One of the most fascinating, breakthrough discoveries in the twentieth century belongs to the field of neuroscience. The idea of neuroplasticity has given way to an entirely new school of thought which has led us to rethink an engrained set of ideas ranging from our diets to the way we approach workout routines.
Change is difficult for most but the science certainly suggests answers for why that is as well! Before deep-diving into the topic and discussing ways we optimize our lives for exponential brain growth, we should first start by defining exactly what neuroplasticity actually is.
Neuroplasticity (noun): The ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. (1)
The previous school of thought went something like this… Your brain reaches peak maturation somewhere around the age of 25! That’s the end of your cognitive development, your brain processing power is set and your cerebral capabilities have their ceiling defined.
If you slowed or impaired brain development in your teen & young adult years, well you were going to be limited for life, or so they told us. Well as you can probably attest to first hand, most of us can’t escape the allure of instant gratification in those youthful years, let alone even consider the implications of what sub-optimal cognitive performance might have on your future prospects of success – Both personally & professionally.
Fortunately, all is not lost and we can slam the door on that obsolete way of thinking! The discovery of neuroplasticity gives us new life and creates a theoretical (and neurological) road map for achieving more, being happier and exponentially upping the likelihood of success!
What Does Neuroplasticity Mean for You?
It means that no matter where you’re at today, right now, you can consciously move towards a (quite literally) brighter tomorrow!
It’s all about stimulating the growth of new neurons, making fresh synaptic connections and constantly nurturing the brain with the awareness that one day you’ll reach the level of super genius! And you know what? You won’t stop there, neuroplasticity has shown no limit!
We can optimize our daily routines and pursue experiences that fuel life-long cognitive evolution. How do we do this? Let’s first start by taking a look at one of the most important components of neuroplasticity.
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein found in the brain & periphery. It plays a critical role in aiding the survival of existing neurons as well as boosting the growth of new neurons & synapses!
It’s active in the hippocampus, cortex and basal forebrain. These areas are vital to learning, memory and higher thinking.
Do you want to know why I’m especially excited about BDNF? Science has shown that we have the ability to influence the creation of more BDNF!
What does that mean?
We have very tangible control over our own intelligence!
We have the ability to generate more brainpower through the creation of more BDNF!
New Science, New Mindset.
To have jurisdiction over your own intelligence gives you a very clear level of control over your own destiny. I’m constantly working to architect my daily routine with the importance of BDNF in mind. Changes don’t happen overnight but small steps are the lifeblood of momentum and if you commit to making even the simplest of changes, you’ll find yourself accelerating toward peak velocity & prodigious life trajectory change in no time.
Importance of Routine
Routine enables difficult things to become easy and there is an inordinate amount of scientific research to support that claim. On a neurological level, through repetition we are making & solidifying new connections through our synapses.
Think about the first time you made a cup of coffee compared to when you go through the task now. The classic example is the first time to you learned to ride a bike, if you can think back that far. 😅
The first time you learn to do something, you use an inordinate amount of brainpower compared to when you are completing the same tasks for the 1000th time. Here’s the beautiful thing about routine; It removes barriers aka the complications that require (and drain) so much of our brainpower on a daily basis.
Again, when focusing on the neurological level, once a task has been solidified as part of a routine, the mental work shifts to the basal ganglia and once that occurs, mental energy is freed up. (4)
You only have so much “mental capital” to invest so instead of spending it aimlessly, invest in habits (routine) that will compound “mental interest” & that will yield you more “mental working capital” in the future.
On an economic level, the same principles sure did work for Warren Buffet, am I right?
My recommendation here; Don’t try to revamp your entire routine overnight. Each specific change requires a very strenuous commitment of both will & brainpower and you should ensure new additions are commonplace before adding in another self-promise of routine.
At this point, I’m sure you can see how baby steps fuel life-changing momentum & routine is your greatest ally on this quest for total optimization.
To gain momentum faster, make & strengthen new connections in our neural network(s) & manipulate the influence of neuroplasticity in our favor, we must commit to optimizing our routines for the creation of more BDNF. First, let’s take a look at some of the ways we can increase BDNF
Let’s look at some of the scientifically validated ways to increase BDNF.
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Exercise in general is a sure fire way to boost BDNF levels but there are plenty of different ways to workout and the science definitely suggests that one may prove far superior to others when it comes to raising BDNF levels. (5)
HIIT is a cardio based training session that relies on short bursts of maximum effort. In place of jogging several miles, you’d instead run shorter sprints (i.e. 200 yards) followed by recovery periods. It should be also noted that in addition to raising BDNF levels, HIIT has also been shown to be extremely effective in the field of fat loss.
HIIT can take on many different shapes and forms but the basic idea is pretty simple. Give maximum effort, rest/recover, give maximum effort again.
You can accomplish a very effective HIIT workout in as little as 20 minutes making it a realistic addition to your weekly routine. While HIIT most likely won’t become a daily habit, incorporating this exercise into your schedule 1-4 times per week will undoubtedly make a difference.
- Thermal Stress
Cold showers, anyone? Research shows that both cold & hot therapy increase BDNF! Ice baths, cold showers, cryotherapy and methods that take your body outside of your typical level of comfort are great for increasing BDNF. On the flip side of that, both infrared and regular saunas can also increase BDNF. (6)
I personally alternate between the two. I love nothing more than to alternate between a cold shower (or pool) and an infrared sauna. There hasn’t been much research yet between the alternation method but I’m optimistic about the practice, for obvious reasons.
