Did you know that your brain builds new neurons every day? Did you know that you can facilitate that process of growing new neurons and building new connections between them by making some lifestyle changes?
The best part of the good news is that you do not have to buy any magic potions or have a shaman rattle a gourd in your teepee for the growth of new neurons to happen.
You just need to make a regular effort to get better, day by day, at taking care of the pillars of brain fitness, just like you get better at your recovery process, perhaps doing the steps, with each practice.
So you are early in the process of recovery from addiction, and if you are like I was , you are worried that your cognitive abilities, your capacity to think, to create, to understand, or build a career, has been damaged beyond repair.
Perhaps someone has said to you that your brain is damaged beyond repair because of all the substances that you ran though it....
Well, your brain is different, absolutely, subsequent to the abuse we addicts subject our brains to, but it is not beyond repair.
What Are The Pillars Of Brain Fitness
- Physical Exercise
- Good Nutrition
- Good Sleep
- Novel Learning Experiences
- Stress Management
- Positive Social Interactions
Physical Exercise means you need to spend some time every day getting your breathing deep enough from some exertion, like walking, so that your breathing makes it hard to breath and talk at the same time. It does not involve, at least at the beginning, expensive gym clubs or personal coaches...I make sure to build this in to my life almost every day, and it is a great time to attend to the 11th Step, since I am in an altered state.
Good Nutrition means you start eating antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid from fish preferrably, or from supplements. Begin to eliminate packaged food from your diet. Anymore, packaged food is engineered for long shelf life and not for nutrition.
You knew that the membrane of your neurons is about 70% omega 3 fatty acid, right, and you knew that your body does not manufacture omega 3's efficiently, so you need to supply it from your meals, because if you do not provide your brain with new omega 3's, those neuronal membranes get brittle and message between neurons are garbled, leading to very poor decisons. Now you know why omega 3's are important.
Good sleep is necessary for neurogenesis because important hormonal activity happens during REM sleep, and if we do not get our melatonin activity taken care of regularly, then memory consolidation does not happen as effectively...nap anyone?
Novel Learning Experience means learning about anything new to us. If you are unfamiliar with recovery processes for example, then reading the Big Book would be a novel experience. If you have been a counselor for many years, then your brain knows how to do counseling and that new Jungian treatise will not encourage the growth of new neurons, no matter how intriguing.
Stress Management means using your breathing and thinking to switch out of unnecessary adenalin and cortisol baths. You need stress hormones when someone driving towards you crosses the center line of the road, but you do not need them when the power bill is higher than you expected. Your body will provide those stress hormones to you in faster than you can blink your eyes, and with practice, will provide you with the relaxation response chemical bath just as fast. (I have used a tool called Heartmath to manage the time between heartbeats, so you really can change in a heart beat)
Positive Social Interactions are important to the growth of those new neurons. Again, we are not talking about salesman types of glad handing, we are talking about the kind of sharing that can happen at a meeting, or over a cup of coffee with a friend who does not judge us.
So does building the Pillars of Brain Fitness into your life sound so difficult? Just remember the consequences...a bigger, better connected brain, that helps you manage that 1/18th of a second it takes for a resentment to get created.