Welcome back to our Saturday Reset of Spring Clean Your Life!
We are spring cleaning our brains and our bedrooms this week!
4 Steps to Take Each Day to Spring Clean Your Brain
One of our most important organs in our body is our brain. To insure that our brain is as healthy as possible throughout our entire lives, we all want to do everything we can to keep running smoothly. Believe it or not, there are things we can to do each day to help ‘spring clean’ our brains. The 3 most important things that we can do exercise and sleep.
Exercise. Exercise is like miracle-grow for our brains. Exercise helps to increase the blood flow to our brain. The brain responds to this by creating more blood vessels in the brain. Exercise is linked to better memory, better cognitive function and an increased hippocampus, which is responsible for consolidating our memories and emotional regulation. It is NEVER too late to get started. Exercise, at a lower intensity, also helps to clear our the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from our systems. These hormones can lead to inflammation over time which can impact our brain.
Sleep. I often tell people that sleep is so essential to our brains because this is the time that our brain files things away, cleans out proteins and basically spring cleans to be ready to learn the next day. In fact, if I could go back and time and tell my younger self one thing, it would be to shut the books and go to sleep. Adults need 1.5 to 2 hours of deep sleep each night. This is not only the time we clean but also when we produce human growth hormone which helps our bodies stay young. During sleep is also when our brains and body remove damaged mitochondria and proteins. And, during sleep is also when “the space between brain cells enlarges, marking room for the flow of ions and debris, like amyloid. It’s called the glymphatic pathway, and it works best when sleeping on your left side.” (Gottfried, M.D., Sara, Brain Body Diet)
As we age, it can be more difficult to sleep. There is some good news. Older adults appear to be more resilient around the effects of sleep deprivation compared to younger adults so score one for getting older. But, still aim for sound, quality sleep.
And, yes, naps do help! As long as they are not impacting your ability to sleep at night, naps can have immediate impact. Try to keep the nap short between 15 and 30 minutes. Otherwise, you may find that you have trouble sleeping at night. But, you know your body best.
Take steps to manage your stress. Easier said than done, right? Stress can have a tremendous impact on our prefrontal cortex (PFC) function which is involved in our ability to focus, plan, judge, make decisions and determining our personality. Chronic stress and inflammation has been shown to over time to shrink our hippocampus. Stress can impact everything from our ability to make sound food choices to how angry we just got at the person who cut us off in traffic. The good news is that studies have shown that we can improve our function by taking steps to reduce our stress. Meditation has been shown over and over to increase our dopamine, reduce inflammation as well as improve PFC function. Improved function means better choices like sticking to an exercise program, going to sleep on time and an increased ability to remain calm and handle stress.
Social Interaction. One of our the most important things we can do for our brains is to have quality interactions with people each day. Bonus points if you can exercise with a friend!
So there you have it, 4 steps you can take today to help spring clean your brain.
Your challenge this week is to choose one or all of the steps above to spring clean your brain. You choose whichever one is most difficult for you and jump in and tackle it this week.
For exercise, aim to get at least 30 minutes per day of cardiovascular activity 5 - 6 times this week. You can break this up in 10 minute chunks.
For sleep, aim for 6.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
For stress, luckily, sleep and exercise will also help reduce stress. But, consider adding in a meditative practice into your day.
For social interaction, make a point to have some fun with people you like each day.
Good luck with your challenge for the week! Below is your spring cleaning challenge for your home!
Spring Clean Your Bedroom
To help you achieve a better night’s sleep, we're going to concentrate on our bedrooms this weekend. Our bedrooms are not only where we start and end each day but also where we sleep each night. Knowing this, a great way to boost our well-being and our quality of sleep is by making our bedrooms as calming as possible. Reducing clutter and disorganization is a great way to create a peaceful feeling.
Let's get started! Use the following questions to help get you started:
What's on your bedside table? If you have a pile of books and papers, whittle it down to one book. You want your bedside table free of clutter.
Is your closet spilling out of the closet? Hang up your clothes. If you don't have room in your closet, choose items to go to goodwill or consignment. You've got some great tips from some previous emails.
Do you have a treadmill or other exercise equipment in your bedroom? Is it clean and free of clutter? This is not a place to hang clothes :)
What's on top of your dresser? Aim to have it clutter-free and organized.
Need some fresh energy? Bring some fresh flowers in and place them so you see them when you first wake up.
How's the mood? Change your light bulbs so that you can have bright light when you need it and you can also have a soft light when you're getting ready to go to sleep. As the lights dim, our bodies begin to produce more of the sleep hormone melatonin. This helps us sleep more soundly.
Keep memories, not stuff!
If you're like me and a bit sentimental, you know that it's easy to collect items! And, the bedroom is a place that really likes to store these items. When making decisions on what to keep and what to let go, try to pick the items that are most dear to you. You can even take a picture of some things and then let them go. Remember, you are not letting go of a memory or a person or a person's love associated with an item. You're just letting go of an item.
Marie Kondo, the author of the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, recommends asking yourself, "Does it tokimeku?" In other words, does it spark joy? If not, she says to be grateful for the joy it gave you or another person at one time and then let it go.
Alright, let's do this. Set the timer for 60 minutes. Ready? Set. Go!