Brain health is an important part of our overall wellness that can be over looked. As students head back to the structure of learning in school, it’s a good time to also look at how to support optimal brain performance. When it comes to those of us who are not in the formative years yet desire to have healthy brains throughout our life, consideration of the list below is important for strong cognitive function.
1. CONSUME wild-caught fish and grass-fed meat.
These contain DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that the brain uses to make myelin. Myelin is an insulating layer, or sheath, that forms around nerves, including those in the brain and spinal cord. It is made up of protein and fatty substances. When we supplementing with high quality fish oils, we introduce excellent resources for the brain to build with. (not recommended: poor or unknown quality fish oils which can cause more damage to the brain than good)
2. EAT 2 to 3 cups of green leafy veggies daily and TAKE probiotics.
The friendly bacteria in your gut will metabolize the vitamin K1 in the greens into vitamin K2. Our body needs vitamin K2 to properly use vitamin D and produce myelin.
3. HAVE fruits and veggies with darker pigments.
Pigments are a marker for antioxidants or polyphenols. People with diets higher in antioxidants like these have a stronger potential for lower rates of dementia and other forms of chronic disease.
4. STOP all artificial sweeteners / flavor enhancers.
These excito-toxins trick our brain into over consumption and over toxicity.
5. CUT OUT (or at least reduce) white sugar and white flour-based products.
Foods like these are going to cause spike in our blood sugar as well as insulin. Did you realize increases in insulin can compete with enzymes that remove toxic proteins from the brain, keeping it from functioning properly? By improving the quality of our body fuel, we will be doing one of the most powerful things to stop and possibly even reverse cognitive decline.
The positive effects of exercise on cognition are beyond a few paragraphs. Scores of studies show that exercise promotes more blood flow to the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory. It also increases tissue density in different areas of the brain, improving our ability to learn, make clear decisions, and even handle stressful situations.
7. READ then repeat the challenging material.
We develop new connections in our brain by reading articles or books that are informative yet interesting. Let’s learn to pause after reading about a concept and make our self recall what we’ve just learned. This exercise boosts retention — a great study tip for students. Read and memorizing Bible verses not only helps develop the brain but then applying concepts to our life, we can positively effect our character and relationships.
8.TEACH ourselves to be lifelong learners.
We need to push our brains to solve difficult puzzles like crosswords, acrostics, cryptograms, Sudoku, or lumosity(or others cognitive building apps). Let’s make a habits of going to museums, zoos, and historical sites while taking time to read about the exhibits, try to repeat the key information to our self, and then do it again once or twice during or after our visit. Not only will we retain what the exhibits were about, but we increase the odds of being able to recall the information months or even years later. We should consider doing regular challenges to our brains like to a 21 Day Brain Detox developed by Dr. Caroline Leaf.
9. REDUCE stress or learn fresh ways to adapt.
Studies have found that people with high amounts of stress are more likely to suffer from cognitive problems than those who are free of stress. If we find ways to adapt to stress naturally like exercising, belly breathing, use essential oils that are calming, prayer or meditation, relaxing activities, spiritual growth, and let go of wrestling with things that are out of your control, our cognitive space will be freed up for positive brain and body expressions and growth.
10. TRAIN the brain with Neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback works on the concept of neuroplasticity. This simply means that if our brains are stimulated into a particular activation pattern, the brain cells or neurons begin to form connections which result in “learning” of this function. Many brain problems begin through negative neuroplasticity or the activation of the brain in repeated ways which changes the long-term patterning. Prolonged stress is a classic example of negative neuroplasticity. Neurofeedback retrains the brain in corrective patterning ways.
The good news is that exciting research over the past 20 years has shown that certain regions of the adult brain can generate new neurons and new synapses. In essence, whenever we learn something new, engage in new activities, or even ponder a new concept, the brain can rewire itself in response to these activities. Just like babies, adults can keep growing their brain and protect cognitive functioning as they age!
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2