"What can I do for my brain?" is one of the most common questions that I receive! Here are 6 things that you can do today to give your brain a boost:
1) Drink H2O!: Water and glucose are the primary sources of energy for our brains. Amazingly, just a 2% drop in our body's water levels can result in a hazier short term memory, feelings of brain fog, a drop in energy levels and difficulty processing information. So, the next time you forget why just came into the kitchen, maybe grab a glass of water while you think about it.
2) Reduce your Stress: While acute stress can be helpful, chronic stress can have long term effects on our brains. Under a constant barrage of stress hormones, neuronal networks can become damaged, neurons can die, the development of new neurons can be inhibited and the ability of the hippocampus to remember and learn new information can become impaired. In a nutshell, stress can damage our neuronal networks like a cut damages our skin. (What's Good For The Body Is Good For The Brain, Idea Fitness Journal, February, 2010)
3) Socialize!: A strong support system is not only a great buffer against stress but research has shown that spending time with other people is associated with greater brain health and longevity. In fact, social engagement is one of 2 factors that are most associated with brain health and the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer's. The second factor is exercise.
4) Get moving!: Exercise reduces our stress levels and boosts levels of feel-good neurochemicals like serotonin, dopamine and GABA. These are the same chemicals that antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications target. Movement also improves our sleep, self-esteem, focus, productivity and brain health. Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, describes exercise as Miracle-Gro for the brain cells. Exercise stimulates the growth of new neuronal connections, new blood vessels which bring oxygen and glucose to the brain, boosts the function of the brain and protects the brain against damage. Pretty awesome, right? Aim for 30 minutes a day of cardiovascular exercise.
5) Use It or Lose It!: We usually use this phrase to describe our muscles but we can also apply it to our brain's health. A few ideas to challenge your brain are to learn new skills, new exercises, a new language, a new route around town, or new recipes. Using your non-dominant hand, learning to play a musical instrument, or assembling a piece of furniture are also some ideas to challenge your brain. Though, you may need some stress relieving deep breathing exercises to pair with that last suggestion.
6) Eat Well!: Yup, diets rich in antioxidants, omega-3s and choline rich foods have been associated with brain health. What are choline rich foods? Eggs, broccoli and brussel sprouts are a few.
Your assignment for today is to put on your sneakers, grab a friend and go for a walk or run together. Repeat often. Your brain will thank you!