Taking Care of Your Brain!

Are you feeling mentally tired, depressed, and exhausted from job pressures and the unrelenting pace of life? Here are some tips to take care of your brain for optimal performance. According to brain research, when it comes to your brain, moderation is best!

Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. David Rock have created a Healthy Mind Platter, a supplement to the Healthy Food Plate. Here are 7 activities that are beneficial to maintaining brain health!

1. Sleep Turns out our N. American culture is sleep deprived, and lack of sleep due to working long hours can cause depression. Sleep restores the body and brain; there is a spike in growth hormone during sleep. Creativity is enhanced with dreaming. Try getting 7-8 hours per night and taking 10 min  naps during the day (shown to have the best immediate benefits).

2. Play Playtime is critical for child development as well as adult creativity. Play has a social benefit for improving relationships. Play with kids today!

3. Downtime and Relaxation Give yourself unstructured time without any goals, to allow the brain to take a break from the usual focussed state at work. Downtime can increase the likelihood of insight and help you integrate learning from the day. When it comes to complex decisions, “unconscious” thought processes have been shown to be more effective than logical thought processes. Take a walk or loaf!

4. Mindfulness Practices This is a hot topic right now. Mindfulness has been described as paying attention in a special way, in the present, without judgement. Benefits include reducing depression and anxiety, improving a whole range of executive functions. Practice also helps with “telomere” maintenance, which are the ends of your chromosomes that fray over time; in other words, it’s the fountain of youth! Take time to focus non-judgementally on your breath!

5. Focus Time  This is about choosing a task, staying on task, and refocusing on it. This discipline helps delay cognitive decline and allows for a sense of “mastery” and “completion”. Don’t multi-task for conscious activities! Multi-tasking doesn’t activate the hippocampus and results in less effective learning. Try block scheduling to help you focus on priorities one task at a time!    

6. Exercise Exercising makes you smarter. BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) protein, which protects our neurons from injury, increases with exercise (either anaerobic or aerobic). BDNF naturally decreases with age. Exercise helps us deal better with anxiety, depression, addiction, attention deficit, hormonal changes, and aging. So take a walk with a friend outside!   

7. Connect Our brains are social brains. The people who live to be 100 have one thing in common: they have close relationships and support groups. Social “pain” is processed in the same areas of the brain as physical “pain”. So call up some friends and family!

Material from: John Ratey M.D., “Spark”; David Rock, “Your Brain at Work”; Dan Siegel, “Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology”; and coursework from NeuroLeadership 101 with Dr. Dan Radecki (NeuroLeadership Institute)

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