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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

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    Last Updated on September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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