One of my main goals for this newsletter is to give you easy tools (or remind you of tools you learned but have forgotten) you can use every day to improve your brain health.

This month’s tool is about as easy as you can get. It is to breathe deeply.

Before I give you my favorite breathing exercise, I’ll explain why reducing stress is so important.

Our lives tend to be stressful, particularly at this time of year. While a certain amount of stress is useful, chronic stress is detrimental to our bodies and our brains. Among other things, stress decreases the length and number of dendrites in our brain. Dendrites facilitate communication between our neurons. Healthy, numerous, and long dendrites lead to clearer thinking. Stress also produces Cortisol. Cortisol has been associated with higher rates of Alzheimer’s. (Hmmm…that makes me question the wisdom of getting a Ph.D with all the accompanying chronic stress. Small wonder I’m into brain health!)

Anything we can do to reduce our stress is a very good thing! So here is my favorite way to reduce feelings of stress. If you have attended one of my brain health or stress reduction talks, you have likely done this.

• Breathe in for a count of 5. (While you breathe in, see if you can expand your ribs, abdomen, and back.)
• Hold your breath for a count of 5.
• Breathe out for a count of 5 (making a noise like “hah” seems to make this even more effective.)

Do that for as many times as you care to. I suggest at least 4 times. I find it particularly helpful to scan my body for where I hold my stress before and after this exercise; I get immediate feedback of how it has helped me.

So there is my brain health tip for this month. Breathe deeply and feel the stress release from your body. Know that with a simple one minute exercise you are helping your brain!

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