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Wellness Hub


4 Principles to changing your brain

It is a commonly held belief that once we reach adulthood our brains are ‘hard-wired’ and incapable of dramatic change. However, research in recent years has led neuroscientists to believe that our brains are in fact much more malleable, flexible and able to shift physically and psychologically than we first thought.

Throughout our childhood and teenage years, our brains grow and change naturally, undergoing drastic changes. Once we reach adulthood at around 25 our brain stops naturally forming new neural pathways and our habits, biases and attitudes become more set in stone and much harder to change.

Nevertheless, it isn’t impossible to train our brains to changing later in life and throughout adulthood. There are some practical ways you can incorporate new habits into your daily routine, which will help keep your brain flexible beyond your youth and throughout your life.

1. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change itself constantly by creating new neural pathways and losing those which are no longer used. Encouraging the brain’s neuroplasticity is the key to sustained adult learning and emotional intelligence, which will help the brain remain open-minded, intuitive and able to overcome biases throughout adulthood.

Unfortunately, keeping your brain plastic and flexible isn’t as easy as simply doing a daily sudoku or crossword. For the brain to rewire itself it requires sustained practice of a new behavior which will sufficiently challenge the brain to think in a new way. Imagine how difficult it is to learn a new language or take up a new instrument – this is how hard your brain needs to work to stimulate growth and forge new neural pathways.

2. Brain agility

Reframing your current approach to situations and developing the brain functions which you currently underutilize can help maximize the brain’s performance across diverse and unfamiliar tasks.

Most people are wired to avoid losses over acquiring gains, for example, most people would prefer not to lose $50 than to find $50. However, putting your brain outside its comfort zone and developing the skills you know you struggle with can help the brain become more flexible and resilient to switching tasks and focus.

We have all developed particular skills based on the everyday demands placed on our brains at work and at home, however with the world of work constantly changing our brains will need to continually renew our skills and be adaptable to new situations and ways of thinking.

Developing an agile brain could be more important than you think - as we see automation replace more jobs associated with systematic thinking, as individuals and collectively more of us will need to hone their abilities to think creatively, intuitively and empathetically in order to thrive in a changing jobs markets.

3. Mindset mastery

Recent theory developed by Stanford professor Carol Dweck has suggested that most people’s brains can be described as having a fixed or a growth mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset avoids new challenges out of fear of failure, whilst someone with a growth mindset sees new everyday problems as opportunities to be seized and embraced as part of a wider learning experience. Those with a fixed mindset claim that skills and abilities are innate, however Dweck argues that most successful people tend to have a growth mindset and an ongoing desire to learn and develop personally throughout their life.

As we get older it can seem harder and more fruitless to try new things we believe we will not be successful at, however by becoming aware of our resistance to change it is possible train ourselves to overcome this resistance and expose ourselves to new activities.

Instead of avoiding taking up a new hobby or interest you have always been interested in for fear of failure, put yourself out of your comfort zone and give it a go. You will be surprised at how you will develop new ways of thinking through trial and error and how this will improve your resilience and flexibility.

4. Simplicity

Pressing the pause button on our hectic daily lives and helping simplify our brain’s work can have a surprising impact on its ability to grow and change.

Focusing all of our attention on the present moment and our own breathing in the act of mindfulness can have both long and short term physical benefits on the brain. Short term it will decrease our stress by reducing our levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood.

Longer term, if it is practiced regularly (around three times a week), it will lead to increased gyrification – the formation of more folds in the prefrontal cortex. This is important because the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain associated with our higher executive functions, namely our abilities to think flexibly and creatively, switch between tasks and make reasonable decisions. Try and work some type of mindfulness into your daily routine, whether by using an app such as Headspace or doing some yoga before bed.

Better understanding how your brain works can help you realize the importance of keeping your brain flexible throughout your life. Constantly changing how you think and approach situations might not seem natural, but working on our ability to stay emotionally intelligent, intuitive and flexible will benefit us as we grow older.


What are the sleep cycles

There are two basic types of sleep:  rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep (which has three different stages).  Each is linked to specific brain waves and neuronal activity.  You cycle through all stages of non-REM and REM sleep several times during a typical night, with increasingly longer, deeper REM periods occurring toward morning. 

Stage 1 non-REM sleep is the changeover from wakefulness to sleep.  During this short period (lasting several minutes) of relatively light sleep, your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow, and your muscles relax with occasional twitches.  Your brain waves begin to slow from their daytime wakefulness patterns. 

Stage 2 non-REM sleep is a period of light sleep before you enter deeper sleep.  Your heartbeat and breathing slow, and muscles relax even further.  Your body temperature drops and eye movements stop.  Brain wave activity slows but is marked by brief bursts of electrical activity.  You spend more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep than in other sleep stages.

Stage 3 non-REM sleep is the period of deep sleep that you need to feel refreshed in the morning.  It occurs in longer periods during the first half of the night.  Your heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels during sleep.  Your muscles are relaxed and it may be difficult to awaken you.  Brain waves become even slower. 

REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep.  Your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids.  Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness.  Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels.  Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep, although some can also occur in non-REM sleep.  Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dreams.  As you age, you sleep less of your time in REM sleep.  Memory consolidation most likely requires both non-REM and REM sleep.

