Everyone wants to enjoy a vibrant and active life until their last breath. But this goal highly depends on brain health, which is often ignored. Experts agree that making changes to your lifestyle can help boost brain health and improve longevity.
Here are 15 scientific ways to engage yourself in a healthy routine for better mental health.
1. Exercise your Brain
Cognitive exercises are as essential for your brain as physical exercises are for your body. Studies in humans and mice have suggested that brain training exercises aid in generating new nerve cells and trigger new connections between them, improving brain plasticity. These exercises also offer a hedge to prevent cell loss.
Any brain-stimulating activity can work as an exercise for your brain, such as solving puzzles and math problems, playing games, and reading. Additionally, activities that require physical and mental effort, like painting, drawing, and other arts, also aid in exercising your brain.
Summary: Brain training activities, including games, reading, and drawing, improve brain plasticity, and prevent future brain cell loss.
2. Physical Exercise
Physical exercise has many benefits for both your body and mind.
Aerobic exercise enhances blood flow, lowering the risk of brain injury by reducing cholesterol build-up in your blood vessels. It also prevents high blood pressure and improves the health of your brain cells.
Exercise also triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a chemical responsible for creating a new connection between brain cells and repairing them. Various studies suggest that physically active individuals with higher BDNF levels, have a lower risk of dementia.
To enhance brain health, experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
Summary: Physical exercise enhances the health of brain cells. Moderate-intensity workouts a few days per week helps too.
3. Get Adequate Sleep
There is a considerable difference between sufficient sleep and sleep for optimal functioning.
Adults need about 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep to avoid sleep deprivation. Skimping on even a few hours can alter your creativity, memory, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving abilities.
Furthermore, proper sleep is crucial for memory and learning. Clinical studies have shown that sleep is essential for memory consolidation, as memory-enhancing activities mostly occur during the deepest sleep stages.
Summary: Getting at least 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep aids in enhancing memory and learning.
4. Quit Smoking
Quitting smoking is one of the essential steps for boosting your brain health.
People who smoke more than two packs of cigarettes a day have twice the risk of dementia during old age.
Individuals who smoke half to one pack of cigarettes have a 44 percent increased risk of developing dementia.
But, giving up smoking halts the risk of dementia and aids normal brain functioning.
Summary: Quitting smoking boosts brain health and lowers the risk of dementia.
5. Mind Your Thoughts
Positive thoughts help you perform better.
The “Pygmalion effect”—a study where teachers place higher expectations on some students—shows those students strive to meet those expectations.
Research also proves that setting high standards helps you believe you can achieve them. However, when low standards or limiting beliefs are set, people lower themselves to meet those expectations. They give up, bow out and miss reaching their full potential.
In a study by the American Psychological Association, students who were motivated showed better math solving ability as compared to the group of students who were not motivated.
There are many studies, but ultimately, it boils down to: “positive attitude counts.”
Summary: Positive thoughts help you to achieve your potential and enhance your mental health.
6. Maintain Good Relationships
Building relations help broaden mental capacity,
Trans-active memory is involved in all kinds of relationships. Everyone forms a type of memory in which they become an expert in a specific type of information. For instance, some may be excellent in remembering someone’s taste of music, but they forget faces and names.
We all excel in different areas. Plus, having more friends triggers you to think more creatively. Friends provide unique information and different perspectives on the things you see. All in all, they help to keep your mind open.
Summary: Having multiple friends allows you to think more creatively and keep your mind open.
Meditation is an ancient science believed to have various beneficial effects.
Psychologists have extensively researched the physical and mental health benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Meditation techniques differ widely, but they all have one thing in common – a focus on breathing to relax.
Research proves the positive effect of meditation on memory and cognition. Studies have tracked the growth of brain areas associated with intelligent thinking, which is a result of practicing meditation.
A study in the Journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience demonstrated that individuals involved in long-term meditation had a better surface area of the brain, allowing them to process information more efficiently and faster.
Another study proved that long-term meditators have higher cell density in the frontal lobes (area linked to control of behavior and forward planning) and hippocampus (related to memory).
Additionally, stress prevents positive learning and shortens attention spans, preventing you from thinking intelligently. Meditation relaxes your mind, prevents negative effects of stress, and enhances learning mechanisms. Some studies also show that extensive meditation boosts general intelligence.
Summary: Meditation enhances memory and cognition and neutralizes harmful effect of stress on your body.
8. Include Healthy Foods in your Diet
Various food ingredients benefit physical and brain health. Vegetables, like broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, and omega-3 fatty acids enhance memory and other brain functions.
