Next week is Brain Awareness Week, an appropriate time for a quick refresher on how to keep your brain healthy and functioning at its best. It’s also a time to really appreciate what our brains do for us. The brain is, in a sense, the nucleus of all of our decision-making, emotional experiences, physical movements, memory, and much more. As such an integral part of our existence, the brain should be treated as healthily as possible. Here are some ways to do that.
In other words, exercise your brain. Studies show that mentally stimulating activities help the brain to create new connections between nerve cells, possibly even creating new cells. In turn, this improves “neural plasticity,” which is the brain’s ability to adapt. Examples of mentally stimulating activities include reading, taking school courses, word puzzles, chess, or even more creative tasks, such as painting, drawing, knitting, and other crafts in general.
Actual physical exercise has been shown to improve brain health as well, as it increases the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the part of the brain in charge of thought. Much like mental stimulation, using your body’s muscles helps the brain become more efficient, plastic, and adaptic. It also lowers blood pressure, helps balance blood sugar levels, improves cholesterol levels, and reduces stress. All of these benefit the health of the brain and the body as a whole.
In today’s world, everything is moving so rapidly, and our schedules are stressing us out. From working out, keeping up with our social lives, maintaining our full time jobs, and having relationships, families, and sometimes even dealing with trauma, there is a lot going on in our heads. In fact, it’s all happening so fast that our brains are sometimes unable to process the information and our environment. At some point, your brain just needs silence–a practice that has been shown to create new cells in the brain and speed up mental processing.
Have a Healthy Diet
Not only is a healthy diet good for your body, but it also has effects on cognitive processes and emotions. Studies have shown that dietary factors influence neuronal function and brain plasticity, potentially improving cognitive ability. With a decent focus on fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils, and plant sources of proteins, you have a brain-healthy diet that is less likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia.
Have a Healthy Social Life
Social connectedness has a lot of benefits, including decreased feelings of depression, living longer, stronger immune system, and even reduced risk of dementia. Studies have shown that those who connect with others tend to perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills. This is not to say that anyone should force themselves to be around people constantly, but rather to find people–even a select few–to connect with and confide in. Having that deep connection with others makes life less lonely and more genuine.
Get Some Feedback: Neurofeedback
Sometimes, to maintain a healthy brain, you have to look at the brain itself. Through neurofeedback–a form of biofeedback that relies on brainwave patterns and measures brain wave activity to indicate how a person is functioning–you can learn to improve and strengthen brain waves. In turn, it improves learning, focus, and attentiveness.
Happy Brain Awareness!
Brain Awareness Week, in a sense, is “awareness of awareness.” Your brain gives you the ability to even be aware, so give back to your brain. By doing so, you give back to your entire body and your well-being altogether.