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The wisdom of parents

Some of the findings just take me back to all those things my parents used to hassle and hound me to do

Don't you hate it when you find out that your parents were right after all? All those things they used to nag you about when you were growing up gradually come back to haunt you when you find out that they're true.

I'm excited to be a psychologist in the era of brain-based research and discoveries about neuroplasticity. But it's curious that some of the findings just take me back to all those things my parents used to hassle and hound me to do because they were "good for you!" Here are a just a couple of examples. Can anyone else relate?

[quote]"Get up off the lounge, go outside and do something!"[/quote]

Yes, I know it's nice weather. Yes, I know I've been sitting here watching cartoons and MTV for ages. But do I have to?

The problem is that now we know that exercising is really important not only for physical health but also for your brain's health. When we exercise it creates brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). In short, brain fertiliser! It helps the brain grow and helps us learn quicker and more efficiently. Then there are the endorphins, serotonin and dopamine that are released when we exercise that make us feel great!

[quote]"You can't go until you've eaten your breakfast!"[/quote]

In his book Rewire Your Brain, John B. Arden explains why breakfast really is the important meal of the day, as it provides the brain with fuel so it can function optimally. Opting out of breakfast compromises your problem solving ability, short term and episodic memory functions and attention span. And what's more your energy level is decreased, you'll be more reactive to stress, your mood will be all over the shop and you'll have increased symptoms of depression and anxiety. Adding to this is a University of Queensland study released just this month. Researcher Dr Redzo Mujcic found that eating four to five servings of fruits and four to five servings of vegetables per day improves our mental health as well as our physical health. Eating the right food for our brain matters because then it can help us come up with creative ways to argue that we  knew our parents were right all the time…

[quote]"No, you can't stay up and watch telly, you have to go to bed!"[/quote]

Bed time brawls! How many of us can still remember the lengthy discussions about when our bedtime should be? The hippocampus (the front bit of our brain just above the eyes) is the part that does our problem solving, regulates our impulses and allows us to imagine and create. At a minimum our brain needs one good night's sleep out of every four to allow it to recharge. Though of course, more frequent good sleep is still preferable. And unfortunately maybe we should all rethink that post-dinner coffee or extra glass of wine. These simple pleasures will compromise that great, refreshing sleep your body and brain needs. When the body is processing these substances, it disrupts the sleep cycle and prevents us getting to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep - the dream stage - which is when the brain consolidates the day's learning (especially your TAFE classes) and helps prepare itself for the new information it will discover tomorrow.

It seems to me Mum and Dad knew a lot about brain health all those years ago.