Our brains are such amazing machines, doing so much without much notice from us at all.
Until perhaps we forget something…
Occasionally my two professional worlds—media and laughter yoga—converge. Yesterday was one of those times when I found myself talking with Perth brain fitness specialist, medico Dr Jenny Brockis.
As a GP, Dr Jenny had been “frustrated, horrified and saddened” by the incidence of cognitive decline and what she described as “the lack of real progress” in finding a cure so she turned her mind to researching ways to prevent—or slow down at least—such loss.
“We do take our brain for granted. Yet we can influence our long-term brain health by putting a little time and effort in.”
Dr Jenny outlined for me a 7-point anti-ageing action list to protect, preserve and improve brain fitness.
It started with:
- Eat right. Yes, your mother was right about eating your greens! As well as leafy greens, choose other vegetables, berries, fish, poultry, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts as outlined in the MIND diet.
- Sleep well. A good uninterrupted 7-8 hours every night. Sleep deprivation plays havoc with memory, concentration and mood, Dr Jenny reminded me (uh-huh!).
- Exercise. Do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day or 20 minutes of higher intensity training three times a week.
(And I’m hearing this and, unbidden, Dr William Fry’s research at Stanford University pops up in my mind: he found 10 minutes of hearty laughter was the aerobic equivalent of 30 minutes on a rowing machine.)
- Mind your mind. Include stress management into your regular self-care or be at risk of a neurotoxic overload of cortisol that will fray your nerves and smear your memories.
- Put your brain to work. Choose a new activity that requires your attention and mix it up with variety. We are born to be lifelong learners, Dr Jenny said sagely.
(At this point, I’m thinking ‘laughter yoga, laughter yoga, hahahahaha’)
- Be social. “Say hello to a real person, engage in real conversation,” Dr Jenny challenged. “There’s a place for social media but we really do need old-school face-to-face connection.”
(And now I’m beaming because only a few hours earlier at a senior citizens’ centre, I’d witnessed – again— how laughter yoga creates a connection that dispels feelings of isolation and loneliness within minutes.)
And then, Dr Jenny delivered the last—but by no means least—point in her 7 ways to anti-age your brain:
- Smile! The act of smiling will reward you with a flush of dopamine, one of the body’s feel-good chemicals. “Smiles are infectious. They ooze positivity and boost mood, reduce stress and contribute to overall happiness,” she said, explaining how such a simple act could feed into ‘mind care’.
Laughter yoga clearly—directly—supported 5 of the 7 anti-ageing strategies for the brain, I was thinking. And laughing.
I couldn’t help myself. I now had to ask, was she aware of laughter yoga? Had she experienced it? Could it be a part of brain fitness? Yes indeed, Dr Jenny said, she was aware of laughter yoga. Yes indeed, it may help with brain fitness. And yes, she would give it a go because:
“we all need to laugh more. What a better world it would be if we did.”
(c) Heather Grant-Campbell aka Heather Joy, 2016