We all know that looking after yourself is important. You go to the gym. Check. You eat well. Check. You make time to rest. Check. But what about your brain? One of our most complex organs, what goes on up there is just as important as the rest of your body. Want to know how to develop brain friendly habits? You’ve come to the right place, we’ve put together 10 evidenced ways to love your brain, increase neuroplasticity and future proof your brain from the risk of cognitive decline.

  1. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is a sure fire way to create a foggy mind and leave you feeling stressed. Make sure you get an adequate amount of sleep each night by practicing sleep hygiene before you go to bed. Relax, turn off your devices and in the same way that you wake up by washing, cleaning your teeth and completing the myriad of ablutions you’ve created of mornings develop a similar routine before you go to bed so that your body knows it’s bedtime.
  2. Read. Research suggests that the more we read the less likely we are to experience dementia. Join a library or hunt out bargains at your local charity shop and bury your nose deep inside this month’s bestseller, slowing down cognitive decline.
  3. Share the love. Practicing kindness will increase your wellbeing and decrease your stress levels. Pay it forward by looking for ways to act kindly each day either randomly or letting someone know how much you appreciate them. Looking for reasons to thank others will activate the compassion regions of your brain.
  4. Eat well. Get your five a day and more if you can. Research shows that diet has a huge role to play in cognitive health. Your stomach is often referred to as the second brain. Gut bacteria influences your cerebral functioning, maintaining a happy, healthy gut will pay dividends for your brain. Decrease saturated fats and aim to eat as many green alkaline foods as you can. Aim for a nutrient rich diet making sure to include Omega 3.
  5. Develop happiness. Evidence suggests that depression, sadness and anger are bad for your brain suggesting links with dementia. Guard your mental health and if you experience depression don’t keep it to yourself. Seek help from professionals.
  6. Engage your brain. When you set goals on a regular basis and challenge yourself you’re stretching your brain in the best possible way. Take a course, learn a language or a new skill and see what you can achieve.
  7. Hit the gym or the road or the pavement. Regular exercise keeps you fit, increases neuroplasticity and lowers stress. Just 30 minutes 3 times a week will have a positive impact so grab your trainers.
  8. Have fun and maintain Friendships. We know, prescribed fun doesn’t sound much fun at all but studies researching longevity demonstrate that maintaining a social network is good for you. Isolation increases the risk of dementia and can contribute to depression and stress. Make time to meet friends, to keep in touch in person as well as virtually. Your brain will thank you for strong social connections, reducing your stress and giving you a sense of purpose.
  9. Look after your heart. See number 8. We know that indicators such as diabetes and obesity have a corollary impact on the brain. Make sure you look after yours.
  10. Become a quitter. Yes, smoking is bad for your body and your brain. It increases the risks of cognitive decline and impacts negatively upon your health. The one time being a quitter is a good thing.
  11. Meditate. Where to start with meditation. Over 20 years worth of research demonstrate it has a positive impact on the brain and the body. It reduces your stress levels and increases self compassion, adding to your kindness quotient. Start with a minute of pause per day and wrk your way up. Take our mindfulness test or check out our mindfulness articles and training courses for more information.
  12. Commit. Yes. we used the ‘C’ word. People who have a sense of purpose thrive. Know your values, why you’re here on the planet and commit to that. Purpose in life predicts lower mortality rates and benefits wellbeing and brain health. Set goals, find your passion and like a well kept garden, cultivate it.

Originally published at positivechangeguru.com

Gill Crossland-Thackray is a Business Psychologist, Visiting Professor, and PhD Candidate. She is Co-Director of Positive Change Guru with her twin, Viv Thackray-Dutton and Director Of Koru Development. She is a member of British Psychological Association, British Neuroscience Association, Association of Business Psychologists, Chartered Institute of Professional Development and a Continuing Professional Development accredited trainer. She writes for a number of publications including The Guardian, Thrive Global, Ultra Fit & HR Zone and is currently working on her first novel. She splits her time between London and the Lake District. She can be contacted at [email protected]