One Brainy Day
Harnessing the Power of Your Brain (without leaving your couch)
Think of what you were doing this time yesterday. Was it difficult? Could you have used a hand? What about a boost of brain power? According to Martina Sheehan of mindgardener.com, the average brain produces 5000 new brain cells each and every day. Not bad for a day’s work.
Sheehan offers a quotation by the American Alvin Toffler, a writer and futurist, to explain their company’s focus on harnessing the brain’s creativity and thought power:
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
The science of the human brain fascinates me, ever since I taught brain gym exercises to my special needs classes years ago. It is absolutely true that the brain is forever changing, forever adapting, forever learning. And it’s not just a change in thought, but the physical structure of the brain is altered.
Imagine if you—or your child—watched a play, or finished a book, or listened to the news. If you could take photographs of your brain, it would literally look different afterwards. Learning new things is that powerful!
At Mind Gardener, Sheehan likens the brain’s neurons to 100 billion tree branches “reaching out and connecting with each other.” Getting your child to learn something new—like how to spell her name, or not to touch the oven, or to say please and thank you—is a gradual process that comes with practice and reinforcement.
Try this: place your two index fingers slightly apart. In simple terms, the brain’s synapses are like these. When a task is done once, they may touch, then retreat. Over time, their connection can become stronger and stronger, until you don’t have to remind your son to use his manners, or that the oven is hot. Interestingly, this applies to good habits (being polite) as much as it does to bad habits (leaving a light on or craving foods at certain times of the day.)
And if ever you needed another reason to exercise, one of the best things you can do for your brain is go for a walk or run, or play some sport with your kids. Think of the brain as a muscle that needs oxygen, practice—and rest—every day to create its 5000 new cells! Or the ten cells you grew while reading this.