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Motivate Yourself 119: Inactivity

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Ever heard of neuroplasticity?
It means the brain’s ability to change and a lot of research has been undertaken to show just how flexible our brain really is, and coming back from a holiday last month made me think.

Usually when I talk about neuroplasticity it is because of the positives that come from it. Learning a new habit, recovering from a stroke that sort of thing.
But…
If our brain can become smarter due of certain conditions then it goes without saying that we can make ourselves less smart too.

So, how does it do it?
How can we avoid it? And what’s that got to do with going on holiday?

Well… there’s actually a lot that can happen whilst on holiday that can reduce our brain power.
Firstly dehydration, a lot of Brits will go on holiday to try to escape the gloomy weather but heat isn’t good for the brain.
Research has shown that we can drop up to 20 IQ points due to dehydration. 20 points is the difference between someone who’s quite bright and someone who’s average.
Further problems occur if you try to rehydrate with alcohol which strips way more hydration out of your brain than it puts in.
Sunbathing will have the same dehydrating effect. Research at the University of Erlangen in Germany, suggests that combining relaxation and sunbathing causes our frontal lobes literally to shrivel.

We already know that doing nothing reduces oxygen to the brain, yet a lot of people will say that their idea of a good holiday is about doing nothing.
But that sort of inactivity causes the nerve cells involved in sending electrical impulses in the brain to degrade. Add dehydration caused by excess heat, alcohol, or both, and brain cell volume may decrease by up to 15 per cent.
2 weeks of that and your IQ can drop by another 20 points.

When you think about it, it seems obvious.
If there’s a sure fire way of losing a skill it’s by not practising it. Imagine you used to play the piano as a child, but you stopped aged 12 and didn’t play the piano again until you were 24.
Are you going to be anywhere near as good?
Of course not. why would the neurons of the brain keep that hard wired ability, when they could be used for something else.
That’s how the brain works, our abilities, our skills our personality is flexible. It’s constantly changing.

So, if you don’t use certain areas of your brain even for just a fortnight it will shrink, the good news is that when you start it all back up again in only 4 or 5 days you’re back to where you were before.

But you have to start it back up again!

I think this is why depression can cause so many further issues.
Practise makes perfect even with our emotions.
If you practise feeling lonely, misunderstood, rejected or pessimistic you can get really good at it.
So good that you can do it without thinking. It becomes effortless.

Maybe it’s the inactivity that causes some of the symptoms that clients describe as depression.
The inability to concentrate and the forgetfulness. Because with that comes a belief that we must be losing our minds and so we withdraw from society, hide under the duvet and get worse.

The research into a 2 week holidays worth of inactivity shrinking the brain led onto the ways to prevent it which actually weren’t hard work.

10 minutes of Scrabble, Sudoku or Chess every day or anything thats intellectually stimulating, even a brisk walk can help.

So in short, inactivity is a bad thing. Whether that’s because of a holiday or depression, make sure you’re intellectually stimulated.

And in modern society we’re not short of ways to keep ourselves mentally busy, there are an endless supply of Apps for our phones and tablets, websites filled with crosswords and sudoku games.

If you really want to have a good think a friend of mine, Elliot Line has a great website, elliottline.com
Elliott is an author of puzzle books and edits the Mensa magazine “Enigma”.
His website has some great puzzles, and the internet and magazines are full of ways to make us think.
There's always something to do to keep you stimulated.

But it's just easier to do nothing isn’t it?

Because of this we have to put in some extra effort to make sure we stay alert and enthusiastic!

Episode List

Episode 138: Keeping Up With The Joneses
Episode 137: The Likeable You
Episode 136: Why It's OK To Be A Loser
Episode 135: The Psychology Of Extremism
Episode 134: Are You A Lobster?
Episode 133: Critical Thinking
Episode 132: There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad
Episode 131: The For And Against Of Imagination
Episode 130: Loneliness & Social Networks
Episode 129: Letting Go Of The Past
Episode 128: What Is Love?
Episode 127: Procrastination
Ep. 126: Who Were You Before The World Changed You?
Episode 125: Stop Saying "Sorry"
Episode 124: Emotional Contagion
Episode 123: Patience
Episode 122: Building On Your Foundations
Episode 121: Dealing With The Critics
Episode 120: Being Assertive. Just Say No!
Episode 119: Inactivity
Episode 118: Social Functioning & Evolution
Episode 117: Unleash Your Inner Superhero
Episode 116: Goals, Values and Priorities
Episode 115: 10 Tips To A Happier Life
Episode 114: Lies And Confabulation
Episode 113: Confirmation Bias
Episode 112: Are You An Imposter?
Episode 111: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
Episode 110: Are New Years Resolutions a good idea?
Episode 109: The African Violet Queen Of Milwaukee
Episode 108: Reframing
Episode 107: Spiders And Behaviourism
Episode 106: Practise Makes Perfect
Episode 105: Fear Of Flying
Episode 100 - 104: Happiness
Episode 99: Body Image And The Media
Episode 98: Evolution and Adaptation
Episode 97: Reflections And Regrets.
Episode 96: Dealing With Fear
Episode 95: Confidence
Episode 94: Enthusiasm
Episode 93: Tips To Relieve Christmas Stress
Episode 92: Dealing With Change
Episode 87 - 91: Self Esteem
Episode 86: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation
Episode 85: The Importance Of Being Lazy
Episode 84: Elephant Chains
Episode 83: Eating Bananas And Setting Goals
Episode 82: Ignoring The Media And Listening To Music
Episode 81: Awakening The Instincts
Episode 80: The Fine Line Between Love And Hate
Episode 79: The Best Medicine
Episode 78: A New Start
Episode 77: Time Distortion
Episode 76: Making Decisions
Episode 75: What's In A Name?
Episode 74: Pushing Ourselves Further
Episode 73: Conformity
Episode 72: Purpose
Episode 71: Perspective
Episode 70: Expectation
Episode 69: The Mind / Body Link
Episode 68: Overcoming Shyness
Episode 67: Mood Boosting
Episode 66: Sabotaging your goals
Episode 65: Self Talk
Episode 64: Money Makes The World Go Round
Episode 63: First Impressions Count
Episode 62: False Belief
Episode 61: Absolutes
Episode 60: The Psychology of feeling calm
Episode 59: Belief
Episode 58: Anchoring Emotions
Episode 57: Negativity and Perspective
Episode 56: Health And Happiness
Episode 55: Imagination vs Reality
Episode 54: Change