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7 Ways to Naturally Boost Our Brain's Health

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Brain Health

Our brain plays an important role in our daily lives. First, it ensures that our body is functioning efficiently. It also has a role on how we perform our day-to-day tasks. Remember, our behavior, emotions, memory and other cognitive functions are all linked to our brain’s health. This is the primary reason we must take good care of our mental health. This is not only for those who want to improve their focus and memory or those who are feeling depressed. This is for everyone.

So, how can we boost our brain’s health? There are several ways to do this. Here is a list of ways to naturally boost our brain’s health.  

1. Eat the Right Kind of Foods

Salmon

As of today there are various products that can boost our brain's health. Some products can improve our concentration. There are also some products that can fight depression. For example, dark chocolate is known to improve brain function. But, for now, let us focus on foods that are vital for our brain’s health. 

One of the most important foods for our brain is healthy fats. Remember, our brain is mostly composed of fats. As such, it functions more efficiently with a steady supply of healthy fats. In fact, shunning all kinds of fats can negatively affect your health. If you want to boost your brain’s health, it is highly recommended to include fatty fishes like mackerel and salmon in your diet. This is due to their omega-3 contents. Fats found in avocados, coconut oil, nuts and olives are also good choices.

Aside from fats, we also need amino acids. Basically, amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are necessary for producing neurotransmitters. An example for this is tyrosine. This amino acid is vital for the production of dopamine and norepinephrine. These two neurotransmitters are evidently associated with our mood and mental alertness. Tyrosine is found in meat products, eggs and legumes.

Vitamin B complex or the so-called “happy vitamins” are also valuable for our mental health. These vitamins have various brain benefits. For one, these vitamins have a role in the production of serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These are neurotransmitters that affects are mood and brain function. Vitamin B6, B9 and B12 are also linked in the prevention of cognitive decline.[4] The most common sources of vitamin B are eggs, organ meats, seafood, fermented soy products and green leafy vegetables. 

2. A Healthy Gut = A Healthy Mind

What is the connection between our gut and our brain? While these two are apart from each other, they can communicate with each other. Remember when you had an upset stomach because you’re feeling anxious or stressed? Yes, our brain can send signals to our gastrointestinal tract. But, this is not just a one way street. Our gut can also communicate with our brain.

Healthy Gut

Aside from communicating with each other, our gut is also known as our “second brain.” This is mainly because it has millions of neurons in it. Furthermore, our gut is also capable of producing various neurotransmitters. Take serotonin as an example. Serotonin is one of the so-called “happy hormones.” About 95% of this neurotransmitter is actually produced in our gut.

The interesting part is that the “good” bacteria residing in our gut also has a role in our mental health. For example, these friendly microorganisms play a part in the production of serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). If you’re unfamiliar with GABA, it is the so-called “nature’s valium.” Thus, it can help you relax. At the same time, it also regulates your mood. This is one reason fermented foods are typically included in the list of foods that fight depression.[8]  

With that, consuming fermented products like cultured vegetables is one way to ensure a healthy gut. These products are not only good for your digestive system and mental health. They can also positively affect your overall health. 

3. Do Regular Aerobic Exercises

Jogging as an Aerobic Exercise

It is without doubt that doing exercises will greatly benefit our body. While the typical conception is that exercises will improve our physique, it also does wonders to our brain’s health. So, what are the brain benefits of aerobic exercises?

Aerobic exercises trigger the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Basically, BDNF has a lot of functions. To be specific, it stimulates neurogenesis (growth of new brain cells), synaptogenesis (growth of synapses) and synaptic plasticity (the ability of our synapses to weaken or strengthen). All these functions significantly affect our capacity to learn and build memories.[5]

Aerobic exercises also increase our blood flow. When there’s an increased in blood flow, sufficient amount of oxygen reaches our brain. When our brain gets enough oxygen, it positively affects our ability to focus and remember information.

Of course, let us not forget the euphoric feeling we feel after exercising. It is a widely known fact that exercise makes us happy. Mainly because, during exercises we produce several mood-elevating brain chemicals like endorphins and serotonin.

If you think jogging, walking or swimming is not for you, there’s a fun option you can take. Dancing is also a highly recommended activity to boost your brain’s health. Basically, it's an aerobic exercise. The plus side is that it allows you to socialize with other people. 

4. Get enough Sleep

Sleeping

With today’s hectic schedule, we often disregard the value of sleep. As much as possible we try to finish a lot of things that we sacrifice our time for sleep. But, did you know that you can function more efficiently when you get good quality sleep?

Basically, there are several things that happen to our body when we sleep. As you know, our brain remains active while we sleep. During these hours, our brain is clearing out toxins. Yes, our brain has a maintenance system known as the “glymphatic system.” While we lay unconscious on our beds, there’s an increase flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This washes away the toxins that have built up during our waking hours. What’s the major benefit of this process? Studies have shown that this may lower our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.[3]

Sleep deprivation can impact our mental function in a negative way. Most of us have experienced lack of sleep at some point in our lives. As you know, lack of sleep will not only affect our moods. Our ability to gain and process information is also compromised. This is another importance of having a good quality sleep. This is because sleep will not only consolidate our memories.[9] It will also refresh our minds. 

5. Meditate

Before, meditation was typically used to find inner peace. Nowadays, studies have shown that meditation has several health benefits. But, for now, let us focus on the brain benefits of meditation.

Meditation

Meditation can improve our concentration. As you know, when we meditate, we focus our attention on our breathing, a certain phrase or sensation. With continuous practice, we are able to block distractions. This can tame the so-called “monkey mind.” It is a term to describe our tendency to drift from one topic to another. Once we’ve learned to block distractions, we are able to focus on something more important.

