Your brain can be developed to a fuller potential from what it currently is. These top tips will give you suggestions on how to improve your brain health.
#1. CONNECT SOCIALLY AND STAY INVOLVED
Being social and connected with others, not only makes us happy, but also helps our brains stay sharper and more focused. Studies show that parts of the brain, especially those that regulate emotions, are more developed in people who have a broader social network.
Devices like intelligence games and puzzles can improve our brain function but connecting with people, especially those we care about, is very beneficial to our mental health. Being around others not only help us cope with the daily stresses of life but also motivates us to be healthier, more productive, and more goal-oriented.
Having a solid social connection Top Tips for a Better Social Life can also help us live happier, longer, and has even been shown to reduce the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In an age where social media plays a major role in our lives, real-life connections are still very important and should be cultivated and maintained.
#2. GET A DAILY DOSE OF LAUGHTER AND HAPPINESS
Laughter and happiness have a profound physical and psychological effect on our brains. When we laugh, the body recognises that we are happy and releases a cascade of chemicals including dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.
Dopamine is responsible for simple things like directing our brain to “feel good” and complex things like self-motivation to complete a task. Serotonin is a chemical that is important in all parts of our body including our brain where it acts as a mood-lifter that reduces depression, manages anxiety, and generally makes us feel better.
Endorphins are our pain-relieving hormones. They help us reduce pain, stress, and even promotes self-esteem. A mixture of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins released through laughter and happiness, make us feel calmer, less worried and more at peace.
#3. STAY HYDRATED WITH WATER
Water consumption directly affects the health of our brain. About 75% of our brain is composed of water and every part of our body, including our brain, requires water to function properly.
Drinking water also increases the flow of blood (and oxygen carried by the blood) into our brain to improve concentration, cognition, memory function, mood, and emotions. Water intake also reduces headaches, brain fog, brain tiredness, and depression.
Lack of water can affect our mood and for children and the elderly, there is evidence to suggest that cognition is also impaired.
#4. INDULGE IN BRAIN TRAINING EXERCISES
Just like our body needs exercise to thrive, our brain also needs exercise to stay mentally active and flourish. Brain exercises can help improve concentration, boost memory, promote focus, improve clarity, and makes us sharper overall.
When our brain is clear and focused, completing daily tasks as well as following through on projects, becomes easier and our productivity increases.
Different types of brain exercises that are beneficial to the brain include: jigsaw puzzles which positively affects brain ageing; learning a new skill which tasks the brain; playing cards like solitaire which positively improves brain health as well as memory; building a list of new vocabulary which simultaneously engages various parts of the brain; and teaching a new skill to someone else, which improves how our brain recollects memory.
There is also evidence that computerised cognitive training (CCT) improves the executive functions of the brain.
#5. EAT HEALTHY BRAIN FOODS
Several foods are known to keep our brains in top shape, however, some of the most important foods scientifically proven to feed our brains with positive results include:
Olive Oil – contains vitamin E and other antioxidants which destroys toxic free radicals in our body to protect the brain. Olive oil improves learning, memory retention, and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that protect the brain from different illnesses.
Salmon – has omega-3 fatty acid that helps prevent fatigue and improve sleep, allowing the brain to rejuvenate better, and wade off Alzheimer’s diseases. Recommended serving: 2-3 ounces (55-85 grams) twice weekly.
Avocados – have many good fats, minerals and vitamins, but also has omega-3 fatty acid and like salmon, this helps to improve brain function and regulates the part of the brain responsible for emotions and moods.
Other brain foods include tomatoes, chilli peppers, spinach, dark chocolate and green tea.
#6. PRACTICE MEDITATION
Meditation is a practice that fully engages the brain, mind, and body in unison to promote overall health, physical relaxation, psychological balance, calmness, and enhanced well-being.
Studies suggest that meditation can physically change the brain’s structure to promote enhanced abilities to process information, reverse age-related negative changes, affect emotions, and improve how the brain perceives pain.
