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Using your Brain Effectively (Part 3)

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(…continued from last week)

No one is completely certain how social networks help you stay healthy. Although some research has shown that men and women who live alone tend to eat less well and don’t tend to get as much exercise. Those people who have better social connections tend to build a stronger immune system from that interaction and getting out and doing things.

“We are still trying to understand the totality of this.” says Dr. Vaillant.

He said, “People who use overuse alcohol or are depressed, are less likely to have effective social support and thus their personal relationships are an indicator that things are not going as well in their lives. That doesn’t mean you can never drink, it just means that over doing it when you’re alone is often an indicator that things in your life are not quite where you want them to be.”

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Be Mentally Active & Creative

Another piece of this puzzle that Dr. Vaillant talked about, is creativity. Staying mentally active helps keeps both your brain and your body going. Maintaining a playful spirit, finding those things that you can do that trigger you to feel younger, especially in the learning or mental stimulation realm, slows down the aging process.

The course of aging is not written in stone. Not only does your genetic ancestry make an impact, but learning and how you are using your physiology have a significant influence.

If your present lifestyle isn’t what it should be, it’s never too late to change it. It’s a little like opening a bank account; the earlier you start one the more likely it is you’ll have more money later, but no matter when you start it its worth doing. Saving a little bit of money now and then is a very good thing. Everyone can make lifestyle changes that puts money in the bank towards their long lasting health.

Beginnings of Mind-Body Work

One of the pioneers in mind-body medicine was Dr. Edmund Jacobson.

Dr. Edmund Jacobson received his Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University in 1908 and then his masters and PhD in Psychology from Harvard shortly after that. He then obtained his medical degree from the University of Chicago in 1915.

Between 1908 and 1921 he was very connected to Harvard University. During that time he introduced the idea that our mind and our body are not totally separate in their working, but that they work off of one another. He coined the term “psychosomatic medicine”, meaning the mind-body connection. His research showed the brain and the body have this connection that we can have an effect on, to improve our health, feel mentally and physically better–to make an overall difference in our mind and body health and vitality.

Physical Tension & Emotions

What he found is that there is a connection between the amount of tension you have in your physiology and the emotional state that you’re in. He found that tension is always being exerted and there are ways that you can manage it more effectively so that you have an optimum level of stress. We need a little stress. Without a little stress there is no motivation to achieve.

During the time Jacobson was doing his work at Harvard, between 1910 and 1925 Dr. Walter Cannon, a professor at Harvard Medical School, was performing “fight-or-flight” experiments. He and Edmund Jacobson collaborated.

What Cannon found there is an area in the hypothalamus that can trigger a stress response. He also determined there are things that we can do with our thinking patterns and physical relaxation processes which serve to activate other parts of the brain. These relaxation processes help diminish the stress reaction and increase the relaxation that Jacobson was analyzing.

Relaxation Is Central

In conjunction with Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Herbert Benson has analyzed and studied the mind-body medicine connection, how to improve longevity, how to improve overall health, how to keep the mind active and growing no matter how old you are, and how to use your physiology in ways that can benefit both your mind and your body.

He found that relaxation is a central component of a well-functioning mind and body, in every situation. Dr. Benson and his colleagues have taken this engagement of mind-body interaction, and have shown it to be essential in your overall health; In improving your relationships, in being a more effective communicator, in stimulating longevity and improving physical health. This neurology-physiology connection and how you use it, is key.

(to be continued…)

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