What are your resolutions for 2018? Popular New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on improving physical health by living a more active lifestyle. While this is important, there is a part of a person’s overall health that is often overlooked – brain health.
Why is it important to maintain a healthy brain? The brain is the center and leader of the body. When it’s not functioning at an optimal level, the whole body experiences stress. Of concern, too, is that without proper care your brain loses an average of 85,000 cells a day. This loss of brain cells contributes to the aging process.
The good news is that you can slow your brain’s aging process and increase your mental agility by thinking ahead and making brain health a priority.
How can you make brain a health a priority this year? Try some of these simple suggestions:
Exercise regularly. Exercise is known to literally change the size of your brain. Regular exercise has been found to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that plays an important role in memory and learning. Exercise can double or triple the number of new cells in the hippocampus. These new cells translate to a significantly better ability to learn new things and remember experiences.
Eat a variety of healthful foods. What you put in your body has a direct effect on its ability to perform, starting with how your brain functions. Lean protein, whole grains, green leafy veggies, and healthy fats that contain Omega 3 fatty acids are great for your brain.
Stay hydrated. Your brain is 85% water, so don’t let yourself get dehydrated. Drink plenty of water. Add a little lemon or some cucumber slices if that will help motivate you to drink more water. Also steer clear of anything that dehydrates you. Alcohol, caffeine, and salt should be consumed in moderation.
Get more sleep. Depression, memory issues and poor decision-making skills are directly linked to lack of sleep. While you are sleeping, your brain is working hard to consolidate your memories, link them up with old memories, create new neural pathways that help you retrieve memories, and form connections between thoughts and ideas. It also uses that time to flush toxins out of your brain. So make sure you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, even if you think you are functioning just fine on less.
Reduce stress. Easier said than done, I know. But regardless of how difficult it may be to cut stressors out of your life, it is necessary for the health of your brain. Chronic stress kills cells in the memory centers of your brain. Exercise, healthy eating, and sleep all help reduce stress levels. The practice of mindfulness can also help you refocus and recharge. Even just a few minutes of meditation can quiet your mind and reduce stress.
Exercise your brain. Learn a new language, learn how to dance, or just try brushing your teeth with your less dominant hand. Learning new things helps develop new neural pathways in your brain.
Consider brain-training activities. The idea is that by performing certain tasks like crossword puzzles and memory games, you can improve your cognitive abilities such as memory and attention. While researchers in the field have mixed feelings about the benefits of brain-training, studies indicate that learning and thinking of any type can improve the survival and function of young brain cells.
Be positive. Studies have found that focusing on negative thoughts changes the brain – when thinking negatively, creativity, learning and imagination all go down. Focusing on positive, hopeful thoughts, on the other hand, changes the brain in a good way. If you struggle with positive thinking, try this: keep a gratitude journal. Write down the good things you have in your life, from big to small.
Every brain is different, though, and needs different things to stay healthy. According to Dr. Daniel Amen, a leading psychiatrist, there are 16 different brain types. Take the Aman Assessment quiz to find out what type of brain you have. Knowing your brain type can help you make decisions and lifestyle changes that will optimize your brain function, sharpen your focus, raise your energy levels, and get the right tools to conquer your day.
Still need helping achieving balance and staying healthy in all areas of your life? I can help you identify the areas that are out of balance so you can make the needed changes. Please contact my office in Jantzen Beach to schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for you.