Meditation also improves symptoms of anxiety and depression. Meditation can also reduce stress-induced inflammation which can cause excessive damage to the brain and the rest of the body.
#7. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
One of the most effective ways to improve brain health is by quality sleep. Most people don’t get enough sleep or might think sleep is overrated. However, the body, as well as the brain requires proper sleep to rest, reset, recover, and to keep functioning. The brain keeps working even when we are asleep, and in fact, does most of its restoration work when the rest of the body is calm and sleeping.
During sleep, our body is more efficient at removing waste products from the brain. Sleep is also important for memory retention as well as for compartmentalising all of our experiences from the day for easier recollection.
Lack of sleep has many negative impacts on the brain including headaches, high blood pressure, diabetes, weakened immunity, and depression. Sleep deprivation also leads to the death of brain cells leading to impaired judgment, impaired reactions, mood instability, memory problems, and worsens Alzheimer’s disease.
#8. LISTEN TO MUSIC
Pleasurable music not only makes us feel good but it also impacts the brain function as well as our mood and behaviour. Music can reduce stress and anxiety as well as help us cope with pain and discomfort. It can also relieve symptoms of depression.
Music also improves neurogenesis, an important process for forming brain nerve cells which are responsible for transmitting information from the brain to the rest of the body. Music also affects the parts of our brain responsible for creativity-the concept better explained in the book ‘The neurogenesis diet and lifestyle…‘ by Brant Cortright.
Listening to music can enhance cognition, and if we take it a bit further, playing musical instruments promotes cognition as well as the brain’s ability to retain more meaningful memory, help us to focus better, and can even improve our language skills.
#9. GET REGULAR PHYSICAL EXERCISE
Physical exercise is very important since exercise makes our blood vessels more efficient in carrying oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other parts of the body.
Exercise is also known as “brain food”. Exercise has been known to stimulate the formation of new nerve cells as well as help increase certain brain connections necessary for our overall well-being. With increased oxygen flow, new nerve cells, and improved brain connections, our brain is more efficient and can function at a higher capacity.
Exercise also reduces stress, anxiety, depression, as well as improves certain medical conditions including diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. All of these promote a healthier and more engaged brain.
#10 AVOID CIGARETTE SMOKING
Nicotine, the primary toxin in cigarette smoking has a negative impact on brain health. Most people know cigarette smoking causes lung and heart cancers, but few realise what nicotine does to the brain.
Nicotine is similar to a chemical, acetylcholine (ACh) that the brain needs to function. When nicotine is inhaled alongside oxygen, it is carried by the blood into the brain cells where the body is tricked into thinking toxic nicotine is ACh. Over time, the brain creates more receptors to accommodate all the extra nicotine and progressively, becomes tolerant to nicotine, leading to addiction.
When nicotine stimulates the brain, it also causes a release of dopamine, our feel-good hormone. The body associates nicotine with pleasure and so craves more of it. This adds to the addiction which is hard to overcome without the physical and psychological effects of withdrawal.
Nicotine has been linked to brain disorders including schizophrenia and depression. Apart from nicotine addiction, smoking also leads to other physical changes in the brain including thinning of the cortex of the brain, the part that controls language and memory, ultimately leading to memory loss and decline.
#11 Improve and Maintain Brain Plasticity
Brain plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity, is the ability of our brain to change and adapt as we experience life. It is also the innate ability of the brain to rewire itself and modify existing connections in the event of a traumatic brain injury to recover some brain function.
Without brain plasticity, our brains would be unable to grow, develop, and mature from birth through to adulthood. We would also be unable to adapt to new situations, learn new skills, take on new activities, and learn new languages as time passes. There is strong evidence of lifelong brain plasticity in humans, and with the right stimulation, neuroplasticity in an older adult can rival that of a younger person.
As we age, it is important to maintain good brain health to retain the cognitive and memory advantages we get from brain plasticity. A few ways of improving our neuroplasticity include reducing stress, getting enough sleep, learning new skills, engaging in daily physical activity, and maintaining a healthy diet.