Our inboxes, text messages, and even TV ads bring us promises of good health. But health shouldn’t be just a New Year’s resolution that gets abandoned after a few weeks. Instead, this year why not explore how health and resiliency can be achieved when we learn to harness the power that our brain plays in wellness? Take a minute and look at your body and your health. Where were you five years ago? Where are you now? And most importantly, where would you like to be in five years? Are you maintaining, are you thriving, or are you declining? Be truly honest with yourself. Making a change is never easy, but it’s the only way to get better.
Brain-Based Exercise and Wellness Coaching for Optimal Health and Longevity
What do vertigo, stiff neck, sciatica, headaches, anxiety and poor sports performance have in common? The brain! You might not realize it, but every problem we encounter in our physical, cognitive, and emotional health originates in the brain. All the health issues listed above are forms of a “glitch” in the brain and the nervous system and are the result of miscommunication and misfiring of nerve cells. When these irregularities continue to reoccur, they will physically and anatomically alter the brain structure and end up reshaping brain function as well.
Scientific research shows that the brain and the body work collectively via a constant loop–feedback system using our sensory systems: sight, hearing, balance, smell, taste, and touch. All sensory information travels through the nervous system. The brain then integrates the information and “commands” the muscles to move in a certain way. When sensory information is compromised, the brain cannot possibly make the best decision about how we should move, think, or feel. All restrictions in the brain will show up in the physical, mental, or emotional body. Those restraints travel back to the brain via the loop, creating more misfiring of the nerves, compromising brain function even further.
Our movements, thoughts, actions, and feelings mirror exactly what happens in our brains. For example, our walking speed is a direct reflection of how fast our brain is able to process information. We all want to be vibrant and live a long healthy life. So we exercise and eat well, but oftentimes we don’t get the results that we expect. I’ve heard, “I have tried everything! I exercise and eat well yet I have no energy, I have balance issues, I’m in constant pain, I cannot lose weight!” Training the brain is a must if we want to achieve optimal health and longevity. Thankfully, there are six commonsensical pillars that can easily guide us.
Six Pillars for Training the Brain
- Mindfulness: What you think, you become. We have about 70,000 thoughts a day. Are you aware of your thoughts? Self-awareness throughout the day is imperative for making a change.
- Breathing: Master the breath, control the mind, command the body. Breathing through the mouth activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), also known as the “fight or flight” system. Mouth breathing shortens all muscles in the body, leading to tightness and injuries. It also restricts blood flow throughout the entire body, slowing down metabolism and often creating anxiety and lethargy. However, breathing through the nose activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), also known as the “rest and digest” system. Nasal breathing maintains homeostasis and balance in the body, expands arteries for better circulation, lengthens muscles for better movement, and increases metabolism and energy production for focusing, learning, and sport performance. We take about 20,000–23,000 breaths a day. When each breath is compromised and we repeat a compromised pattern 20,000 times a day, we set ourselves up for complications. Just think about doing 20,000 bicep curls with the wrong form! How many times do you breathe through the mouth, activating the SNS, instead of breathing through the nose and activating the PSNS? Are you setting yourself up for success or failure with your breathing patterns?
- Movement: Movement is life. The more compromised our movements are, the less enjoyable and more limited our life becomes. Do you move freely, or do you fear movement? For example, does it scare you going up and down stairs, picking up your grocery bags, or reaching above your head? To move well, it’s essential to mobilize all joints and stretch and strengthen the muscles.
- Sensory re-education: If we cannot make sense of the world, how can we navigate in it? We need good eyesight. Did you know that vision issues can also cause balance and postural problems, headaches, and muscle stiffness? Try these exercises:
Our inner ear (vestibular system) needs to work well for hearing, balance, and fall prevention; for sensing gravity, for maintaining body ownership, for reacting quickly to the ever-changing environment. Are you aware that pain sensitivity, learning abilities, moodiness, and constant fatigue can be symptoms of a weakened inner ear function? Of course, we also need to train the rest of the senses: smell, taste, hearing, and touch receptors.
- Sleep: Invest in rest. What is your sleep hygiene? Good quality sleep and enough hours are needed for full physical recovery, memory formation, learning, immune function, pain tolerance, and weight management.
- Nutrition: We cannot out-exercise bad nutrition. Be conscious and pay attention to how you feel after meals. Are you energized and alert? Are you sluggish and sleepy? Make sure that you’re well informed of any food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerance. And of course, portion control!
Until we have covered all of the essential elements, we cannot really say that we have tried everything.
Ildiko (Ildi) Varhelyi recently moved to Naples from Boston, bringing 20 years of experience helping people with a variety of health issues. She specializes in injury rehabilitation and prevention, chronic pain management, movement therapy, and fitness and wellness coaching, employing a brain-based approach that brings faster, more effective, and longer-lasting results than many traditional approaches. She has successfully helped people with balance and dizziness issues, postural problems, chronic neck and back pain, and recurring injuries, including her own—she fully rehabilitated herself from an incident that left her with a broken neck.
For more info, visit her website at: https://neurocentrichealth.boston or call 617.678.0724 to book a consultation in person (Naples) or via Zoom (anywhere). To set up a speaking event, email: email@example.com.