The human brain is the crown jewel of the human body—it produces your every thought, action, memory, feeling, and experience of the world. From coming up with creative ways to express your ideas and emotions to coordinating movements like chopping onions to storing your childhood memories and even solving the Sunday crossword. But it's easy to take those powers for granted.
Keeping your brain healthy is crucial to your ability to continue to think, act, and live well. But it’s also key to reducing risk factors, keeping your mind active, and getting the very best out of your brain as you get older. Here are six easy habits that go a long way to keeping your mind sharp, and your brain health optimized.
1. Hydrate for Alertness
Given that your brain is about 80% water, drinking enough water during the day is the first rule of brain health. Even slight dehydration can raise stress hormones, which can impact your brain over time. Ideally, drink filtered water or enjoy a cup of green tea which contains chemicals that enhance mental relaxation and alertness.
2. Nourish with Brain Food
The fuel you feed your brain has a significant effect on how optimally it functions. Eating simple carbohydrates and sugar (think baked treats, breakfast cereal, bagels) can cause brain fog and lower mental performance. Lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and antioxidant-rich foods (like dark leafy green vegetables, turmeric, blueberries, and hemp oil), plus taking brain-boosting supplements (like fish oil) are better choices and supportive of overall brain function.
3. Restore with Sleep
Healthy sleep, healthy life. Sleep rejuvenates so many aspects of your body and although it seems like all is quiet while you’re horizontal, the brain and body stay remarkably active while you sleep. Sleep is the ultimate housekeeper giving your brain cells a chance to repair themselves, discard toxins from your waking hours, consolidate memories, and activates neuronal connections that might otherwise degenerate due to inactivity.
4. Movement for Growth
Exercise is like fertilizer for your neurons. Not only does physical activity increase blood flow to the brain it boosts connections between neurons—a key factor of cognitive growth. This doesn’t mean back-to-back HIIT classes but rather some form of moderate activity plus regular movement (like a 5 minutes stretch and getting up from your desk every 30 minutes) throughout the day.
5. Optimize with Purpose-Driven Challenge
Stimulating your brain with purpose-driven challenges protects your brain health from decline and keeps the neurons firing new connections to expand and optimize. Learn a new language, try a new hobby, play an instrument, and set specific, time-bound targets to work towards.
6. Unwind & De-Stress
Delegating, reducing, and eliminating sources of tension in your life is critical to preventing your brain health from being impacted by the release of stress chemicals. Stress can lead to lowered immunity, shrinking of brain volume, affects decision making, and impairs your problem-solving ability. Incorporate more calm into your life whether that’s yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises—find time to practice mindfulness and de-stress every day.
Incorporating these six healthy brain habits into your life will not only support your brain’s ability to continuously make new neural pathways and adapt to an ever-changing world—but they can also support you to feel more confident, operate with a clearer mind, and make decisions that are good for the rest of your body as well.