Remember the sweet Scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz”? All he wanted was a brain!
I can bet you one thing: If he did have a brain, he’d take the absolute best care of it to ensure that it got the TLC it required.
So do you do the same? Do you feed your brain and give it the TLC it needs to stay sharp?
For being such an integral and necessary part of your overall health and well-being, your brain probably doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.
Did you know that you have an immense amount of power when it comes to keeping your brain young and healthy? Keeping your brain healthy, even into your senior years, begins by making healthy choices and habits as early on as possible.
10 tools to improve your memory today
1. Challenge your mind
One of the most important and easiest ways to support brain health is to keep on learning. As you learn, the size and structure of the neurons and the connection between them actually changes.
Activities such as crossword puzzles, board games, playing an instrument or learning a foreign language are just a few ways to exercise your mind.
Opt for a board game or puzzle over watching television. Even just a few minutes a day of testing your mind can improve your brain health.
2. Increase omega-3 fatty acids
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a component of omega-3s, is an essential structural component of the brain and retina. Omega-3s are considered essential because the body cannot produce them and we must get them from our diet.
Research has shown that animal-based omega-3s can help reduce the symptoms of many psychiatric illnesses and degenerative brain disorders. (Low DHA levels have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.)
Here are the best food sources of animal-based omega-3s: fish, liver and seafood.
Take a deep breath—that was a lot of scientific information! Knowing this will give your brain the power it needs to continue functioning late into your life.
3. Move more
Movement enhances brain function by multiplying nerve cells, strengthening connections between cells and protecting neurons from damage.
Exercise stimulates the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which supports neural health, cognition and learning. It even improves blood flow to the brain, which can decrease the risk of stroke.
4. Get adequate sleep
Sleep not only supports physical health and well-being but also is essential for mental health by helping your brain “reset” when it comes to creating problem-solving solutions.
It enhances neuroplasticity, a process that controls behavior, learning and memory. Sleep and lack of sleep modify the expression of genes that affect neuroplasticity.
5. Get enough vitamin D
Vitamin D promotes nerve growth in the brain.
Researchers have identified metabolic pathways for vitamin D in the hippocampus and cerebellum of the brain, areas that are involved in planning, processing of information and the formation of new memories.
Get out and soak up the sun! The sun is the best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D. There are also a number of high-quality supplements to help you out.
6. Listen to music
Listening to music has been associated with improved cognition and mental focus.
Interestingly, research has shown that listening to music while exercising boosts cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills in people diagnosed with coronary artery disease. (Coronary artery disease has been linked to a decline in cognitive abilities.)
So go ahead, turn on your favorite jams!
7. Optimize gut flora
The gut is referred to as the second brain, and the gut bacteria, known as the microbiome, transmit information to the brain via the vagus nerve.
An imbalance in the gut flora can lead to abnormal brain development and neurotransmitter imbalances. The feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin is produced primarily in the gut.
Gut dysfunction affects the production of serotonin and also affects mood.
8. Balance Vitamin B12
A vitamin B12 deficiency may be associated with a foggy mind and weakness of memory.
Research has shown that low B12 levels may be associated with lower scores on cognition tests as well an increased risk for Alzheimer’s.
Research also shows that eating foods rich in B12 as well as supplementation with B vitamins helps to slow brain atrophy in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment.
9. Build social networks
Staying socially engaged may support brain health. That’s right, love your favorite human beings hard and reap the benefits!
Strong social ties have been associated with a lower risk of dementia, as well as lower blood pressure and longer life expectancy.
Participate in social activities that are meaningful to you such as volunteering at an animal shelter, singing in a choir or helping with an after-school program. Or share activities with friends and family.
Build these social networks face to face. I’m not referring to Instagram or Facebook here. Although, I do love those platforms, too!
The ancient practice of meditation improves memory and concentration. Can you say, “Om”?
Research suggests that meditation enhances the growth of brain areas associated with intelligence. Additionally, it is an excellent form of stress management to calm the mind.
Find what kind of meditation works and feels best for you. There are a variety of ways you can meditate, so don’t get stuck on what’s right or wrong.
Want to boost your brain health?
There are so many ways you can boost your brain power and longevity. Don’t worry about fitting every single one of these tools in each day. Start with one and add the others little by little.
Whether you challenge your mind, work out, add in brain-boosting supplements, connect with a social circle or implement any of the other tools, you’ll be sure to be giving your mind the TLC it needs.
Photo credit: Pekic, Getty Images