It’s been widely claimed that it takes 30 days to form a habit, but much longer to rid ourselves of one. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that some everyday things that we do (or in some cases don’t), can actively affect our brain and cause long term effects. Here are 8 easy things you can do to ensure your keep your brain healthy.
Don't Skip Breakfast
I love breakfast, but many people are on the go and forgo this meal in order to get to work faster, or sleep in a bit. The problem is that if we spend too much time fasting between meals, we send our bodies into stress. Our blood sugar levels plummet, leading to insufficient nutrient supply to our brains.
Suggestions: Make it a habit to sit down and eat. Perhaps combine it with listening to the news. If you’re running low on time to prepare breakfast grab a yoghurt or fruit to go.
Anatomically, your brain isn't a muscle. However, there's good reason why many people compare the brain to muscle – in both cases, the "use it or lose it" principle applies. These days we outsource much this activity to machines and paid services. We use Google to answer our questions instead of thinking for ourselves.
Suggestions: Spend more time reading, thinking, exploring, do brain teasers, and focus on one task at a time to allow for greater reflection periods.
In most of the world there is too much food. It is easy to access with online deliveries, convenient food and takeaway, and has also become part of our leisure. We eat when bored, we go out to dinner at restaurants, and we munch on snacks while watching movies.
Research has found that lower calorie intake stalls the ageing process and protects our brains from prematurely degenerating.
Suggestions: Download a calorie counting app, or adopt specific eating times or places, to cut down on consuming unnecessary calories.
Sugar is hidden in many foods unknowingly, and this excess is damaging to our brains because high levels of sugar reduce our brain’s ability to produce an important chemical called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. BDNF helps us form new memories, learn, and controls our ability to know when to stop eating. Without BDNF we are also more susceptible to depression and dementia.
Suggestions: Read food labels to check the ingredients for hidden sugars and opt for sugar-free products.
There is a lot of noise about the effects of smoking on your heart and lungs, but new research suggests our brain is at risk too. Smoking disturbs our blood flow and leads to much higher rates of stroke, aneurysms and Alzheimer’s. Scientists have found it also lowers our cognitive abilities, specific ally memory.
Suggestions: Quit or reduce the amount of cigarettes - the risks mentioned decrease drastically within 2-5 years of quitting.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is our best battery charger. When you don’t get enough sleep your frontal lobe can’t work properly. This means your creative thinking will suffer; you’ll be more indecisive and have less control of your emotions. Other cognitive processes are disturbed too: alertness, concentration and problem solving. Sleep deprivation can also lead to depression, mania and paranoia.
Suggestions: Make sure to get 7 hours of sleep. Skip that late TV show you like. If you’re not able to sleeping well consult with a sleep clinic.
Not drinking enough water also affects our brain. Mild dehydration interferes with our energy levels, mood and ability to think well. Since our brain is mostly water, when we become dehydrated the rest of our body borrows some of the brain’s fluids for other essential processes, causing the cells to wither and shrink. This can also press on our skulls and give us headaches.
Suggestions: The key is to drink before you feel thirsty. Carry a water bottle with you and eat fruits, which are naturally full of water.
Don't Cover Your Head While Sleeping
This is a very simple thing we do. If you cover your head you’ll be exposed to more carbon dioxide. This can lead to increased blood pressure in your head and headaches. Research also indicates an increase in the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s, caused by this seemingly minor sleep habit.
Suggestions: Tuck in your blankets so that they don’t cover your face, get someone else to yank them down or forgo covers in summer.