‘Short term daily habits = a lifetime of success.’ I love this simple statement coined by Dr. James DiNicolantonio, author of The Longevity Solution.
Daily habits for brain health can be simple – it’s all about making small choices that shape your lifestyle in the long term. While it takes 3 months of practice to make a new habit stick for life, you can actually change the chemistry in your brain in a matter of weeks.
These are a few of my favourites that are proven to support and develop brain function. Implementing these techniques and keeping them consistent will then naturally become part of your lifestyle.
1. Quality sleep to restore and rejuvenate your brain
My top priority for brain health is focusing on quality sleep. Sleep is a powerful and critical tool for waste removal, restoration and re-energising the brain. When you sleep your other body processes, that work through the day, have a chance to rest. This enable glymphatic (detox) activity to occur, removing waste products from your brain and nervous system therefore promoting brain health.
- Aim for 8 – 9 hours of good quality sleep a night.
- Go to bed and wake at the same time each day to tune into your natural circadian rhythm.
- Avoid eating anything 3 hours before sleep.
- Avoid any stimulants or caffeine before sleep.
- Sleep in a well ventilated room.
- Take a read through my blog Sleep is Everything for more reasons on why we need sleep, along with how to maintain good sleep hygiene.
2. Eat to enhance brain health
Your gut and your brain are intimately connected. Think of that axis that runs between the two. Whatever you eat will affect how your brain functions, and how your brain is functioning (e.g. emotions, anxiety) will affect how your digestion works, so nutrition is key:
- I recommend eating a clean, whole-food diet, organic where possible, for all the nutrients you need.
- Cut out any added sugar. Sugar:
- Causes inflammation, which drives the ageing process of the brain.
- Causes hormone imbalances, which can impair memory and cause brain fog.
- Is a brain drain. It interferes with neurotransmitters which result in fatigue, mood instability and can often lead to depression and anxiety.
- Make sure you get the optimal amount of daily protein. It should be about 20% of your plate and of course, naturally sourced fed (grass-fed) animal protein. Eat protein in line with your preferences and beliefs.
- Make sure you’re eating adequate amounts of healthy fats, and avoid toxic industrialised oils. Your brain is made up of 60% fat, so low-fat diets may cause more damage than good. Go for wild fatty fish and activated nuts and seeds which are a rich source of omega 3, a critical nutrient for brain health, or supplement as needed. Read my blog to learn more about good and bad fats and oils.
- Also load up on antioxidants, which are linked to improved brain function as we age.
- Look at anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods such as blueberries and loads of green leafy vegetables. Leaves and herbs help keep damaging free radicals away.
- Eat good carbs, such as sweet potato, in moderation.
- Avoid all processed foods, gluten and dairy.
- If supplementing, explore magnesium, vitamin B (especially B12), omega 3 and vitamin D.
3. Grounding or earthing
When you spend time with you bare feet or skin on the ground, you connect with the earth’s natural healing energy to help detoxify your body and brain. Aim for 30 minutes a few days a week and try and get some sunlight too. It helps set your natural circadian rhythm and increases the brain’s release of serotonin a hormone that boosts mood, calm and focus.
4. Exercise and strength training
Any kind of movement, yoga, pilates or walking provides your brain with oxygen which stimulates the production of cells and chemicals. Strength training has also been linked to multiple cognitive benefits. I don’t believe in overexercising as it can also become counterproductive and stressful. I love walking, click here to see why.
5. Challenge your brain
Studies show that every time you learn, read or do something different your brain changes. It is malleable so it leads to the growth of new neurons and new neural pathways that alter its shape or structure, called neuroplasticity. When you challenge your brain to think differently or if you learn a new language, up your vocabulary, learn a new musical instrument, learn to juggle, even read books or listen to podcasts, its stimulates your brain which then leads brain growth. I love knowing this. Research is such a big part of my journey in helping my clients, it is good to know that its growing my brain function too.
6. Meditation and mindfulness
Meditation is a great way to upgrade your brain structure. It’s proven to increase awareness, concentration, decision making, positive emotions and compassion. I aim to meditate every day, it may be a full 15-minute or just some quiet time thinking. I suggest starting with just 2 minutes a day, curate a special ritual around when and how you do it, and don’t be too judgemental or hard on yourself. This practice takes a while to get into.
7. Show gratitude and be grateful
I try to start and end my day with a few moments of reflection and mindfulness. I find it really helps to keep life and its challenges in perspective. I take some quiet time to think about – and write down – what I’m grateful for in my life. When we express and receive gratitude, our brain releases the happy hormones dopamine and serotonin.
Since the brain controls all your body’s functions and is intrinsically connected to overall health – focusing on daily habits for brain health really is a ‘no-brainer’!