Why Is It Important to Quieten Your Brain?
It is natural to want to remain mentally sharp as you get older. (1, 2) Maintaining an active brain is perhaps the most natural way to achieve this.(3) New research now suggests that having a quiet brain can increase your lifespan, your productivity, and also bring more peace into your life.(4, 5)
The study, published in October 2019 in the Nature medical journal, suggests that having a calmer brain with lesser neural activity can help you live a longer life. The research was carried out by a team from the Harvard Medical School and analyzed donated brain tissue from people who died between the ages of 60 to 100 or more. The authors of the study noticed that the people who lived the longest had a lower level of genes that are commonly associated with neural activity.(6)
A protein known as REST was found to be linked with neural activity and longevity. This protein is responsible for suppressing neural activity in the brain.(7)
In experiments carried out on mammals and worms, it was found that increased REST caused a reduction in neural activity and led to longer lifespans. Suppressing REST did the exact opposite. The study thereby showed that having a period of slowed activity every day was equally crucial for your brain health and longevity as being active and exercising. These periods of slowed activity can be spent doing meditation, sleeping, being still, or unitasking. Unitasking is the concept of focusing only on one task at a time.(8)
It is already known that the brain needs the most amount of energy than any other organ in the body. It consumes almost a third of our energy. This is why taking rest is sometimes the best option for the health of your brain.
5 Simple Ways To Quieten Your Brain And Live Longer
Here are some ways to quieten your brain and live longer:
Set the Tone for the Day in the Morning Itself
Starting your day on the right note can be very important in having a quiet brain throughout the day. Do not start the day with the phone in your hands and responding to people’s demands and requests. Take a few moments just to be yourself. Focus on your breathing and think calmly about the works that need your attention on that day. Taking a couple of minutes to be mindful and setting the tone for the day first thing in the morning can prove to be very helpful.
When you are clear on your objectives for the day, it will help you stay on track and help you accomplish what you want, instead of merely reacting to the things that happen to you during the day.
Focus on breathing through your nose instead of your mouth. Nasal breathing is known to have many benefits and will help you wake up with a clear mind and feel more energized.(9)
We breathe all the time, but using your breath to quieten your brain can help you increase your lifespan. When you are stressed and anxious, your body temperature and heart rate both increases. Taking slow, long, and deep breaths can help you relax physically. At the same time, this decreases many of the physical sensations in the body. Deep breathing can be thought of as a type of meditation. When you are perpetually stressed, it can wreak havoc on your body and mind. Deep breaths can help you combat stress and quieten your brain.(10)
Pay attention to the rhythm of your breath. Instead of taking short, quick breaths, try to practice slower and deeper ones. One way to do this is to put your hand on your belly. Feel your belly rise and expand as you inhale the air. Experience it fall as you let out your breath. Aiming for around five to six breaths in a minute can help significantly in calming down your body and brain.
Relax Your Muscles – Progressive Muscle Relaxation Can Help
When you are under chronic stress, there is a lot of physical tension present in the body. Doing a mental body scan can help you draw attention to the different parts of your body. For example, if you feel that your hands are tense, make a tight fist and release it a couple of times until you feel the muscle relaxing.
Progressive muscle relaxation has a variety of benefits, including lowering your blood pressure, decreasing muscle tension, reducing the body’s need for oxygen, reducing anxiety and fatigue, and promoting a feeling of overall well-being.(11)
You can try and practice progressive relaxation while lying in bed before going to sleep at the night. Doing this will ensure that by the time you reach the muscles of your feet, you will be relaxed or even asleep.
Listen to Music
Listening to music is one such activity that literally quietens the activity in your brain. When you listen to music, there are fewer neurons that fire in the amygdala region of the brain, which is the part of the brain that responds to fear. This causes fewer signals to be sent to other parts of the brain.(12, 13)
Listening to music is an excellent activity if you are distracted by chronic pain. However, you should pay attention to the music. Listen actively to what is playing, and not just as part of something playing in the background. The more you pay attention to what is playing, the less likely you are to dwell on other thoughts, and the quieter your brain becomes.
