My daughter and I laughed out loud at the way I’d tangled my words into a knot. I half-jokingly commented, “I think these last 18 months have fried my brain cells! Here lately, I make absolutely no sense.” We laughed some more, and I attempted to untangle what I’d said.
Even though I tried to laugh it off, deep down I knew that something wasn’t exactly right. I didn’t think too much about forgetting names; that’s a common symptom of getting older. Being disoriented when trying to find my way around didn’t bother me either since I’ve always been that way. But when I began having trouble keeping my schedule straight and focusing on what I was reading? That bothered me. Even my writing takes longer than usual. Can you identify with any of this?
Like any good school teacher, I decided to do some research. In that process I found an interesting article by the Harvard Medical School that threw some light on my issue. (Now, stay with me! I know this sounds a little nerdy, but I guarantee it will comfort those of us who have been stressed and depressed or love someone who has.)
I had learned in school back in the 70’s that we are born with a fixed number of brain cells (neurons). We were taught that we should take very good care those cells because our brains don’t manufacture new ones. Today, while we still need to care for our brains, I’ve learned that brain cells can regenerate! God made each of us with a part of the brain called the hippocampus which does the following things:
- Stores long-term memories
- Aids the learning of new information
- Regulates emotions
Most interesting to me was the fact that after repeated bouts of depression, a person’s hippocampus can shrink by 10%, thus diminishing those three functions. However, thanks to our Creator, we can increase our number of neurons with some common-sense adjustments. Learning this helped me better understand the emotional roller-coaster I used to be on. I am more patient with myself now when learning new things because my neurons are regenerating. I had lost so many over the last 18 months through bouts of fear, stress, grief, and depression.
With God’s help and direction, I’ve done the hard work, and He will continue to bless my efforts. I’ve gone back through my pain and yanked out every gnarly branch by the root. I’ve been on my knees and in the Word. I’ve read the books my counselor recommended, and I’ve made difficult changes. I’ve repented of things I’ve done wrong, repaired all that I can, and am in the process of renewing relationships Satan tried to destroy. God has been so good to bless me with new friends who don’t mind me practicing my newly acquired friendship skills on them. God never gave up on me. He knew when to step in and help and when to strengthen me through a struggle. He will do the same thing for you, IF you willingly enter into His process.
Are you wondering about those common-sense adjustments that help regenerate brain cells? Here are four that have been shown to move you toward a healthier brain:
1) Sustained Aerobic Activity
Resistance training (weight lifting) and interval training (short bursts of intense exercise followed by cool-down periods) are good for other body functions, but when it comes to the brain, it’s activities like jogging, power walking, swimming, and rowing that do the trick.
2) Stress Relief
This can be any pleasurable activity that relaxes your mind and body. The research specifically mentioned frequent sex as the number one stress reliever for both men and women.
Neurobics are brain exercises that increase your focus. For example, using your non-dominant hand to perform simple tasks, having real life face-to-face conversations, and reading new information. Personally, I’m also counting on my blog-writing process to add a few new neurons. 🙂
4) Healthy Diet
This may be the simplest, but the most difficult one of all to adhere to. Here are a few things to incorporate into your diet:
Whatever your particular issue, God can and will help. He is the God of second chances … and third, and fourth, and however many it takes to transform you into the likeness of Christ. He’s even made your body with built-in second chance mechanisms so that you can better serve others quietly and rejoice loudly. Whether you’re the one struggling, or you’re trying to help someone else, take a minute and think on these words:
“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”Romans 7:24-8:2, The Message
Enter into God’s process, and let the Spirit magnificently clear your air!