Your Brain Map!

Years ago, when I was planning a six-month backpacking trip through India, a powerful song came on the radio.  The synchronicity blew me away.

Thank U by Canadian singer-songwriter, Alanis Morissette, was composed after her spiritual sojourn in India, when she took time off her career to learn how to ‘stop and breathe’.

In her words she was ‘…left with an immense amount of gratitude, inspiration, love and bliss, and that’s where the song came from.”

Although I was going to India for many reasons, such as the rich culture, profound history, foreign language, exotic music, delicious spices, juicy mangoes, scenic landscape, etc., it also stemmed from an urge that I could not ignore.

Looking back, I recognize that it was my inner GPS directing me to a new phase of personal growth and the conditions that would facilitate it.

While there are many ways to support learning and growth, and best practises that are suited to each individual and their unique learning style, there are also universal principles that allow us all to tend our inner garden, grow our brain health, and expand our mindset.

My trip to India was steeped in those universal principles.  I’d like to share some of those insights with you…

    As I was preparing for the trip, some people would ask if I was going to find my ‘Guru’?While I was definitely open to a spiritual infusion, I wasn’t searching for a guru or doctrine to follow.  I was interested in acquiring knowledge, experiences, and wisdom that would inevitably come from living in a foreign country, an environment dramatically different on so many levels from what I was accustomed to.

    When it comes to novelty, your brain is like a sponge and soaks it right up!  It grows new neurons and neural networks from the stimulation it receives when it adjusts to new environments, interactions, and activities.

    The experience of living out of a backpack without my regular and reliable belongings and comforts, amidst a country of over 1.2 billion people, and  travelling diverse terrain – ranging from Himalayan peaks to the southern Indian Ocean, felt like a challenge worth taking.  Not to mention, there was the ongoing effort to safely manage the trip by being continually self-aware and alert as a solo traveller and its required executive decision making.

    While too much stress shuts down our higher brain centers, healthy doses of challenge are actually brain muscle-building opportunities!

    Before embarking on the trip, I was about to leave my corporate job and become a full time entrepreneur in the wellness field.  This trip came to be an excellent transition, as it bridged the gap between those two contrasting worlds.  As well, it gave me a pause from regular life’s routine and life’s inertia of simply going from one job to the next.  Instead it allowed me the mental space to reflect, to be more mindful, to question my beliefs, and to challenge my opinions.

    Giving ourselves the space to pause and unplug from our regular routines will fundamentally have an impact on the way we understand and look at our life.

Although I didn’t consciously go to India for these reasons, nor did I realize it was occurring at the time, living abroad was a vast opportunity to grow new brain cells and neural networks.  Growing new cells and connections is ideal for our brain health and mental wellness, and it leads to new opportunities and perspectives.

It also strengthened me with a greater inner fortitude to know that I can take on risks and unknowns – qualities clearly required for running one’s own business and for life at large!

In my Brain Fitness programs I educate people on the value of growing our brain power through inviting novel experiences, embracing challenges, and creating the space to allow new ideas and thoughts to emerge.

As humans we are predisposed to living in a comfort zone and mindlessly repeating the same 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts day after day.  So if our thoughts aren’t healthy or positive, we could be caught in a seriously vicious cycle of repetition, without even realizing it.

Maybe it’s time to invite some Novelty, Challenge or Pause into your life.  Travel is a great way for this, but it’s not the only way.  There are countless avenues, right in your own city, neighbourhood, and backyard to engage these brain-building and mindset-changing opportunities!

Your brain network grows, functions and responds according to your current and accumulated experiences. It’s like a map which reflects where you have been and all that you have experienced

By strategically applying things like Novelty, Challenges and Pauses, before you know it – your inner brain map will grow and change, and your outer life will reflect it too.

Thank you India,