Your brain is the most amazing part of your body. It’s made up of more than a billion nerve cells. It controls your movement, allows you to think and store your precious memories.
So, how can you look after one of your prized possessions?
Here you’ll find out the best way to stimulate the brain and improve cognitive function.
We’ll look at tips you can use to keep your brain active, as well as foods you can eat to keep on top of brain health and ways to stimulate your mind.
What is brain health?
As you age, you’re likely to notice changes to mind and body. It’s thought that many people won’t even consider brain or changes to cognitive memory until they reach their 60’s or 70’s.
However, regardless of your age, there are many things you can do from your childhood to your adult life that may help keep your mind healthy and active.
These range from keeping active to sitting down and doing a sudoku – the important thing is to engage your brain and keep your mind stimulated.
- While you may not consider cognitive changes until later in life, there are many things you can do in your early and adult lift to keep your mind active.
- These range from physical to mental activity. The main point is to keep your mind stimulated.
What are 6 ways to keep your brain healthy?
Think brain health is a campaign setup by the Alzheimer’s Society which encourages people to look after their brain by providing tips and advice to give you cognitive support.
In order to follow the Think Brain Health rules, it’s encouraged that you:
- Be heart healthy
- Stay sharp
- Keep connected
But how do you go about achieving this in your everyday life? We’ve come up with six tips that may help keep your mind fit and healthy.
Exercise is not just about physical health and muscle size. Of course, exercising regularly will improve your physical health and when done properly alongside a healthy diet, you’ll hopefully see changes in your waistline, your physique and even your sex life.
Sure, these things help keep you motivated. But people who regularly exercise tend to stay motivated because it improves wellbeing as much as anything else.
When you exercise you feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, your memory feels sharper, you can feel more relaxed and positive about yourself.
In some cases, exercise can be a powerful treatment for many challenges connected to mental health.1
The good news is that you don’t have become a fitness fanatic to feel the benefits of exercise. In fact, the NHS suggests that around 150 minutes of exercise is a reasonable amount for adults aged between 19-64.2 That’s just over 20 minutes a day!
Don’t feel pressured though. Keep in mind that any exercise is better than none.
Getting started with exercise
To get your heart beating and blood pumping to your brain, try to find an activity that you enjoy and do regularly.
Take part in a team sport, attend a class at your local leisure centre or just try and be more active as part of your daily routine, walking or cycling to work or to shops for example.
The point here is that being active doesn’t have to mean exercise, it’s more about getting the chemicals to your brain and doing something.
Walking, gardening or even the dreaded housework all count!
Improve your sleeping pattern
Sleep is hugely important for your brain health. There are suggested theories that sleep may help clear any abnormal proteins in your brain and help you build and keep those precious memories.3
In an ideal world? You should try and get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night.
This amount of consecutive sleep allows your brain the time to consolidate and store memories effectively.
If you struggle with sleep, then a regular bedtime routine may help you wind down and get a regular sleeping pattern. The NHS recommends trying the following:
Sleeping at regular times
Keeping regular sleeping hours helps programme the brain and your internal body clock to start getting used to a set routine.
Commonly, most adults need between six to nine hours of sleep each night. Using this approach, you can work out what time you need to wake up and set a bedtime that works with that schedule.
Most smartphones and devices will allow you to set sleep reminders if necessary.
It is equally as important to try and aim to wake up at the same time each day. Everyone is guilty of the occasional lie, but the NHS says that catching up on sleep after a bad night can disrupt your sleep routine if done on a regular basis.
Take time to wind down
Taking your time to wind down before bedtime is really important. There are many ways to relax, including:
- Run a warm, but not hot bath
This will help your body reach a temperature that's ideal for rest.
- Write a to do list
Writing a to do list for the next day can help you clear your mind and organise your goals for the following day.
- Use relaxation exercises
Relations relaxing? exercise, such as yoga may help you relax. Don’t exercise to excess as that can have the opposite effect.
- Consider relation or mediation music
There are plenty of apps, podcasts or sleep help audio available that may help you get to sleep in a calm, timely manner.
- Read a book
Reading can be a great way to relax and distract the mind. It also reduces your screen time.
- Reducing your screen time
Avoiding using smartphones, tablets or another electronic device for at least an hour before bed is advised. The light from your screen may have a negative effect on your sleep.
Make a sleep friendly bedroom
Try and make your bedroom a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Many experts claim that there’s a strong bond between your mind and sleeping.
However, things such as TVs and other electric gadgets, light, noise and an uncomfortable mattress or bed can cause disruption.
Try and keep your bedroom temperature between 18C and 24C. Ideally your room needs to be dark, quiet and tidy, but it’s really down to your comfort and what suits you best.
Eat a healthy diet
There are strong links between what you eat and how you feel. Caffeine and sugar are good examples, as they can change how you feel with almost immediate effect.
But food can also have a long last effect on your brain health. You need to feed your mind a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function to your full capacity. Just like other organs in your body.
A good diet that works for you physically is also a diet that works for you mentally.
A healthy, well-balanced diet includes:
- A mix of different types of fruit and vegetables
- Wholegrain cereals or bread
- Nuts and seeds
- Dairy products
- Oily fish
- Plenty of water
It’s important that you try and eat three meals a day and drink plenty of water.
Connect with people
A supportive network of family and friends can help you deal with the daily stresses of life. They can keep you grounded and help you solve practical problems.
It may not always be possible to catch up with people face-to-face, but there’s always the option of dropping them a call or organising an online chat. Keeping the lines of communication open are great to keep the mind active.
If you live alone or feel disconnected from people, you may want to consider calling somebody when you’re out on a walk clocking up some steps.
If you’re lucky enough to have others in your household to chat to, make sure you take the time out to talk to one another each day. Try and take advantage of the fact you have others around you and work through harder days together.
Stay mentally active
Your brain is much like a muscle, either use it or lose it!
Keeping mentally active is really important.
There are many things you can do for your own cognitive function improvement – this can be anything from doing a crossword puzzle or sudoku, to reading, playing cards or doing a jigsaw puzzle.
To increase the effectiveness, you can consider a few of these in order to keep the brain working in different ways.
Be kind to yourself
Finally, and perhaps most importantly. Being kind to yourself is vital for brain health.
Take your time and don’t be hard on yourself. Celebrate positive steps and don’t dwell on the negatives.
Is your brain a muscle?
No, your brain is not a muscle. Your brain is in fact an organ – one that plays a huge role in controlling muscles throughout your body.
How big is your brain?
If you’re looking at the size of your brain in terms of weight, then the average adult human brain weighs in at around three pounds.5
In terms of length, on average your brain is around 15 centimetres long. For comparison, a newborn baby’s brain weighs three-quarters of a pound.6
Five fun brain facts
- There are around 100 billion neurons in the human brain.
- Your brain uses 20% of your total oxygen intake.
- About 60 percent of your brain is fat.
- The electricity produced by your brain can power a 25-watt lightbulb.
- When sleeping in a new environment for the first time, your brain remains half-awake so that it can process danger to be more aware.
Looking after your brain, regardless of age is vitally important. Keeping your mind and body active may help you preserve your brain, but the important thing is to look after the most powerful organ in your body.
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 28 February 2022