The Power of Exercise: Creating Change & Laying New Neural Pathways in the Brain

Understand how neuroscience helps people change their brains

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Beach walking - good for the soul and serves up interesting finds!

What do you enjoy.

I’m asking. I mean really…

What do you like to do outdoors. Is there anything which fills you with zest and vigor ?

It’s been lovely and sunny down here in the south east of england over the last week and I’ve been making the most of our little shingle shoreline, which sits snugly on the thames estuary, where the water reaches up the beach as swash. Or as I like to think, as I observe the white frothy curls chase me, white horses galloping freely.

I’m a swimmer. Or maybe, really, more of a dipper, with an intention to (very slowly) become an ocean swimmer – as I find my commitment growing in spending as much time in the sea as possible. Dealing with my fears each time they rise. Yesterday it was being carried away by the current, as I went the furthest out of my depth, ever!

Sometimes I’m a yogi – then I connect with my inner emotions in a way which is different, although similar to the work I do as a Therapist. As I stretch and lengthen the parts of my body, which have become stiff and shortened through sitting – realigning my posture, opening up my chest, spine, back and hips, whilst standing occasionally, for what seems a very long time in warrior pose.

I’ve also recently climbed on to the treadmill, punishing myself with 30 minute stationary runs, whilst listening to the latest running tracks on youtube. Nothing I’d like to do in a gym but surprisingly enjoyable in my conservatory. This and a walk in Belfairs Woods led me to decide to try trail running. By the end I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed it or not – but I gave it a go and will another time. Just to double check.

My 30 minute beach walks, I now have timed perfectly, to connect me with happiness inside and allow my mind to soar freely across across the flooded mudflats. What I discover on the shoreline as I walk, as much as a prize as the exercise itself.

As an addictions therapist – in a drug and alcohol rehab in Thailand. I’ve helped Clients deal with their addictions by educating and sharing with them – alongside their personal training sessions and group workouts – how addiction affects the brain and how exercise and movement is important, because it develops dopamine and serotonin in the body naturally – building wellbeing in the process.

It’s not just the habits which have to change but the thinking.

Finding new ways to have fun, forget or deal with being a human being. A person needs to change the way they think, act differently and consistently keep recreating this process to lay and embed new neural pathways in the brain. I know first hand that if you keep repeating something new which you enjoy – motivation builds within eventually and the desire to keep doing it is engaged. It’s hard work and it’s worth it.

Golf is a great sport to engage you with strategic thinking and your emotions – when every shot has the power to go awry and like today on the course – the wind buffets the ball in its invisible grip, for just a bit longer than desired, to settle my shot cleanly on the edge of the green, as we played a game of match play golf. Frustration is the greatest emotion I’ve had to deal with – and through golf I’ve learnt and experienced a lot.

Being motivated isn’t a pre-requisite to exercise, nor is ‘wanting it’.

Just doing it is.

The process is where you build the motivation.

Repetition is where you build consistency.

Conscious choice, moment by moment builds repetition and during this process your body will begin to want to eat, what I call ‘get up food, rather than sit down food.’ Change begins to happen but in the beginning you need to build faith as the results aren’t instantly seen.

So tomorrow i’m going to enjoy my beach walk – savor each moment it shares with me and then get on with my day, knowing my self care has been good and life can be kind. Oh and hope I have enough ‘get up food,’ in my fridge to keep me feeling damn good.

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