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The Invisible Culture of the Brain

Recently my 94-year-old father was visiting. When he entered the kitchen, we went to help him and he put his hands out to stop us. “No,” he exclaimed. “My survival depends on the struggle.” We stepped back. Even though neither of us was steeped in developmental neurology, we both stood down in the face of a truth that we could not deny.

His refusal to let his brain or body take a break was evidence of how the power of choice was paramount in the outcomes in his life. We assumed he wanted help, but he was operating on a whole different set of assumptions that are now backed up by science. He knew that our help would be the death of him.

And now there is plenty of research to back up that we have the ability to shift our outcomes. Practices that were once dismissed as hocus pocus, like hypnosis or visualization, are now being brought into the mainstream because there is one indisputable fact - the brain is plastic.

During the middle of the 20th century, there was a belief that intelligence was fixed, and that one’s potential was a fait accompli. You were smart or talented. The leadership arguments centered around whether a leader is born or made. There is no contest anymore. Neuroscience and brain mapping have made it possible for us to decode even that which is out of our own awareness.

A person isn’t dumb or clever, slow or fast, good or bad. Now we know better. It’s a misconception that we can label someone as smart or stupid as if though it is a fixed state. Next time you hear someone call another smart, you might have to question the intelligence of that person.

I remember once someone said to me, “I hate the Growth Mindset.” Ouch, I thought. The Growth Mindset is one of the greatest corporate-cultural paradigm shifts available to us today, so what gives? After 2020 one thing is certain, languages are ill-equipped for the cross-cultural tasks in front of us.

Labels repel people away from important ideas. The channel of communication too often has more impact than the content. The universal need for rewards within our groups creates an unpredictable dynamic. The space between people is the challenge, not the evaluation of whether or not one is better than the other.

Whatever the communication channel, the brain is ours to enhance or abandon. One study even showed that “navigating a virtual reality environment while walking on a treadmill every other day for 4 months, showed less hippocampal deterioration than adults who walked on the treadmill without navigating a virtual reality world.”

We have far more power than we give ourselves credit for. We literally can change our worlds today, with simple exercises and activities that people are discovering daily.

So here are a few things that anyone can you do to increase your brain function:

  • Keep the body moving - Studies show that it gets the blood flowing to the hippocampus, related to memory

  • Sleep - t’s the easiest way to study for a test or prepare for a tough day of work

  • Eat live foods and eliminate food that blocks the digestive system - Hippocrates had it right, let food be thy medicine.

  • Virtual Reality is providing opportunities for people to explore more special relations, enhancing hippocampus function

  • Learn a new language - It’s associated with increased brain volume in kids and adults.

Keep your eyes open for advancements in neurofeedback as a way of keeping the brain fit!

So the next time someone offers to help you or get the clicker for you, it’s your choice whether or not you give them the brain activity, or you keep it for yourself.

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