Unless you’re a Tibetan monk, it’s practically inevitable to avoid worry completely, and some would argue that little stress is beneficial. One thing for certain is that high and chronic stress levels can increase brain inflammation, which is linked to most cognitive diseases, like dementia and Alzheimer’s. So, it’s important to try your best to keep your worries at bay. Below are some surprising, and not-so-surprising ways, to improve and maintain optimal cognitive health and keep your stress levels in check. Hakuna Matata.
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 (young kids can trigger 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 a healthy relationship can actually rewire the brain, and improve emotional intelligence. Feel like you’re too uptight? Try taking a stroll in the park, or go hiking in the woods. It may make you a nicer person.
Spend Time In Nature
Spending time with mother nature, not only allows you to breathe in a bit of fresh air but can also help make you a kinder person. Studies have shown that being outdoors can activate the parts of the brain responsible for love and empathy. Furthermore, the natural sceneries give space for your brain to relax and restore. Especially when exposed to colors like the green in blue. You can also try bringing the outdoors in by opening your windows for fresh air and natural light. Accessorizing your office with plants is also a good way to see green (in a good way). Spending time outdoors has also been linked to better sleep, which you will read about next.
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 a minimum for adults to perform at their best, according to experts like Dr. Matthew Walker. Most American adults report to getting in 4.5-6 hours. 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 mind after a week of no shut-eye, and even die in less than two.
Learn Something New
Most people are aware of the importance of training their muscle, but often forget about training 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 in a formal setting like a degree program, or an informal one, like a new hobby, they have both been shown to be beneficial. And the old saying is true- it’s never too late to learn.
Eat A Balance Diet
Some of you are probably tired of hearing this by now, but there’s no other way around it (not yet at least). Studies have proven again and again, the importance of a healthy diet for optimal health, and your cognitive health is no exception. Think about it, the food (and beverages) you consume provides your body with the “raw materials” it needs to build and repair your brain’s cells, enzymes, neurotransmitters and more, and let’s not forget about the fuel it needs to operate properly. 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.