One study showed that mindfulness meditation can change our brain. The study found that longtime meditators have more grey matter in brain regions that are essential for mental flexibility, attention and emotions. Typically, an increase in grey matter signifies an efficient brain. For meditators, this increase in grey matter positively affects their emotions, attention and cognitive functions.[2]

Meditation can also improve your sleep quality. As I’ve mentioned above, sleep is crucial for proper brain function. So, if you’re having a hard time falling asleep, you can use meditation to relax your mind. You will not only get the benefits of sleep. You can also gain the brain benefits of meditation. 

6. Music and Our Brain

Learning to Play a Musical Instrument

Music has always been a part of our lives. Although we listen to different genre of music, we all get the same benefits from listening to music. One of these benefits is stress relief. How is this related to our brain’s health? Basically, stress is the number one enemy of our body. It negatively affects our health including our mental health.

Stress relief is not the only benefit of listening to music. It can also improve our mood, concentration and creativity. Most of you have probably experienced an improvement in your mood after listening to an upbeat music. This is because listening to music can trigger dopamine production. As I’ve mentioned above, this neurotransmitter can uplift our spirits.

If you want to get the long-term brain benefits of music, you can learn to play a musical instrument. As you know, learning to play a musical instrument is not an easy task. But, it can offer long-lasting benefits for your brain. One study showed that learning to play a musical instrument can improve one’s cognitive skills, verbal fluency and processing speed.[1]

Learning to play a musical instrument is also beneficial for seniors. This can actually be a good brain exercise for seniors. Like other mental exercises, it will help boost your brain’s health and cognitive functions. This is because playing a musical instrument can stimulate several areas of your brain. 

7. Learn Something New

Learn Something New

Learning is an ongoing process in life. Each time we encounter new information and experiences, it benefits our brain in various ways.

One example is learning a foreign language. Studies have shown that learning a foreign language may slow down cognitive decline.[6][7] If you’re looking for an excellent brain workout, taking foreign language lessons is highly recommended. This is because speaking two or more languages activates different mental functions.

The brain benefits of learning are not only limited to language and music lessons. Anything that is challenging and unfamiliar to your brain is good. 

If you’re familiar with the term "neuroplasticity," it is our brain’s capability to grow and change throughout our life. This simply means that even though you’re old, your brain can still develop. Learning a new skill or gaining new information can change our brain in a positive way. So, don’t stop learning. This can happen in various ways. It can be a fun activity like learning to cook or exploring the world around you. 

Final Thoughts

Natural Ways to Boost Brain Health

There are other things you can do to boost your brain’s health like doing mental exercises. Although the efficacy of brain training games is fifty-fifty, solving these games can still be a good workout for your brains. As long as it is challenging or it’s something new for you, it will give some brain benefits.

Aside from brain exercises, don’t forget to laugh with your friends and family. Laughing is actually good for your mental health, as well as socialization. Remember, when you converse with other people, you may gain new information. At the same time, your brain is also stimulated.  

As we age, we start to forget things. Some of you may think that cognitive decline is an inevitable part of the aging process. However, this is not always the case. There are many senior citizens that can function efficiently in today’s society. In fact, several studies have shown that we can definitely keep our minds sharp even when we get old. But, as I’ve mentioned above, there are various reasons to take good care of our brain. This is not only for tomorrow’s sake, but also for our current state of mind.

With that, if you want to know more about taking care of your mental health, the video below may shed more information. 

What can You do to Keep Your Brain Healthy?

Brain Games #1: Lower Your Brain Age in Minutes a Day (Brain Games (Numbered))
Amazon Price: $9.98 $5.02 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 27, 2016)
Solving brain games is a good way to challenge your minds when you're bored. As long as it challenges you, you will get some brain benefits from it.
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Comments

Sep 3, 2016 12:49pm
anushaJain
Thanks for writing this extremely well written, thoroughly researched and highly informative article. I absolutely loved the music section. As you said, Music doesn't just relieve stress but improves our mood also. Depending on the individual, specific kind of music and/or songs can even be inspirational.
Again a terrific article.
Sep 16, 2016 11:23am
Moina-Arcee
Very complete article. Lots of useful information and ideas. Thank you very much.
Oct 2, 2016 4:50am
umam12
This comment has been deleted.
Nov 18, 2016 8:01pm
KwesiHarrison
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I like the idea behind the article.
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Bibliography

  1. Jennifer A. Bugos "The Benefits of Music Instruction on Processing Speed, Verbal Fluency, and Cognitive Control in Aging." Music Education Research International, Volume 4. 26/08/2016 <Web >
  2. Britta K. Hölzel,*,a,b James Carmody,c Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, and Sara W. Lazara "Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density." US National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. 10/11/2010. 26/08/2016 <Web >
  3. "Scientists Discover Previously Unknown Cleansing System in Brain." University of Rochester Medical Center. 15/08/2012. 26/08/2016 <Web >
  4. Gwenaëlle Douauda, Helga Refsumb, Celeste A. de Jager, Robin Jacob, Thomas E. Nicholsa, Stephen M. Smith, and A. David Smith, "Preventing Alzheimer’s disease-related gray matter atrophy by B-vitamin treatment." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 26/08/2016 <Web >
  5. Cunha C, Brambilla R, Thomas KL. "A simple role for BDNF in learning and memory?." US National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. 26/08/2016 <Web >
  6. "Speaking foreign languages may help protect your memory." Science Daily . 23/02/2011. 26/08/2016 <Web >
  7. "Does bilingualism influence cognitive aging?." Wiley Online Library . 26/08/2016 <Web >
  8. Eva M Selhub, Alan C Logan, and Alison C Bested "Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry." US National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. 26/08/2016 <Web >
  9. "Sleep, Learning, and Memory." Healthy Sleep - Harvard. 26/08/2016 <Web >

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