-by Gary Z McGee
“I cannot live without brain-work. What else is there to live for?”~Sherlock Holmes
This should go without saying, but it needs to be said: don’t take anything for granted. Not even science. Science changes every day. Research changes all the time. Don’t make the same mistake that theists make. Don’t believe in the research. Research it. Think about it. Tear it apart. Re-imagine it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover something that puts the research in this article out to pasture.
Take all things with a grain of salt, and some things with the entire salt shaker. “Entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~Aristotle
1.) Song that reduces anxiety by 65 percent:
This is great news for music lovers, and even greater news for the billions of us who are over-stressed by the daily grind of the nine-to-five meat-mill.
Marconi Union, in collaboration with sound therapists at Mindlab International, created a song called Weightless. It was actually designed to reduce anxiety by carefully mixing harmonies, rhythms, and basslines in unique ways.
The song worked better than they thought it would. It induced a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date, according to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson. It significantly lowers the stress hormone cortisol, while reducing anxiety by 65 percent and lowering psychological resting states by 35 percent. The ultimate brain hack. They even made a ten-hour version! Check it out here.
2.) Low levels of alcohol are good for the brain:
Like we needed another reason to drink, right? Well, it turns out that a couple glasses of wine a day will not only clear the mind but clean the brain as well. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that low levels of alcohol consumption tamp down inflammation and help the brain to clear away toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
“Low levels” are the key words. Moderation is the thing with alcohol. As Maiken Nedergaard, lead author of the study, said, “Prolonged intake of excessive amounts of ethanol is known to have adverse effects on the central nervous system. However, in this study we have shown for the first time that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health, namely it improves the brain’s ability to remove waste.”
Bonus: This drug is shown to reverse brain deficits caused by excessive use of alcohol.
3.) Call to The Wild (or at least the outskirts):
When we’re able to get closer to nature, we do our brains a huge favor. According to a new study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, city dwellers living close to a forest are more likely to show indications of a physiologically healthy amygdala (which plays an important role in stress processing and reactions to danger) structure and are therefore better able to cope with stress than other city dwellers. Why is this?
Heavy from aggrandized civilization, we go into nature seeking medicine. We discover it by simply being present and embracing solitude. In the wild, Truth and Mystery grow together, robustly entangled, speaking a language older than words. When the clanking machinery, blaring car alarms, and whining sirens fade away, our brains get lathered in this mysterious language and Nature’s medicine washes over us.
The closer we can get to this, whether it’s just a forest on the outskirts of town or a green park in the city, the better our brain’s health will be. Our culture is suffering from severe nature deprivation, and the only cure is more nature.
4.) Curcumin Improves Memory and Mood:
Great news for curry lovers. It turns out that curcumin –the substance that gives curry its bright color– is great for the brain. According to a new study out of UCLA, curcumin improved memory and mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss.
Previous lab studies have already revealed the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of curcumin, which is found in turmeric. This study tested curcumin’s direct effect on memory and mood, which revealed that the group who took the supplement had significantly improved memory function (improving 28 percent on memory tests), while the group who took the placebo did not.
As Dr. Gary Small, the study’s first author, said, “Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression.”
5.) Self-defeating humor promotes psychological well-being:
Are you self-deprecating most of the time, sarcastic some of the time, but laugh at yourself allthe time? Great news. Your dark sense of humor is good for your brain.
Research on humor is still in its infancy, but according to a new study completed by the University of Grenada Mind, Brain and Behaviour Research Centre, those who frequently use self-defeating humor exhibit greater levels of psychological and social well-being. Which apparently flies in the face of previous research suggesting that self-defeating humor is exclusively associated with negative psychological effects.
So, let your happy-go-lucky disposition and tough-love sense of humor be your saving grace. It’s all water off a duck’s back. Shrug your shoulders and have a good laugh at yourself. It’s time to reprogram our programming. It’s time to turn the tables on the cosmic joke by laughing at the fact that we will always be the butt end of it. And that’s okay.
6.) Magnetic brain stimulation alters negative emotion perception:
The brain is a very sensitive organ. And you don’t need to have depression to know that. But this new study on depression out of Elsevier reports that processing of negative emotion can be strengthened or weakened by tuning the excitability of the right frontal part of the brain using magnetic stimulation.
The use of inhibitory stimulation currently used to treat depression has been shown to have antidepressant effects. Whereas, excitatory stimulation (Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)) better reduced a person’s response to fearful images and altered negative perception.
As study editor Cameron Carter, M.D. said, “This study confirms that modulating the frontal region of the brain, in the right hemisphere, directly effects the regulation of processing of emotional information in the brain in a ‘top-down’ manner.”
7.) Mindfulness meditation:
You don’t have to be a Yogi to reap the health benefits of mindfulness meditation. It turns out that your brain is being molded in profoundly beneficial ways by daily meditation practices.
Mindfulness meditation has been around for literally thousands of years, and there’s a reason for that: it works. It’s the granddaddy of brain health. Through science we’re starting to get a better understanding of why it is so beneficial. Everyday more research is drawing a clearer link between meditation and human health.
Here’s a list of five interesting health benefits of mindfulness meditation…
3.) Increased focus.
4.) Increased empathy.
5.) Better sleep.
People as diverse as David Lynch and the Dalai Lama have praised the benefits of mindfulness meditation, asserting that it can increase attention, combat stress, and boost overall health. As the great Jiddu Krishnamurti asserted, “Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.”