Working Smart: How To Give Your Brain What It Needs

Pixabay (CC0 Licence)

A lot of time and effort goes into ensuring that our bodies are as fit and healthy as they can be, and for good reason. We certainly don’t want to be getting ill all the time, and taking longer to recover from every health issue. But there is something of a tendency among humans to set our bodies and our brains on two different tracks, and all too often we don’t consider our brains’ health with the same importance as our bodies’.

To make it clear, when we speak of brain health, we mean the whole category of health matters relating to the brain. That’s mental health, in the sense of issues like depression and anxiety, but also cognitive health – which relates to dementia and similar illnesses, but also developmental disorders like ADHD. Like our physical health, if issues in this department get bad enough we’ll go to a doctor – but unlike our physical health, we often don’t know where to start with looking after our brains from a mental or cognitive perspective.

Diet is important for your brain as well as your body

You’ll know instantly which foods you will favor when you’re on a health kick, or what you’ll eat before and after a trip to the gym. The good news is, to some extent, the same foods can help with brain health: oily fish such as salmon is a good place to start. To ensure that your brain is getting the nutrients it needs, it’s also a good idea to snack on walnuts and, if you’re familiar with the unpleasant experience of “brain fog”, try citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, which contain antioxidants that help strengthen your neural pathways.

Exercise plays a key role

There are competing opinions on how effective brain gym programs are in actually boosting your brain, but what is not in doubt is that, like any muscle on the human body, the brain benefits from being used. Watching TV quiz shows, learning a language or an instrument, or doing puzzles will all give you practice in using parts of your brain. Even if you need to go over an answer repeatedly or occasionally rely on a jumble word solver for the trickier puzzles, you’re still using your brain and strengthening the parts that help you think, react and learn.

Rest is non-negotiable

Just as your brain will benefit from a diet and exercise regime, it is also important to bear in mind that sometimes you need to down tools and just relax for a time. It’s helpful for your brain to do some work, but it’s not beneficial at all to overwork it. Excess stress on your brain can lead to burnout, which affects you mentally, physically and emotionally – and will get worse the more you try to ignore it – so take some time to just chill out and enjoy a spell of serenity or a quick sleep. If meditation helps, go for it, but don’t imagine that it’s essential. What is important is that you rest your brain, just as you rest your body when you get tired.

Your brain and your body are very much alike; they need fuel and exercise to make them work at their best. Follow the above advice and you’ll find your brain serves you extremely well.

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