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VP TALKS: Everyday Movements to Keep our Brains Young

Finding the balance between hard work and rest is crucial for anti-aging and keeping the brain young. A little bit of stress is good because it’s like exercise for the brain but too much stress can damage and shrink our brains. Conversely, if we don’t have enough stimulation, our brains aren’t pushed to grow.

Recent discoveries in neuroscience show that the only way to create new brain cells in adults is to connect body movements to an enriched sensory environment. Good examples of this type of holistic brain nurture are long walks in nature with a friend, dancing at home to your favorite song or refreshing a training routine by bringing awareness to your breath and curious observation to each movement.

Movement can be used to activate the brain in many ways. It can enhance focus and concentration or calm the brain down for sleep. New movement patterns push the neural networks into action, especially when we pay attention to a point of focus. These attentional neural networks are important in improving concentration in the moment, but such moments also help the brain enhance the neural connections that will keep the mind sharp for decades to come.

Calm movements combined with breath and turning the focus inward help us be quietly present with our emotions, observing and accepting them. By slowing down, the neural network of the internal world can activate. Therefore, calm movements can guide us on a transformational journey which leads to improved sleep, balanced emotions and positive social interactions. Being calm and mindful gives pleasurable feelings right away, but it also strengthens the brain’s processes and hormonal function for the long-term.

A healthy brain is dynamic. It needs to be able to shift among all our mental states from deep sleep to highly-alert fast reactions and back again. The flexibility and balance of these states defines brain health in the long run. Let’s find a healthy balance between pushing ourselves to reach new goals and taking time to treat ourselves with tenderness and care. 

Drhannapoikonen Wisemotion Photobygeorggeckert

Here are some daily recommendations to keep your brain young now and in the future:

1. Play

Create new movement patterns – A new variation in your yoga, dance or gym routine, or change the pace and length of the steps when walking. How about stepping aside, across or walking backwards? When approaching everyday movements with curiosity, joy and challenge naturally unite.    

2. Connect

Smile or laugh with a loved one, a friend or a stranger either virtually or in the real world. Make the first gesture to open yourself and you’ll be surprised how happy your companion will be to follow.

3. Wander

Linger into a moment of mind-wandering. Just stop for a moment, let thoughts come and go, with no fixed intention to go somewhere or do something. Just be. This moment of mind-wandering can be accompanied with your favorite calming music.

Bio

Dr. Hanna Poikonen is a neuroscientist, dancer and movement specialist, and holds a PhD in neuroscience of movement, dance and music (Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland). She works at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) in brain research and education focusing on the fields of creativity, intelligence and embodied cognitive learning.

She is the founder of the WiseMotion method which she has taught worldwide in institutions, festivals and wellness centers such as Harvard Medical School (USA), Double Tree by Hilton Montreal (Canada), Technical University of Berlin (Germany), Kuopio Dance Festival (Finland), Alive Wellness (Hong Kong), and Institute del Teatre (Barcelona).

In parallel to her academic career, she has studied movement and dance in leading institution in cities such as New York, Barcelona, Montreal and Berlin. Explorations in kung fu, tai chi, butoh and somatic methods have taught her a holistic approach to the body and mind.

The WiseMotion online workshops are open for everyone. Click here. 


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