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.
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!
4. Try HIIT.
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.
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.
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.