5 Ways to Keep Your Brain Young
The state of the world in 2020 caused many to experience a dramatic shift in how they live their daily lives. Some experienced new work environments, new coworkers (AKA children), and more distractions which can be overwhelming at times.
When we become overwhelmed, many times the only thing we want is a break. Breaks are needed, yet be careful with them! When taking breaks, we can develop bad habits that are not good for our bodies or our brains. Beware of unproductive, binge-like behaviors, such as over-eating and drinking, marathon screen time, and lackadaisical or negative mindset.
There are some productive and refreshing ways to overcome those times we need a break and to also celebrate the end of your workday or week that are healthy for your body and brain. Check out these 5 tips from Harvard Medical School:
1. Get mental stimulation
Through research with mice and humans, scientists have found that brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells! This helps develop neurological "plasticity" and builds up a functional reserve that provides a hedge against future cell loss.
Any mentally-stimulating activity should help to build up your brain. Some great options are:
Taking courses that are interesting to you
Word or Jigsaw puzzles
Drawing, painting, coloring in coloring books, or other crafts
Wood-working, mechanics, hobbies, etc.
2. Get physical exercise
Research shows that exercising helps strengthen your muscles and also helps your mind. Exercising regularly increases the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the region of the brain that is responsible for thought. Exercise also spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells (synapses). It also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, helps balance blood sugar and reduces mental stress, all of which can help your brain as well as your heart.
3. Improve your diet
Good nutrition helps your mind and body. For example, people that eat a Mediterranean style diet which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils (olive oil) and plant-based proteins are less likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia. A consistent healthy routine with proper, balanced nutrition will keep the body and the brain sharp!
4. Care for your emotions
Good mental health and restful sleep are extremely important. People who struggle with anxiety, depression, sleep-deprivation, or exhaustion tend to score poorly on cognitive function tests. If these same results are transferred to the workplace, we can see how detrimental it could be to work results. It is also important to recognize when it is time to speak to a professional. When you find yourself or someone you care about in need of additional support, reach out to your General Practitioner or a Psychological Help Line and Resources, such as:
5. Build social networks
Strong social ties have been associated with a lower risk of depression, dementia, lower blood pressure, and longer life expectancy. We are social beings and meant to be in community with one another. It’s important to connect with others in a positive way and this can be done in the virtual world, as well as, in person. If you have a hobby, like gardening for instance, there are many social networks for gardening. Many faith-based organizations have Bible studies going throughout the year. Many gyms have fitness groups that meet around common goals. Communities have networking events for business leaders. The key is finding an area of interest and connecting positively with others.
Take those much-needed breaks! And choose to fill them with intentional activities that support brain health and contribute to your overall happiness and wellness.
Wishing your brain a productive and balanced week,