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9 Unconventional (But Scientifically Proven) Tips For A Healthy And Happy Brain

9 Unconventional (But Scientifically Proven) Tips For A Healthy And Happy Brain

We are increasingly expected to deliver exceptional results at work and in school. We are constantly straining our brains to make sure we give our best, and we try to outperform to become better versions of ourselves. But what we forget is to take care of our brain.

As the control center of our body, our brain is one wonderfully crafted machine. Weighing at about three pounds in the average adult, our brain is one of the largest and most important organs in the human body. Think about it: the brain does it all. It controls our emotions, coordinates our movements, and even receives and sends nerve signals to other body parts so we function well physiologically. This is why it is so important to take care of it.

Here are nine scientifically proven tips to make sure your brain stays healthy and happy for many more years to come.

1. Eat more whole and nutritious food.

Research has shown that the food we eat can greatly influence our cognitive processes and emotions. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can support brain function and mental fitness. A diet high in saturated fat, on the other hand, can increase the risk of neurological dysfunction. Understanding what we eat and consume on a daily basis can lead to a healthy and happy brain.

For a start, try to consume more whole and natural foods, such as eggs, grass-fed dairy, organic meats, fruits and vegetables. Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in oily fish and walnuts, and stay away from processed foods as much as possible.

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2. Spend more time with your loved ones.

A study done in 2008 by the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that social interactions and good relationships build a foundation to delay memory loss as we age. Participants aged 50 or older were told to take a memory test, and at the same time researchers measured their social integration based on marital status, volunteering experience and contact with parents, children and neighbors. It was found that those engaged in social activities had slower rates of memory decline.

Getting enough social interaction with the people who matter to us is crucial for the brain to stay healthy and happy. Spend more time with your family and loved ones.

Read more on Lifehack: 10 Ways To Spend More Quality Time With Your Partner

3. Pick up a second language.

Picking up a second language can keep your brain healthy and happy. If you can only speak one language, try challenging yourself this year and pick up another one. Research has shown that studying a new language can improve our brain’s cognitive skills, preventing memory loss in the future. Apart from picking up a second language, learning to play a guitar or try your hand in something new that you’ve never done before can also promote healthy brain function and happiness.

Do something new and challenge yourself. Your brain will thank you for that!

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4. Try HIIT.

CLB-6 Marines, sailors enjoy food and fun during field meet
    High-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, improves both bodily and brain health in half the time traditional exercise programs can. HIIT involves brief bouts of intense workouts followed by a short rest period and can be done on any cardio equipment, such as the treadmill or cross trainer, or by doing several body-weight exercises. A study that involved adults who did HIIT twice a week and strength training twice a week for four months has shown increased brain oxygenation, VO2 max and cognitive function. That’s enough to keep your brain smiling.

    More Lifehacks: 5 Reasons Why You Should Be Spending Less Time Working Out

    5. Get enough sleep.

    We all know sleeping is important for our bodily physiological function. Science has shown that skimping on sleep can seriously mess up our cognitive functions, leading to undesirable accident risks. Try to get at least seven to eight hours of snooze time and wake at the same time every morning. This keeps your body clock, or circadian rhythm, steady thus making us more productive in the day and our brain happier in the long run.

    Also on Lifehack: 10 Unconventional (But Great) Sleeping Tips You’ve Probably Never Heard

    6. Learn to meditate or practice yoga.

    In other words, relax! Taking things slow and eliminating things that are not needed in your life can keep your brain healthy. We live a fast-paced lifestyle and over time it can be detrimental to our health by increasing stress and unnecessary negative effects on our body. A study done by the University of California (Los Angeles) has also shown that yoga and meditation can not only reduce stress levels in normal individuals but also in those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Reduce the demands you place on yourself and your brain will thank you later.

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    One of the ways to do this is to learn how to meditate or to practice yoga regularly. Meditation even for several minutes a day can force your body into relaxation mode. If you’ve never done yoga or meditation before, start slow by building small habits.

    Want to learn more? Try this: Meditation For Beginners: 11 Easy Tips

    7. Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake.

    While caffeine is typically our go-to solution when we need a mid-day pick me up, it can be detrimental to our health over the long run. A research study has shown that while caffeine is a short-term stimulant, over the long term it can narrow the blood vessels in our very important temporal lobes and prefrontal cortex—the area of our brain that if damaged can lead to poor memory and severe depression.

    A cup of coffee a day or a couple glasses of wine every week is not that bad, but if you’re drinking more than that, it’s time to reduce your intake to promote health and happiness for your brain.

    8. Save at least $2 a day.

    While saving money may not have a direct impact on brain function, saving money is a good starting point in setting financial goals. Science has shown that having a well-developed plan for financial security can stimulate your brain’s executive functions, which are responsible for complex functions like scheduling and organization.

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    Be aware of where your money is going, keep track of your finances, and don’t be afraid to spend on yourself (within reason) after a month of hard work. Your happiness will bring joy to your brain and improve its health in the long run!

    9. Add coconut oil to your diet

    This might be fairly new, but a very recent study has shown that adding coconut oil to our diet can reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, keeping Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s at bay. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) fats, which have been shown to increase brain function from the first dose.

    I personally find coconut oil tastier than other options when used in cooking and baking, and with scientifically proven studies like this—and more coming up in the near future—there are more reasons for us to include it in our diet regularly.

    More by this author

    25 Positive Things You Should Know About Turning 25 8 Not-So-Obvious Signs You’ve Been Working Out Too Hard Want To Live A Happier Life? Here Are 11 Unmissable And Positive Habits. 7 Things You Should Stop Doing When Trying To Be Healthy 9 Unconventional (But Scientifically Proven) Tips For A Healthy And Happy Brain

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

    Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

    I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

    You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

    Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

    When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

    I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

    Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

    Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

    Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

    1. The Inner Critic

    This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

    • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
    • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
    • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
    • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

    The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

    Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

    2. The Worrier

    This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

    The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

    3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

    This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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    This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

    The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

    4. The Sleep Depriver

    This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

    The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

    • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
    • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
    • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
    • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

    How can you control these squatters?

    How to Master Your Mind

    You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

    Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

    There are two ways to control your thoughts:

    • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
    • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

    This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

    The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

    Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

    For the Inner Critic

    When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

    You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

    For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

    You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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    “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

    If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

    • They rile up the Worrier.
    • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
    • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
    • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
    • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

    Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

    Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

    For the Worrier

    Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

    Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

    You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tense

    Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

    If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

    Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

    “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

    Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

    If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

    Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

    Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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    For example:

    If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

    “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

    Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

    “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

    Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

    For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

    Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

    The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

    • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tension

    I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

    Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

    Breathe in through your nose:

    • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
    • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
    • Focus on your belly rising.

    Breathe out through your nose:

    • Feel your lungs emptying.
    • Focus on your belly falling.
    • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

    Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

    Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

    One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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    Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

    For the Sleep Depriver

    (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

    I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

    Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

    1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
    2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

    When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

    From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

    For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

    If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

    You can also use this technique any time you want to:

    • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
    • Shut down your thinking.
    • Calm your feelings.
    • Simply focus on the present moment. 

    The Bottom Line

    Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

    You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

    Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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