As many of us find ourselves stuck at home, we may find ourselves starting to feel that our brains are lacking the stimulation that we receive in our normal day-to-day life.
In my six week course, I work with people to improve their brain health by focusing on key areas and I thought I’d share five of my top tips to keep your grey matter happy.
Due to the current situation, we are faced with more barriers to practising good brain health than usual. However, that doesn’t mean it’s unachievable. In fact, this unusual situation has given us the perfect opportunity to create brand new brain-healthy habits that will benefit you as you age.
1. Use It or Lose It
Try and keep your brain active by engaging in new and challenging activities. For example, if you always do jigsaw puzzles, this will only strengthen pre-existing pathways and won’t create new ones. Try activities that you’ve never done before – this is the time to finally learn that instrument in the back of the cupboard, or to learn a new language.
There are lots of YouTube videos you can utilise to learn a new instrument, and Duolingo is a great free app for learning a new language.
2. Physical Activity
At the moment in the UK, we are allowed one form of exercise a day outside the house, and we should aim to be active every day. While we are still able to do this, I encourage you to go outside for a brisk walk. Studies show walking for just 30 minutes can reduce the risk of you developing dementia. If you aren’t able to get out, try to move your body every 20 minutes. This can include things like making a cup of tea, housework or even just walking at a slow pace. My favourite indoor exercise is yoga with Adrienne. These are easy to follow yoga classes you can do in your living room.
3. Reduce stress and worry
Our brains do not work well under stress. Short term stress can be good for focus; the fight or flight response increases adrenaline which helps us to think clearly in the short term. However, chronic stress – feeling stress for a long period of time – can be damaging to your brain. To reduce this, limit the amount of news you read or watch and be aware that social media can often make things seem more extreme than they actually are, especially at the moment. Some good apps for reducing stress and learning to relax are Headspace and Insight Timer.
4. Keep Socially Active
I understand that this is difficult right now. While I would usually be advising you to attend groups and clubs to stay socially active, we have to be more creative whilst we are stuck inside. If you can, chat to your neighbours over the fence. You’re more likely to do something if you make it a ritual. For example, under usual circumstances, I meet one of my friends at 7:30 every Thursday morning to walk the dogs. If I’m not going to make it, I have to phone to let her know. Even when I’m not feeling sociable, I’m more likely to honour the date because it is a ritual and I always feel better for doing so. In these extraordinary times, we need to create virtual rituals via FaceTime, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp or Zoom. Perhaps you could do an activity with someone else online, like knit and natter, or have a drink together.
5. Be aware of your diet
Following a Mediterranean diet has been proven to reduce your risk of developing dementia. Some things you could include more in your diet are green leafy vegetables, broccoli, olive oil, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, oily fish and wholemeal foods. Try to limit the amount of red meat you eat. You can find out more about a diet called “the MIND diet” here.
Drinking water is one of the most important things you can do for your brain. Dehydration affects memory and cognition so staying topped up with water will increase your brain function significantly. We should be aiming to drink two litres of water a day.
I hope you found these tips useful. Find out more about how you can improve your brain fitness through researched video exercises and one-to-one support from me, check out “The Brain Fitness Formula”.