Exercising your 651st Muscle8th February 2020
Our muscles join certain parts of our bones to other bones and when flexed, it enables a specific motion that allows a desired movement to occur, performing useful function. For example, our biceps (together with other muscles) when flexed allows us to scratch our head. When we contract our orbicularis oculi (eyelid muscle), we close our eyes. If we want to build our strength, we train and repeatedly flex those muscles that we want to be stronger at. For example, a tennis player who desires to improve her forward serve would continuously build those relevant muscles that allow her to do so. After time, her forward serve would be (seemingly) effortless as those said muscles are now trained, used to the motion and are strong.
I remember when I had to rest my left leg after an operation for eight weeks, my calf and thigh muscles shrunk due to disuse. At that age, I have never seen or understood anything so profound before. It did not matter I had been using those muscles for 16 years before resting them for merely eight weeks, they simply went. I learnt that to keep a muscle going, you cannot just merely train it, you have to continuously use it.
There are 650 named muscles in our body, some we train actively and consciously (going to the gym doing reps), others not so much (like our masticatory muscles that allows us to eat!). Today, I am referring to the 651st muscle, the brain. Ok, technically, the brain is not a muscle but similarities exist. Please allow me to explain.
The brain is a very complex structure. It receives information from all parts of the body yet itself is not governed by a higher organ. It can sense and process pain from the body yet incapable of sensing pain itself. If you look at it, it does not appear to have any form of structure at all, just a solid mass of white-greyish matter. However, just like a muscle, it needs to be exercised. It is a powerful organ accounting for 20% of blood being pumped into it despite being only 2% of the body weight. Human are borne with an enormous brain in comparison to any other animals in the world, resulting in the difficult childbirth experienced by amazing women (thank you!). Having a large brain can be a blessing or a curse depending on how it is used.
If not used properly, the effects can be as benign as not fulfilling your full potential or as malignant as causing mental health. We have experienced times when we feel the world is raging against us and over time, we find that it is only us raging against ourselves.
Today, I would like to remind ourselves that like any muscle, we need and should be exercising our brain, our minds constructively. If left unchecked, it can have detrimental effects as discussed above. Thinking is the highest function of which a human being is capable. Yet, unfortunately, very few people “think”. They merely trick themselves into believing that because some mental activity is taking place in their mind, they are “thinking”. But the truth is, most people are simply exercising the mental faculty called “memory”. They are playing old movies, so old pictures just keep flashing back on the screen of their mind.
Just like a body builder approaches in a specific way to train his muscle, we have to do the same with our brain. We need to exercise our brain. Not only will it improve our consciousness and self-awareness, studies have shown that it can reduce certain conditions like senile dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, it may also allow us to achieve our goals and make our dreams come true. It really is that powerful. So powerful that it can make or break us.
You can’t become who you want to become because you are attached to who you have been.Back to Blog