This past week, I received an appreciative email from one of our clients in the U.K. She was having a lot of trouble thinking clearly, but described how great she felt after following one of our suggestions for improving mental clarity and ease while meditating. In fact, when you do this before any mental task, you can take advantage of your body’s natural brain-boosting mechanisms.
When you were in school, you most likely had regular recess breaks. These were probably intended to burn off “excess energy” and to give you some sunshine and exercise, but did you know that they also boosted your brain function?
Not surprisingly, exercise increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain. Yet this isn’t the only brain benefit of exercise. Imaging studies of post-exercise brains show increased activity in the brain’s memory centers. Blood samples show an increase in the production of a protein called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF) which improves nerve health and conductivity. Exercise also initiates your body’s natural relaxation response that includes a cascade of positive bio-chemical events which, among other things, counter stress hormones and stress-induced “brain fog.”
If you’ve ever had trouble thinking clearly and gone for a walk, only to discover that you came up with a solution while walking, you’ve witnessed the positive effects of exercise on your brain function. If you have an even more vigorous workout, the effects can be even more profound. After exercise, your brain is more alert, better able to take in and process new information, and it’s primed to make new neural connections.
You can use this exercise-induced brain boost to your advantage. For example, when you know you have an upcoming mental test, schedule an exercise session beforehand. If you’re stuck in a mental log-jam, take an exercise break. If you would like to increase your positive results with meditation, consider doing some kind of exercise first.
No matter what mental task you face, consider doing some physical exercise first to prime your mental circuitry.