Your brain is the most important organ you have. It’s the control center that runs every other system in your body. If you don’t keep it fit and healthy, your entire body suffers. And, just like physical fitness, brain fitness has many benefits for all the systems in our bodies.
We’re not talking about doing crunches with your brain; but just like you can do a variety of physical activities to keep your body fit, you also have a wide variety of choices to keep your brain fit. The result is a healthy, happy brain that keeps your body running in top condition for years to come.
The Benefits of Brain Fitness
In the same way physical fitness gives us the ability to respond to physical situations efficiently, brain fitness helps us respond to mental challenges effectively. Maintaining a fit brain gives us resilience in emotional situations and gives us tools to handle stressful situations, which lessens the chances of us sustaining emotional “injuries.”
For example, what happens when you’re in an argument with someone? If you aren’t mentally resilient, you may respond in a reactionary way. This causes negative consequences in our bodies due to elevated cortisol levels among other things. When you practice brain fitness, you have the ability to pause and recognize the choices you have in the way you respond to others. This alleviates having to go back after the fact and mend fences for something we may have said in the heat of the moment and reduces the stress our bodies have to process. This benefit can carry over to the hundreds of interactions we have with others during our regular lives.
What Can You Do Today? Top Five Ways to Increase Brain Fitness
Studies show spending time outdoors can decrease anxiety, improve mood and improve memory. Being in nature calms your nervous system and stimulates the brain. It does this through something called Frequency Following Response.
Frequency Following Response, or FFR, is the brain’s ability to follow or sync to external auditory stimuli. An example of this is when a musician starts a metronome to stay on beat. Your brain automatically begins to follow external sounds and vibrations that are in your environment. Nature works the same way. The beach, mountains, and the city all have different frequencies and our brain naturally syncs to the resonant frequency in the area. That’s why it’s important to take time to be in nature. Our brain will sync to the frequency of the waves of the ocean or the sounds of the forest and it produces a calming effect on our nervous system which enables us to better control our emotional response to stress.
Solution: Aim for 15-20 minutes of nature time each day. If you live in an urban area where you can’t easily get into the natural world, put on your headphones, close your eyes, and listen to the sounds of rain or ocean waves to gain similar effects. Better yet, listen to a BrainTap audio session such as Mountaintop Retreat or Enchanted Forest in the Stress Less bundle of the BrainTap Pro App.
Of course, we don’t have to remind you to actually breathe. Breathing is something we do on average 20,000 times a day. Even though it’s something we take for granted, our breathing affects every other part of our body, including brain fitness. When you breathe, you bring oxygen to the cells of the body. Those cells then use that oxygen to perform the tasks they need to accomplish each day to keep you healthy.
Take a moment and think about HOW you’re breathing. When you’re stressed and anxious, your breath comes in shallow bursts and you feel anything but relaxed. This type of breathing throws off the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood and can cause anxiety, fatigue, and physical and emotional illnesses. Learning to breathe deeply and completely helps relax the body and calm the mind. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps you avoid the fight or flight syndrome and prevents the body from producing excess cortisol.
Deep breathing is one of the best ways to reduce stress and tension in the body and promote brain fitness. When we are relaxed, our brain produces alpha brainwaves. Alpha is the brainwave state you want to be in to do your most creative work.
Solution: Breathing exercises are a simple yet effective way to help your body reduce stress and allow the brain to function at its most creative state. Some examples of breathing exercises are belly breathing, box breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, or mindful breathing.
Having a social network is important to brain health because it provides a source of mental stimulation, helps reduce stress, gives a person a necessary support system, and reduces instances of depression. Studies have also shown that people who have strong social interactions demonstrate less cognitive decline as they age. Learning to navigate social situations is like exercise for your brain and helps improve cognitive function. To learn more about how being social helps brain health, click HERE.
Solution: Work on improving social skills and social interactions. Understanding that during these times, it may be difficult to get out and make new friends, concentrate on the friend circle you have. Plan weekly get-togethers and learn from each other. If you have a friend who can paint, have them hold a weekly painting class to share their skills. If you’re a great cook, plan a monthly dinner party and invite everyone to share a meal and a laugh. It can be daunting at first but the physical and mental benefits of making the effort will have your brain thanking you in the long run.
This one isn’t new. You know that you’re supposed to drink water every day and a good amount of it. But do you know why? Drinking water hydrates your cells so they function properly to give your brain and body energy. When your brain is dehydrated it has to work harder to perform
Solution: This is an easy one. DRINK. Drink your water, at least 64 ounces of water a day. If you’re active drink more. If you drink alcohol, you need more water. If you’re in a hot climate, drink more. Another healthy trick to include in your daily water routine is Celtic sea salts. This is not the same salt as typical table salt.
Celtic sea salt is salt collected from specific seashores which is then allowed to dry in the sun. These salts contain important minerals that our body needs such as high concentrations of magnesium and 34 other trace minerals. This type of salt actually helps keep your body hydrated more easily, reduces fluid retention, balances your electrolytes, prevents muscle cramps, improves skin texture and digestive function, helps maintain your adrenal glands, regulates blood pressure, and more. So this easy hack is one you should incorporate each and every day.
Sleep is great for recharging the physical body but it’s also a vital part of having great brain health. Lack of enough sleep and lack of high-quality sleep affects every other system in your body. Sleep is as essential as food and water to our brain and body function.
Sleep affects many brain functions. It restores cell function so neurons can communicate effectively with each other. It affects every cell and tissue in the human body in some way. Sleep helps regulate mood, attention, metabolism, and more. Research shows if we don’t get enough good, quality sleep we are at an increased risk for high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. To learn more about how vital sleep is, check out our blog HERE.
Solution: We know all the typical solutions to getting a better night’s sleep–cool temperatures, dark room, comfortable bedding. Get creative and add these unique sleep solutions you may not have thought of:
- Stop after Dinner. We don’t like telling anyone they can’t have their pre-bedtime snack but if you’re aiming for a great night’s sleep you may want to skip it. It’s recommended you wait 2-3 hours between your last meal and bedtime for optimal, uninterrupted sleep.
- Cover your clocks. Constantly checking the clock to see how long you have left to sleep is a sure-fire way to decrease the amount of actual sleep you’re getting. Ditch the clocks. Put your alarm in the bathroom or another location where you can hear it but not see it.
- Blow Bubbles. This one sounds a little silly, but blowing bubbles can really help you fall asleep. It mimics deep breathing such as the exercises recommended above, and this simple reminder of our childhood when stress was minimal can also help relax your brain into sleep easily and naturally.
- Ditch the PJs. Yep, we said it. Sleeping commando can help drop the body’s core temperature which helps us fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer and more deeply.
Trying these tips today will have you well on your way to maximum brain fitness in no time. For more brain-based tips and information register to receive the BrainTap Movement newsletter HERE.