We all want to live long, productive lives but sometimes we get so wrapped up in everyday life that we put our health on the back burner. Here are some ideas to help you to move it to the forefront of your mind and make some concerted effort to make healthy lifestyle changes.
A healthy brain will make good decisions which lead to having a healthy body. Here are 20 things you can add into your everyday life to improve your brain health. Aim to do at least one a day. Don’t make it complicated; all it entails is making time for yourself to do something enjoyable.
- Learn something new. Your brain was meant to learn new things and challenging your brain makes it grow. So start those piano lessons you always wanted as a child or learn a foreign language (or any other challenge that excites you).
- Get out of your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is a safe place that allows your brain to produce dopamine, which makes you feel happy. To keep your brain growing, you need to take on new activities and do something that makes you nervous. You’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment and a you’ll get a boost of self-esteem when you complete that new task.
- Meditate. Silencing your brain regularly allows grey matter to increase in the regions of the brain that control memory, focused attention, and deep thought. This same meditation also quiets the parts of the brain associated with depression, anxiety, and anger.
- Read daily. Different parts of your brain work together to decipher the text and this process heightens brain connectivity. You also improve your focus and concentration as well as spark your imagination.
- Sleep more. The brain needs sleep to consolidate learning and memory. Sleep also boosts productivity and improves concentration.
- Exercise daily. Exercising every day increases the blood flow to the brain, which increases brain cell production. Intense exercising, such as running, produces more dopamine, which has an affect similar to that of antidepressants. Amazingly, the brain can make new neural pathways and connections, and exercise helps that process.
- Eat whole foods. With the onslaught of GMOs, preservatives, and pesticide use, finding organic whole foods and ditching the packaged foods will do wonders for improving your brain function. Lowering your intake of processed carbs will also help alleviate “brain fog.”
- Foster your relationships with family and friends. Loneliness is a real problem, especially among older adults whose children have moved out of their home. Elderly patients in nursing homes also experience some depression and anxiety if they don’t see regular visitors. Socialise in person when possible or spend at least 10 minutes a day in conversation to alleviate that lonely feeling.
- Journalling. Keeping a journal teaches you how to prioritise your tasks and clarify your thinking and it also relieves anxiety. Judy Willis MD, a neurologist, and former classroom teacher explains, “The practice of writing can enhance the brain’s intake, processing, retaining, and retrieving of information… it promotes the brain’s attentive focus … boosts long-term memory, illuminates patterns, gives the brain time for reflection and, when well-guided, is a source of conceptual development and stimulus of the brain’s highest cognition.”
- Unplug from electronics. Hard to do in this technological world but silence is a good way to refocus your brain to live in the moment. Blue light that emanates from these devices also adversely affects the quality of your sleep.
- Eliminate sugar from your diet. Experts say sugar has the same level of addictive qualities as heroin. High sugar levels consumed daily adversely affect your blood sugar, insulin resistance, and the production of neurons in the brain.
- Enjoy nature. Escape the big city or your stressful job and head towards a park, walking trail, or lake to reconnect with nature. If weather permits, take your shoes off and put your feet directly on the earth to feel grounded. Many people say this helps melt away their stress, along with taking deep breaths of fresh air.
- Go on an adventure. Turn off the GPS and drive on new-to-you roads. Explore the countryside, visit quaint antique shops, grab lunch at a hole-in-the-wall café. Getting out of your comfort zone helps your brain grow and you’ll exercise your brain by relying on your sense of direction instead of GPS.
- Find joy. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, so often we lose track of our joyous moments or those hobbies or activities that bring us comfort and joy. It’s time to disconnect from our work and find time to relax and find joy once again. Revisit an old hobby, join a local sports club, or become a member of a charitable organisation.
- Reconnect with your faith. Believing in a higher power can help alleviate anxiety attacks, help you achieve an optimistic outlook on life, and help you cope with medical problems more calmly. Socialising with others in your religious community also fosters a sense of belonging and combats loneliness.
- Play mind games. Sudoku, crossword puzzles, logic puzzles, and jumble puzzles all help work the brain to keep it sharp. Even doing simple maths problems in your head helps improve cognitive function.
- Listen to white noise. If you need help relaxing more or getting better sleep, try using a white noise machine. White noise blocks out background noise, helps you to de-stress, and helps you reach deeper meditation and sleep levels. The better your meditation and sleep, the more rested you’ll feel, ready to face your day with full energy.
- Use time blocking or the Pomodoro method at work. These simple time management tools allow your brain to focus strictly on one task at a time. Multi-tasking only slows down your productivity, so set aside a block of time and use a kitchen timer to focus on one client or on a single task. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can finish those tasks simply because you’re concentrating more deeply.
- Play strategic board games. Chess, checkers, and Monopoly aren’t just for kids. Strategic board games help your brain fight cognitive decline and improve memory formation. When your brain is engaged, it’s strong and powerful. This power makes it more difficult to succumb to mental diseases.
- Don’t let your age hinder your activities. You’re never too old to try new things. Josefina Monasterio was 59 when she started body building. Now she’s in her 70s and has won hundreds of competition trophies. President George H.W. Bush went skydiving on his 90th birthday. Renowned chef Julia Child was 49 when her first cookbook was published and 51 when her first television show debuted. No dream is too silly or out of reach at any age.
Now, grab a notebook and start brainstorming a list of all the things you’re going to do and that you’d love to try. Let your creativity go wild. No idea is too silly or outrageous. When your list is complete, decide which of the things to tackle first and go for it!