Your Healthy Brain and How to Protect It
Your brain is an ever-moving part of your body. Right now, your brain is working just to read this. Your brain has been working, growing, and changing ever since you were born. It’s a common belief reinforced by ageist stereotypes that your brain function declines at a certain age. People think that as we age our brain naturally begins to deteriorate. And while you might start to forget the password to your email account sometimes, or maybe forget where you left the car keys, it’s hardly a real cause for concern. You probably forgot these things when you were 25 as well, but because of the way we think about aging it becomes an issue as you get older. Memory loss is not an inevitable part of aging.
Your brain is fully developed around age 25. After that, your cognitive ability doesn’t change very much. You’re just as smart now, with the added bonus of years of experiences and stories to tell. So don’t listen to the myth, your brain is capable of knowledge and wisdom, you just need to know how to protect it. We are always producing new brain cells and by challenging your mind you can maintain and increase sharpness. Brain protection starts with a well-balanced diet, exercising both your body and your mind, and time spent socializing and engaging in things that you love.
Food for Thought: A Healthy Lifestyle Drives a Healthy Mind
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the first step you can take towards a healthy mind. Food fuels your mind much like it fuels your body and there are certain foods you can eat that are good for your brain in particular.
One diet that has been found to be particularly good for your brain is the MIND diet. Good name, right? The MIND diet was specifically developed to prevent dementia and a loss of brain function and it doesn’t lay out an exact meal plan or how much of each food you should eat. A wholesome diet is most important, so try to incorporate different pieces of the diet whenever you can.
Fruits and vegetables are a good place to start. Any vegetable is good for you, but leafy green vegetables are particularly good for the mind, think kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower For fruit, keep an eye out for blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. These berries are full of antioxidants. In combination with the vegetables, your brain will be full of memory-boosting vitamins and nutrients.
Food like salmon, sardines, and walnuts are great for the mind as they are high in omega-3 fatty acids. If you prefer meat, stick to poultry. Add in beans for protein, and olive oil and whole grains are also recommended.
Click here to find more details about the MIND diet, including a sample meal plan to give you an idea of different ways to incorporate the MIND food into your regular diet.
Brain Games to Boost Cognitive Function
Have you ever seen an advertisement for a ‘brain game’ and thought it was silly? How can an online computer game help make your brain function more effectively? The advertisements don’t lie! Some of these brain games can really be useful in building up mental health. Mentally challenging activities give your brain a really good workout, they improve your memory over time, and teach your brain how to be adaptable. The great thing about mentally challenging pastimes is that they can include activities you already really enjoy, and you can do them with other people, and socializing is also really good for the brain.
If you aren’t interested in the games online, there are plenty of things you can do outside of the internet. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, cards, reading books or magazines are all ways you can keep your mind sharp. Activities that include manual dexterity, such as drawing, painting, pottery, quilting, or sewing, are also really good for coordinating the mind and the body.
You can also pick up a pencil and paper (or maybe a computer) and start to write. I’m sure you have things to share and stories to tell, and writing is great for keeping language and word retrieval skills intact. For an added challenge, push yourself to write in an especially creative and descriptive way, and try using words that you don’t use in your daily vocabulary.
Exercise Activates the Brain
Part of adopting healthy lifestyle habits includes physical activity. Exercise is great for the brain because chemicals are released into the brain that stimulate the part that’s responsible for memory. Physical activity revitalizes your brain cells, which can act as a ‘buffer’ against diseases like Alzheimers and types of dementia.
To really benefit, at least 30 minutes of activity is recommended every day. Go for a swim, hit the gym, or go for a brisk walk. There are lots of fun and exciting ways to fit your exercise in. If you’re just jumping in to the world of exercise, there’s nothing to be afraid of, there are some pretty simple ways to ‘trick’ yourself into exercise. One easy way is to park your car a little bit further away from the store than you normally would. This forces you to walk a little further, and you have no choice but to walk back. When your coffee is brewing in the morning or during a commercial break on TV take a few laps around the house. Just keeping your feet moving for short periods of time will help keep your body moving.
We all love online shopping, but next time you have a choice between ordering online or going to the store, pick the store! Walking through the aisles, reading labels on items, and interacting with the cashier are all great and easy ways to keep your mind sharp.
These are just a few ideas of ways you can ensure that you’re getting some exercise during normal, everyday activities. And if you’re up for a challenge, consider purchasing a pedometer or FitBit. These items track the number of steps you take every day and you can play a mini-game with yourself. Set a goal every day and challenge yourself to get more steps the next day!
Higher levels of regular activity helps your body in so many ways. Exercise is good for you heart, your muscles, your movement and balance, and your brain. So keep your body moving and your brain will do the rest of the work for you!
New Approach Can Lead to a Healthier Brain
Our brains are capable of constant change. They move, learn, adapt, change and strengthen as we get older, as long as we are taking the necessary steps to protect it. Our brains turn on auto-pilot when we do the same thing day after day and follow our regular routines. But thankfully there are quite a few steps we can take to ensure positive change and growth. With patience and practice your brain can be as sharp as ever before. Break out of your routine, try a new activity, engage in activities that target your brain function, make healthy eating part of your lifestyle, introduce regular exercise into your life. It may seem challenging to shake up the routine that has become so ingrained into your life, but ultimately it is worth it. Your brain has a job to do, so let it work! Your brain can become better than it has ever been.