Perhaps you made News Year’s Resolutions to exercise or eat more vegetables — in essence, to keep your body healthy. Or maybe you would like to improve your memory.
Those are great goals… but they’re not enough.
Just like a muscle, your brain needs nourishment and activity to stay strong. You can be happier and you can have a better memory if you take care of your brain.
We highly recommend this article on TheLadders.com. It talks about the science behind how optimism and gratitude actually keep your brain happier and healthier. And it shares insight into how person-to-person interaction releases happiness chemicals, while virtual interaction does not.
But what does being optimistic and grateful look like practically?
On your way to school, popcorn around the car saying things you’re grateful for today. It can be anything from “the sun is shining” to “we ate breakfast this morning” to “I get my braces off this afternoon.” Keep it fun and light-hearted to encourage your kids to participate.
Omega supplements, Vitamin D and healthy foods help your brain think faster. Blueberries, wild salmon, nuts and seeds, avocados, whole grains (think oatmeal and brown rice), beans (especially lentils and black beans), pomegranate juice, dark chocolate (in moderation), beets, coconut oil, and green leafy vegetables (like kale, Swiss chard, and romaine lettuce) all promote healthy amino acids which feed our brains. Strawberries and red peppers help with memory, while tomatoes and alcohol cause inflammation and slow down the brain.
Overscheduling activities keeps your mind and body racing. Free time allows you to rest. It feeds your body, soul, and brain. It lets kids explore their imagination — super healthy for brain development — and it allows time for mindfulness.
We have a whole article on the importance of mindfulness here.
It’s nearly impossible to make varsity in every high school sport or play every instrument in honor band. Instead, consider choosing one thing (outside academics) that you want to pursue, and make it a priority. Use SMART goals to focus your efforts and measure your progress. Honing your skills in a hobby keeps your mind active and your memory sharp.
Instead of a family movie night, consider going outside for a family walk or playing a board game together. Conversation and social interaction is hugely beneficial for your brain because it releases dopamine and serotonin. Talking, walking or playing is easier and less stressful than a sit down “family meeting”, and they all release chemicals that produce happiness and well-being. Texting and FaceBooking does not.
Periodically stop and engage your five senses. Be mindful of your senses! We live in a world that desensitizes our awareness, but this easy exercise will help you focus re-engage your senses. It’s called “5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” Identify 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you can taste, and 1 thing you smell. (You can switch the order around if you’d like.) Pausing to mindfully engage your brain like this helps make you more alert and aware, while it also calms you down.
The chemicals and pathways in your brain are incredibly complex and ever changing. Exercise, activity, and connecting with people are powerful ways to keep your brain young. You have the power to strengthen your memory and relax your body with these simple tools, which will change the way you feel!
It’s just as important to keep your brain healthy and active as it is to get your body ready for summer.
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