1. A healthy diet. Glucose is the brain’s major source of energy, but a balanced diet is essential to body and brain function. Food with a low glycemic index (GI) like oats and bran as well as dark green leafy vegetables that are rich in magnesium are both believed to help brain function. Choline rich foods such as eggs and red meat are also thought to assist healthy communication between brain cells. Also, avoid substances that stress the brain and limit drugs like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
2. Stimulate your brain. No, put the super-charged magnetic coil down! I’m not talking about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. I’m talking about involving yourself in new activities, playing an instrument, learning to speak a foreign language, solving brain teasers. Exercise the brain as you would the body. The Brain operates on a use-it or lose-it policy. So use it! Play sudoku, solve a crossword puzzle and test your skills at scrabble!
3. Keep a diary. A great way to deal with stress, emotional worries and to relax at the end of a hectic day or a busy week is to sit down and write. It’s a fantastic way to see what you have achieved, frame new goals and keep your emotions in balance. Also, writing notes for yourself helps convert information stored in your short-term memory to long-term memory. So get that creative energy flowing and put pen to pad!
4. Sleep well! Getting a good night sleep is essential for concentration. It has been shown that regular sleep-wake cycles are important in daily cognitive performance. Dreams may be important in the consolidation of memory. As we all know, it feels great to rise and shine after we have slept like a baby!
5. Regular exercise! It is important for your entire body. Exercise is believed to be important in maintaining neural plasticity in old age and aerobic fitness may in fact reduce the loss of brain tissue common in ageing. Exercise also releases natural hormones that lead to those ‘feel good’ sensations. Feeling good about your body is vital to brain health.
6. Regulate your couch-time. Too much TV weakens brain power. But a little TV is great mental stimulation. Balance is the key!
7. Socialise! Familiar smiles, friendly conversations and meaningful interactions are all part of a healthy lifestyle. The brain is the organ of society and socialisation is an integral part of brain health. Join a book-club, learn to dance, smile at a colleague!
8. Organisation. We all know the anxiety that misplacing the house-keys or forgetting an appointment creates. Avoid the stress and make a special place for items such as reading glasses, wallets/purses or the TV remote.
9. Relax. Spend time on a hobby, take your dog for a walk or just sit back in a comfortable armchair with a great book. Technique to relax are not only useful to reduce stress and enhance brain performance, relaxation methods have also been shown to play a positive role in emotional health. For example, mindfulness meditation has been shown to decrease the recurrence of depression. Find a stress-reducing practice that suits your lifestyle and personal taste and then devote a balanced amount of time each week to it.
10. Positive thinking. Always look on the bright side of life (someone should turn that into a song)!
Transcultural Psychiatrists would certainly have a few dilemmas with the above list. The serious Neuroanthropologist probably does too! But what the heck, I put them here just for fun! Mind you, the list might lead to some interesting questions about what could be considered the definitive TOP 10 FOR BRAIN HEALTH applicable across cultures!
And now for some links: