Fitness and the Effects on Your Brain

I really enjoy the website and the various “Ted Talks” that are available. TED is a fantastic collection of speakers and presentations that cover a wide variety of topics. One of my favorite videos from recent months comes from neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki.

Suzuki is a Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at New York University. Her major research focuses on brain plasticity and the ability to form and retain memories. In recent years, she has focused on the many benefits of aerobic exercise on the brain. Her TED talk is appropriately entitled ‘The Brain Changing Benefits of Exercise.” (link at the end of the article)

I was particularly interested by this lecture, since I have found exercise absolutely essential to my well-being. Like Dr. Suzuki discusses in her lecture, the mental benefits are as powerful as the physical ones. Many of us who have been regular participants in physical activity can attest to that feeling.

Fitness Benefits To Our Body and Mind

Exercise is wonderful in that it provides both short-term and long-term benefits to our body. Dr. Suzuki mentions that fact right in her introduction. She begins by saying “What if I told you there was something that you can do right now that would have an immediate, positive benefit for your brain including your mood and your focus? And what if I told you that same thing could actually last a long time and protect your brain from different conditions like depression, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Would you do it? Yes!”

Anyone who works in the fitness industry can relate to those comments. Science is discovering more and more ways that exercise benefits all of us.  The other thing I like about Dr. Suzuki’s lecture is she talks about her own self-discovery in this area. She had reached a point where she was overweight and out of shape. When she decided to make meaningful changes, she noticed the amazing effect the exercise had on her body and mind.

Taking Control of Your Money

I thought about this lecture and how it relates to financial matters. As a financial planner, the goal is always to help people make a positive transformation. It means taking real-world problems that people face and providing solutions.  I have discovered through my studies and my work that planning provides emotional benefits just as much as it does financial ones.

I discuss it regularly, but emotion fuels our attitude and relationship with money. For the vast majority of people, it goes far beyond a simple transaction. Our attitudes toward money have been shaped and formed since we were young. Therefore, much of the financial planning process involves a close examination on how we view money matters.

Emotion and Financial Decisions

We are faced with these emotional decisions every day. Let’s use some everyday examples. You know that the budget is tight this month, but you just cannot resist that daily latte from your favorite coffee shop. The facts tell you that you are better off drinking the mud at the office, but emotion tells you that you deserve a treat.

It’s time to replace the old car you have been driving. The numbers tell you that you are much better off getting a modest vehicle, but powerful emotions are drawing you toward the luxury sedan. If you quit saving for retirement for a few months, you can even afford the most expensive car. Which one will win out in the end – the numbers or the emotion?

Emotion ends up being the reason most of us have slip-ups and misbehave with money. That doesn’t mean we want to eliminate emotion from our personal financial management. First off, that is impossible. We are emotional beings. Second, emotion fuels our attitude and our dreams. Those are powerful tools in helping all of us imagine the life we want to life. Finally, if we life our lives simply based on the numbers and try to ignore our emotions, it can lead to a great deal of regret.

Finding a Balance

Ultimately, it is all about finding a balance. Exercise and physical activity involves the same type of balancing act. If we do too little, we do not get the benefit we are looking for. If we do too much, we end up mentally and physically exhausted, thus defeating the beneficial aspects. We want to manage our money in a way that provides emotional benefits, yet protects our financial well-being and our bottom line.

Even if we’ve been relatively successful managing money, there are positive changes that can be made. All of us have personal blind spots when it comes to our personal finances. Some people struggle with building accountability and tracking spending habits. Perhaps you need to reframe your view toward risk and investing. Many of us have behaviors and beliefs that need to be challenged.

I have found that once people decide to change their relationship with money, it brings emotional benefits. It is very stressful on people when they struggle with money matters.  Many people tend to worry about present and future financial issues. It is hard for people to imagine future financial independence while struggling to make ends meet in the present.

Invest In Your Well-Being

Just like exercise, I feel that good financial planning is an investment in your own well-being. Good planning involves setting clear financial goals that address the present and the future. It provides an avenue of self-examination and building awareness on old habits you want to change. Taking control over your money ultimately helps you get a clear vision on what you want out of your life.

I have seen the powerful effect of transformation and its effect on people. I have worked with individuals who have made amazing changes in their attitude toward physical and financial fitness. Whether it was losing a significant amount of weight or eliminating thousands of dollars of debt, they discovered abilities they never knew they had. The emotional benefits they experienced are hard to quantify.

 Master or Servant?

Science has proven that exercise contributes to our well-being. I can attest to the wonderful benefits physical fitness has provided to me. Taking an active interest in our physical health and building good training routines is one of the best investments we can make in ourselves.

Your money works the same way! Take an active interest in managing your money and clarifying your financial goals. I help people do this every day and it is powerful to see people change their relationship with money. I always like using the master and servant analogy. Money is a great servant and a very cruel master. My goal is to help people maintain their status as the master.  When you maintain control in the relationship, it is a very satisfying feeling.


Wendy Suzuki – The Brain Changing Benefits of Exercise

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