As 2019 comes to a close, it is important to pause, take a moment, and reflect. We made it through the holiday season, the department store craziness and the holiday parties. We gathered with family and friends around gifts, festive meals, and holiday traditions. Looking ahead to the new year, it’s important to continue to prioritize how we connect with our loved ones and the world around us.
How do we experience connection?
We connect with the environment through our nervous system. The brain, spinal cord and the exiting nerves are what allow us to take in information from the environment, process that information, and execute an appropriate response. Our senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and proprioception) come from different types of nerve cells that send information to be processed within different areas in the brain. More specifically, the area of the brain that is responsible for our ability to feel connected with one another is known as the prefrontal cortex. This region is the last area in the brain to develop in humans and is responsible for high executive function. It is this executive function that allows us to rationalize our emotions, make critical decisions, focus on the present moment and coordinate complex behaviors.
Why is connection important?
Humans are social beings. We all have an innate desire to have relationships with other humans as well as a relationship with something greater than ourselves. This doesn’t mean we’re all extroverts or introverts. But on some level, we all need to experience a connection with others. I believe that it is our ability to connect with each other and the world around us on a deep level that makes us human.
How can we improve connection in the new year?
Recent research has shown us that our brains can form new neural pathways throughout our lives. This is a concept known as neuroplasticity. The concept of neuroplasticity tells us that we can experience better quality of life by implementing simple habits and changes into our lifestyles.
- Daily movement. Making a movement routine a part of your daily life will feed your brain with lots of positive information. It can be any form of exercise, stretching, walking, etc that you enjoy! Along with many of the hormonal and stress management benefits, daily movement helps us to be present at work and at home when it counts.
- Limit processed sugar. The holidays bring plenty of tasty treats and desserts. This year look for sugar substitutes such as maple syrup or honey to sweeten your cravings rather than processed sugars. These sugars cause inflammation in the gut as well as in the brain and limit our ability to focus for long periods of time (example: see 10-year-old on sugar cookie)
- Get your spine checked by a neurological chiropractor. The spine protects and houses the spinal cord which is the major highway by which the brain communicates with the rest of the body. We know that a misalignment in the spine has a profound impact on the nervous system’s ability to transmit information. The chiropractic adjustment restores proper function to the spine, and more specifically, stimulates the prefrontal cortex in such a way that increases our ability to focus, rationalize our emotions, make critical decisions and coordinate complex movements. If you are looking for more presence, connection and a better quality of life in 2020, then it is a good idea to get checked by a neurologically-based chiropractor.