So often when we talk about living a healthy lifestyle, all the focus is on the lower parts of our body, primarily our heart health and getting into better physical shape. Very little is ever mentioned about keeping our brains healthy until we’re talking about the latest statistics about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Let’s start thinking about our body as a whole, including our brain. Very often when we adopt healthy habits to lose weight or to fight off Type 2 diabetes, our brains will benefit as well; but in order to make these changes stick, we need to fully understand the results our bad habits have on our brain health.
1. Reduce your stress level. Any kind of stress releases the hormone cortisol, which over time can kill brain cells and cause the brain to physically shrink in size. Cortisol affects the prefrontal cortex, which is the area responsible for memory and learning. To reduce your stress level, start with daily aerobic exercise, meditation, or yoga. Journaling your thoughts can help relieve stress as can Epsom salt baths. Weather permitting, take a quiet walk in nature to feel more grounded to the earth.
2. Stop multi-tasking. If you want to improve your focus and be more productive during your day, stop multi-tasking. Trying to focus on more than one task affects your focus and concentration, since you’re trying to split your brain power. As powerful as your brain is, it was designed to focus on only one thing at a time. With multi-tasking, you run the risk of not completing tasks successfully.
3. Avoid harmful substances. Alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs, aspartame, sugar, GMOs, and pesticides are just a few of the harmful substances that can cause irreparable harm to your brain. Sometimes the effects occur after several years of use but the sooner you ditch some of these bad habits, the better chance you have of avoiding brain-related diseases. Some of these include Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, cancer, and seizures.
4. Lower your earbud volume. Not only can high decibels harm your hearing but now there’s a link between hearing loss and loss of brain tissue in the elderly. Experts think the loss of brain tissue is due to the brain overcompensating for the hearing loss by working overtime to understand what’s being said. Lower your earbud volume to less than 60% and take frequent breaks to enjoy the quiet.
5. Drink more water. Dehydration is cause for concern because water is a major component of the human body. Not only does your water intake affect every single bodily function and organ but dehydration can cause your brain to shrink in size and will affect your memory and cognitive functioning. In severe cases, usually seen in the elderly, dehydration can lead to incoherence, infection, and falling episodes. Experts advise drinking half your body weight in ounces every day to maintain proper hydration.
6. Be More Social. Social interaction with friends and family will help you feel younger but also boosts the dopamine in your brain. A 2008 study at the University of Michigan showed a link between having a 10-minute conversation and improved cognitive functioning and memory. Also, the stress of feeling lonely can contribute to high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. Humans are meant to be social and have an innate need for human interaction. A simple invitation for coffee can have a profound effect on your mental state.
Only you are in total control of your life and the choices you make. Start taking care of your brain by implementing one or more of these healthy habits today.
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