Discover more from The Mind, Brain, Body Digest
5 Things Neuroscience Says You Should Never Do 🧠
Here's a guide to the first habits you should create (8min Read)
Mess Up Your Sleep
Binge Drink Alcohol
Let Indecision Hold You Back
Research & References
The brain is the most complex thing in the universe. Plato, Descartes, David Hume, Albert Einstein, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, and many, many more have studied its mysteries for decades.
That being said, we know a lot more about it today than we have in the past!
New advances in Neuroscience, Psychoneuroimmunology, Cognitive Psychology, and many other fields are coming out every week.
After so many years of study, themes are bound to emerge. Here are 5 things you should never do based on these themes!
#1 Mess Up Your Sleep
My clients get tired of me beating this drum, but sleep is undeniably one of the most important things for our brains.
To put it simply, fewer hours of sleep equals fewer years of life.
To be clear, when I say inflammation in this article, I am not talking about things like meningitis, I am talking about chronic low-grade inflammation in the brain and body.
Sleep is when our bodies clear debris from the day out of our brains, when we aren’t sleeping, this doesn’t happen and this “garbage” builds up in our bodies & brains over time.
Here are some easy ways to refine your sleep:
Ensure you have a regular sleep/wake time daily
Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night
Establish a night routine
Get sunlight into your eyes every morning
Take power naps or practice NSDR
#2 Binge Drink Alcohol
I hate to be a party pooper, but alcohol is a nervous system depressant, is highly addictive, can have deadly withdrawal effects, and does a number physiologically on the brain.
It has been shown to shrink the brain, lower blood flow to the brain, damage the hippocampus (memory & learning center of the brain), reduce the number of new brain cells, and increase your risk for things like Alzheimer's & dementia.
Need I say more? Limiting your consumption of alcohol is a must to preserve brain health!
#3 Not Meditating
Meditation has become somewhat of a buzzword today and for good reason!
Meditation can decrease symptoms of anxiety & depression, increase levels of BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) and increase overall well-being.
BDNF is like Miracle Grow for your brain. More on this in a moment!
It has also been shown to decrease inflammation in the body & brain.
It does this by helping us regulate our Sympathetic Nervous System & HPA Axis which are both a part of our stress response commonly referred to as Fight or Flight!
By learning to regulate these systems you can decrease the levels of cortisol (the stress chemical) in your blood!
Having a meditation practice in your daily routine is a great way to keep your brain healthy & plastic!
Meditation comes in many forms, here are some examples:
Yoga or Tai Chi
Prayer, Gratitude, or Forgiveness
Starting with a 10min practice is ideal, but even 3-5min meditation/mindfulness practices have been shown to get you the benefits we’ve discussed so far!
#4 Skip Exercising
Exercise is a powerful way to keep your brain healthy! So much so, it’s even used as a treatment for depression, and has been proven as effective, if not more, as traditional anti-depressants!
At first, exercise acts as a stressor at first, but over time it decreases the harmful effects of other stressors.
It helps us increase BDNF, stimulates neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells, and increases blood flow to the brain!
BDNF release is one of the largest benefits we get from exercising!
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor helps the brain to build new connections, heal damaged brain cells, and protect healthy brain cells.
The most important types of exercise are:
Muscular Endurance Training
Weight lifting, bodyweight training, isometrics
Long Duration Endurance Training
Running, Swimming, Biking, etc for 12min or more
Anaerobic Endurance Training
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) type workouts
Aerobic Endurance Training
This could be long-duration with moderate intensity, like jogging a mile or moderate duration with high intensity like sprints on a football field.
For more in-depth information, I suggest checking out our Exercise Guide!
#5 Let Indecision Hold You Back
This last no-no is anecdotally based on my work with my clients. The vast majority of my work focuses on beliefs & actions.
I’ve asked hundreds of people the question:
“I’m not ______ enough.” What did you fill in the blank?
The top responses I’ve gotten back are:
Beliefs like these hold us back and prevent us from taking actions that could improve our lives.
Beliefs work in a wheel:
Powerful beliefs like “I’m not worthy” can stir up ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) like we aren’t worthy of that promotion, or of a healthy relationship.
These ANTs make us feel nervous, worried, anxious, guilty, shameful, etc, which in turn makes our ANTs worse, which makes the feelings worse, which… You get the point.
So, instead of going for it and asking for a promotion, or getting out of a toxic relationship, we stay stuck in indecision.
The result? A life that’s less than what we imagined we could have.
Our brains were made to learn through actions, which is why most of my work focuses on shifting beliefs that prevent action.
The most common mistake people make in relation to action is that it’s 1 single thing when in reality, it’s a process.
