Keeping your Brain Young
Your brain uses up a huge amount of energy every single day of your life, particularly when we are stressed. And we all know how grumpy and tired we feel when our energy supply is low, and how difficult it can be to function properly. A certain amount of stress in our lives can be healthy, but chronic stress is often called the ‘silent killer’ because it can cause the release of excessive free radicals which, in turn, can lead to chronic health issues such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.
The brain does a lot more for you than you can imagine, and it’s up to you to give it the energy and protection it needs to stay as efficient as humanly possible.
Memory problems, brain fog, and searching for words are all signs that your brain needs some fuel. So how do you do you maximise your brain’s positive energy production whilst ensuring you are not damaging those delicate brain cells? How do you keep your brain young and sharp? How do you fuel those wonderful brain cells?
Maintain mental stimulation
Through gruelling and tedious research, scientists have discovered that brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells, developing neurological “plasticity” and building up a functional reserve that works to prevent future cell loss.
All mentally stimulating activities should work towards strengthening your brain. Read as many books as you can, take courses in things that interest you, try mental gymnastics like word puzzles and math problems such as suduko. Experiment with things that require manual dexterity as well as mental effort, such as drawing, painting, and other crafts.
Learning more in school and at university can make your brain functions work better. Scientists believe that going through higher-levels of education may help keep peoples memory strong by getting a person into the habit of being mentally active and stretching their brain more. But don’t forget, it is never too late to go back to school, college or university: many adult community colleges offer a broad range of classes from basic Maths and English to exciting new hobbies such as painting, photography and so much more. And enrolling with the Open University can be an exhilarating experience for many.
Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.
A lot of people look to get a job that keeps them mentally active, but pursuing a hobby, learning a new skill, or volunteering for a project at work that involves a skill you don’t usually use can function the same way and help improve memory.
Physical exercise is not only beneficial for physical wellbeing, but is also essential for good mental health – and keeping those brain cells active. Exercise can increase the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the region of the brain that gives you the ability to think fast and clearly and will also help to heal your body.
Don’t think that you need to join a gym or run a few miles every day. At whatever stage you are in your life, there will be some sort of exercise suitable for you: yes, even if you are unable to walk unaided! Many care homes, for example, have introduced very gentle chair-based exercises, and a lot of London spinal surgeons recommend exercise to people with back pain to help them get better.
Exercise allows for the growth of new nerve cells and improves the connections between brain cells. This results in brains that are more efficient and adaptive, which translates into better overall brain function.
Remember that the best form of exercise is something you enjoy simply because you are more likely to keep doing it! Gardening and dancing are both wonderful forms of exercise. Dancing is particularly good if you are taking lessons/attending classes as you also have to keep your brain active as you master those new steps and sequences!
You might think your brain takes a rest when you are sleeping, but that couldn’t be further from the reality. Sleep is your brain’s most active time. While you’re snoozing, your brain is working hard to repair, to clean out waste products, and to make and strengthen brain cell connections from what you learned and did throughout the day.
That’s why it’s crucial to not just sleep more, but sleep better. It’s not enough to just be in your bed. The magic happens during high-quality, restful sleep.
Connect With Nature
It may come as a surprise to most people that being in touch with nature is good for the brain, but research shows that nature produces mental and physical health benefits. As Professor Jules Pretty explains in his excellent article The Green Mind and Good Health:
“Even a five-minute dose of nature brings immediate wellbeing.”
We all know that a healthy diet is good for our physical and mental wellbeing, but did you know that some foods are are particularly good for brain function? Wholegrains, oily fish, tomatoes, berries, nuts, eggs, and dark green veg can all help protect brain function and enhance memory and mood.