I just want to let you in on a little secret....this year I am turning 40! Instead of being all morose about this rather major birthday, I have decided to try to make this year my best year yet..
I'm not going to let turning 40 get me down!
So, I have been making a few changes in my life; I am drinking less alcohol and less coffee and drinking more tea; I am exercising more, reading more and I am spending more time in the garden. All of these things are not only making me feel healthier physically but apparently they are also helping my brain stay healthy.
Scientists have discovered that if the brain is able to create new connections by growing more connections between brain cells, we might not lose our memories as we age, in spite of inevitable brain cell depletion. One way to keep making new connections is to keep exercising, using and looking after our brain!
Studies have shown that exercise can improve the brain’s executive skills, which include planning, organizing and multitasking. What we eat can also influence how effectively our brain operates. You can read more about the studies here but here is a brief summary of some of the findings:
The top 5 ways to keep our brains in good form:
1. Eat colourful fruit and vegetables.
We should try to eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables like blueberries, oranges, bok choy, spinach, tomatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes, the latest "super food!" These colourful foods are loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants not only helps protect and nourish brain cells but also prevents cholesterol from damaging the lining of our arteries. Antioxidants are also critical for cell protection and slowing blood flow to the brain.
2 Read a book
Exercising our mental abilities keeps them strong. If we think creatively, we will strengthen the connections that we draw upon for creative thought. If we don’t think creatively, then we could lose our creativity. So, switch off the TV, the computer, the phone, the ipods and whatever other devices that take up your time and find yourself a good book. Don't feel guilty about taking time to read....Reading is exercise for the brain! Reading takes mind power to convert the words on the page into mental pictures, reading gets brain cells charging.
3 Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!
Healthy blood flow to the brain strengthens neuronal connections. Even if we don’t use a particular neural pathway, blood flow will help keep you from losing it.
Scientists at the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland in Australia have found that moderate exercise significantly increases the number of neural stem cells in the ageing brain.
According to QBI neuroscientist Dr Blackmore, researchers are finding ways to stimulate the production of neurons to negate any decline brought about by age or disease.
This is great news as it means that keeping a healthy heart will keep our minds sharp too!
4 Avoid Stress
Stress that is not managed or treated can lead to a variety of medical illnesses. Unmanaged stress can also lead to anxiety disorders that can then lead to depression. Stress may contribute to physical illness such as cardiovascular disease, raised blood pressure and suppressed immune system. It can also contribute to infertility and speed up the aging process.
Stress shrinks areas of the brain including your hippocampus. Stressful episodes may disrupt hippocampal function and thus your memory-forming processes.
It is so important then, that we try to manage our stress as best we can. Meditate, practice yoga, lead a balanced life, slow down and exercise. Do anything you can do to reduce stress. Your body and brain will thank you!
5 Listen To Music
Studies show that listening to music strengthens the right-hemisphere of the brain and the same studies have also found that people who listen to music are generally smarter and have more emotional intelligence than those who don’t.
Listening to music requires some level of concentration. For example, music that has a strong beat stimulates brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat and faster beats bring sharper concentration and more alert thinking. On the other hand, music with a slower tempo leads to a meditative state.
Furthermore, research from Stanford University found that the change in brainwave activity levels that music brings enables the brain to shift speeds on its own as needed. Meditation and hypnosis research has spurred scientists to take a closer look at music to help those people who can't sleep. A small but growing body of evidence suggests that music can heal damaged brains. This just shows how powerful music is: it can bring lasting benefits to your brain, even after you’ve stopped listening!
I hope you have a great week exercising your brains and boosting your mind power; isn't it great to know that we can do so much good for our bodies and brains with hardly any effort? We just have to eat well, exercise regularly, listen to good music, read and get sufficient sleep....it's that easy!
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