How to keep your brain young
How to keep your brain young
 

How to keep your brain young

Everyone will take up a new exercise programme and a healthier diet in order to lose a few pounds. But how many do it for their brain? More and more research is being conducted and the results suggest that a few simple lifestyle changes can help keep your mind sharper for longer. Here we look at how exercise, diet, sleep and more can all help to keep your brain young.

Healthy diets for your brain

The benefits of having a balanced and healthy diet extends beyond your waistline. Eating the right foods has been proven to help keep your brain healthy. A diet that is high in antioxidants, for example, can help to ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s, as well as the likes of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Lara Heacock, Executive Life Coach and Editor in Chief at Kind Over Matter told us how eating well can seriously benefit your brain functionality:

Foods can have the same impact as adequate rest. Sugar, for example, provides a quick burst of energy, but can also result in a major energy crash in some people. Pay attention to how you feel when you eat certain foods. What differences do you notice in your cognition and brain performance? Choosing the foods that make you feel best is the kindest thing you can do for your body and mind.

Blueberries

Containing high levels of flavonoids – which reduce oxidation, a process that can damage cells – blueberries have been touted as a ‘super food’ for years.


Punnet of blueberries

You can add a handful of blueberries to your yoghurt and oats, or drink blueberry juice. A study conducted by Ready University in 2015 found that it has the potential to improve memory and concentration among young people, though this could be extended to adults.

Green, leafy veg

The likes of kale and spinach have become mainstream in recent years. Replacing the likes of lettuce, leafy veg is proven to help keep your mind young. Researchers from the Rush University in Chicago found that eating spinach daily has the power to make your brain 11 years younger and could even fight off dementia. Leafy greens contain high levels of vitamins and nutrients like folate and vitamin K.

Lutein, which can be found in spinach and kale, has been proven to help improve your brain performance. Add at least three large cups of dark greens to your diet a week whilst balancing it out with eggs, peas, broccoli and avocados.

Healthy fats

Fat is a real buzz word when people think of a healthy diet. Many people looking to eat better will opt for the ‘fat free’ options, without realising that these products actually contain dangerously high levels of sugar to subsidise for the lack of taste.

In actual fact, fat can be good for you. So long as it is the right kind of fat, the unsaturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated are what you are looking for. Oily fish like sardines and salmon are great sources of good fats, as well as omega-3, which increase blood flow to your brain. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios also offer these fats.


bowl of almonds


It is the saturated fats that are commonly found in red and processed meats that you should be wary of. Replace steak with a piece of fish and start consuming purer virgin oil, walnuts, almonds and pistachios.

Keeping Active

Many of us live a very sedentary life. We must drive to work where we then sit behind a screen for hours, before getting back into the car and driving home to our screens as we ‘relax’. Sitting is now widely considered as dangerous for our health as smoking, with the average Brit spending 9.5 hours of our day perched on your bum. Not only does an inactive lifestyle have a negative effect on our body, but it is also associated with depression and other mental health conditions.

Regular moderate exercise offer a wealth of benefits. Being active helps to boost your self-esteem, fight off diseases, improve body image and can help to keep your mind younger. You should find a balance between cardiovascular exercise like running, swimming and cycling with weights training. After an extended period of time you will see very noticeable improvements to your posture, cardiovascular capacity, mood and balance.


Exercise for a healthy brain


Whether it is five-a-side with your friends, a Zumba class or a swim before or after work, if you are active your brain will thank you with serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is associated with good health and a good mental well-being.

By simply exercising daily you can increase your focus and cognitive flexibility, improve your willpower, short and long term memory as well as relieve stress. But did you know that you could actually also increase your IQ? A study in Sweden monitored the link between cardiovascular health and performance on IQ tests in 1 million men. It found that those who partake in regular exercise actually performed better on the tests.

Exercising your brain

Like you would train your body, you should also train your brain. Take up the habit of doing a daily crossword or a few Sudoku puzzles to stimulate your brain. Whether it is a word search or an app on your phone, testing your brain can help with your reasoning, attention, flexibility and visual perception.

If that isn’t your thing then the same benefits come from painting, drawing or taking up crafts. Find something to do with your hands that requires both physical dexterity and mental effort.

