My blog this week is based on an article called ‘Dear Kids, Love From Your Brain.’ What All Kids Need to Know About the Brain by Karen Young.
This is the letter your brain would write to you.
I love being in your head because we’re going to be together forever, you and I, so here are some things you should know about me.
If you were to count them one by one, it would take around 3000 years. There are lots of different parts to me – a thinking part, a listening part, a memory part, a feelings part, and many more. Being able to do something well depends on the connections between neurons inside the different parts and between the different parts.
How? Every time you think, feel or do something, the messages travel along the neurons that are connected to that thought, feeling or action. This forms a pathway in the brain. Whenever you do that action, feel that feeling, or think that thought, the messages travel along the same pathway. Whenever you do something over and over, that pathway becomes stronger and stronger. The stronger the pathway, the stronger that part of your brain and the easier that behaviour, thought or feeling will be.
Here’s an example. When you first learn to ride a bike, you wobble and fall – a lot. That’s because the ‘riding a bike’ pathways in your brain aren’t very strong yet. The more you ride, the stronger the pathways get, so the easier the ‘this is how you ride a bike’ messages travel around to the parts they need to travel to.
This can also happen in ways that aren’t so great for you. If you keep doing something that’s bad for you, like yelling every time you get angry, the ‘I’m going to yell’ pathways in the brain will become very strong and will drive you to keep yelling.
During childhood and adolescence, your brain is designed to learn things well. There is only a limited amount of space up here in your skull, so to be the most effective, most powerful, best brain for you, I keep the pathways you use a lot, and fade the ones you don’t use as much.
This makes sure there’s enough space and brain energy to build the pathways that are important for you – which are the ones you use a lot.
Thoughts create pathways in your brain. These pathways will influence your feelings and behaviour. This is why it’s so important that your thoughts are positive and strong. When you think brave thoughts, ‘I can do that’, or ‘whatever happens I’ll be okay’, those thoughts form a pathway. The more you think those thoughts, the more real they’ll feel. Brave thoughts (‘I can do this’) lead to brave behaviour. Calm thoughts lead to calm behaviour. Anxious thoughts (‘what if something bad happens?’) lead to anxious behaviour. Remember, thoughts, feelings and behaviours don’t need to match. You can feel anxious and think brave, or feel anxious and do brave.
Once the message (the electrical impulse) gets to the end of the neuron, it has to jump to the next neuron. Neurons don’t touch – there’s a tiny space between them. The message jumps across the gap to the next neuron by chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Having the right balance of neurotransmitters is important because it can affect your mood, how well you sleep, how well you learn and remember, how stressed or anxious you feel, your motivation and much more.
There are three powerful ways to make sure your neurotransmitters are at healthy levels.
Eat plenty of healthy, nutritious food.
Being a brain is busy work, so you need to fuel me up with good brain food like salmon, tuna, eggs, blueberries, cabbage, avocado and soy.
Get your body moving.
I don’t have legs. So I need you to move. Exercise increases the neurotransmitters that help you feel happier, less stressed, less anxious, and the ones that help you focus, learn and remember, and think positive thoughts. Exercise is a brain booster. I love it.
Get plenty of peaceful zzz’s.
I do some of my best work while you’re sleeping. I help you deal with your emotional stuff, I help you understand what you’ve learned, and I strengthen your memories. It’s also when I can get creative because I’m not having to take care of other things that keep me busy when you’re awake.
Don’t worry if you make mistakes along the way because it’s how I learn, strengthen and keep you shining. You’re a magic maker, a king, a queen, a legend. There is so much ‘awesome’ in you. Be brave enough to believe it, and know that with time, effort and patience, you can get better at anything. We’re an amazing team you and I. I’ll write again soon.
Love from your brain.
We know that learning and our attitude, in general, owe a lot to the neural pathways that we create in our brains. We can focus on negative thoughts and these thoughts will continue to be reinforced, likewise, a positive focus will have the same effect only in reverse. The bible summarises this wisdom in the verse that we chose as our scriptural theme of 2018:
Mike Curtis, Principal