Humans experience a myriad of emotions – up to 27 and counting!
Here I draw from various research pieces, to make a point that it’s not just mechanical exercise but a healthy social sport amongst supportive people that has a massive impact on our brain and mind set.
In a 2020 article by Scientific American1, which prompted this blog, the authors deconstruct how evolutionary history explains why physical activity is important not only for brain health, but to help us understand the workings of our emotions!
After over 3 decades of vetted research evidence was building that the adult brain could, in fact, generate new neurons. In one particularly striking experiment with mice, scientists found that simply running on a wheel led to the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a brain structure that is associated with memory and emotions!2
A scientific study in Stockholm3 uncovered that exercise draws oxygen and blood flow into an area of the brain that is typically suppressed with low cell growth during depression.
The brain actually is wired to promote “forgetting”, and that’s a good thing. Important new memories grow stronger through neuronal changes and emotional resonance, while unimportant ones are weakened.
The brain promotes “forgetting”, and that’s a good thing
You don’t need to remember where the car keys were last week – but the name of your new boss, burned into your brain by new connections (fear of a demotion? Hope for a promotion?), is another matter.
A recent article by National Geographic4 documents that the brain creates new neurons all through adulthood in the hippocampus. The precursors of neurons (bright blue area) travel to the olfactory bulb, or scent-processing center (purple), to form sensory neurons.
Hence adults can sprout hot-off-the-press neurons as well! Only in the hippocampus… Here memory and emotions are processed!
The hippocampus is being studied in relation to depression. This region maybe more likely to hold negative memories in people with depression
Things like stress slow neurogenesis, whereas novelty (for example, traveling to a new place) and exercise boost it. Aerobic options are known to enhance memory – biking, running, swimming or rock climbing!
Exercise is the only way blood get’s access to the human brain
Another excerpt from Scientific American claims that scientists continue to show that everything from the “runner’s high” to the “yogi’s tranquility” can have profound effects on your brain
So, sitting at your desk doing math problems or crunching numbers is futile if not combined with an aerobic activity. The same tasks can be done more productively if coupled with an aerobic physical activity.
Socially structured sports have an added benefit of releasing endorphins and de-stressors in kids in particular who are exposed to a relatively stressful and competitive environment in the current days.
Now combine this with a social-aerobic physical activity and you are now entering brain-elixir territory!
What is especially attractive about outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing for instance is the social aspect – Dopamine, widely labeled as the pleasure chemical, gets into a feedback loop to lift your mood when you plan to head toward a hike or a climb with a group of friends – a brain induced Motivator!
Martin Sligman’s PERMA Model for authentic happiness:
Our brains, unfortunately, are wired to attend to and learn from negative experience more than positive ones, kind of a survival kit for keeping us from danger
This tendency at times might be responsible for unnecessary fixation over the negatives such as obsessing over a colleague’s put-down or a natural disaster in the news.
Experts recommend creating a daily diet of happy micro-moments
“Therapy and exercise needn’t be mutually exclusive” as quoted by the American Psychology Association.
A practicing psychologist with training in sport psychology, Michelle Joshua, PhD foundedWork it Out LLC, a clinic with offices in Raleigh and Carrboro, N.C., that provides health and behavior interventions to people with conditions including diabetes and obesity.
“Science's Newest Miracle Drug Is Free: | Aaron Reuben| Outsideonline | May 1, 2019 | 21 minute read
Katie Asmus, a licensed psychotherapist and wilderness guide in Boulder, Colo. Firmly believes that here is something about the environment that helps our nervous systems unwind.
A grassroots movement of physicians are prescribing time outdoors as the best possible cure for a growing list of ailments. If prescribers can change patient behavior via nature prescribed programs there is a growing line of evidence that could support reimbursement for such programs complementary to a pill.
The term “Nature Rx” was originally developed by writer/director Justin Bogardus and Dream Tree Film as a part of a viral comedy series on the power of reconnecting with nature at nature-rx.org. Outside Magazine has since hosted some of these award-winning films on its website since 2015.
In a nutshell, a healthy combo of low-conflict and high quality relationships while sharing in an engaging activity will not disappoint!