Love Your Brain: How To Stay Mentally HealthySimris Alg @ 2020-12-14 10:20:38 -0500
How is your brain doing these days? Have you checked in with your lovely, fatty lump of an organ lately? While a healthy lifestyle might be equivalent to physical fitness for many, there is no well-being without your brain on board. Some have a tougher time feeling mentally fit come fall and winter under normal circumstances. Now add all the pandemic-related stress that’s floating around and there’s certainly good reason to check in with yourself on the mental front.
So what can you do to keep your brain happy in these strange times? As it turns out, quite a lot. We’ll dig into the three most important points for a healthy brain:
- Healthy food with good fats
- Physical activity/exercise
- Challenging mental activities
GOOD FATS FOR THE BRAIN
Most of the brain is made up of fat. In fact, at around 60 percent concentration, the brain has the second highest concentration of fat– or lipids, as scientists call it - in our bodies! Up to 25 percent of those lipids consist of omega-3 fats. This means that, in total, 10 to 15 percent of your brain is composed of omega-3s! They are the ones most heavily used in the signals your brain cells send to each other. You can keep your brain happy and chatty by feeding it plenty of omega-3s.
ENERGY TO FUEL YOUR BRAIN VS BODY
Micronutrients are downright vital for brain health so make space for them on your plate at every meal. Colorful fruits, veggies and natural astaxanthin from algae contain antioxidants that fight free radicals (atoms that destroy brain cells). Powerful B6, B12 and folic acid help protect us from brain disease and mental decline. And don’t forget about iron, zinc, sodium and copper; they’re also very important for the health of your brain.
If you don’t believe food can have a major impact on your brain and well-being, have you ever seen someone in a “hangry” state? That “hanger” is the brain begging for energy, asking the body to feed it right now... or else.
When it comes to the total energy you put into your body, the brain uses about a quarter of it. Let’s break it down: if a daily recommended intake of calories is 2000, then 500 of those calories are intended for the brain. If this isn’t a good reason for you to prioritize a healthy diet, then… we don't know what is!
EXERCISE FOR BODY & MIND
The fatty boss of an organ in your skull will not be happy on food alone; it also needs to be entertained, exercised and challenged. And no, doomscrolling isn’t it, sorry. We’re talking about learning new stuff AND actual exercise, as in physically moving around.
We want to emphasize that your brain health is just as important as your physical well-being, but the two are incredibly intertwined. A good work-out will have an immediate positive effect on you AND your brain. When you exercise, there is an instant increase of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline. But exercising has long-lasting positive effects, too. Working out 2-3 times a week for at least 30 minutes will boost your mood and protect your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Exercise can also be mental. Challenge your brain to a mental push-up by learning something new or doing something you haven’t done before. Learn a new language (there are plenty of apps for that). Learn a new skill, perhaps a cool holiday craft from Instagram or Pinterest. Embroider a hat, crochet a balaclava or carve a fork from a piece of wood. Learn how to stand on your head. Pick up calligraphy. Paint a sunset.
Other fun brain challenges include crossword puzzles, Sudoku, an old-school jigsaw puzzle or chess. Anything that is new to you or needs to be solved will please your brain and help keep it happy.
IN CASE OF “THE BLUES” EMERGENCY
If you are feeling blue* and want to quickly snap out of it, here are some tips:
- Eat the rainbow, add good marine omega-3 fats from algae, and a piece of dark chocolate for dessert.
- Work-out! If you can’t do a full-on gym class, take a brisk walk, do some jumping jacks, ride your bike, or do some push-ups. Anything that gets your blood flowing.
- Entertain your brain with something new and/or challenging.
Maintaining mental health has never been more important than it is during this unique and challenging time. Some days may be harder than others but making tiny adjustments to our routines can have a significant impact. With some effort and lots of patience, we can get through this.
*Important; Clinical depression is not something that a healthy diet or exercise will cure. If what you are experiencing is more severe than feeling a little out of it, please take extra care of yourself and find the help that you need. If you feel good, consider checking in with a friend or family member who you haven’t heard from in a while to see how they’re doing. We are still in this together.
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