Updated: Aug 11
It’s safe to say that most of us want to get in shape, maybe lose a few pounds, and feel on top of our game. But so many times we end up focusing on the wrong things (fad diets, trendy exercise routines, etc.) to get us there and we end up abandoning our goals.
If this sounds familiar, it may be time to switch your focus from improving physical health to improving brain health. You may find that you end up reaching those goals after all.
Learn Something New
Studies have linked learning a new skill with increased white matter in the brain. It can also stimulate neurons, creating more neural pathways and increasing the speed at which messages can travel through the brain.
All of this has been linked to improved brain health and could potentially help stave off the development of dementia. So, sign up for a cooking class, learn a new language, or pick up an instrument – your brain wants to be challenged!
2. Be Thankful
Looking at the world through a more gracious light has been shown to drive all kinds of positive outcomes. Studies show that practicing gratitude can reduce depression, stress, and aggression. It can also increase overall happiness, improve self-esteem, and contribute to better sleep – all of which are beneficial to the brain. If you’d like to start, spend a few minutes each day writing down one thing you were thankful for. Forcing yourself to remember the good things will soon start to become second nature.
3. Sleep Better
Studies suggest that chronic insomnia can cause the hippocampus to shrink, which can negatively impact memory. Research also shows that frequently getting less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours of sleep has been tied to an increased risk of stroke, among other complications.
Poor sleep can also negatively impact mental health, contributing to an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, as well as exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD. The good news is that following good sleep hygiene may help improve your sleep.
A number of studies have linked physical fitness to brain health. Increasing your heart rate causes an increase in blood flow to the brain, which can help improve memory, attention, mood, and sleep.
In fact, one study examined exercise and brain health and found that the hippocampus grew larger in the participants who took up consistent, regular exercise, such as frequent, brisk walking.
Many studies have linked meditation to improved mental and brain health. One study found an association between an hour-long meditation session and roughly a 65% increase in dopamine levels. It’s been shown to also help reduce anxiety symptoms, improve depression symptoms, lower blood pressure, and more. A Study from UCLA also found that participants who were long-term meditators had brains that aged better and had more gray matter (by volume) than non-meditators. If you’d like to give meditation a try, progressive muscle relaxation might be a good place to start.
6. Eat Better
More and more studies are finding that our diet can significantly impact our brain health. In the U.S., many of our diets are full of empty carbs, saturated fats, and refined sugar – all of which have been linked to health complications.
One 2013 study looked at the effects of blood sugar on the brain. Researchers found a correlation between increased blood sugar and an increased risk for developing dementia – even in individuals who weren’t diabetic. Making strides to eat healthier is a great way to start getting your body – and brain – healthy.
Studies have linked feeling lonely, and actual isolation, to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and stress. These side effects can cause complications like brain shrinkage, inflammation, and negative structural changes. If you’d like to improve your social life, consider looking for volunteer opportunities, joining or starting a club, or going to an exercise class a few days a week. If you’d like to learn more about how Neuropeak Pro's programs can help keep your brain healthy, give us a call at 800.600.4096.
Harvard Medical School. (2018, June 19). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health
Morin, Amy. (2015, April 3). “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude.” Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude
Simon, Harvey B. “Giving thanks can make you happier.” Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
Solan, Matthew. (2016, April 27). “Back to school: Learning a new skill can slow cognitive aging.” Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/learning-new-skill-can-slow-cognitive-aging-201604279502
Wahl, Jordan. (2018, December 17). “9 Healthy Habits to Adopt in 2019.” Retrieved from https://learn.g2crowd.com/healthy-habits
Wong, Brian. (2017, December 29). “How Learning a New Skill Helps Your Mind Grow Stronger.” Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/brian-wong/how-learning-a-new-skill-helps-your-mind-grow-stronger.html