On the popular television show, Songland, recording artist Will I Am chose a new song to record from a group of songwriters. The title–Be Nice. The lyrics are simple- Hey, be different, be nice. Just smile. I promise it will change your life. While these lyrics won’t go down as award winning, the sentiment is so […]
There are so many things happening that feel out of our control. We are fighting a virus we don’t really understand, the economy is struggling, our routines are no longer predicable, etc. Given all the problems we face today, there are things you can do to feel better. One area you can impact directly is brain health. And a healthy brain means a better life.
While you can’t do much about your genetics, you can make changes in your social, physical and environmental parts of your life. Consider changing these six things to build a better brain:
- Dietary changes. We know certain foods are better for our brains that others. If you want to slow down cognitive decline, make good food choices. What you put into your body affects how your brain functions. For example, you can fight inflammation (the root of so many physical problems) by eating foods like fish that are high on Omega 3 fats. Substitute olive oil for butter. Other foods that help cognitive functioning are blueberries, kale and spinach. Add more vegetables and fruits to fight age-related oxidated stress. This will help fight the wear and tear on your brain cells. The point is that changing your diet will build a better brain.
- Learn to manage stress. We can’t avoid situations that create stress, but we can learn to calm our bodies in response to stress. Unmanaged and chronic stress is terrible for the body. It shrinks the brain’s memory systems and activates hormones that add to memory issues. Stress is so powerful that it can rewire the brain in not so good ways. The antidote is to practice relaxation methods, mindfulness and meditation. Prayer is powerful in that it changes the brain in good ways. Find your own ways to calm down your body and you could add years to your life.
- Exercise at least 20 minutes a day. If you can get outside and experience nature, the benefit is even greater than indoor exercise. Exercise releases molecules in your body that stimulate brain repair. Your mood will improve but so will your brain tissue. Blood flow increases and you fight cholesterol build up. You simply think better when exercise is a daily part of your life.
- Challenge your mind. This actually provides more brain connections! Be a life long learner, engage in a mental task that is difficult. You are building brain power. The key is to stay engaged with new thoughts and learning. This is a protective factor against brain problems.
- Stay socially connected. Conversations and social interactions protect the brain because we are wired for this. A simple conversation activates your attention, memory, awareness, thinking and speech centers in the brain. All that activity is good for your brain. Furthermore, social connection reduces stress and calms the nervous system.
- Get good and restful sleep. Sleep reboots the brain It’s like sending your body to a repair shop. Sleep allows memory to be consolidated which is very important if you are a student or learner of any kind. Without good sleep, you won’t do as well on tests or exams.