making healthy food choices and eating in moderation. As such, it represents a new way of thinking about food. A good rule of thumb is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are not.

It is also useful to take note of when you choose to eat, but not for reasons of hunger (e.g., feeling lonely, frustrated, hurt, sad, bored, or using it to focus your energies while studying, etc.). Once you recognise when you are eating for reasons other than hunger, you are then in a position to find healthier, and more helpful, alternatives can can better address your current non-hunger reasons for eating.

If you are not already exercising, it may be a good thing to start doing so. Past research has shown that a combination of healthy eating and exercise produces the best weight management results over the long-term. You need a mix of aerobic activities (such as walking, cycling or swimming) and muscle toning. Exercise is more sustainable if you enjoy your chosen form of exercise and/or if it is a natural part of your routine (such as doing the gardening every weekend).

At the end of the day, you can be fit, healthy and of the right weight for your height and body structure. And, you can really enjoy watching all those positive changes you see in your body as you move towards a more healthy weight for your height. While you are at it, you may like to consider some objective measures for weight management: Based on past research, a waist measurement of less than 80cms and a waist:hip ratio of < .80 is healthy for women. The same research suggests that a waist measurement of less than 94 cms and a waist:hip ratio of .95 is healthy for men. Measures such as these can give you an indication of whether you need to lose/gain weight or simply maintain your current weight levels.

Head Quarters®

Our newsletter, Head Quarters®, provides articles, quick tips, food for thought to help you reach your full potential: Personally. If you would like your own complimentary subscription to this newsletter, feel free to email your request to Dr. Rachel Abramson . You can also follow Dr. Abramson on Facebook or Twitter.

...neuroscience goes directly to work on the brain,
and the mind follows.
Leon Kass.

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