Are you interested in having a healthy mind–not just today, but for the rest of your life? It’s true that some parts of our brain decline as we age. The good news is that other parts–including math skills and vocabulary–often don’t peak until our 60s or 70s.
Of course, to remain healthy mentally, you need to take care of your brain. A healthy mind doesn’t happen automatically. It’s the result of a lifetime of healthy habits that keep it that way. If you’re wondering how to have a healthy mind now and always, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll discuss the most important brain food (literally and figuratively) your body needs for good mental health.
Read on to learn more.
HABIT 1 // Add Healthy Brain Foods to Your Diet
Have you ever heard the expression, “You are what you eat”? Nothing could be truer when it comes to mental health. Just like junk food can harm you physically, the wrong types of food can also impair or even damage your mind. To keep your brain healthy and active for years to come, incorporate more of these brain-boosting foods into your diet:
- Whole eggs
- Red wine
- Green leafy vegetables
- Citrus fruits
- Whole grains
Each of these superfoods plays a role in boosting cognitive function and keeping those neurons firing. So eat up!
HABIT 2 // Minimize Negativity
There’s no end to the negativity we’re bombarded with in today’s world. The news and social media channels focus heavily on human suffering, political debates, and natural disasters. And we all have that one friend who always complains and never has a positive word to say about anything.
While you can’t shut the world out completely, you can choose to limit your exposure to negative thinking. Be selective about the news stories you read or watch. Reduce or even eliminate the time you spend with overly critical, negative people. What will be the result? Consider a few interesting facts:
- A study of 100,000 women found that the most critical ones had the greatest chance of having heart disease.
- People with unresolved anger issues and a hostile attitude have a higher risk of stroke.
- People who display a cynical attitude and distrust of people are more likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
As you can see, negative thinking can have a powerful effect on the body and mind. Keep yourself healthy by rejecting negative influences in your life.
HABIT 3 // Never Stop Being Spontaneous
Remember how much fun you used to have as a kid? How many hours did you spend running around the playground or playing games of make-believe? While your days of playing with toys are behind you, your brain still craves the stimulation that comes from spontaneity. When you do something spur-of-the-moment, it actually sparks new connections inside the mind.
As adults, our lives become tedious and structured. We get up at the same time every day and go through a mind-numbing routine of work and household chores. There’s little room for novelty–but that’s exactly what you need to stay healthy mentally. You may not have the circumstances to radically alter your world, but that’s not necessary. Instead, look for little ways you can be more spontaneous in your everyday life.
Sign up for a kickboxing class instead of your usual treadmill workout. Trade your lazy Sunday afternoon on the couch for that new exhibit at the museum. Read a novel instead of the newspaper, or take your parents out for that dinner you’ve been promising. Each of these new and “unexpected” activities will stretch your brain in different ways. This will keep your mind fresh, active, and healthy for years to come.
HABIT 4 // Disconnect to Reconnect
If you’re reading this, you’re staring at your phone or computer screen right now. We all need our phones and computers to work and stay in touch–but how much is too much? Being “plugged in” all the time can have disastrous consequences for our health. Computer vision syndrome (also called digital eye strain) can lead to headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and stooped posture.
What about our mental health? A recent study found that nearly 50% of teens who spend five or more hours a day on screens have seriously contemplated suicide–or even made plans for it. It’s not just a problem for teens or Millenials, either. A surprising 26% of Baby Boomers spend nine or more hours in front of a screen every day!
What’s the solution? If you want to have a healthy mind, you’ve got take time to regularly disconnect from electronics. When you have real, face-to-face interaction with the people around you, it releases brain-boosting hormones like serotonin and oxytocin. And to reduce stress levels and cortisol production, simply spend some time with Mother Nature.
Take your evening workout to the local park instead of the gym. Stroll over to your colleague’s desk to chat instead of firing off an email or text message. Take your dog for a walk and spend that time chatting with your spouse or kids–no cell phones allowed!
HABIT 5 // Get Physical
It’s not easy to make time for exercise in our busy schedules. But doing so is vital–not just for your physical health, but also for your mental health. Whenever you work out, you get a heady rush of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Each of these hormones plays an important role in reducing stress and improving your mood.
Increased oxygen flow does wonders for your brain health, too. It helps the brain to produce new cells and forge new connections, which can positively impact your memory and learning ability. To stick with any exercise routine, you’ve got to do something you enjoy. Some of us are natural-born runners, while others gravitate towards yoga, martial arts, or weightlifting. Pick an exercise you truly like, and you’ll be more likely to do it consistently.
You don’t have to become a gym rat to enjoy these benefits, either. Even a brisk 30-minute walk around your neighbourhood 3-4 days a week can power your mind with the brain food it needs to thrive.
HABIT 6 // Set Aside Time to Reflect
We all have a hundred things to focus on each day. What will the kids wear to school? Will you meet that deadline at work? Is your sister seriously taking another vacation to the Caribbean? If we’re not careful, our minds can become so weighed down with the mundane that we stop thinking about our own needs and wants. To stay healthy mentally, it’s crucial to set aside time for quiet, personal reflection.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Yoga or meditation may work for some, while prayer or some other spiritual connection appeals to others. The point is: Take the time to slow down and figure out why you feel the way you do.
Not only is this great for improving your mood and lowering stress levels, but it’s great for your mind too. In fact, people who regularly meditate have more brain activity in the areas connected to empathy and memory.
HABIT 7 // Don’t Be Afraid of Downtime
Meditation or reflection is not to be confused with downtime. When you meditate, your goal is to focus on a feeling, a mantra, or your breathing. “Downtime” involves a complete lack of focus–allowing your mind to concentrate on nothing at all.
After all this talk of keeping your mind active, it may seem counterintuitive to mention downtime. But a little bit of “quiet time” for your mind is just as important as keeping it active the rest of the day. Think of it this way: What does your body need after a hard workout at the gym? Your muscles need time to rest and recover so they’re ready for further action.
The same goes for your brain. If your mind starts to wander after lunch, indulge in that daydream for five or ten minutes. There’s also nothing wrong with occasionally staring out the window and just letting your thoughts go.
HABIT 8 // Get the Sleep You Need
No discussion of a healthy mind would be complete without mentioning the need for proper sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, it affects all aspects of your physical and mental health. Your cortisol levels spike from lack of sleep, resulting in brain fog, lowered immunity, and stunted creativity.
Decide on a regular bedtime during the week–and stick to it. Limit or avoid screen time before you go to bed. If you have trouble quieting your mind and falling asleep, some soothing aromatherapy or other natural remedies may help.
Healthy Brain Food and More
A healthy body is a healthy mind–and vice versa. To keep your mind in tip-top shape, you have to feed it the right brain food. As we discussed here, this involves the physical food you eat as well as a pattern of healthy lifestyle choices.
Are you looking for more ways to improve yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally? Do you have specific goals you’re trying to attain? I invite you to contact me today to discuss your personal or professional goals. You can also click here to learn more about me and my coaching services.
Take the first step on the road to a better you. Your body and your mind will thank you for it!