Visualization can be a great technique for quietening your brain. Picturing a relaxing setting, location, or scenery can help calm down your mind. Closing your eyes and imagining a peaceful place that you love or have dreamed about can help you. Imagine yourself being at that place and engage your senses as if you are actually present there. Feel the sensations in your body, see the colors of that place, and take in the smells associated with that place.
Take deep breaths as you enjoy visualizing this peaceful and happy place in your mind.(14)
We all have millions and millions of thoughts each day. Most people would agree that many of these thoughts are a repeat of our previous thoughts, and many of them are negative. Our brain is unable to keep running at the breakneck speed we expect it to run throughout the day. It needs a break every now and then, and so do you. Taking time out to quieten your brain can promote a more peaceful life and also increase your creativity, productivity, and lifespan.
If you find it challenging to quieten your mind and you feel stress and anxiety is impacting your health, then you may seek help from outside as well. There are many mindset and behavioral experts who can help you get your mind back on track.
- Friedman, D.B., Laditka, S.B., Laditka, J.N., Wu, B., Liu, R., Price, A.E., Tseng, W., Corwin, S.J., Ivey, S.L., Hunter, R. and Sharkey, J.R., 2011. Ethnically diverse older adults’ beliefs about staying mentally sharp. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 73(1), pp.27-52.
- Robertson, I., 2011. Stay Sharp with the Mind Doctor: Practical Strategies to Boost Your Brain Power. Random House.
- Small, G. and Vorgan, G., 2006. The Longevity Bible: 8 Essential Strategies for Keeping Your Mind Sharp and Your Body Young. Hachette UK.
- Zullo, J.M., Drake, D., Aron, L., O’Hern, P., Dhamne, S.C., Davidsohn, N., Mao, C.A., Klein, W.H., Rotenberg, A., Bennett, D.A. and Church, G.M., 2019. Regulation of lifespan by neural excitation and REST. Nature, 574(7778), pp.359-364.
- Walton, A., 2020. 8 Science-Based Tricks For Quieting The Monkey Mind. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/02/28/8-science-based-tricks-for-quieting-the-monkey-mind/#7180a1581af6> [Accessed 14 June 2020].
- Brette, R. and Destexhe, A. eds., 2012. Handbook of neural activity measurement. Cambridge University Press.
- Lu, T., Aron, L., Zullo, J., Pan, Y., Kim, H., Chen, Y., Yang, T.H., Kim, H.M., Drake, D., Liu, X.S. and Bennett, D.A., 2014. REST and stress resistance in ageing and Alzheimer’s disease. Nature, 507(7493), pp.448-454.
- Patoine, B., Whitman, A. and Goldberg, J., 2008. Brain development in a hyper-tech world. Ann Whitman, 212, pp.223-4040.
- Petruson, B., 2007. The importance of improved nasal breathing: a review of the Nozovent nostril dilator. Acta oto-laryngologica, 127(4), pp.418-423.
- Apa.org. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-facts> [Accessed 14 June 2020].
- National Jewish Health. 2020. Progressive Muscle Relaxation. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationaljewish.org/conditions/health-information/stress-and-relaxation/relax/muscle-relaxation> [Accessed 14 June 2020].
- Koelsch, S., Fritz, T. and Schlaug, G., 2008. Amygdala activity can be modulated by unexpected chord functions during music listening. Neuroreport, 19(18), pp.1815-1819. Koelsch, S., Skouras, S., Fritz, T., Herrera, P., Bonhage, C., Küssner, M.B. and Jacobs, A.M., 2013. The roles of superficial amygdala and auditory cortex in music-evoked fear and joy. Neuroimage, 81, pp.49-60.
- Hoffart, M.B. and Keene, E.P., 1998. Body-mind-spirit: the benefits of visualization. AJN The American Journal of Nursing, 98(12), pp.44-47.