The modern life places a lot of pressure on our brains just to get by, let alone be successful. From juggling various tasks at home and work, making sure not to forget that appointment you need to make, to staying focused rather than hopping on social media, all of these fall under the general concept of brain health.
The easiest way to understand what brain support means and what it can do for you is to remember that your brain is an organ. In fact, it’s one of the most complex organs there is. So, just like your heart or your liver, you are going to need to make lifestyle decisions that help it stay healthy and promote its function. In addition, you are going to make sure it has the proper nutrients it needs to do its job. At the moment, we don’t have some of the traditional medical avenues for brain support yet. But just because medical science hasn’t reached that point doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do.
You Are What You Eat
The brain food premise is not just a myth, as there are some foods with a nutrient profile that are well suited for brain support. As a start, you’re going to want to look to foods with a high amount of vitamin E. These include healthy vegetable oil-based salad dressings, seeds and nuts, peanut butter, and whole grains. If you’re looking for a true winner, start incorporating dark green leafy vegetables into your diet. These include kale, spinach, and broccoli. One cup of raw spinach has 15% of your daily intake of vitamin E, and 1/2 a cup of cooked spinach has 25% of your daily intake. If you’re looking for the perfect protein, consider fish like salmon. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are central to many brain functions.
In some cases, a little bit goes a long way. For example, caffeine can have a positive effect on alertness and energy, for a short time. This is why so many people need that morning coffee. However, you can easily go overboard and become jittery or uncomfortable. Sugar is similar. As a rule of thumb, especially with sugar, monitor what you eat to make sure you are getting enough for a balanced diet, but not enough. In many cases, you may be hurting your efforts rather than helping by doing so.
Train Your Brain
This may surprise you, but there are plenty of ways to train your brain each day, and it doesn’t cost a dime. The only catch is you may need a little creativity, but it’s far easier than you would expect. For example, one day at work when you have a free moment, think up a list of 10 items or so. It doesn’t matter what it is, just put it together. Now, wait an hour, and try to revisit the list from memory. You just created a recall exercise for yourself. Here’s another one. Try driving a different way from work once a week. Try to mix it up as much as possible. You’re creating new pathways in your brain!
This may sound simple, but both of these concepts adhere to the two main principles when it comes to your brain: novelty and challenge. Introducing something new causes the brain to open new pathways for the data it is bringing in. Challenge works just a like a physical workout, pushing against your limits until you create new ones. Things like taking a new hobby, learning a new language, or even creating a whole bunch of small exercises like before all introduce novelty and challenge to your mind. As a tip, another great thing to do is try to add your other senses into the mix, as the brain thrives off association. One idea is taking some of the brain-friendly foods we mentioned earlier and learning to cook a new dish. Cooking incorporates sight, sound, smell, and taste, making it perfect for helping the brain in more ways than one.
Getting On The Healthy Path
Along with eating and working out your brain, there are other things that contribute to its health. One of these, surprisingly enough, is working out your body. One study shows that regular aerobic exercise can contribute to growth of the hippocampus. This part of the brain controls verbal memory and learning. Exercise actually contributes to brain health in several different ways, direct and indirect. Directly, it stimulates the release of growth factors. These chemicals contribute to the health and abundance of brain cells, as well as new blood vessels in the brain. Indirectly, exercise is associated with improved sleep and mood. Studies have placed issues in these areas as potential contributors to memory issues.
By the same token, meditation is also associated with brain health in general, including memory support. There is no one best way to meditate, but if you are getting started for the first time, consider following the 7-7-7 rule. This is seven seconds to breathe in, seven seconds to hold it, then seven to let it out. Consider using this at set times during your day or when you find yourself stressed out. The brain is a complex thing, so it is fitting that the best way to support it is through a multi-faceted approach. Keep all these tips in mind and you may soon find your focus, recall, and more improving.