- Reduce Stress & Improve Sleep Quality
It’s been observed that people under a lot of stress show far less BDNF. Research indicates that both acute & chronic stress directly reduce BDNF! (7,8) Individuals suffering from insomnia also had much lower BDNF levels. (9)
Stress is an absolute killer & the problem is only further compounded when your sleep is compromised as a result. There’s a wide array of therapies available for managing stress but the biggest gamechanger for me has been mindful meditation.
- Supplement with Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Finally, everyone’s favorite method! Just take a pill & get smarter! 😎 Typically, I’m the first person to jump up and dispute these types of claims but the research behind Lion’s Mane (hericium erinaceus) is extremely promising!
Lion’s mane promotes nerve growth factor! I really like the analogy likening Lion’s Mane to fertilizer for your neurons! Supplementing with Lion’s Mane leads to improved brain function and creates a biological environment for increased BDNF. (10,11)
To boost nerve growth factor & help combat against the psychological detriments of stress, we actually developed a custom mushroom complex with U.S. Grown, USDA Certified Organic strains of lion’s mane, reishi and cordyceps! I take it daily and I find the benefits to be noticeable. It also helps improve oxygen utilization & it strengthens your immune system as well.
- Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has a vast array of benefits but one of the primary reasons I do it is to indeed increase the production of BDNF. (12) If you don’t want to make intermittent fasting a daily thing, try working it in twice a week to get the benefits of increased BDNF.
- Eat More Blueberries & Dark Chocolate (Cacao)
Before you run off the your local grocery store and clean out their chocolate isle, let me be very specific here; You want dark chocolate with at least 85% cacao! Blueberries & cacao extremely rich in flavonoids and have proven capable of increasing hippocampal BDNF. This means improvements in memory & cognitive function! (13)
- Supplement with NeuroFactor™
Another one of my favorite supplements is an all-natural, patented product made from the whole fruit of the coffee plant, coffea arabica. Properly named NeuroFactor, it has been developed through years of careful clinical research and has been shown to significantly increase BDNF levels in humans!
Apply Science for Accelerated Results
Life changing habits can take time to normalize and they definitely require a significant allocation of brainpower! Everyone’s life is different and our schedules vary in one way or another.
You are the architect of your life and I encourage you to design it intelligently.
Perhaps the most astonishing detail about BDNF is it’s power on accelerated cognitive returns! it improves our ability to learn so when you optimize routine with BDNF in mind, you will start to experience a snowball like effect.
One developed habit will contribute to the accelerated development of another and this process will repeat itself until you’ve effectively designed yourself as a machine for peak performance!
You will be happier, you will accomplish more and you will find yourself progressing at a rate in which others find strange.
Don’t worry, spread the wealth and simply refer them to this article! 😊
Implementation Examples From My Routine
Like I mentioned, everyone’s day to day routines are different and with different work schedules and life commitments, it’s impossible to have a cookie cutter routine that works for everyone, so you’ll have to be creative.
Find ways to integrate these positive habits into your routine one by one. Make sure they are in a realistic manner that enables consistency. That’s half the battle, setting yourself up to be successful here.
I wanted to share a couple of excerpts from my day as potential options for you to work in as well. Again, these are not one size fits all but real life examples should help you paint your own picture.
- Before digitally connecting in the morning (email, social media etc.), I stretch and make 15 minutes for mindful meditation.
My complete morning routine is a bit more complex but I’ve noticed such a significant reduction in stress and a noticeable improvement in mood & general happiness since I began making time for morning meditation.
- I blend my morning coffee with cacao powder to chase down my morning cocktail of Genius Mushrooms and Genius Joy.
I also add MCT Oil & Bone Broth Protein as well (on days that I’m not fasting). It should come as no surprise that I then take my own supplements, it’s a super cocktail of BDNF spiking superfoods to kickstart my day!
- I wear blue light blocking glasses after 8PM
Blue blockers have played a pivotal role in improving my overall sleep quality and regulating my sleep cycle. Genetically we are programmed to sleep when the sun goes down however with all of the man-made, artificial light overtly interrupting our circadian rhythm, our natural melatonin production is often left disrupted and erratic. Improve your sleep cycle by limiting your exposure to blue light once the sun goes down, blue blockers are a great weapon to add to your arsenal.
- I start every shower on the coldest temperature possible
Fun? No. Beneficial? Absolutely.
I think I hate the cold more than most people do but after a self-commitment to consistently cold shower for a week, the benefits were too great to move on from. Start by letting the ice cold water hit you right between the eyes! Aim to get 2-5 minutes of ice cold water exposure before turning it hot or getting out. Depending on my mood, I’ll either take an entirely cold shower or I will start cold, turn hot and finish cold again. You have options here!
- I implement HIIT twice per week
More times than not, this just involves running sprints or running stadium stairs at the local high school. I like weekends as the days are typically more free but with an effective workout averaging roughly 30 minutes, I find it possible to work in, first thing in the morning as well.
Everyone will be different here but hopefully this general framework gives you some ideas for how to implement these tactics into your daily life!
- Neuroplasticity means that your brain has the ability to reorganize, make new connections and improve on a daily basis
- Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor is a critical component for this entire process. Think of it like fertilizer for your neurons
- Harnessing the power of routine frees up mental space by automating tasks and moving them to the basal ganglia. Routine removes barriers & improves efficiency
- You can optimize your routine around the creation of more BDNF. This practice will almost certainly lead to more brainpower, accelerated learning and ultimately a better life.
- Build slowly. We have a finite amount of brainpower available on a daily basis and normalizing new aspects of your routine can take time. Don’t overload yourself with total reconstruction of your life.
Have any questions or thoughts? Please, feel free to reach out to me directly! We built this company as a catalyst for widespread change! We want to help aid as many people as possible in their quest for self-optimization! This is all about finding the best version of yourself and living the best life possible, both optimally healthy & happy!