It is no surprise that a healthy brain leads to a sharper mind and a stronger memory. The question is: What lifestyle choices do we need to make to enable our brains to function optimally and slow down cognitive decline as we age?
Here are six lifestyle choices you have to make now to boost your brain and improve your memory:
- Eat a healthy diet
Just like any organ in our body, the brain benefits from getting the right kind of nutrients in your diet. On top of eating fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, lean protein and healthy fat, below are some nutritional tips that will surely help boost your brain and reduce your risk of dementia:
- As omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial for brain health, make sure to eat fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines at least once a week. If you’re allergic to fish, you can also get omega-3 from walnuts, kidney beans, spinach, broccoli and soybeans.
- While healthy fat is good for your brain, large amounts of saturated fat found in red meat and dairy may impair your concentration and memory in the long-term. Pure avoidance is unnecessary but moderation is key.
- Green tea contains powerful antioxidants that help your body protect itself against free radicals that can damage brain cells. Its regular consumption also helps enhance memory and improve concentration.
- Even if alcohol is known to impair brain function, having a glass of red wine per day has been proven to improve blood flow in the brain and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Engage in physical activity every day
Breaking a sweat does more than just keep in you shape; it also contributes to your overall brain health. When you get your heart rate up, it increases the flow of oxygen to your brain and reduces your risk for developing disorders that may potentially lead to memory loss. Exercise also helps in reducing stress hormones, and in the production of feel-good hormones. Below are some brain-boosting exercise tips you can consider:
- Exercise in the morning to feel awake and rejuvenated for the entire day.
- Try physical activities such as boxing and contemporary dancing, as they require hand-eye coordination or complex motor skills are particularly beneficial for brain building.
- While engaging in stretching and low-impact exercise is better than no exercise at all, the best kind of exercise for the brain is anything that keeps your heart rate up and your blood pumping.
- Play brain games and logic puzzles
If you don’t stimulate your brain, it will eventually begin to deteriorate. This is the main reason why doctors encourage the elderly to play crossword puzzles, recall happy memories and remember different phone numbers.
One way to keep your mind sharp is to play different brain games and puzzles that exercise your ability to read, comprehend and remember patterns and sequences. Lumosity is an excellent web-based application that uses short, fun games to improve one’s memory, attention, processing speed and problem solving.
If you are not interested in playing brain games, you can also try picking up a new skill or hobby. It doesn’t matter if you want to learn a new language, or master how to play a new musical instrument. By engaging in purposeful and meaningful activities, you do not only counter the effect of stress-related disease, you also reduce dementia and improve your memory function.
- Get enough sleep
Have you noticed how your mind seems foggy after waking up from only just two to three hours of sleep? That’s because you need the right amount of sleep to be able to function at your best. Not only does sleep deprivation make you feel tired and groggy, it also impacts your creativity, problem-solving abilities. More so, research shows that deep sleep is necessary for memory consolidation. This means you should always strive to get at least eight hours of sleep every day.
Here are some tips to ensure you don’t lose out on quality sleep:
- Avoid electronics before going to bed. If you can, turn everything off at least an hour before bed, so the blue light emitted by your gadgets do not suppress the production of hormones known as melatonin that make you sleepy.
- Cut back on caffeine, as it may interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep every night.
- Develop a bedtime ritual to ensure that you prepare yourself properly for a good night’s sleep. It is important to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning.
- Find ways to reduce stress
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work and anxious about your life in general, it is important that you take a step back and keep your stress levels at bay. Stress is unproductive and can lead to the damage of your hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones, over time.
Here are some stress-busters that have been proven to work wonders:
- Spend quality time with your friends. Even if you have deadlines to meet, work can wait. Social interaction is the best kind of stimulation for the brain.
- Take advantage of the memory-boosting benefits of socializing by volunteering in your local kitchen soup or a non-profit organization whose cause you fully support with.
- Get a dog. Research has shown that owning a dog can greatly help in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
- Take time out to watch a funny movie or a stand-up comedy show. Not only does laughter help in stress management, it also engages multiple regions across the brain and improves memory.
- Get into the practice of meditation. Apart from lowering down your body’s cortisol levels, meditation also can improve focus, concentration, creativity, memory, and learning and reasoning skills.
At the end of the day, a healthy lifestyle is key to improving your memory and boosting your brain’s cognitive ability. Don’t wait until you’ve experienced any memory lapses before you engage in any of these lifestyle choices. As prevention is better than cure, it is best to start young.