When was the last time you thought to yourself, “I really need to take care of my brain?” If you are honest, you will admit that this is something that you rarely think about. Believe me, you are not alone! Very few of us focus on caring for our brain – that 2 ½ to 3 lb. organ housed within our skulls. The brain is the “boss” of our body. Without it, we cannot and would not exist. In fact, it has been said that the brain is the “source of all the qualities that define our humanity.” 1
With this knowledge, it would seem essential that we do whatever we can to take care of our brains. As a psychologist, I am particularly interested in this because brain functioning has a significant impact on our mental and emotional health. So, what we can do to care for our brains and enhance our psychological functioning? Here are a few recommendations:
- Eat foods that are whole, unprocessed, and as close to their natural state as possible. This includes fruits, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables. From these foods we can get the nutrients that the brain loves, such as healthy carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, and B vitamins.
- Make sure that you get adequate amounts of sleep at the right time of the night. Many of us have heard that we need at about 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night (more for children and teenagers). But what most don’t realize is that the time we go to bed is just as important. Basically, there is evidence that suggests that the best time to be asleep is by 10 pm. There are some physiological processes that go on in the brain starting at this time (such as the peak production of melatonin, an important hormone) and if we are not asleep, we miss out on these.
- Drink adequate amounts of water. We need water to hydrate all the parts of our body, including the brain. There is a growing body of evidence that suggest that when we don’t drink enough water, we are more likely to have problems with concentration, focus, alertness, memory and even mood. The standard recommendation is that we drink at least eight 8 oz. cups of water every day.
- Keep physically active with exercise. Our brains love exercise. It helps with the production of certain chemicals that enhance the functioning of our brain. This helps us cope more effectively with stress and anxiety and also reduces symptoms of depression. In addition, it has found that exercise can improve our memory and help us to be more alert and sharp.
- Spend more time in nature and less time on electronics. These days, we tend to spend a lot of time inside watching TV, surfing the Internet, playing video games, texting on our phones, etc. Some refer to these activities as part of the “artificial” world. But our brain does so much better when it is exposed to the “natural” world of nature. There is evidence that being in nature reduces stress and anxiety, increases happiness and a sense of well being, improves energy, and even makes us more kind, loving and generous.
These are just a few things you can do to better care for your brain. As you review them, are there any that you need to implement in your own life? If so, make a commitment to start working on them today. . If you do, your brain will never be the same!
- Retrieved from www.ninds.nih..gov.
Photo by: Natasha Connell