Unless you’re a Tibetan monk, it’s practically inevitable to completely avoid worrying, and some experts would even argue that a little stress is beneficial. One thing that’s certain though, is that high and chronic stress levels can increase inflammation in the brain, which is linked to most cognitive diseases, like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. So, it’s crucial that we try our best to keep our worries at bay.
Below we’ve gathered some surprising, and not-so-surprising tips, to improve and maintain optimal cognitive health and keep your stress levels in check. Like our Dinsey pal, Simba would say “Hakuna Matata!”
Catch Some Zzz’s
While the Warren Zevon, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” approach is common practice, in the fast-paced business world, science has shown that it’s definitely not something you should brag about anymore. 7-9 hours of sleep every night is now the minimum requirement for adults to perform at their full potential, according to experts like Dr. Matthew Walker. The fact is, most American adults report to getting in only 4.5-6 hours of shut-eye.
Adequate sleep helps the prefrontal cortex (responsible for self-control) and the amygdala (responsible for emotions) maintain constant communication, helping you keep your thinking and emotions in check. Something to think about- a healthy human could go nearly a month without food, but you could completely lose your marbles after a week of no sleep, and die in less than two.
Spend Time In Nature
Spending time with mother nature, not only allows you to breathe in a bit of fresh air but can also potentially make you a kinder person. Studies have shown that being outdoors can activate the parts of the brain responsible for love and empathy, and the natural sceneries give room for your brain to relax and restore. Being exposed to colors like green and blue have been shown to be especially beneficial. The next time you’re told that being too uptight, try taking a stroll in the park.
Don’t have time to spend outdoors? How about bringing the outdoors in by opening your windows for fresh air and letting natural light beam in? Try accessorizing your office with plants, its a great way to see green (in a good way).
Train Your Brain
Most people are aware of the importance of exercising their muscles but often forget about their brains. Learning and then practicing something new, is an excellent way to build and maintain your brain’s abilities and prevent cognitive decline.
Picking up a new activity can aid in the brain’s ability to facilitate the growth and differentiation of the connections responsible for neuron communication. Whether it’s studying for a new degree program or adopting a new hobby, you will reap the benefits. As the old saying goes- it’s never too late to learn.
Make Friends And Build Relationships
Studies have shown that people with tight-knit social circles were less likely to show symptoms of mental decline than people with no social support. It’s also been shown that being married, maintaining a long-term relationship, and having adult children (younger children are associated with stress) can also decrease the risk of cognitive decline. .
Of course, these results pertained to those with healthy and positive bonds. Making friends, and maintaining healthy relationships can actually rewire the brain, and even improve emotional intelligence
Eat A Balanced Diet
Some of you are probably tired of hearing this by now but there’s no way around it. Studies have proven again and again, that there’s a strong correlation between our diet and our overall health, and cognitive health is no exception. Think about it, the food (and beverages) we consume provide our bodies with the “raw materials” it needs to build and repair the brain’s cells, enzymes, neurotransmitters and more, not to mention the fuel it needs to operate properly.
Like in a car, ideally, you’d want that fuel to be of high quality. Eating a balanced diet, consisting of healthy fats, quality protein, and low glycemic carbs is a good way to ensure that you’re pumping up your brain with just that.