Dawn's Big Three
Your weekly brain-changing content in under 5 minutes:
1. Pumpkin seeds: nature’s chill pill
2. How to create life-changing habits
3. Break a sweat, increase your memory
Want More of This? Get Some Brain Food Every Week.
1. BRAIN FRIENDLY BRUNCHING
TL;DR: The magnesium and zinc in pumpkin seeds increase productivity and lower stress.
Pumpkin seeds: basically magic
Did I just create a tagline for pumpkin seeds? I think I did. You’re welcome, pumpkin marketers. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Pumpkin seeds are amazing sources of zinc, magnesium, and the amino acid glutamate. Together, these things improve memory, calm you down, and allow you to sleep better.
Okay, it’s not technically a pill, but nothing cool rhymes with seed so here we are. Here’s the breakdown of pumpkin seed components.
Magnesium: relaxes you and help you sleep better.
Zinc: improves memory and focus. Research at Duke University Medical Centre and MIT found that zinc played a critical role in the brain, significantly helping improve memory and cognition.
Glutamate: mandatory for synthesis of GABA - a neurochemical in the brain that helps reduce anxiety and nervousness.
How to get more pumpkin seeds into your life
Lightly toast a bunch at once and they’re ready to be thrown on top of whatever you’re eating. A tablespoon is all you need to meet your daily zinc requirements (4-7mg).
Here’s how to get toasted.
Small credibility break by someone who's worked hard for the initials after her name: Sophie Medlin, Founder of City Dieticians and Our In House Nutrition Specialist:
"I love getting my neuro-news from Dawn. It balances entertainment and intellect perfectly and it reminds me to proactively look after my brain."
Thanks Sophie! Onwards to more neuro news:
2. CHANGE YOUR LIFE
TL;DR: You can change your life by creating new habits via repetition.
Why are habits so important?
We’re all creatures of habit, and its estimated that over 40% of our daily activities are habits. What we eat, how we communicate and essentially how we live our lives minute to minute are based around habits. And these behavioural patterns are etched into our neural pathways.
How habits are made
Habits form through associative learning, which means that we learn to form connections between different activities. These connections become patterns of behaviors. Ta da!
But wait, there’s more
So, we have two minds: the intentional and the habitual. The former is aware and makes conscious decisions, while the latter operates almost completely outside of awareness and is guided by cues. As our habits take over, neural activity shifts from working memory to cue-response association -- shifting from the intentional mind to the habitual mind.
Can I change a habit?
Yes! Here’s how:
Disrupt: just like the claims made by the latest direct-to-consumer brand to hit the market ;), you’ve got to disrupt existing habits. How? By disrupting habit cues. For example, if your goal is to eat better, rearrange your fridge so that the kale is front and centre.
Repeat: it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to make a new habit effortless and automatic. So try something new, and then keep doing it!
Create new context cues to trigger new habits: if you connect the new thing you want to do to something you already do, your brain will automatically lead you from one activity to another.
Personal tip: I've got a recurring calendar invite to meditate to help create a daily habit.
So the next time someone says you can't teach an old dog new tricks, you can politely interrupt them with this research and confirm that new tricks can indeed be taught! To dogs and people of all ages.
FOR THE NERDY: Ch-ch-ch-changes [source: Psychology Today, 3 Steps For Changing Any Habit]
Plant enthusiasts love us too. Case in point: Jonathan Petrides, Founder and CEO of Allplants:
"Somehow flipping deep scientific research of the mind into fun and tasty brain snacks, Dawn's weekly email has fast become my top Sunday read. I’m ready for more, sensei."
And now, back to the brain action:
3. BREAK A SWEAT
TL;DR: Exercise releases a hormone called irisin that promotes memory retention.
What’s new here?
I’m going to skip the part where I talk about the general benefits of exercise for your body, brain, and mental wellbeing. I know you’re an informed bunch -- that’s why you’re on our mailing list! So, here’s something new related to exercising and your brain.
Irisin is a hormone released during exercise that may promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus.
It was originally thought that irisin was only involved in metabolism. However, based on elevated levels in tissue samples from brain banks, irisin’s home was confirmed in the hippocampus. Surprise! It was also observed that those with Alzheimer’s had decreased levels of irisin.
The link between irisin and memory
Based on research with healthy mice that exercised for 5 weeks, it was noted that when irisin was disabled in the hippocampus, synapses and memory weakened. Similarly, boosting brain levels of irisin improved both measures of brain health.
Irisin is being investigated as a potential future Alzheimer’s drug. And you can easily build up your levels through exercise!
Get your sweat on
Increasing your endorphins doesn't have to be time-consuming or expensive. In fact, you don't even have to leave your house. Here are three free ways to get your heart pounding:
FOR THE NERDY: Fancy a work out? [source: Neuroscience News, How Exercise May Prevent Alzheimers]
WHAT WE LOVE THIS WEEK
Watch: It's not about the nail! This short clip will teach you all you need to know about communicating with your partner and make you giggle too.
Read: It wouldn’t be right to pique your interest in habit forming and breaking without sharing the excellent Atomic Habits by James Clear. Enjoy.
Listen: Breaking habits is pretty hard, so you’ll need all the support you can get - Brain.fm might be able to help you tune into the right noises to help when you’re struggling.
There you have it. Time to toast some seeds, make a mindfulness appointment with yourself, and start a daily plank habit.
Have a great week,