Healthy Choices – You won’t do well if you don’t feel well. Our youth is a veil masking the long-term consequences of poor choices. Jim Rohn always said, “Everything affects everything else and not to think so is naive.” This is especially true when it comes to our health. There are three pillars to health: physical, mental, and nutritional.
Physical exercise done properly will lead to endurance and stamina. Endurance and stamina help us to stay strong when the going gets tough and the desire to quit is nearly overwhelming. The great news is that it doesn’t require hours in the gym to increase your physical resilience. It only requires 30 to 45 minutes of your time three or four days per week. Surely you can spare 2 hours per week to increase your overall satisfaction with life. Science has proven that exercise improves our brain function, increasing our cognitive skills and enhances memory. For many years, I did nothing for exercise. I worked all of the time and had no idea how to manage stress. One Saturday morning my heart raced, chest hurt, and I lost my eyesight in one eye. At the time, our twin daughters were about 4 months old and work was super busy. Our recently hired employee drove me to the hospital. They rushed me right in and hooked me up to the EKG. All of this craziness was stress-induced. They wanted me to take medication and reduce my stress level. Instead, I bought a pair of running shoes and began to run regularly. Eventually I ran so much that I started running marathons. This year I have signed up for my first half Ironman event. It all started with buying a pair of shoes!
Benefits of exercise
Nutrition is all about the fuel that allows your engine to run smoothly. I am no expert on nutrition but do know that “everything in moderation” is a great starting point. From ice cream to alcohol, the substances we put in our bodies play a huge role in how we feel. Many of us are unaware that we are living every day with food allergies. These food allergies affect our energy levels and our moods not to mention the bowel issues that often occur. My recommendation to all is to make a minimal investment in seeing a nutritionist to better understand how foods are impacting your health & energy levels. Also keep in mind that the diet industry is 66 billion dollars according to Marketdata LLC. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the best strategy for managing nutrition. Some people are vegan, and some do the Paleo diet but last I checked none of them were dying from the plan they choose. I choose not to eat sweets because the science indicates it contributes to brain health issues as we age. Otherwise, it is everything in moderation for me and that is likely a good starting point for you.
Mental Health has been my most important lesson learned in life. It took me 40 years to realize that the brain is a muscle and needs to be exercised. In learning this lesson I came to understand that I had a choice of how to respond in every situation but needed to train my mind to think before responding. Out of Control Example: I went to Purdue University and as a result have been a big fan of Purdue Sports. My passion was strongest when Purdue played Indiana University, the in-state rival. If they lost, I would get so angry that I was ready to fight. How ridiculous was I being! I was raging mad about something I could not affect. Looking back now I am embarrassed about this irrational behavior. My “aha” moment was to realize I am in control of my emotions, recognize them and ask myself the best way to respond. Now when my team loses or that driver cuts me off, I have a greater ability to avoid the anger or rage that used to take over. I might ask myself “At the end of the day, am I going to remember this incident?” The answer is always no, so I move on and let it go.
The incident that changed it all for me occurred when our twins were two years old. We were on the back porch one beautiful spring day. I had a glass of wine on a side table. One of our daughters, Margo, kept messing with the wine glass even after repeated requests for her to leave it alone. My attention was diverted for a split second and I heard a crash. It was the wine glass, shattered with glass and wine everywhere. She had used her little golf club to push it off the table. I lost it, grabbed the golf club out of her hand and broke it over my knee. I look up to see my wife staring at me with tears in her eyes. That was my trigger or turning point to get my emotions under control. I studied about how to get control of my emotions and learned that in every situation, I have the ability to control my response. I used meditation and trained myself to think before I respond emotionally. This was a game-changer for me! If you take nothing else from this article, my hope is that it plants the seed for you to better understand your triggers and learn to respond in a way that does not compromise your relationships or safety.
Here are a few ways to enhance your brain function:
Meditation – best workout ever for your brain. Many of today’s highest performers have a regular meditation practice. Try it, stick with it, and be patient. Also consider deep dives into various types of meditations. Meditation is not a religion, it is a practical tool that will help you get your emotions in check.
Exercise – cardiovascular health improves brain health. Mic drop…don’t be dummy.
Journaling -This triggers the reticular activating system which has proven particularly helpful in achieving goals. Struggling for the words to write in your journal is a form of exercise for your brain. It is the mental equivalent to a workout. Journaling will also boost your self-confidence and increase your discipline. For me, it has been a wonderful tool in shaping my life and behavior. My strategy for writing has varied over the years. It started with writing my goals down daily and what actions were necessary to achieve them. Next, I began to write more of a day-to-day account of what I was up to and recording of my thoughts. Today, I focus on gratitude – writing a paragraph about someone I am grateful for having in my life.
If you want to separate yourself from the pack, you must do things differently. Almost nobody journals, few people exercise, and even fewer people meditate despite all of the science indicating the benefits of each. Do these three things and skip the rest of my recommendations and you will still rocket past your peers. Why? Because the discipline required to maintain the practice will serve you in every area of your life and the benefits of the practices will enhance your cognitive ability and emotional stability.
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