What is Brain Health?
According the American Heart Association, when your brain is healthy, it has the blood flow required for peak performance. A healthy brain is essential for living a long and full life. When your brain is healthy, you're better able to pay attention, solve problems, communicate, and much more.
With so many changes and so much uncertainty during this Coronavirus Pandemic, there are numerous concerns and issues that people are dealing with like never before. Some of the results of feeling “lost" and unstable include loneliness, mood swings, inability to think clearly, trouble sleeping, and attention deficit/distraction (to name a few).
Your brain health is just as important as your physical health, especially during trying times.
Here are some tips to help stimulate your brain and keep you feeling a bit more in control while in a situation that gives us very limited control over current daily life:
Stay mentally active
Mentally stimulating activities such as crossword puzzles, playing games, and learning to play a musical instrument, are all great ways to boost your brainpower. People often forget that they are just as important as physical exercise. Just like muscles, you have to use it or lose it (your brain). Mindfulness activities, like meditating, deep breathing, practicing gratitude, and journaling, are all good ways to calm the body and the mind. Getting a good night’s sleep is also important in managing stress and fending off age-related decline in brain health.
Social isolation, which can cause both depression and stress, can also contribute to memory loss. There are many ways to stay connected with loved ones, friends, and others, especially with so much technology available to us now. Humans are social beings so it is important to feel connected, especially if you live alone. Some socially-distant, yet acceptable, options include:
- Calling long-lost friends or family
- Walking at a social distance (6 feet apart)
- Scheduling virtual video meetings
- Playing free online games with your loved ones, such as Words with Friends
Keep a schedule
It is helpful to feel like things are “normal" even though life has a new normal now. Trying to maintain a routine is very helpful and helps give us control over our day.
- Write down tasks, appointments, and other events in a special notebook, calendar, or electronic planner. Even writing down virtual online appointments with friends gives you a sense of the importance of the event.
- Repeat each entry out loud as you write it down to help cement it in your memory.
- Keep to-do lists current and check off items you’ve completed.
- Set aside a place for your wallet, keys, and other essentials. This makes them easy to find and saves lots of time.
- Limit distractions. Setting timers or alarms for breaks is helpful for staying on task.
Improve memory and attention
Everyday activities like folding laundry and making dinner can be exercises in attention and memory.
- For a new recipe, read the 3 or 4 steps and see if you can commit them to memory. Then review before doing to be. sure you are correct.
- Focus on the information that you’re trying to retain. This helps eliminate distractions that cause you to forget sometimes.
Try something new. Or a new way to do something you’ve done in the past. The more challenging the activity the more likely it is to sharpen underlying cognitive ability.
- Start a new hobby or interest.
- Experiment with different types of music, art, or drama.
- Learn a new language.
- Try a different type of exercise.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet might be as good for your brain as it is for your heart and the rest of your body.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, lean meat, and skinless poultry.
- Food rich in antioxidants can help fend off the harmful effects of oxidation in your brain.
- Despite the attraction to have more virtual happy hours, it is recommended to try to limit alcohol consumption as too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss.
Include physical activity in your daily routine.
Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. It stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood, and thinking.
- For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging.
- Check with your health care provider if you’re starting anything new that might be a big change for you.
- If you don’t have time for a full workout, squeeze in a few 10-minute walks throughout the day. It’s often helpful to set an alarm for regular breaks from sitting at the computer (or binge-watching Netflix and the myriad of other streaming platforms).
By using some of the strategies listed above, you can help maintain and possibly improve your brain health, especially during these difficult times.