Like a thriving coral reef, a healthy brain is the product of millions of tiny units and connections. Every minute of the day you’re making choices that either strengthen that network or tear it down. Exercise, sleep and a nutritious diet have a big impact on brain health, but many brain-boosting behaviors take less than a minute a day.
- Breathe. Chronic stress puts your brain at risk. While we can’t get rid of every source of stress in our lives, we can learn to manage it. Meditative breathing increases blood flow to the brain and increases cortical thickness in the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory. Try taking three deep, mindful breaths every time you hit a stoplight or every time you hang up your phone.
- Pop your pills. Resveratrol, turmeric, and vitamin D may all play a role in preserving memory function, but the king of brain supplements is DHA. Fish oil supplements contain a rich supply of this omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for normal brain function. Try pairing this habit with your brushing/flossing routine or your morning cup of coffee.
- Strike a pose. Yoga incorporates the health benefits of mindful breathing with body-altering stretches and balance challenges. Both flexibility and balance decline with age, putting the body at risk for injury that can prohibit other kinds of brain-boosting exercise. Balance exercises also work the cerebellum, which is central for overall brain health.
- Pet your pooch. A rich social network slows memory decline and increases quality of life, and even your pet can contribute. Just a minute or two of snuggling with your pet lowers cortisol and boost seratonin, protecting your brain’s connectivity. Pets can alleviate symptoms of depression and calm patients who are already suffering from the effects of dementia. Take your pet outside for a walk and you’ll also elevate your heart rate and interact with others, both important keys to boosting brain health.
- Put on your helmet. Brain trauma, whether a single traumatic event that causes loss of consciousness or repeated, less severe incidents are increasingly linked to neurodegenerative disease later in life. Will Smith’s new movie Conscious brings awareness to this issue, and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health currently has two studies underway to examine the long-term effects of brain trauma on professional football players and professional fighters. Whether you’re snowboarding, riding your bike to the store, or meeting friends for a pick-up game of football, take an extra ten seconds to strap on a helmet and protect your vulnerable gray matter.
Over time, these small acts can make a big impact on your brain health. If you’re interested in learning more, sign up here and you’ll receive a special invitation to our upcoming course, Habits for Brain Health.