Strengths and Brains

October 12, 2015

We are constantly growing.  The strengths give us points to look for that encourage the greatest gains.

Despite the fact that we might look in the mirror and not notice that much is changing, we are in a perpetual state of growth.  From the outside, it may be difficult to see it—but, if we were to shine a mirror on our brains, it would likely be overwhelming.  Lots going on there.  And recently, scientists have dispelled the myth that brain cells don’t grow back.

There is a place between our ears called a hippocampus and each day it creates several hundred new neurons.  Even on a lazy day of sleeping in and watching Netflix, it is pumping out these new cells.  In fact, at this rate, it can create more than 100,000 new ones in a single year.  This process is called neurogenesis and it creates the foundation for new learning.

However, this does not necessarily mean that our brains are always getting fuller and fuller.  Fact is, brain cells do, indeed, die.  So, it’s become a topic of conversation among neurologists: How do we care for and preserve our existing neurons?

It turns out that two behaviors are key.  One, physical movement and exercise—be it dancing, tai chi, or CrossFit—and, two, engaging in mental activities that are engaging to us—anything from crossword puzzles to meditation to freestyling.

At the end of the day, we don’t need to write the next great novel or spell out the unified theory.  No, it seems that we just need to act on our strengths.  That is, the strengths boil down to what we are most interested in.  The strengths are, in fact, what engages our minds (and, possibly, our bodies) the most.  Which is to say that when we are living in our strengths, we are caring for and conserving our neurons!

Perhaps someone with intellection is passionate about deep introspective discussions, while someone with context is in to exploring the past—nevertheless, in both cases, their brains are firing in a way that says: Yes!

So, it turns out that it doesn’t matter exactly what it is that lights up our minds; instead, it matters, simply, that we find something—whatever that might be—that fills us with that energy.

Maybe for one person it is reading a newspaper, for another it’s poetry, and another it’s mingling at a party, and, yet, another gets that spark in nature contemplating a wooded valley.

Could it be that by engaging in our strengths we are actually preserving our brains?

What is lighting us up?  How could we make more time for this type of exciting mental activity?  What would it take to carve out 10 minutes twice a day to read a book, call a friend, or write in a journal?  When is the last time we felt our brains firing on all cylinders?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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