6 Healthy Behaviors that Benefit Your Brain Health
Brain Health is Vital for Lifelong Travel
The subject of brain health is near and dear to my heart. Spoiler alert – I’m the daughter of a parent with dementia. Because of that, it is a subject that will appear frequently on this blog as my goal is to get the word out about the need for good brain health if you plan to travel long past retirement. The earlier you begin to care for your brain’s health the better.
I get my wanderlust from my mother. At 76 she should be knocking out her bucket list of trips. Instead she’s been stripped of her independence for own health and safety. This is my daily motivation to do whatever I can to maintain and improve my brain health. I have a lot left to do in this life and the thought of losing my memory and independence terrifies me.
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. But very little is ever mentioned about keeping our brains healthy until we’re talking about the latest statistics about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
So, 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 to make these changes stick, we need to fully understand the results our bad habits have on our brain health.
6 Things You Can Do Now
1. Reduce your stress level. This is a big one for many of us. My full time 8am-5pm day job is mentally exhausting and stressful. Is your job or daily life stressful? 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.
Get a canvas, a few brushes and some paints and just start painting. Or better yet, throw some paint on the canvas and move it around with your fingers and palms. You don’t have to be Monet or Pollock. Have fun! This article shows why the stress-related hormone cortisol lowers significantly after just 45 minutes of art creation.
2. Stop multitasking. Oh, ladies, we are the mistresses of multi-tasking. When was the last time you performed a single task? I can’t remember the last time I did. If you want to improve your focus and be more productive during your day, stop multitasking. 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. Not being preachy here; we’re all adults and thus the captains of our own ship. Yet, it’s very well documented that 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.
Full disclosure, I love a good glass of wine or a cocktail. I used to love a nice cold beer in the summer or after a day of yard work and occasionally will still imbibe in an icy cold draft. My gut does not take too kindly to beer these days, however.
The point is, you do you, captain. Just be mindful of how your brain health may be affected. The above is merely a caution to be aware of 😉.
4. Lower your earbud volume. My young colleague plays his music so loudly I can hear it through his earbuds. I cringe when I think what his hearing will be like in 20 years. Not only can high decibels harm your hearing but now there’s a link between hearing loss and the 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.
Don’t like plain water? Click here for a boatload of infused water recipes. Heck, even if, like me, you love plain water, try raising your water consumption with some of these recipes.
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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Interested in more ideas? Click here to find out how to sleep your way to a healthy brain.