After losing 2 friends that were way too young in the past month it reinforced more than ever how precious life is. To stop and literally smell the roses, pausing and going back to the simple things became my focus this past week and my life ahead. Children have the beautiful ability to find joy all around them – they see silliness everywhere. Listening to my children with full belly laughs and seeing their spontaneity encouraged me to embrace all the benefits of finding my inner child and how it can in turn help my brain.
Here is my week on reconnecting with my inner child
Day 1 – Nurture friendships
Children find true joy while playing with friends and they adore making new ones. I love how my daughter India will be swinging on the monkey bars at our local playground and become instant friends with other little people – there is simply no fear or judgment.
This past week I reconnected with an old girlfriend Sarah Philp, sadly through the death of a mutual friend. I met Sarah when I was 12 and lived in Wellington and we became instant friends through our love of fashion. Even when I moved back to Auckland many happy school holidays were spent together dressing up and experimenting with makeup and terrible poodle like hair cuts. Although we occasionally message through Facebook it is simply not the same. It is now on my wish list to visit her in Wellington and not make it another 10 years or a death of a friend to catch up.
Social interaction is imperative to brain health, particularly with prevention of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. So pick up the phone now and call an old friend or make a date to catch up with someone you have been meaning to for ever. Stay connected
Day 2 – Eat childhood food
Top of my list for childhood food is eggs. I used to have them daily as a kid but somewhere along the way we were told too many eggs were bad for you. The humble egg has many healthy nutrients such as protein, vitamins, B12, Vitamin D, riboflavin and folate. Now we know that the body does need cholesterol to a certain degree. It turns out that cholesterol is actually a very potent antioxidant, working to remove harmful free radicals (many of which increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease) in the blood.
My favourite childhood breakie
Eggs with Marmite Soldiers
Place room temperature eggs in cold water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and time from when the water starts to boil. 3 minutes for a soft boiled egg.
While your eggs are cooking pop your toast in. Once cooked lavish with butter followed but a smear of marmite and then cut up into soldiers.
A boiled EGG combined with vogels toast with Marmite makes a great combo for brain food. I was happy to discover that Marmite contains a high source of B12 can have great effect on the brain’s GABA chemical and might even provide a treatment for dementia.
There are many other children favs that are great for brain health including some wonderful treats like chocolate and popcorn.
Dark chocolate offers a double-whammy, with antioxidant properties to combat cognitive decline, as well as the natural stimulant of caffeine to enhance focus. Chocolate can help improve memory, alertness and clarity by increasing blood flow to the brain. Not all chocolate is created equal though – the darker it is, the more benefits your brain will receive.
Popcorn contain fibres and vitamins that improve blood flow throughout the brain and help memory function. They also improve blood-sugar stability, which can curb study-interrupting cravings. So start Popping!
Day 3 – Play like child
Finding an activity that is playful makes exercise so much more fun.
When you were young, playing outside was the highlight of your day. You would run and chase your friends until you were out of breath and your cheeks were rosy. Cart wheels, handstands and kicking a ball around was part of the norm.
The power of play has come into focus in Alzheimer’s research as staying cognitively active throughout life by playing games and has been associated with lowering risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A big part is also the social engagement factor which is linked to keeping the mind sharp to .
A child’s life feels limitless because they are not confined by fears of failure so embrace that sense of freedom and play or be playful. Children are more confident, more courageous and enjoy life far more intensely than adults. Let go!
Day 4 – Breath like a child
Breath is essential to life and we will take about half a billion breaths. What I never appreciated until now is that the mind, body, and breath are intimately connected. Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts, and our thoughts and physiology can be influenced by our breath. Like an orchestra we are conductors of our breath.
When you learn to breathe properly it is mind blowing how it can help with so many factors – the biggest one being stress. Decreasing stress is of course essential for brain health and in turn can assist in the possible prevention of Neurological Diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
If you watch young children or animals breathe, you will notice that they breathe with their whole bodies, their bellies rise and fall with each breath. For some odd reason, we stop doing this when we get older. No one really knows why but I was fascinated to observe that my mother now breathes through her nose and the subtle rising and fall of her lower chest and tummy. I wonder if through her Alzheimer’s Disease she has forgotten how she breathed when she was stressed and has reverted back to the way she breathed as a baby?
Day 5 – Try something new or exhilarating
Children on the whole are not afraid to try something they have never done before. They will jump on a trampoline, dive into a pool or ski down a mountain – they have this huge sense of adventure in abundance. As adults, we fear the unknown. We stick to our comfort zone and rarely try new things. Adventure exhilarates us and awakens the spirit.
Back in the day I used to rock climb and although I take my daughter India rock climbing regularly I just watch on, occasionally checking emails on my phone and only taking it all in partially. The truth was I was scared, but what was there to fear?
Strategic thinking activities like rock climbing really help to strengthen the brain’s network with potential to ward off Alzheimer’s disease as well as other forms of dementia.
Now it was time to join her and what a buzz it was too! So feel the fear and do it anyway.
Day 6 – Be vulnerable like a child
Don’t be afraid to feel vulnerable. On a Friday I look after my mother and I was feeling particularly emotional after our family friend died of Alzheimers. I curled up beside my darling mama, head in her lap and somehow through the claws of Alzheimers she became my mother again, and I her child. I let it go and cried like a child, big heaving sobs, snotty nose. She stroked my hair as if it was second nature and what incredible joy it brought me knowing that I was and will always be her child.
As Aletheia Luna says to be vulnerable is to be courageous, for vulnerability stands in the face of fear, accepting the uncertainty of possible attack or compromise. To deny your own vulnerability is to close yourself off to life and all of its opportunities out of fear, not strength.
Reconnect with your inner child – your brilliance, that part of you who knows that you have a greatness beyond words. Sing out loud, dance, cry and nourish your inner child for a Beautiful Mind.