Saving plastic when shopping

Tips to reduce single-use plastic:

  • BRING YOUR OWN BAG:  Australian’s use more than 10 million plastic shopping bags a day. Yes that’s right – 10 MILLION A DAY. Get yourself a couple of good cloth bags and leave them in the car or your bag so you’ll always have them on hand.
  • DON’T BUY BOTTLED WATER: You don’t need it. A good quality reusable bottle that you can fill with tap water or filtered water is much kinder to the environment and your wallet. Check out our awesome stainless steel water bottles.
  • USE REUSABLE PRODUCE BAGS:  Avoid fruit and vegetables wrapped in plastic and take your own reusable produce bags. A single plastic produce bag can take more than 1000 years to degrade.
  • TAKE A KEEP CUP: Take away coffee cups are lined with plastic and often can’t be recycled. Take your own coffee cup or have a sit-down coffee using the cafe’s mugs.
  • PACK A PLASTIC FREE LUNCHBOX: It’s estimated the average Australian school lunchbox generates 30 kilos of rubbish a year – much of it plastic. A good sturdy lunchbox with separate compartments, like the Planetbox, sold in our stores, allows you to pack food straight into separate compartments, eliminating the need for plastic wrap. Another tip is to avoid plastic-wrapped processed snack foods like biscuits and muesli bars and make a big batch at home instead. It’s cheaper and healthier.
  • GET RID OF PLASTIC FOOD WRAP: A good set of glass or stainless steel containers will pretty much eliminate any need for plastic food wrap. Reusable beeswax wraps are another great alternative to plastic.
  • REUSE AND REFILL: Instead of buying a whole new container of shampoo, body wash, or kitchen spray, take your old plastic bottle for a refill. At The Source Bulk Foods, we offer refills on all of these products.
  • SAY NO TO STRAWS: They’re totally unnecessary. If you really want one, buy a reusable straw. Plastic cutlery is another single-use plastic item you can avoid. Keep some reusable cutlery in your bag or glovebox.
Benefits of exercising outdoors

You know that exercise provides many mental and physical health benefits. What if a simple change in location could exponentially increase those benefits?

Turns out, it can.

Outdoor exercise, also known as “green exercise,” combines two health-enhancing activities: moving your body and getting outdoors. And the results are exceptional. If you’re looking to enhance your mood, save money and avoid the time and trouble of getting to the gym, look no further than the great outdoors.

Here are five benefits of getting your sweat on with Mother Nature.

1. Improved Mood and Reduced Depression

Outdoor exercise provides a mental health boost beyond that of indoor gyms. Moving outdoors has been shown to reduce anger and depression and improve mood (Barton and Pretty, 2010). Exposure to sunlight enhances vitamin D production, which may be partially responsible for this mood-enhancing effect (Kerr et al., 2015). You don’t have to run a marathon or crush an outdoor boot camp to reap the benefit. Even low-intensity activities, like walking or gardening, will do. For a quick afternoon pick-me-up, head outside for a 15-minute walk break, and return to work feeling energized.

2. Enhanced Self-esteem

Research shows that as little as five minutes of outdoor exercise can improve self-esteem (Barton and Pretty, 2010). Any outdoor location will do, but being near greenery or water enhances this effect. Interestingly, low- to moderate-intensity physical activity shows greater improvements in self-esteem than high-intensity outdoor exercise. Activities shown to improve self-esteem include walking, cycling, horseback riding, fishing and gardening. A regular dose of outdoor activity can help boost the already powerful esteem-enhancing effect of exercise.

3. Low Cost

People often cite cost as one of the biggest factors prohibiting regular exercise. The outdoor environment provides a low-cost solution for exercise enthusiasts and trainers alike. While high gym or studio prices can act as a barrier to exercise, outdoor venues such as low-traffic neighborhood streets and local parks offer free space for physical activity. Trainers can benefit from these spaces as well. A local permit and small fee is often all that’s needed to hold training sessions in public use areas, resulting in reduced overhead and increased earnings.

4. Ease of Access

Lack of time is another common barrier to exercise. Navigating traffic, parking garages and crowded locker rooms adds additional time needed to be active. Taking advantage of the great outdoors can reduce these time constraints. Local hills, tracks and neighborhood streets provide ideal walking, running and cycling settings, while nearby parks offer ideal venues for resistance training, boot camps and yoga classes. Many outdoor areas include benches, trees, inclined roads and even designated exercise equipment, allowing for a variety of resistance-training exercises.

5. Connecting With Mother Nature

One of the greatest benefits of outdoor exercise lies in its inherent opportunity to connect with Mother Nature and the people and places in your community. Finish your bike ride at a local coffee shop, wave hello to your neighbors as you jog the streets, or set up a weekly walking group with friends and neighbors. Exercising outdoors can help you feel grounded, deepen your connection to your environment and enhance your appreciation for the beauty around you.

Outdoor Exercise Precautions

Not all outdoor spaces are suitable for exercise. Traffic, weather conditions and safety are all things to consider before heading outdoors. Carefully assess your outdoor space to find a setting that is safe and meets your exercise needs. Depending on the conditions, sunscreen, a hat, warm clothes or protective rain gear may be necessary.

Get Out and Go!

Don’t let the prospect of outdoor activity scare you. If you’re new to exercise or just getting back into it, start with short exercise sessions and lighter intensity. Even five minutes will do. Whether it’s completing a circuit workout at your local park, mountain biking through nearby trails, or walking your kids to the bus, any movement counts. All you have to do it get out and go!

Better time management tips

Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

1. Create a Daily Plan

Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

3. Use a Calendar

Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track  opens in a new window.

Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

4. Use an Organizer

An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.


5. Know Your Deadlines

When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

6. Learn to Say “No”

Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

7. Target to Be Early

When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

8. Focus

Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

9. Block out Distractions

What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.


Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

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