You've heard that you need to stretch after a workout to release the tension and lactic acid in your muscles – but did you know it is equally important to relax the brain? That said, how exactly do you cool down the mind? Taking the time to properly care for every muscle in the body is crucial to your health, and this includes the mind.
What happens to the brain if it doesn't rest?
Your brain isn't just working during exercise – it's churning all day long. Thinking, problem-solving, remembering – all of these brain actions burn calories. According to LiveStrong, the brain can use about 400 calories of the 2000 calories the average person uses each day. Plus, the brain controls literally everything your body does – it's a hard-working muscle.
This means rest and relaxation are incredibly important to your brain's health. Just like how you would like to rest your leg muscles after a long run, you need to rest your brain after a long day (the brain is actually what's in charge of that leg muscle anyway!). According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the brain builds up toxins while you're awake and sleep is the time that allows the body to remove those toxins. Here's what happens if you don't get enough rest:
- Your memories get blurry: Memories are controlled by the hippocampus in your brain – they are created when the brain sleeps as this is the time it replays them in order to make them stick. Losing sleep means there is less time to make those memories stick. Additionally, the prefrontal cortex and parietal lobe regions help encode these memories, lack of sleep can therefore also lead to you remembering false information.
- Your brain shrinks: Scientists believe that the volume of the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes actually gets smaller. There is still research to be done on this phenomenon, but this can go on to affect your speech, as the temporal lobe processes the way you talk.
- You experience irrational emotions: The brain has a hard time in general processing your surroundings when you are sleep deprived. You may misinterpret situations which could then lead to irrational and sometimes aggressive emotions and behaviours. This could cause physical harm to the body if in a dangerous situation.
Steps to rest your brain
Turn off or dim the lights, close your eyes and get ready to breathe.
Here are a few activities to relax and nourish your brain, best of all you can do these from the comfort of your home!
- Practice deep breathing: Turn off or dim the lights, close your eyes and get ready to breathe. Slowly inhale through the nose (for about four seconds) and then exhale through the mouth on the same count.
- Meditate: We don't often turn our brains off, so meditation is a good practice to shut down the mind. For beginners, guided meditation is a great way to get started; there are some fantastic meditation classes, as well as videos (e.g. YouTube), podcasts and music files The deep breathing will help you get in the zone as well!
- Do Yoga: Yoga is an exercise that is good for both the body and mind. Getting into a regular yoga routine will help you stay balanced throughout the week (and life). Again, there's plenty of great classes you can sign up to, or some great videos on YouTube to get you started.
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