Most of us are guilty of bad habits that can hurt the brain. We don’t sleep enough. We eat too much junk food. We don’t socialize enough. We watch too much TV. Especially when we’re caring for others, we tend to neglect what we need ourselves.
As we transition through the seasons of life, it’s important to remember that we have more power over how we age than we realize, especially when it comes to the health of our brain. Take charge of your future and start giving your mind the care it deserves.
Here are 5 tips you can begin right away to improve brain health:
1. Start Your Day Right
We need to set ourselves up for success from the moment we wake up, which means plenty of sleep and a nutritious breakfast.
Research by Johns Hopkins Medicine has proven that a healthy amount of sleep is vital for brain plasticity. Too little sleep leaves us unable to process what we will learn throughout the day and gives us trouble remembering it in the future.
Pair a good night’s sleep with a good breakfast. Skipping breakfast will likely lead to irritability and sluggish brain functioning. Start you days with these delicious, energy-boosting options: oatmeal, fruit and nuts, an egg sandwich, or a Greek yogurt parfait.
2. Move it
The Mayo Clinic suggests “at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.” It could be something as simple as walking at a brisk pace. Set a goal to exercise at least three days a week. Physical activity has been proven to increase problem-solving, improve memory, reduce anxiety and depression, and lead to better emotional balance.
3. Walk and Talk
Silence isn’t golden when it comes to brain health. Research shows that talking provides mental stimulation, which in turn helps sharpen your brain. Experts suggest pairing social activity with physical activity for an added boost.
“Take a brisk walk with a close friend and talk about your problems,” Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, told everydayhealth.com. “Movement is probably the most evidence-based way to actually stimulate that process of new brain-cell growth. Then there’s plenty of research around the value of connection. The opposite of that connection — loneliness — can be incredibly toxic, and that's measurable. More than just the connection is the depth of that connection.”
4. Play Brain Games
In the words of the fictional Game of Thrones character Tyrion Lannister, “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” In other words, you’ve got to use your brain if you want to keep it healthy! This means reading, learning, working creatively, engaging in thought-provoking discussions, and playing brain games to challenge yourself. Studies have proven that activities like crossword puzzles, word searches, brain teasers, sudoku and more can improve brain function as we age.
5. Go to the Light
Let the sunshine in! It will do you good. Not getting enough natural light can lead to depression. Researchers have concluded that dim lighting conditions cause significant reductions in a chemical that helps maintain healthy connections between brain cells. Conversely, sunlight can improve your brain health. So, get outside and soak in some rays!
It’s never too early or too late to take steps to improve our brain health – what will you do today?