Let’s kick off with a quote from my pal the gladiator, Roman Generalé, and lover of frozen yoghurt, Marcus Aurelius….
“While it’s true that someone (or ‘something’) can impede our actions,
they can’t impede our intentions and our attitudes,
which have the power of being conditional and adaptable.
For the mind adapts and converts any obstacle to its action into a means of achieving it.
That which is an impediment to action is turned to advance action.
The obstacle on the path becomes the way.”

– Marcus Aurelius 
I reckon...if there is a single skill that will get you though life above all others – more important than cleverness or passion or imagination – it is resilience.
Without it, even the most brilliant person can be crushed. And the key here is that no one can develop resilience in a vacuum. You have to fail in order to learn how to recover from failure
– REF: Natalie Haynes, 2015 part of the ‘introduction’ to Simone De Beauvoir’s book ‘The Second Sex’

There are present-moment obstacles AND there are obstacles that lurk in our past…that frustratingly still play a pivotal role in causing us to regularly trip-up in our here & now…
I think it’s fair to say that if you’re either hitting, or have past, your 30’s, 40’s etc, you start to realise, upon sober reflection, that you’ve both made, and been at the wrong end of varying degrees of misfortune, fuck ups, mistakes, wrong decisions, messy relationships, financial ruin, alcohol and drug dependency etc…aka obstacles.


– Richard Rorty (1931-2007)
I also reckon, that aside from the obstacles that are currently in our crosshairs, we also need to take a look in the rearview mirror of our life, and take a good long hard look at the crap from our past…the obstacles that (still) mess with our now. 
From my own experience, sobriety (because i Identified that insobriety was at the ‘core’ of all my ‘bad luck’) very kindly & but not-so-subtly alerted me to my past circumstances & behaviours where I found myself, for example, constantly running away from my problems…and calling it “a love for travel”, or, waking up in a foreign city, not knowing my arse from my elbow, or where I was, and wondering why I have the name “Juanita” tattooed on my pec. Not only that, but sobriety made me curiouser and curiouser as to why I was doing what i was doing, which enabled me to see things within myself that were not particularly either helpful or ‘attractive’ in the personality traits department; such as my Olympic gold medal winning capacity to self-victim blame, or my aptitude to get internally pissed-off towards other people’s behaviours…aka my emotional immaturity. Sobriety also allowed me identified my out of control spending habits and, at the time, my ballooning weight.

Now these “self-inflicted experiences & misdemeanours”, plus all the experiences that one ‘attempts to process’ as a child, can all kinda stick and really shape (and fuck-up) our emotional outlook & maturity, our self-awareness (or lack thereof in my case), self-confidence, behaviours, habits, compulsions, beliefs yada, yada, yada…this then provides the perfect platform from which our less-than-helpful internal narrative & yob-ego to yell and scream incendiary encouragement from the boondocks of our brain to do, say, and think, all the shit we shouldn’t…inflicting the most pain on ourselves first and foremost, and then onto our love-ones next.
Nothing new there right!?

Again from my own experience – what I continued to glean is that pretty much…no, all of my own addictions, compulsions, “bad luck” and associated shitty choices PLUS, and just as importantly, all my positive attributes such as my (now) glowing health, my blindingly funny sense of humour, my fearless lifelong, and unpaid, anti-Croc campaigning, my Samsonesque hairstyle (post Delilah...bitch), and my astonishingly robust constitution (thanks Mum❤️)…i really should be dead by now…all stem directly from whatever I absorbed (literally) and (mis)interpreted as kid…both positive and negative…for example: my Mum’s deliciously hot Lemon self-saucing pudding = good (massive understatement), or me thinking that drinking multiple double Negroni’s in my 20’s was a standard pre-load = bad (massive understatement) 

Could all the bad/undesirable/unproductive habits, behaviours and thinking in your life now, be a lasting trauma-hangover from repeated behaviours that you instigated in your late teens/early twenties?
Behaviours that are still front and centre, and causing conflict in your day-to-day now?
(I for one don’t think lemon self-saucing pudding caused much problem in my adult life)
Are unresolved “past-impediments” still impeding your ability to make the right choices for yourself now?
Are these out of sight obstacles from our past, part of, or wholly responsibility for our inability to identify, forgive and learn, so we’re better equipped to build resilience now, by observing and overcoming the obstacles in the here and now?
Again, I ain’t no shrink, so I don’t know…but, sobriety certainly created the perfect headspace and clarity for me to dramatically and *consistently improve ALL my lifestyle choices, which in turn, allowed me to start addressing the narrative in my head to create the desired presence of mind that I’m constantly and enthusiastically working on to achieve and improve.

