Our brains process over 6,000 thoughts every day. (Feels like most of them happen right as you’re trying to fall asleep, amirite Pooshies? Ba-dum-tss.) Sure, brain health doesn’t sound as sexy as say, Pilates moves for a rounder butt, but keeping our minds fit is every bit as important as our bodies.
“Maintaining optimal brain health is essential for overall well-being and cognitive function,” says Dr. Patrick Porter, neuroscience expert and founder of BrainTap, an app and system for brain fitness.
Here are a few of his top tips:
1. Get enough sleep: “Research has shown that sleep allows the brain to clear out toxins and repair damage caused by daily wear and tear,” Dr. Porter says. That’s because the brain consolidates memories and learning while we snooze. So getting enough sleep—and especially enough REM sleep—is one of the best things you can do to keep your brain healthy. “This activates the internal cleansing of the brain,” he says. (Brb, working on our sleep hygiene.)
2. Get physical: “Regular physical activity helps increase blood flow to the brain, promoting the growth of new brain cells and improving cognitive function,” Dr. Porter explains. And, as we all know from Legally Blonde, exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. “It’s not as important what you do as it is to just get out and do it. Walking has been found to be one of the best ways to create physical fitness as well as brain fitness,” he says.
3. Eat more of these foods: “I recommend incorporating brain-boosting foods into your diet, such as salmon, blueberries, nuts and leafy greens. These foods are excellent sources of mind-friendly nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins,” Dr. Porter says. He adds that reducing or eliminating sugar can have a powerful effect on brain health, as it’s “one of the most harmful toxins you can put into your system.”
4. Use brainwave entrainment technology: Okay, sounds complicated, but it’s actually not—especially with the advancements in mindfulness tech. “Brainwave entrainment involves exposing the brain to rhythmic pulses of sound or light to induce specific brainwave states,” Dr. Porter says. This can help improve focus, memory, and overall brain function. “You can also achieve this through specific breathing exercises or practicing yoga or tai chi,” he says.
5. Be social: “Social engagement can help maintain cognitive function and promote overall well-being,” Dr. Porter says. He points to studies on the Blue Zones—aka the areas where people live the longest, healthiest lives—that show that health and longevity is improved with social interaction. “ In fact, there is a direct correlation to your health and the size of your social circle. It’s important to get out and network, make friends, and socialize. It’s good for your brain,” he says.
6. Practice mindfulness and meditation: “Mindfulness and meditation can reduce stress and anxiety, improve attention and focus, and increase overall well-being. Research has shown that mindfulness and meditation can promote positive structural changes in the brain, supporting its overall health,” Dr. Porter says.
Not really into meditation? Here are some alternatives to try. Or, try the neurofeedback device that Kourt is into: Muse 2: The Brain Sensing Headband.
Up next, be the first to know our weekly content and sign up for our Poosh newsletter.