Protein in beans, eggs, and pulses have high levels of amino acids, including tyrosine, which aids in releasing chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the brain that are linked to mental alertness.
Furthermore, breastfeeding and a healthy diet improves IQ in kids. Mothers who breastfed their babies for more than just a few months provided a greater quantity of omega-3 fatty acids. Those kids had higher IQ’s compared to formula-fed children.
Also, diets rich in omega-3 oils during the last trimester of pregnancy also influence kids’ IQ’s.
Summary: Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids enhance brain function. It also Improved IQ numbers in kids.
9. Learn Something New
Learning new things, like an instrument or language, boosts cognition.
In a 12-week study, elders who spent more time learning new apps and using an iPad had a better memory for daily chores compared to groups who did not try new activities.
For instance, learning a new language is linked to an improved brain structure. In one study, it was seen that individuals who were fluent in more than one language had thicker areas of the brain responsible for memory, language, and cognition.
While speaking more than one language might not prevent Alzheimer’s, it aids in enhancing the cognitive reserve that slows down the onset of symptoms.
Summary: Learning a new language or a new instrument improves cognitive reserve that may help in slowing down the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
10. Indulge in Intimacy
Sexual intimacy also improves memory and memory decline.
According to researchers, couples who indulge in regular sex perform better on memory tests. A study in The Journal the Archives of Sexual Behavior proves that intimacy triggers areas of the hippocampus responsible for memory recall, thus improving memory.
Furthermore, sex also helps in getting rid of stress, improves immunity, and strengthens your relationship.
However, sexual activity is associated with only short-term memory and may not influence long-term memory or prevent memory decline.
Summary: Sexual activity improves your short-term memory along with other health benefits such as relieving stress and improving immunity.
11. Reduce Sugar Intake
This does not cutting out some natural sugar in your diet. Fruits and vegetables provide energy, vitamins and nutrients essential for overall health. However, excess consumption of processed sugar creates harmful effects on physical and mental health.
Diets rich in simple carbs and sugar drain your brain. Researchers have also discovered that individuals with diabetes whose blood sugar levels were lower, performed better in memory tests.
Summary: Curb your sugar intake for better mental and physical health.
12. Try a Mediterranean Diet
Mediterranean diets are rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, olive oil, and seeds.
However, it is more than low-starch, lean protein, and fruits. It aids in protecting against cell damage, reduces inflammation, and improves cholesterol levels, all of which boost brain health.
A Mediterranean diet also helps you lose weight and maintain energy.
A high Body Mass Index (BMI), malnutrition, and insulin resistance are linked to dementia and other brain disorders.
The Mediterranean diet prevents these disorders and boosts your brain health.
Summary: The Mediterranean diet prevents cell damage, inflammation, and brain disorders.
13. Keep Your Heart Healthy
It is essential to keep your heart healthy, as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels increase the risk of degenerative brain disorders by impeding blood flow to your brain.
High cholesterol levels may result in hardening or narrowing of blood vessels, making it difficult to nurture your brain cells. It may also result in a stroke, which results in permanent or temporary brain damage. An active and healthy lifestyle keeps your heart healthy, improving your brain health.
One study reported that individuals who had a healthy diet, maintained a BMI under 25, did not smoke, exercised regularly, and drank moderately, had a lower risk of stroke, and thus, had a lower risk of brain damage.
Summary: Keeping your heart healthy by maintaining a normal weight, healthy diet, and other lifestyle changes, improves blood flow to your brain.
14. Try Coloring
Are you bored at home or in a meeting? Try drawing and coloring. Research shows coloring and doodling enhance blood flow to the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain responsible for attention, problem-solving, and memory). Creative people involved with colors tend to have great ideas and show promise with problem-solving.
Summary: Creative exercises, like drawing and doodling improves your attention and problem-solving abilities.
15. Ask your Doctor about Supplements and Vitamins
Supplements and vitamins, in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle, aid in boosting cognitive health. However, do not go overboard on taking too many. Toxicity can result if you are not careful.
Various nootropics contain beneficial ingredients to boost your mental health. One such nootropic is Provasil, which improves focus and prevents brain fog and memory loss.
However, consult your doctor before taking any nootropic, especially if you have any health conditions or take medications.
Summary: Vitamins, supplements, and nootropics, paired with a healthy diet and lifestyle, help to boost your mental health.
Researchers believe that poor physical health is closely associated with deteriorating brain health. Various factors contribute to this degradation. However, most of them are preventable by making lifestyle changes.
Try one or more lifestyle changes suggested and see the effects yourself. Let us know which ones you try in the comments below.