[*consistency is the key here…sobriety, whether it’s in the form booze, drugs, anxiety, clutter, over-consumption, distraction, anger, over/under eating etc will always predetermine your performance outcomes,
or lack-thereof. We’ll quite happily lay the blame of our inconsistencies on being ‘tired’, too busy, no time, no energy, can’t be arsed…rather than address the habits that are kiboshing our efforts]
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still completely (& gratefully) bonkers…but at least now I feel I’m not only heading in the right direction, but don’t feel that ‘past-Luke’ is detrimentally impacting ‘present-Luke’…so that ‘MyFutureSelf-Luke’ looks trés optimistic, purposeful & realistic…with very-little-fucks-given thrown in for good measure. 
Responsibility is accepting everything in your life now.
Forgiveness is accepting everything that has gone in the past, and
Resilience is facing our fears, our life-challenges, both the unavoidable and the challenges ‘we choose’, as soberly, and as calmly as possible.

The Life Of Brain

Ok that’s enough self-indulgent, pseudo-philosophical & psychological whoo-har for one post, let’s talk pragmatics, let’s talk about the brain ‘proper’ and what we can do to foster the healthiest brain possible – because without a healthy ‘operating system’ we are, and to use exact scientific terminology…kinda faaaarq’d.
Obviously brain health is critical in our day to day, to best manage our decisions, choices, compulsive behaviours, ego etc etc, but brain ill-health, in terms of dementia related diseases, is at pandemic levels globally, and rising.

Firstly some sobering facts regarding brain disease (for the purpose of keeping this GIST as succinct as possible, I’ll not even touch on stat’s relating to depression, anxiety suicide etc)
There is a 1 in 3 chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.(US Research & Stat’s)
Dementia is the second leading cause of death of Australians.
In 2016 dementia became the leading cause of death of Australian women, surpassing heart disease.
Females account for 64.5% of all dementia related deaths
In 2020 there’s just under 500,000 Australians living with dementia. They forecast, without a medical breakthrough, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase to 600,000 by 2028 and over a million by 2050.
In 2020, it is estimated that almost 1.6 million people in Australia are involved in the care of someone living with dementia.
Dementia is estimated to costs Australia more that $15 billion
People with dementia account for 52% of all residents in residential aged care facilities
So, with these alarming figures fresh in our minds, what else can we /must we do to encourage and maintain our best brain-health possible. A brain, aside from being ‘healthy’,  that is reignited, that is keen to seek...a brain that actually wants to best for you, and will provide you the ‘driven-want’ plus the the necessary cognitive resilience to apply your tools (your bespoke philosophical approach) to pursue your ‘why’.

I’ll cut straight to the chase…in short…the solution may be (probably is) to raise your BDNF levels.
What the???

“BDNF is like Miracle-Gro for your brain.”
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a powerful little protein that stimulates your production of new brain cells and strengthens existing ones. More specifically, when you release BDNF, it flips the switch on a series of genes that grow brand new brain cells and pathways. High BDNF makes you learn faster, remember better, age slower, and rapidly rewire your brain.
BDNF also increases your brain’s plasticity. When your brain cells get damaged (think, double Negroni’s) or face a stressful situation, BDNF protects them and helps them come back stronger. Your neural pathways become more flexible instead of shutting down, which could explain why higher levels of BDNF are associated with warding off depression.
Having enough BDNF around can protect our brains from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease

Like lean muscle mass, testosterone levels, bone health, our capacity to tolerate BS etc BDNF levels naturally fall as we age.
And because we living longer these days (but not necessarily healthier), we need to take much better care of ourselves NOW to ensure the best possible brain-health outcomes as we age.

With a few well-placed daily habits, you can set your brain up to produce and release more BDNF all the time, literally turning old brains into new, keeping your brain resilient and priming it to grow stronger.

Exercise is the very best way to boost BDNF levels
Endurance exercise releases a protein called FNDC5 (fibronectin type III domain-containing protein 5.) FNDC5, in turn, increases BDNF by a whopping 200-300%. The increase is long-lived, too: men who cycled daily for 3 months nearly quadrupled their resting BDNF. Strength training increases BDNF, but only for a few minutes post-workout. Opt for moderately intense cardio, 
Not a fan of running?
Me neither… then swim, cycle, do fast-paced yoga, try Croc-hurling, or pick up a sport.
Whatever gets your heart rate going.
We must create a lifelong habit of exercise to keep our brains and hearts functioning optimally, no matter what age you are…period!

Alcohol‐induced cognitive deficits are associated with decreased circulating levels of the neurotrophin BDNF in humans and rats.
Chronic and consistent alcohol consumption is associated with neurocognitive and memory deficits, dramatically affecting plasticity and connectivity, with maximal expression as dementia. Neurotrophic factors may contribute to alcohol‐related cognitive decline.
Alcohol is a poison, a carcinogen, makes you say and do stupid shit, corrupts and distracts you from you and, to put it bluntly…ages you…rapidly…both internally and externally. So, if you’re still drinking too much, too regularly, then money spent on green smoothies, expensive Naturopathic remedies or slathering palmful amounts of La Mer Creme De La Mer (I’m such as metro-sexual) night and day aint going to do much except empty your wallet
Cut back…nuff said

Deep sleep. You release BDNF during the deeper stages of sleep. There are four sleep stages, and you cycle through them every 90 minutes or so. On average, you spend about a third to half the night in stages 3 and 4, the ones that give you deep, restorative sleep.
As with stress, sleep is critical for health.  As you might expect, BDNF is reduced with sleep deprivation.  If you struggle with getting at least 7 hours of sleep this study suggests that regular exercise can help to keep BDNF levels up even if your sleep is compromised.

