Taking care of your brain is vital to ensure a long, healthy and happy life. The five pillars of brain health are to your brain what the healthy food pyramid is for your diet, and it encapsulates everything required to keep your brain fighting fit.
You’ve heard it before – exercise helps increase your brain power by increasing blood flow to the brain; helping it to grow, repair and preserve brain cells. Regular exercise also contributes to higher or greater productivity, keeps you more alert and may even reduce your risk of developing dementia. Apart from being beneficial for general fitness, exercise promotes muscle control and coordination, and adds to your overall sense of wellbeing.
One of the best ways to keep your brain sharp and young is to keep learning. Find activities that stimulate you – something that is new to you and takes some effort to get your head around. You could learn a language online, play a brain-teasing game, play a video game, write a play or some poetry, or watch a documentary. Your brain is just like any other muscle – the harder you make it work and the more your train it, the stronger it gets. Here’s the best brain tip you’ll read this week: try to do things with your opposite hand to stimulate parts of your brain that are usually inactive. It really works wonders for your grey matter!
It’s also recommended to give your brain a rest once in a while. Getting a good night’s sleep is paramount for good memory and the ability to adapt to and cope with everyday situations. Stress is a brain’s worst enemy. It can affect your judgement and your mood, and also make it very difficult for you to multitask and learn. If stress is beating up your brain, try yoga, meditation or head to the park (or elsewhere outdoors) for a casual stroll.
Or you could try this quick and easy technique, by which I swear. Breathe in deeply, saying “in” to yourself. Hold that breath for a second or two, then exhale saying “calm” and actually feel yourself relax. Tense your hands when you inhale, then, as you breathe out, relax them and be mindful of the difference. You’d be amazed at how your whole body is in a tense state without your knowledge. This exercise makes you aware of it and helps you to relax instead.
You are what you eat and, although you may not like to hear it, the food you eat has a profound effect on your brain as well. Diets high in saturated fats can lead to cognitive decline, but healthier diets that include monounsaturated fats and omega-3s can actually protect your brain against decline and disease. It’s also important to feed your brain all day. Remember – as long as you maintain a healthy diet, your brain will benefit.
Staying socially connected reduces your risk of developing dementia, with studies showing that people with a solid social network have a lower risk of cognitive decline as they age. An active social life keeps your brain in good shape, because it’s always thinking, feeling and learning through interactions and having to respond intuitively. So whether you play the odd round of golf or join a book club or volunteer group, staying socially connected acts as a brain gymnasium of sorts. Time to seek out some mates and get to training your brain!
Do you abide by the five pillars of good brain health? Which activities can you recommend for our members?