“If you want to thrive, focusing on brain health has to be a constant condition, not one you employ every now and then.”
I can tell my brain isn’t always as sharp as I need it to be. That can get frustrating so I am always on the lookout for ways to improve my brain’s functions. When my blogging friend Ruth Curran approached me to read her book, Being Brain Healthy, I readily agreed. I knew of Ruth’s work with her web site, Cranium Crunches, a brain training site where I’ve had fun playing their brain games. But I had no idea why Ruth was so focused on brain health until I read, Being Brain Healthy.
One day, Ruth had been working for a dynamic public relations agency. Her days were filled with meaningful work, responsibility, and pride. But her whole world shifted the day she left a grocery store parking lot and a woman in a minivan (with two children strapped in their car seats) ran a red light, slamming into the side of Ruth’s car. Ruth was pushed into oncoming traffic and experienced multiple impacts, causing what is known as a coup-countercoup injury. What that means, explains Ruth, is that “my brain played pinball in-side my skull as my head pivoted back and forth on my brain stem, banging into my skull—first the left side, then the right side, with equal force.” After the accident, Ruth seemed normal on the outside, but her brain functions were altered in a way that was hard to explain to people. She spent the next18 months “rebuilding a new personality and approach to life” that included rebuilding her cognitive reserve.
Ruth soon realized that her strategies could help not only those who suffered brain injuries (like her), but more importantly, to non-brain injured people too. After all, as Ruth points out, any change in the brain is a brain change. Whether it is a result of a blow to the head or conditions related to stress or even aging, everyone at one time or another in their life will face a change in brain function.
After detailing Ruth’s accident and explaining her road to recovery, Being Brain Healthy follows with chapters detailing how to be more effective with the brain functions of being Self-Aware, Active, Mentally Active, Social, Engaged and Purposeful. In each of these areas, Ruth backs up her personal experiences with solid research, which I found interesting and enlightening and not the least bit too techy. Ruth doesn’t just quote findings and statistics; she puts the academia in to every day context, so that it is easy to understand.
My favorite part in each chapter were the practical skills (Ruth calls them life swaps) that I could start right away putting in to practice. Some are as simple as standing up while you are talking on the telephone (active) to playing mind games and puzzles (mental) to being purposefully engaged in activities, focusing on how each of your five senses are reacting to that situation. I have started taking one idea from each chapter and applying them each day. I have already seen a difference in my mental acuity and am ready to add more!!
I also liked the tool kit Ruth recommends at the beginning of the book that everyone should have accessible for implementing the brain exercises. Most of what is in the kit are things I already had; I just needed to look at them in terms of a brain builder. Stuff like tennis shoes, puzzle books, a stop watch, reading material, and even laundry to fold!!
Ruth wasn’t planning on getting in an accident that day she left the market on her lunch hour. But it happened and it changed her life forever. Luckily for us, she has shared her experiences in overcoming her traumatic brain injury so that should we find ourselves in a similar situation, we have tools to overcome that type of personal setback. But even better is the understanding that one doesn’t have to experience a brain injury to benefit from the book. Ruth’s suggestions for improving brain health, applies to anyone interested in keeping and maintaining a healthy mind. And that would especially be me!!