With some habit changes and exercises, it is possible to rewire your brain in ways that allow you to become more successful in life. There are a few key ways ways to create a better, stronger, smarter brain:
- First, incorporate tryptophan into your diet. Specifically, a diet rich in tryptophan is critical for the production of neurochemicals that make you smart and happy, such as serotonin. Most people don't realize that serotonin is produced by your body thanks to the food you eat. But not all food is created the same, in terms of how it facilitates brain health. Foods rich in tryptophan and niacin help you produce more serotonin, as tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin. Research has shown that when people who take depression medication strip their diet of tryptophan, they become depressed despite being on the SSRI (depression medication). By incorporating more tryptophan in your diet you'll not only feel happier, you'll be better able to regulate your emotions and become less impulsive. Emotion regulation is often a key to success when stress and tension are high!
- Next, meditate and exercise. Though it has become a cliche, a key component to building a strong, smart brain is meditation. And if you want to magnify the effects of meditation, exercise at least three times per week.
- Finally, incorporate omega-3s into your diet. A very important area of the brain, called the hippocampus, holds the key to success for many of us. The hippocampus is the "memory center" of the brain, but it does a lot more than help us remember items on our to do list. The hippocampus allows us to prioritize the stuff we need to remember and let go of the stuff we don't, and helps us identify the tasks and goals that are most important (along with some other areas of the brain). Additionally, this area of the brain is part of the stress response system, and is specifically involved in the regulation of stress. Without a well-functioning hippocampus, stress wreaks havoc on our brain and body, causing "allostatic load," or unmanaged stress. A strong hippocampus allows us to remember what needs to remembered, prioritize goals, and regulate stress. However, anxiety and prolonged stress damage the hippocampus, shrinking it over time, which leads to memory deficits and mental health challenges.
Meditation, exercise, and omega 3s have actually been shown to help people produce *brand new neurons* in this area of the brain, a process called "neurogenesis." There is no other brain change that is likely to make you smarter and more successful than neurogenesis, and we know we are capable of neurogenesis if we meditate, exercise, and get plenty of omega-3s!