By Declan Goodman
Your mind is yours and yours alone. It's up to you to look after it, but alas so few of us actually do. Amongst all of our growing responsibilities, the one that matters the most, the responsibility of looking after our own mind, is often the one furthest from it. The irony of this conundrum is matched only by the importance of doing something about it.
The forgotten responsibility
Most of us take responsibility for our kids, parents (as they get older), pets, credit card bills (well, at least we try) and physical health in a reasonably intentional manner yet when it comes to our own mental health, it seems this responsibility escapes us. It's quite concerning that so many people leave the health and sustainability of their most important asset, their mind, to chance.
The mind defines who not what
Being responsible for what you do is important to live a meaningful existence, but being responsible for who you are is more important. Who you are has nothing to do with what you do, your career title, your wealth or your possessions. All these things can be attained by others; hence, they are not unique to you. On the contrary, who you are is what makes you unique, what sets you apart from others, what makes you You. This includes your opinions, your belief systems, your judgements, your memories, your biases, your ways of thinking, your thoughts, your mind-set and your consciousness...all of which make up your mind.
"If you lose who you are, what do you have?" ~ Marilyn Manson.
Just like the way no two people are exactly the same, no two minds are identical. If you want to be responsible for who you are then you need to take responsibility for your own mind.
Where it lives (or doesn't)
There is much debate about where your mind actually resides. While most people presume it resides in the brain, this has never been proven. For example, in western philosophy, the brain is deemed the physical manifestation of the mind but not the boundary. In modern (quantum) physics, the mind is an energy field (set of vibrations) that centre around the brain but interact (couple) with other energy fields (including some outside the brain) to form the experience of consciousness. In some branches of ancient eastern philosophy, the mind is a manifestation of the brain, the heart and life's energy (Qi).
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” ~ Milton, Paradise Lost.
Regardless of where your mind actually resides, without it you cannot observe, feel or experience consciousness as we know it. Given so much is at stake and that your mind is the very essence of your being, looking after it seems like a wise idea.
Where to start
While there is a huge amount of literature describing ways to keep your mind healthy, here are the top four ways that, in my opinion, are the most accessible to everyone:
Tip #1: Exercise
Exercise increases your heart rate and pumps more oxygen to your brain. It releases a plethora of hormones that participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. The hippocampus, a brain region involved in learning and memory, is one of only a few areas in the brain that continues to create new neurons throughout adulthood and does so more aggressively in response to exercise. This is especially important in the battle against brain diseases including Alzheimer's disease, in which the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to suffer damage.
"True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united." ~ Humboldt.
The more exercise you do, the more you boost the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus and the more likely you are to maintain mental clarity, focus and good health. So remove the coats from you exercise bike in the living room (as I had to do) and get pumping!
Tip #2: Meditate
If there is one place to look for inspiration on how to look after your mind, it's the ancient eastern philosophies and belief systems. Whether it's Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism or Zen, the one major theme these have in common with regards to maintaining mental clarity is mediation. Modern research in neuroscience has also proven that meditation changes the brain for the better.
"Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that's very important for good health." ~ Dalai Lama
It's important to note that meditation is not restricted to sitting still in the lotus position in a quiet room for an extended period of time while chanting. While this is indeed a well respected method to reaching a state of higher consciousness, it's not the only way. One can meditate anywhere by applying mindfulness. Mindfulness is where one takes the time to observe their thoughts and actions in the present moment with intent. Practising meditation in the form of mindfulness enhances the mind's awareness of self and generates space for the mind to put things into perspective. This not only enhances your mind's ability to live every moment in a more meaningful manner but it also helps you appreciate your mind by realising how central it is to your very existence and that of everything around you.
Tip #3: Eat Well
We have all heard the expression 'you are what you eat'. This holds more truth than one may initially believe as the basic science behind it stands up quite well. That is, the food you eat dictates the nutrients that make their way into your blood stream, most of which inform the very fabric and health of your mind.
"Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments." ~ Frankel
Dr. Linus Pauling, twice Nobel prize winner asserted ‘by giving the body the right (orthro) molecules, most mental health diseases would be eradicated'. So ditch that desire to go to your local fast-food joint once a week and instead reach for something healthy. Your mind, and your waistline, will thank you for it.
Tip #4: Learn new things
The mind loves novelty. When we apply ourselves to learn something new, we grow new brain cells via the process of neurogenesis. Learning new things also boosts self-esteem and overall mental health.
"The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity." ~ Burke
It doesn't have to be anything major. Something as simple as taking up a new language or trying a new skill will do the trick and you can have some fun along the way.
Mind your mind
Your mind is yours and yours alone. You cannot blame anyone else for neglecting it. Like any complex fine-tuned machine, it needs looking after. It's no secret that most people fail to do this yet later in life they live to regret it.
"The superior person settles his mind as the universe settles the stars in the sky. By connecting the mind with the subtle origin, he calms it. Once calmed it naturally expands, and ultimately his mind becomes as vast and immeasurable as the night sky." ~ Lao Tzu
Don't leave the health and sustainability of your mind to chance. Take an interest in it, read about it, try the above tips to keep it healthy and add more to your daily routine so that you can be confident that you did all you could to mind it. If not for yourself, do it for your loved ones so that you still have clarity of mind later in life when they tell you how thankful they are that you did.
Do you recommend or use any other methods to mind your mind? If so, please comment as I'd like to hear about them.
Thanks for reading.
I am a technologist with a passion for self-leadership. I enjoy helping individuals and organisations harness their own strengths to seek out, find and pursue success. I enjoy bringing ancient philosophies (western and eastern) together with modern advances in technology and neuroscience, to help people better understand who they are and what energises them, so as to enhance their ability to live a fulfilled life in their career and at home. I welcome people to connect with me to share their journeys, thoughts and passions that help them be successful and live a full and meaningful life.
Favourite quote: - “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain.
If you liked this post and would like to read more, please see http://www.linkedin.com/today/author/declangoodman
You can also follow me on twitter or follow my blog. Always keen to share.