There are many things you can do in your daily life to keep your brain healthy and to avoid its decline as you age. Each of the brain health elements listed below are either backed by research and science or have quite a bit of experiential and empirical data behind them. And, each of the elements are interrelated and affect not only your brain health, but your health overall.
To keep the brain and mind healthy, you have to avoid things that are unhealthy and toxic to the brain:
Regular aerobic exercise in particular is good for your brain health
The diet you choose to follow is your personal choice, but multi-colored fruits and veggies are universally beneficial. Specific supplements (e.g. Vitamin D3, fish oil, Multi-B) should be considered as appropriate for your age, health status and co-occurring medical diseases
Adequate quantity and quality sleep are essential to brain health. At least 7 hours of sleep per day is recommended, preferably in a dark and quiet space.
- Stress Management
To avoid experiencing chronic stress, you must manage your stress daily. This can be done in a number of ways: Practicing mindfulness or yoga, exercising, reading or watching something that makes you laugh – all are great stress-reducing behaviors.
- Being in/with Nature
Reducing time spent on digital devices, embracing moments of solitude and surrounding yourself in nature counterbalances the negative effects produced by artificial environments (i.e. screens).
- Recreation & Play
Incorporate art, music, sports and humor into your weekly routine!
- Sociality & Connection
Humans are social animals with social brains; being with/in healthy community and fellowship is beneficial and absolutely necessary to thrive as an individual and culture. Isolation both promotes and is a symptom of poor mental and brain health.
The actual religion you practice, or whether you identify as “spiritual” or not, matters less than the involvement in practicing a religion or aspect of spirituality. Spirituality can express and foster healthy, mature development. Avoid religious behavior that is regressive or pathological.
Participating in acts of services are beneficial to both the giver and receiver. A growing body of research shows the positive relationship between altruistic behavior and multiple measures of psychological, physical and social well-being.
Try printing this list and posting it somewhere that you will see it every day. It might feel overwhelming to try to incorporate all of these into your daily or weekly routine, so select one or two to start with. After you’ve mastered those, select a couple more. You will experience the benefits of a happier, healthier brain.
Contributed by: Gus Castellanos, MD
Retired Neurologist, Sleep Specialist, Certified Mindfulness Teacher, Member of Palm Health Foundation’s Brain Health Advisory Council