As modern society continues to put new demands on our brains, understanding and developing habits for optimal brain health can help support neural functioning throughout our lives. Here are some easy tips to help you stay mentally fit.
Exercise and Sleep
Physical exercise increases oxygen intake stimulating brain function and also improves sleep, long known to enhance memory.
Sleep improves your ability to learn and remember new things and is particularly important for “procedural” memories, for things that involve motor and perceptual skills, such as riding your bike, tying your shoes, or cooking.
During the deepest stages of sleep, our memories are consolidated enhancing our capability to remember information, and a recent study found that while we sleep our brains self-clean while we sleep, getting rid of toxins that build-up throughout the day.
Meditate Stress Away
The ultimate enemy to memory, chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus, an area in your brain responsible in forming new memories and retrieving old ones.
You can reduce the effects of stress by taking some quiet time out for yourself to relax. The brain health benefits of meditation are continually being revealed in the research world. Not only does meditation help thicken the cerebral cortex (the outer layer of the brain) and stimulate neural connections that boost mental sharpness, it also heightens activity in the left pre-frontal cortex, an area associated with joy and emotional equilibrium.
Fueling the mind with nutritious foods that optimize brain health is another important support to memory. Foods rich in omega-3s and antioxidants help boost memory. So eat some wild-caught salmon for dinner and stock up on leafy green vegetables and sweet fruits such as bananas, mangoes, and watermelon.
Likewise, green tea also has powerful antioxidants which safeguard brain cells. If tea doesn’t quench your thirst, red wine, cranberry juice, and grape juice all contain high levels of resveratrol flavonoids—antioxidants that help boost blood flow to the brain, which is essential to a healthy mind.
Also, remember that in addition to what you eat, when and how much you eat are also important. Make sure you eat in the morning and if you are busy during the day, eat a bit less but chew thoroughly for the best digestion and clear head.
And most importantly, use your brain! By exercising and expanding your neural network, you are enhancing your ability to process and remember information. Engaging in fun, challenging activities is imperative in developing new neural pathways. Sports that involve the hands, craft activities, and learning to play a musical instrument are all great ways to stimulate the brain and improve memory.