Many of us probably don’t think about our brain health too often. Before we were born, our brains were in control. Every single thought, every movement, every word spoken, etc. is channeled through the brain. They are our powerhouses, centers to our beings.
Have you ever thought about times when you felt exhausted, unable to fall asleep at night? Thoughts running through your head, mind still wide awake? It’s our brains we need to calm down, not necessarily our bodies. When we can bring relaxation to the mind, our body will feel at peace and safe in finding rest. In order to provide a healthy environment for our brains to relax, the number one thing we can do is reduce stress and eliminate anything in our life that may be causing unnecessary stressors. Additionally, there are several other ways we can keep our brains active and healthy throughout life, especially as we age.
What can we do to keep our brains healthy?
- Learn a New Game
- Maybe that means pulling out a deck of cards and learning how to play something simple like Crazy 8’s or Solitaire. Try learning how to do Sudoku puzzles or crosswords. Don’t worry about finishing the whole puzzle at first, but challenge yourself and work up to completing one as a personal goal. If we don’t exercise our brain, very similar to muscles, we lose it. I don’t think any of us are looking to lose any brain cells! I bet you didn’t think playing scrabble with your niece or nephew was giving your mind a workout, did you? How easy to make mental stretching so fun!
- Read Books… Often
- This keeps our minds engaged and is a form of exercise for the brain. It doesn’t matter what genre, just find one you genuinely enjoy. Forced reading is hardly tolerable! Maybe it means picking up a magazine or staying up to date on news articles. Any form of reading is a wonderful form of mental exercise!
- Include Physical Exercise
- Studies have proven that exercise helps reduce anxiety by increasing the serotonin production, flooding the brain with happiness, promoting a healthy mood. This chemical acts as a neurotransmitter and natural remedy for depression. The brain has many serotonin receptors throughout, working to send messages via neurotransmitters. In addition to boosting mood, serotonin affects metabolism, memory, and digestion, all very critical processes of the body. Beyond the importance of the affect exercise has on serotonin production, it’s been shown to lower the risk for developing most diseases, especially Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Exercise further improves blood flow, memory and increases the ability to learn and think. One’s choice of exercise will vary from person to person, from swimming laps in the pool, to training for marathons or going for afternoon walks. The goal is to keep the body active and moving!
- Spend Time with Others
- It’s healthy to be around others. We are humans and need connection. Our greatest achievements are those that allow us to give back to others or help with a task someone else may need. Staying connected to others protects against memory decline, as research has shown. As we age it’s important to remember to join groups or community organizations. There are plenty of places we can use our hands to volunteer! For some, this may not be feasible. That’s quite alright, call up an old friend, reminisce with a sibling over childhood memories, etc. No matter what, stay connected!
- Eat Well
- When making healthy and smart food choices, most of us partake in this as a contribution to our physiques, hoping to maintain a healthy body or even slim down. As we age, it’s important to help our brains handle stress from lifestyle and environmental factors which could lead to decreased brain functions. This is known as oxidation. If we elect antioxidant rich foods, we can help our bodies ward off negative effects. What if in addition to choosing foods for our physiques, we also chose foods that were brain superfoods? Brain superfoods? Yes. This includes: almonds, avocados, broccoli, leafy, green veggies, salmon, walnuts and spices such as turmeric and rosemary. Incorporating a few of these each day, while eliminating any processed, GMO, inflammation inducing foods will provide many benefits you may not feel right away, but overtime you’ll start to see the wonders their working!
- Sleep & Relaxation
- We need sleep for many reasons and getting enough sleep each night is something majority of us could improve upon. If you’re able to get anywhere from 7-9 hours, you’re awesome! However, many of us fall short, sleeping only 5-6 hours a night. Another biggie is consistency. Maybe you sleep 4 hours one night, 7 the next, 3 the following, 10 the next, etc. Stress keeps us awake, kids can’t sleep, your business is making some pivots that leave you feeling anxious. A lack of sleep prevents the brain from maintaining a healthy environment and detoxing of any unnecessary chemicals.
- Following a consistent schedule will allow your brain to relax more easily, providing you with more energy and allowing for its ability to boost immunity. Start with turning off your devices earlier in the evening and heading to bed the same time each night. Eventually, aim to wake up at the same time each day. Consistency is key.
- Reduce Screen Time
- Staying engaged with our devices throughout the day has become a huge part of our lifestyles. Almost everyone has a phone and not just a phone, a smart phone, allowing us to check in on emails 24/7, being notified when a news article is relevant, etc. The amount of things we can check on while using our phones is close to endless. But what we really need is to cut back. Eliminate the time we spend scrolling, break the addiction to having it on us all the time. It serves as a distraction and keeps the brain distracted too, ultimately leading to a negative, unhealthy cycle.