Out of all the things you think about first thing in the morning upon rising, is “I need to take care of my brain” at the top of your list?
No? Well, sadly you are not alone.
And yet, the health of our brain determines the quality of our life.
You read that right. If we are dealing with an unhealthy brain and little awareness of how to make it function better, we are likely struggling significantly in some area that could be helped.
Are you dealing with Anxiety? Depression? ADD/ ADHD? OCD? On the autism spectrum? Are you dealing with an addiction to sugar, food, drugs, alcohol, sex, infidelity, porn, or work?
Are you lacking in impulse control? Trouble making decisions? Difficulty setting boundaries?
Are your relationships struggling? Are you impatient? Chronically angry?
Perhaps you have never associated any of the aforementioned list to the quality of your brain health.
Perhaps today that will change.
We ALL have parts of our brain that work well; they accomplish what we need them to do, and most of us also have one or more areas of our brain that struggle either with under functioning or over functioning. In other words, parts of our brain that are sluggish, and parts that are over active all cause us problems.
And yet, we hear so little about brain health. Our brain is command central. Think of it as the control tower for the rest of your body. Planes can fly but it’s not going to end well if there’s no control tower to help them fly smoothly and navigate whatever the pilot may encounter along the journey.
Let’s start appreciating how vital brain health is to the quality of our life, health, work, and relationships.
It is your brain that decides to eat the brownie or the broccoli.
Your brain makes the decision to slow down at the yellow light or pick up speed and plow through the intersection.
It’s your brain health that determines if you can get to places on time, complete work assignments or school projects on time or at all, and your brain that chooses who to date, or a life partner.
Your brain remembers things short term and long term or it does not, it can easily learn new things or it struggles, it can love and experience joy, or it is not able to.
All this packed into roughly 3 pounds of tofu like material that sits inside our head that we rarely give thought as to how to maximize its health and function.
At Live Well Kitsap we are celebrating and calling attention to our brain health for a good reason. And now you know why!
And the good news, is that most of the things that you might do to have a healthier body or lose weight are also good for your brain. Remember every poor choice – eating the standard American diet, not working out or moving your body, too much eating, smoking, drinking- those things also hurt your brain, not just your body.
Here’s what’s on the Good List. These things if taken one at a time, can significantly help to improve your brain health and therefore help with any of the things previously mentioned above.
1. PROTECT YOUR PRECIOUS BRAIN. That means really consider the small and big choices you make daily. Wear a seat belt. If you engage in any kind of sport or hobby that has the potential for falls or collisions, wear a helmet. Minimize or eliminate the sports that are more likely to cause head injury such as football, soccer, boxing and MMA. Do your research before allowing your kiddos to play those sports.
2. FUEL YOUR BRAIN WELL. What you eat affects your brain and body. If you eat foods high in sugar, fat and salt and create a lifestyle of fast and saturated fatty foods the resulting inflammation affects your brain and body. Lean toward a healthy diet, lots of plant based foods, organic foods, fish, lean sources of protein and minimize the sugar.
3. MAKE YOUR BRAIN WORK! By constantly learning and practicing new things, whether you learn to play an instrument, learn a new language, do crossword puzzles, sudoku or other brain games, you will ensure that you are using your brain. The old adage “use it or lose it” applies here.
4. MOVE YOUR BODY TO HELP YOUR BRAIN. When you engage in regular fitness activities, you increase circulation, and therefore oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Movement in general increases blood flow and good cognitive function relies on blood flow to the brain. The more you add in even 15 minutes of fitness activity once or twice a day, you can significantly improve how your body and brain both feel and function. Remember to do something you truly enjoy so that you will more likely stick with it.
5. INCREASE THOSE ZZZZZZZ’S – When we lack sleep- 6 hours or less- we decrease blood flow to the brain. ( We also become more dangerous on the road as reaction time is impaired.) You’ve seen first hand how much more irritable and impatient you are when you are lacking sleep. Your body, brain, cognitive function and relationships all require you to shoot for 7-8 hours of quality shuteye nightly.
6. SUPPLEMENT WISELY- Often our healthy diets are not enough to fully provide the nutrients our body and brain need to function optimally. There are brain supplements out there that are targeted for different things- focus, memory, clarity… do your research and learn about both the supplement as well as the company who makes it. While there are some very good supps out there, there are also sadly, those who are much more interested in making a quick buck then in helping improve your brain health.
7. GET EVALUATED IF YOU SUSPECT A BRAIN HEALTH ISSUE- There are many competent psychologists, psychiatrists, and brain health coaches that can help you with either a diagnosis or assessment and options for treatment to improve whatever brain health condition is causing life to be more difficult. While some medications can sometimes be helpful, they don’t have to be the first line of treatment. Often improving lifestyle habits along with therapy, counseling or life/ brain health coaching can go a long way towards helping you improve the areas that are causing you grief.
By taking just one of these and dedicating yourself to improving your brain health (and that of your family) can make a huge difference in the quality of your life.
Learn to appreciate and take care of the one and only brain you have. Protect it, keep it from further harm, and appreciate the three pounds or so of command central that is dictating the quality of your life, health, work and relationships.
Want to know more? So do we. We are always looking to connect and expand our horizons and knowledge base too. Let us know if you want to continue the conversation or have some good articles or blogs for us!