Time Restricted Eating (TRE) or Intermitted Fasting (IF)
Interestingly, there is a growing body of data that time restricted feeding (TFE), or intermittent fastingmay also increase BDNF.  Intermittent fasting is merely the act of resting our guts periodically which then triggers a cascade of hormonal events in our bodies which boost our body’s repair mechanisms.

Intermittent fasting does not have to be hard. Studies show that even fasting as short as 12 hours can have a beneficial effect. To fast for 12 hours is really as simple as skipping that pre-bedtime snack and not eating again until breakfast the next day.  

Make yourself uncomfortable – exercise your brain 
As Jennifer Jones wrote for Success Magazine back in 2015, “Your brain needs novelty to grow. How do you know when you’re doing something that’s “new enough”? When it feels uncomfortable, awkward, weird, strange or it scares you. By doing things daily that are out of your comfort zone, you allow your brain to develop new branches on its neuron tree (also called dendritic pathways) instead of shriveling up into a sad dried out tree stump.”
Like everything else, the old adage “use it or lose it” also applies to the brain.

Reduce Stress
Managing stress is key to optimal health.  BDNF is no exception.  People who are under a lot of stress produce less BDNF.  
Stress is toxic to BDNF. No surprise, then, that meditation increases BDNF, specifically strengthening areas of the brain that correlate with pain tolerance, body awareness, meta-thinking (awareness of how you think), memory, emotional control, happiness, and attention. 
Start by meditating for 5 minutes every morning. Some days you may quiet your mind. Other days your thoughts may run rampant. Don’t get too attached to the results, either way. Consistency is more important than “getting it right.”
Unhinged stress levels is your segue to higher instances of alcohol abuse, unintelligent food choices, increase in compulsive behaviours and unrestrained emotional responses.

No idea if this works, but I reckon it does.
Especially at home, when no one is looking…the perfect time to ‘cut up the rug’, goof around and make yourself laugh.
Sunshine / Vitamin D
Sunlight. Simple sun exposure increases BDNF.
It also improves mood, increases vitamin D production, and actually decreases your risk of skin cancer, provided you don’t burn yourself
Get outside in direct sunlight for 10-20 minutes a day.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF, is a protein that, in humans, is encoded by the BDNF gene. BDNF is a member of the neurotrophin family of growth factors, which are related to the canonical nerve growth factor. Neurotrophic factors are found in the brain and the periphery.
Two words…Soft Fascination 

4 Things that block BDNF
Stress is one of the biggest BDNF inhibitors. You’re constantly bombarded with work, advertisements, information, pollution, artificial lighting, and all kinds of other stimuli that tax your biology. Make it a part of your day to manage your stress. 
Work daily on eliminating the distractions, such as time watching TV, or mindlessly scrolling through social media etc

Avoid highly refined carbohydrates/sugar, processed foods, HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) aka “unintelligent foods”
Just as exercise can raise BDNF levels, ‘dumb foods’ sugar, processed foods, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) all do the exact opposite.
Eating refined sugar, and fructose in particular directly curbs BDNF production in rats and links to cognitive decline in humans.
Note: Don’t be nob and completely restrict the foods you love, just keep that stuff to a minimum. And trust me, if your diet is ‘nutrient dense’ your cravings for sweet, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar) will be massively reduced. 

Social Isolation
Lack of meaningful mental stimulation leads to lower BDNF levels. Social isolation also contributes to depression, which decreases BDNF. Make it a point to spend time with friends regularly; the complex richness of social interaction challenges your brain and keeps it adaptable.

Smoking Crystal Meth
Don’t think I need to explain this one…

Some other “brain-health” supplementation suggestions…for you to do your own research on:

Fish Oil
Recent data have shown that a diet high in omega 3s can improve BDNF levels and boost brain function.  The best studied way to get more omega 3s is to include oily fish in your diet such as wild Alaskan salmon.

While there are certainly non-fish forms of omega 3s, like those found in walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, etc., these have not been studied as well and may not be as critical as the DHA and EPA forms of omega 3s found in oily fish.

Fish oil supplements can certainly boost omega 3 levels in the body.  However, omega 3s, in the form of fish oil supplements, can easily go rancid, they may increase the risk of prostate cancer, and they may even accelerate heart disease and dementia. If you’re going to supplement, buy the good stuff such Bioceuticals UltraClean EPA/DHA Plus

ALSO check out…
& curry

Rhodiola Rosea   
Spirulina which translates to ‘tastes like arse’ in Greek
BDNF is super-critical for a health heart too
BDNF is a key regulator of our lifespan 
Clearly we want as much BDNF as possible!

Please do not self diagnose, use Dr Google or self-treat based on anything that you have read in this GIST article.  
Also, if you are considering changing your exercise program or diet, please discuss this with your doctor, specialist or ouija-board first.