Take a break

It is harder than it sounds to sit down, unwind and give yourself some quality time to relax with your thoughts. Life can be extremely stressful and that takes its toll on your body and mind. Whether it is increased pressure at work or a busy family life, , these feelings can easily mount and become overwhelming.

Why not enjoy a spa break in Yorkshire to kick back and relax? It’s important to take time out of your day to find a place where you can forget about everything. Try finding a peaceful place outside where you can sit or stand and appreciate your surroundings, or alternatively somewhere inside that is quiet and void of distractions. Sometimes you only need five minutes staring out quietly over a nice view of the countryside or an open space to help relax you and put yourself at ease.

Meditate

Meditation has become extremely fashionable in recent years – even elite athletes swear by it. Simply put, you are clearing your mind of all thought to achieve relaxation and much more in some cases. It is something that has been adopted by cultures around the globe for thousands of years and has now become something that millions incorporate into their day.

The practice is known to reduce anxiety. When you meditate you weaken the neural connection to the medial prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain that processes information about ourselves and our experiences). As it weakens, we strengthen our connection to the Assessment Centre (where our brain determines reasoning). In short, this process allows us to rationally and calmly deal with upsetting or shocking situations that would otherwise disturb us.

This increased state of calm has great benefit to our brains and certainly contributes to keeping our mind young. Stress accelerates the aging process, so combat it with some meditation.

Sleep

A spa break is a great way to recuperate, but nothing is quite as effective as a good night’s rest. An adequate amount of sleep is vital. Sleep energises your mind, boosts your immune system, improves your mood and refreshes your brain. We have all sleepwalked through our day at work when we have been kept up the night before through overthinking or worrying

Getting the right amount of rest was the number one recommendation that Rachael from Tasteful Space offered  us:

"Resting properly can keep the mind young and healthy. Rest encompasses both time off from vigorous exercise and also plenty of sleep each night. The proper amount of rest will restore and balance hormone levels, heal the body from physical tissue damage, and also keep cortisol (stress hormones) at lower levels. If you want to keep your body young, both physically and mentally, rest is an essential component of proper well-being and a balanced lifestyle."

Similarly Lara Heacock of Kind Over Matter, suggested that enough rest balanced with a good diet will help to keep your mind young:

Getting adequate rest and eating foods that are healthy for your body are two of the kindest things you can do for yourself, and they have the added bonus of keeping your mind young and agile. Think about how you feel when you've gotten very little sleep. People often describe feeling foggy or slow. They certainly don't feel sharp and agile!

Aim to achieve eight hours of good quality sleep each night. By good quality we mean undisturbed. You are not waking up periodically before succumbing to exhaustion. Try coupling this with a good sleeping pattern where you begin a routine of going to bed earlier and waking up at an appropriate time.

Yoga

Like meditation, the history of yoga dates back thousands of years. It has recently seen a surge in popularity, with  many people looking for a healthier and more holistic lifestyle.


Woman doing yoga


Adopted by professional athletes to prolong their careers, this low-impact exercise benefits participants physically as well as helping to keep cognitive decline at bay. Elsewhere, practising yoga is credited with giving you better posture, greater flexibility, an improved mood and of course, relieving stress.

Learn a new language

This is another method which incorporates keeping your brain engaged. Like with puzzles and exercise, learning a new language is touted as a way to keep your mind young. Some research has suggested that those who speak more than one language are more accomplished at multitasking and paying attention. The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology found that those who were bilingual developed dementia an average of four and a half years later than those who weren’t.

Be sociable

Having an active social life is one way of making sure that you keep your mind young. Whether it is catching up with friends over dinner or visiting family, those who interact with people tend to have a healthier brain. It is believed that social engagement is directly liked to mental agility, it will also help to boost your mood.

Play an instrument

Research found by the Guardian has found that those who play a musical instrument for upwards of ten years have better memory once they reach an advanced age, rather than those who have been playing for less than ten years, or not at all.

Keeping your mind curious and active with a new hobby like this is known to stimulate the growth of brain cells. While it is a common New Year’s resolution for a lot of people, this evidence may well push you to actually achieving it.


playing the piano


There are many practises that you can adopt in an attempt to help keep your mind young. And none of them are too taxing. We are not suggesting a complete overhaul of your lifestyle, just making sure you spend some time looking after yourself. Get enough sleep, relax and recover at a spa break, try a few new hobbies and eat the right things to stay healthier for longer.


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