Friday, December 01, 2006


This morning at the cafe, I sipped my espresso and watched a couple looking over the travel section of the Chronicle together. They looked to be in their early 60s. He said to her, "I think we should branch out. Do different things." She nodded, looking at him over her reading glasses.

Branch out -- a literal description of dendrite growth! Today I offer an exercise from my book, "Little Shifts." It's in the chapter "Tending What Matters: Your Limitless Brain."


Take a moment to relax. Breathe, stretch, and settle in your chair. Now, imagine the neurons in your brain stretching to meet each other. A brain neuron looks a lot like a tree, with lots of wavy branches at the top and many wiggly roots at the bottom of a long stem. Our cells mimic a healthy, growing plant in their appearance. Imagine your neurons lengthening, reaching for connections in response to the electrical impulse of your thoughts. Your new thoughts -- your struggle to understand a new language or a new friend -- these provide an actual physical inspiration, a mandate to your brain cells, to strengthen, multiply and diversify. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Do the thing you cannot do." This is exactly what builds neuron connections.

Be lively,

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