Article at a Glance
These 5 ways are:
1. Endurance Exercise
2.) Intermittent Fasting
5 Ways to Rewire Your Brain to Reduce Stress and Gain Peace
Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Well, I am not sure about that one but you certainly can teach yourself some new ones! Many of us have developed some bad habits over our lifetime that we wish we could easily change. This can be difficult but all it takes is commitment and dedication. One of the most important things we can do to change our habits is to acknowledge what negative habits we HAVE and set out to rewire our brain to turn those bad habits into good habits.
When we consistently perform the same actions over and over again, our brain begins to hardwire this until it becomes instinct. We have, literally, created a neural pathway for these behaviors whether they are good or bad. For example, I have a bad habit of craving donuts when I am stressed. I love the taste of donuts and they give me a temporary happiness. But that happiness is short lived once my sugar crash kicks in, my gut rebels, and my stress is compounded by physical symptoms as well as guilt for having eaten the donuts!
How Do We Rewire Our Brains?
This was a very difficult habit for me to break. I had to rewire my brain to associate something else as my “go-to” stress reliever. This can be any number of things but exercise is a really good one. It was difficult at first but I started going for a jog when I was stressed and now, that is my natural inclination. I was able to rewire my brain and build an actual neural pathway associating stress with a desire to exercise. This is a healthy way to manage stress that increases beneficial hormones and chemicals that elevates our mood and increases productivity.
This can take time but there are certain things that you can do to begin to rewire your brain to react to stress, anxiety, sadness… in a more positive way that can help you feel better faster.
I recently read a great article that listed several daily habits that we can pickup for a calmer and more focused brain. (1)
1.) Endurance Exercise – There are many reasons why regular exercise is beneficial for managing stress. It helps to increase blood flow, stimulates our lungs, raises our metabolism, contributes to weight loss, strengthens our bodies… These are all great but there is one advantage that really helps in this reboot of the brain. Consistent, moderate-intensity exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) for several hours after you work out. BDNF enhances your ability to learn and focus. (2,3)
2.) Intermittent Fasting – Short term fasting, 12-16 hours, also increases BDNF levels. It is also important in strengthening our willpower which can be crucial in resisting the negative habits that we have previously formed.
3.) Meditation – Daily meditation increases your ability to focus and provides stress and anxiety relief. Having ADHD myself makes meditation seem daunting but you don’t have to be a hard core monk here! Just 5 minutes a day can yield a very powerful positive result. (4)
4.) L-theanine – This is a great compound to add to your diet. L-theanine turns the amped up, jittery energy of caffeine into a more relaxed calm energy which can lead to increased focus and productivity. (5) You can find this compound in green tea, bananas, chicken, potatoes, and brown rice.
5.) Cacao – Cacao has long been known for its amazing ability to improve focus, elevate mood, energize and calm. Theobromine, the primary stimulant in cacao, has a synergistic relationship with L-theanine that has been proven to further increase focus and calm and peaceful energy (6). Cacao is an amazing superfood that is packed full of benefits. Let’s look at some of them:
a.) Cacao is a wonderful source of flavonoids, mainly the flavanols sub-class and has been clearly shown to give cardiovascular benefits. More recently, enhanced cognitive performance has also been shown. (7)
b) Cacao has very little caffeine but it does have a stimulant called theobromine. Theobromine gives long lasting, gentle energy for a holistic high. It is energy that makes you feel like you got a good nights sleep vs the spike and crash of caffeine.
c) Cacao is a natural mood elevator and anti-depressant with several different scientifically proven beneficial neurotransmitters. Anandamide (bliss), Phenylethylamine (love), Serotonin and Theobromine.
These last 2 also play a role in cacao’s weight loss benefits with serotonin curbing appetite and theobromine both raising metabolism and blocking an enzyme that causes fat storage.
If you are looking to reboot your brain and learn new ways to manage stress, these steps will get you started down the right path.