Brain Health: A New Age

Time to talk brain health, gals! 

We all know that staying on top of our mental wellness can be a challenge, but tools like therapy, yoga and meditation help us stay on track, right? Despite all the evidence (and advertising!) in support of self-care tools like these to help stay sane amidst the chaos of everyday life - we aren’t always paying attention to our brain health… are we? 

One of the biggest hurdles we face when getting “older” is the awful reality of diminished brain function. You know - having slower recall, occasionally forgetting things, etc... Today’s accelerated world doesn’t exactly help us out, either, does it? There’s just so much to keep up with these days, and the medium is CONSTANTLY changing. I know I’m not the only middle-aged mama feeling inundated with the sheer amount of information we’ve gotta take in on a daily basis...

Often times, the way we manage this stress on our brain is by resorting to autopilot. I definitely do this - I’ll be the first to admit! I can head to an early morning workout class in a sleepy daze, casually hit the coffee shop for fuel on the way home, and then grab a few groceries where I inevitably forget what I actually came for… sound familiar at all? It's easy to fall into a mindless routine simply because we are tired of thinking too hard!  However, milling about daily life in this passive fog isn’t much of a challenge or solution to longer term brain health. And while a tired, overwhelmed brain is an inevitable part of aging and a certain sign of the times, there are some things you can do to fight the good fight and keep that mind happy, healthy and devilishly quick! 

  1. Exercise daily - and mix it up! Research shows that aerobic exercise (or cardio, in other words) like walking, running, cycling or swimming can increase blood flow. This provides your brain with more oxygen-rich blood. Smarten up and strengthen those muscles all in one workout! 

  2. Meditate. Relaxation combined with a mental workout?! Sign me up!  Just a few minutes of meditation via a daily practice has been linked to stress relief, higher IQ, advanced thinking and mental agility. 

  3. Challenge yourself.  Research shows that the more you push your brain, the more powerful it becomes. Challenge yourself with something completely new in your daily life. If you rarely wear high heels, try walking around your house in them for ten minutes. If you’re right-handed, brush your teeth with your left hand! These unfamiliar feelings will get your brain working in a new way! 

  4. Learn a language.  It’s a pretty well-known fact that learning a second language offers potential benefits like heightened memory, concentration and lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer's. Because language is complex, speaking or learning a new one is a really excellent mental workout. It’s also a useable skill - hop on a plane and put that new language to good use! 

  5. Download Lumosity.  Brain-games and mental teasers stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new ones, developing neurological "plasticity" for longevity of mental sharpness. Play these fun little brain games in those spare moments where you would normally scroll through your social media feed; you’ll start to notice what a difference active vs. passive engagement actually makes!

  6. Start journaling! Writing your thoughts down has proved to enhance brain function and writing by hand actually reinforce this! When writing by hand, our brain receives feedback from our motor actions, together with the sensation of touching a pencil and paper. This type of feedback is significantly different from what we receive when touching and typing on a keyboard. In case you missed it, I just wrote a blog post on the process of journaling - check it out here!

  7. Read a good book. Reading is an easy and enjoyable way to engage a different part of the brain as it activates your imagination. Reading has also been linked to memory retention, problem solving, and critical thinking skills in both young and mature readers.  

  8. Learn an instrument. Reading music and challenging yourself to learn an instrument stimulates the brain by improving functions like memory and abstract reasoning skills. Play your heart out, loves!

  9. Drive without GPS. Shake things up! Take the long way home, drive a new route, and try to go an entire day without your GPS. Even simple adjustments like this can give your brain a solid workout and keep your mind engaged. 

  10. Eat a brain-healthy diet. Food is powerful. We are literally made out of it. So make sure that you are choosing brain-boosting foods like nuts, fish, leafy greens and more. Here’s a more complete list from Healthline.

  11. Care for your emotions. Anxiety, depression and over-stressed people aren’t always the clearest thinkers. Good mental health and restful sleep are definitely #goals, sometimes you need to get away and give yourself a real mental break! Our upcoming September Dare to Detour retreat is a truly phenomenal way to exercise self-care and make sure your brain is in tip-top shape when you need it!

Take care, you lovely brainiacs!