Whether it’s the organ’s complexity, numerous functions, or simply it’s sheer computational power, our brain, by far, would be the most intricate processor to date. Despite the fact this natural wonder possesses unimaginable power; however, the majority of people realize that they could be harnessing up to twice as much of it. In other words, you truly have the potential to be up to twice as focused, sharp, and ready to absorb information — using oxygen alone.
Despite how ludicrous that would sound, it’s exactly the message that’s expressed many times over in the hit book: ‘Change Your Brain, Change Your Life’ written by renowned psychologist Daniel Amen.
Of course, since brain transplants aren’t feasible at this point, that’s not what he means — all Dr. Amen relays through his book is that, rather than replacing your brain entirely, it can directly be changed and formed through your lifestyle to almost any way you want it to function.
The only question is: “Are you actively enhancing your brain to its optimal performance, or are you unknowingly destroying it?”
Dr. Amen is a clinical psychologist most commonly known for his media appearances and having independently analyzed over 100,000+ brain scans. As he stated in his book, the so-called ‘secret’ to achieving ideal brain function was largely dependent on the improvement of its blood flow:
By analyzing SPECT (Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography) scans that accurately map blood flow to various regions of the brain, he noticed that our brains were severely vulnerable to losing their function through what we would see as relatively ‘normal’, but negative lifestyles. On the other hand, he also noticed that our brains were similarly receptive to positive lifestyle changes that encourage blood flow, and in turn, our ideal day-to-day mental performance.
How You Might Unknowingly Be Starving Your Brain
So, why would blood flow be so integral to our brain function? Well, similar to how a car can’t function if its fuel doesn’t properly reach its engine, even the best minds can’t perform without the blood that’s necessary to fuel it with oxygen.
When our brains are essentially vehicles that consume a mind-boggling 20% of our energy intake, it’s no wonder why adequately receiving and distributing its fuel is so necessary. Even more surprising is that our brains can undergo detrimental changes in just days and that a handful of habits can be overwhelmingly responsible for the loss of its vitality.
Even more surprising is that our brains can undergo detrimental changes in just days and that a handful of habits can be overwhelmingly responsible for the loss of its vitality. Dr. Amen makes it clear that habits such as drinking, regularly being exposed to stress, or even thinking negatively can have shocking and lasting physical effects on our brain:
In a healthy individual’s SPECT scan, we should be looking for an even distribution of activity with no holes in oxygenation or blood flow. While drug abuse may not affect everyone, notice how even short-term use of these harmful substances scarred this patient’s brain — you can find countless similar SPECT readings from people with depression and Alzheimer’s as well.
In the past few years, more than ever, we can observe how there are twenty-year-olds with seventy-year-old brains, and the fact that this population is constantly growing and unknowingly worsening their situation is devastating.
In addition to alcohol, drugs, and negative mindsets, your brain is also extremely vulnerable to blood-flow loss from added sugars, brain injuries, smoking, poor eating habits, and inadequate sleep. Keep in mind that even though maintaining this multitude of precautions may seem unsustainable, slowly forming habits around your brain health can help when it comes to sticking to them.
Now, think about which brain you would prefer for yourself — a brain that that’s flexible, sharp, and productive, or one that struggles to accomplish basic tasks. Fortunately, even if you have been following some of these negatively impactful habits, your brain is an extremely receptive organ, and it can progressively heal itself if you decide to reverse the damage by leading a positive lifestyle.
Taking Back Control Of Your Mind
Right now, you’re probably thinking (or saying out loud):
‘No sugar? 8 hours of sleep a day? What kind of sick joke is this? I love my brain, but do I love it that much?’
And, of course, your worries are valid — not only would focusing on your mind be a new set of habits but a whole new lifestyle entirely. Yes, living this life would be uncomfortable in the beginning, but the outcomes are undeniably worth it.
As a slow progression into living a brain-enhancing lifestyle, the book recommends that you start with a simple intervention, such as reducing the amount of sugar-laden foods that you eat, or if your donuts and cookies are too precious, save that for later and go out for a bike ride or a walk every week. Slowly but surely, the changes become apparent in your attitude and cognition, and little by little, you start wanting to get more involved in your brain health.
A more advanced modification would be to be mindful of your surroundings, show appreciation, or even start meditation sessions. Even more importantly, one of the single biggest drivers of decreased blood flow to the brain is TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Keeping your extremely spongy and fragile brain safe during sports or in daily life is something you could start right now:
To repeat Dr. Amen’s message throughout the book — “Yes, changing your brain requires effort, but what good thing didn’t?” By taking care of your brain, you’re exposed to countless social and health benefits, such as a significantly lowered rate of dementia, longer life expectancy, a more positive outlook, and in general, an improvement in mood and relationships. So what do you have to lose? To conclude, if you take the time to care for your brain, it will take care of you.
Thank you for reading.