Robert and his mind/body
Robert was a client of mine when I worked in Scotland. He was in his mid-thirties and had trouble getting promoted at work. Robert had been diagnosed with ADHD a few years before and had struggled at school too. He had trouble focusing on tasks and completing projects but was very bright, engaged and really wanted to make a change.
The Body-Brain Connection
Most of us have heard of the ‘mind-body connection’ and how our thoughts can affect our body. Tibetan monks wrap themselves in blankets soaked in freezing water and can dry them by raising their own body temperature during a meditation ritual. Louis Pugh can slow his heart rate when swimming near the North Pole without a wetsuit. Pretty impressive stuff!
What many aren’t aware of is that the connection goes the other way too. The body has a powerful affect on the mind. This is especially important information when we look at people like Robert who may have ADHD, learning and sleep disorders, depression and anxiety.
Movement = Medicine
One of the common characteristics of people who are diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia or other learning challenges is that their brain can be under-stimulated. Research and real world experience both show that people with learning, mood, attention and sleep challenges who move their body regularly, usually as part of some form of exercise, will notice that they feel and function better. It seems as if movement of the body is giving the brain the stimulation it needs to work in a more balanced way.
In 1981 Roger Sperry won the Nobel Prize of medicine for his discovery that every time you move your body, whether you’re taking a walk in the park or you’re doing push-ups your joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons are firing off signals to your brain. These signals act like an energy source for you brain, stimulating it and feeding it energy like a wind turbine creates electricity.
With movement we can rewire our brain, change our brain chemistry and improve the way our brain works. Movement of the body is a vital nutrient, helping the brain function optimally. After a session of movement, research shows that the brain releases chemicals that act like fertilizer that helps the brain form new connections.
Dopamine, serotonin and all the other brain chemicals are suckers for the vital input that the movement of your body creates for your brain. Research shows that they can’t help but move toward balance when you are active everyday.
Research in schools in the US has repeatedly found that kids who move more not only improve their academic performance but also have better levels of self-esteem and connect better with people around them. Test scores and classroom behaviour all get better.
You can teach an old dog new tricks
It’s not only children who benefit. Tests have shown benefits for adults and the elderly too. Movement increases cognitive flexibility, creativity, memory and attention. It’s never too late to start and anyone who improves how much they move will benefit, no matter their age, no matter their fitness levels.
Your spine, your lifeline
Your spine is the information super highway between your brain and your body. From the tip of your toe to your liver to your heart, every single message goes to your brain via your spine. These messages can be interfered with by subtle misalignments of the bones in your spine, depriving your brain of the vital input it needs from your body for balanced function. 90% of the function of your brain is influenced by movement of your spine, and when it is misaligned and stuck, your brain gets less input and becomes imbalanced.
Unfortunately you can’t feel these misalignments until they are very advanced, if you feel them at all. The vast majority of these twists in the spine that choke the nerves go undetected from birth and affect us in a variety of ways, including attention, memory, concentration and emotional balance.
Chiropractors are specifically trained to assess the spine and to detect, analyse and correct these misalignments called ‘subluxations’. By performing safe, gentle and specific ‘adjustments’ Chiropractors can realign the spine and restore proper communication between the body and the brain.
Wellness Chiropractors are also able to guide you in making lifestyle choices that will help strengthen the body-brain connection through exercise, diet and stress management.
Apart from getting checked by a Chiropractor you can begin to incorporate movement into your life every day. Not only is this vital for balanced brain function but is also a required nutrient for health.
From the research it seems like there are two types of movements that are most helpful:
- 20-30 minute intense workouts
- running, walking, cycling, swimming, skipping, rowing and weight lifting circuits are good examples.
- Complex disciplines that require combinations of accuracy, agility, strength, speed, power
- Examples include martial arts, climbing, mountain biking, ball sports (mainly individual sports like tennis).
Movement every day as a ritual and discipline helps to create structure for the mind. This is hugely important when controlling attention and focus is an issue.
What about Bob?
At Robert’s last visit with me in Scotland he had not only been promoted but had started his own company. He felt that his movement routine was a key part of his progress. He knew that on the days he moved, he had more control over his mind but on days he skipped movement he felt like he had less control. Robert had developed a movement routine that worked for him. It included Chiropractic adjustments, Aikido (a form of martial arts) twice a week, rock climbing three times a week and regular running.
Robert embraced movement as a way of life and changed his life. The beginning of the year is a great time to review your movement patterns and to start new ones. Find something you really enjoy and make it a habit. It doesn’t have to happen in a gym!