You didn’t learn to walk by trying it once and it working out, you went through the process above.
This is how our brains are wired to learn, so when we sit in inaction, we don’t learn anything and stay stuck.
Something else to notice is that no matter what action you take, you can’t fail, you can only learn and then act again.
It’s feedback, not failure.
Using actions to shift beliefs is called Behavioral Activation, as you start to take tiny new actions, you start to put the Belief Wheel back on your team, and you start to reinforce new, more empowering beliefs through ACTION!
What’s 1 small action you could take today to prove the belief you put in the blank wrong?
Make it so easy it would be laughable to not do it.
For example, if you believe you’re not healthy enough, could you do 1 push-up to prove that belief wrong?
If you believe you’re not disciplined enough, could you commit to waking up 1min earlier tomorrow?
Once you’ve acted, you’re in the Action Wheel, you’re learning!
I believe in you & you DO matter, good luck and until next time… Live Heroically 🧠
Ma, N., Dinges, D. F., Basner, M., & Rao, H. (2015). How acute total sleep loss affects the attending brain: a meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies. Sleep, 38(2), 233–240. https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.4404
Suresh, K., Shankar, V., & Cd, D. (2021). Impact of REM sleep deprivation and sleep recovery on circulatory neuroinﬂammatory markers. Sleep science (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 14(1), 64–68. https://doi.org/10.5935/1984-0063.20190157
Wang, Z., Chen, W. H., Li, S. X., He, Z. M., Zhu, W. L., Ji, Y. B., Wang, Z., Zhu, X. M., Yuan, K., Bao, Y. P., Shi, L., Meng, S. Q., Xue, Y. X., Xie, W., Shi, J., Yan, W., Wei, H., Lu, L., & Han, Y. (2021). Gut microbiota modulates the inflammatory response and cognitive impairment induced by sleep deprivation. Molecular psychiatry, 26(11), 6277–6292. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-021-01113-1
Immonen, S., Launes, J., Järvinen, I. et al. Moderate alcohol use is associated with decreased brain volume in early middle age in both sexes. Sci Rep 10, 13998 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-70910-5
Karoly, H. C., Skrzynski, C. J., Moe, E. N., Bryan, A. D., & Hutchison, K. E. (2021). Exploring relationships between alcohol consumption, inflammation, and brain structure in a heavy drinking sample. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 45(11), 2256–2270. https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.14712
Topiwala A, Allan C L, Valkanova V, Zsoldos E, Filippini N, Sexton C et al. Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study BMJ 2017; 357 :j2353 doi:10.1136/bmj.j2353
Society for Neuroscience. (2009, October 25). Chronic Voluntary Alcohol Consumption Impairs Neurogenesis. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 29, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091023102314.htm
Elizabeth P. Handing, Ross Andel, Pavla Kadlecova, Margaret Gatz, Nancy L. Pedersen, Midlife Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Dementia Over 43 Years of Follow-Up: A Population-Based Study From the Swedish Twin Registry, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 70, Issue 10, October 2015, Pages 1248–1254, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glv038
Turakitwanakan, W., Mekseepralard, C., & Busarakumtragul, P. (2013). Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand = Chotmaihet thangphaet, 96 Suppl 1, S90–S95.
Pascoe, M. C., Thompson, D. R., & Ski, C. F. (2017). Yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and stress-related physiological measures: A meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 86, 152–168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.08.008
Pascoe, M. C., Thompson, D. R., Jenkins, Z. M., & Ski, C. F. (2017). Mindfulness mediates the physiological markers of stress: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of psychiatric research, 95, 156–178. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.08.004
Cahn, B. R., Goodman, M. S., Peterson, C. T., Maturi, R., & Mills, P. J. (2017). Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Health: Increased BDNF, Cortisol Awakening Response, and Altered Inflammatory Marker Expression after a 3-Month Yoga and Meditation Retreat. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 11, 315. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00315
Schuch, F. B., Vancampfort, D., Richards, J., Rosenbaum, S., Ward, P. B., & Stubbs, B. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias. Journal of psychiatric research, 77, 42–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.02.023
Deslandes, A., Moraes, H., Ferreira, C., Veiga, H., Silveira, H., Mouta, R., Pompeu, F. A., Coutinho, E. S., & Laks, J. (2009). Exercise and mental health: many reasons to move. Neuropsychobiology, 59(4), 191–198. https://doi.org/10.1159/000223730
Etnier, J. L., Wideman, L., Labban, J. D., Piepmeier, A. T., Pendleton, D. M., Dvorak, K. K., & Becofsky, K. (2016). The Effects of Acute Exercise on Memory and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Journal of sport & exercise psychology, 38(4), 331–340. https://doi.org/10.1123/jsep.2015-0335