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How the Magical Number 1008 Can Transform Your Brain

BetterYears.com
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Before debate competitions, 15-year-old high students school in Pakistan prepared in an unusual way . . . they practiced hours and hours of assertive body postures while presenting their arguments. After 6 preliminary rounds, 3 elimination rounds and the grand finale, Team Pakistan swept the field at the International High School Debating Championships. Practicing empowering body language led them to shine. On that subject, they all agreed.
 
To lock in a winning mindset over their rivals, the New Zealand men’s rugby team routinely performs a Maori war dance called the “Haka,” facing off their opponents with tribal taunting before game time.
 

 
Presidential candidates are drilled in body language to show strength and dominance, too, but also to convey warmth and trust. Explicit body language immediately empowers us, making us the person that we are in that moment. A “victory pose,” for example, delivers a universal message of strength and personal empowerment to ourselves and anyone around who sees it.
 
Imagine the effects of practicing a mindful, powerful body language for six weeks with a group set on one purpose. Thousands of Americans a year don’t have to imagine – they take intensive yoga teacher training courses and experience the difference. After hundreds of hours of moving and working with their bodies, they report feeling like a new person, physically and mentally.
 
Suggested Read: How Yoga Teacher Training Changed My Life
 
According to Yoga Alliance, the number of newly certified instructors and highly satisfied practitioners has been rising an average of 18% per year.
 

“You need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good.” – Malcolm Gladwell

 
Yes, you might need something like 10,000 hours of training to become a virtuoso violinist, professional athlete, or distinguished neurosurgeon, but a novice can rewrite their neural script and master new mindsets in just 1008 hours.
 
It’s no coincidence then, that immersion courses running the gamut from languages to tradecrafts to yoga teacher certification are scheduled for six weeks, or 1008 hours. Why? 1008 hours is the time it takes for newborn stem cells to venture out from their neural nursery in the hippocampus, become fully established, grow to maturity, and build lasting networks that extend throughout the nervous system.
 
figure-1-stem-cells
 
 

Not Rocket Science but Neuroscience

While believing it can make it so, what can be described as “feeling like a new person” comes directly from cellular changes in our neuroanatomy. Recently, neuroscience has been working late in the lab looking at what’s going on inside the brain during the learning process, taking micro-snapshots of stem cells as they are born and mature.
 
With sophisticated coaxing techniques in the laboratory, neural stem cells in a petri dish multiply, creating their own version of a nervous system, a cerebral “organoid.”
 
 
neurogenesis-figure
Fluorescence-enhanced electron microscopy shows that regular aerobic exercise like running increases birth and survival rate of stem cells in the hippocampus (yellow dots in micrograph “d”).
 
Strong beliefs and expectations coupled with aerobic exercise can generate baby booms of neural stem cells. More neural stem cells mean more neuronal products such as glutamate, dopamine, and serotonin which directly enhance attitude, mood, well-being, and immune response.
 
Intense physical activities like running, sex, yoga, maybe even base-jumping? and mental activities, an active social life, or community service – anything that boosts neurogenesis – also thwarts neurodegenerative diseases and depressive mood disorders.
 

 
As Dr. Andrew Weil said in his book Spontaneous Healing, “Among other things, neuroplasticity means that emotions such as happiness and compassion can be cultivated in much the same way that a person can learn through repetition to play golf and basketball or master a musical instrument, and that such practice changes the activity and physical aspects of specific brain areas.”
 
Six week of intensive thought, feeling, and effort sparks a baby boom of neural activity in the hippocampus, inventing a new you. With a demographic of revamped dendrites and new neurons in place, the mind/body builds greater awareness, more expansive thinking, and more ability to let go.
 
Aristotle had it right when he said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

 
If we become what we repeatedly do, applying this concept to neuroplasticity means we have the potential to cultivate the mind, thoughts, belief patterns, and ultimately, the reality that we want.
 
Our natural-born neural stem cells reflect the endless possibilities of our thinking. As we nurture these budding go-getters with practice, purpose, dreams, and drive they revitalize our thinking and empower us to live to our fullest potential.
 
Yes, we can change the underlying anatomy of our brain by changing what we do and the way we think.
 
Author: Burton Glenn is a former Biology and Chemistry Professor and current world traveler. He studies and writes about the effects of aging on the body and mind.

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A healthy brain is a happy mind™. BetterYears.com shares brain-health content and strategies for those interested in cognitive longevity.

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