What are the best strategies to boost our bodies and our brains? It’s difficult to separate the real science from crazy health fads. Faced with immense information overload, we don’t know what to believe. Furthermore, most of the scientific breakthroughs aren’t necessarily applicable to preventing illness or enhancing our health just yet. However, remarkable advances in medicine in the past decade presented us with considerable opportunities and the motivation to raise the bar on our commitment to our health.
The fields of neuroscience and genetics revealed dramatic data: superfoods, dynamic exercise and meditation are not only good for your heart and brain, but they can also alter your entire genome and DNA right down to their very tips. Recently, brain health has become a priority and the demand for methods to promote brain health has never been higher. However, there remains a tremendous gap between what the general public thinks is brain-healthy engagement and what science actually backs.
Neuroplasticity refers to the changes in brain structure and nerve pathways due to our environment, physical activity, behaviors, thinking and emotions. The big implication here is that if our brains change themselves based on our experiences, then by changing our experiences, we can actively reshape our brains. The fact that our brains and genetic materials can heal, repair, recover and renew provides the much needed drive to improve our brain health by implementing these fives strategies into our lives.
- Fill your mind with health.
One way to consciously change our experiences is to learn how to practice mindfulness – the ability to be intentionally aware of our experiences as they unfold. And by being more aware of our present experiences as they happen, wondrous changes may occur in our grey matter. UCLA psychiatrist, Daniel Siegel, confirmed that numerous global studies demonstrated how neuroplasticity is enhanced by the practice of mindfulness.
- Meditate on it.
Whether you choose to practice Transcendental Meditation, mindfulness meditation or visualizing exercises, you will undoubtedly boost brain health, defuse stress and even enhance your immunity. Through research, using PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans and EEG to measure electrical brain activities, scientists were able to observe patterns during meditative practices, as well as on long-term meditators. They’ve documented increased blood flow through vital brain regions, along with changes in neuroplasticity. Meditation helps you relax while boosting your brain health, so set aside time each day to meditate. There are many meditation apps available that are extremely easy to use.
- Go for a HIIT.
Exercise is essential for defusing your stress levels in demanding jobs. Any type of exercise that you do is beneficial, but in recent years, High intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to significantly enhance more than just energy and immunity. It boosts brain function, memory and neuroplasticity, too.
Exercise at a moderate pace interspersed with brief moments of increased intensity, such a minute or two of sprinting before going back to the moderate pace. This will also burn off your excess circulating adrenalin, leading you into a much needed recovery mode.
- Eat brainy food.
Your brain requires a constant source of energy. A meal will only provide three hours’ worth of brain fuel, so make sure to eat small mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. A quick cookie or chocolate will wreak havoc with your concentration and mood, causing spikes in sugar and deep troughs of energy depletion. Ensure that your food choices for meals, as well as interval snacks, are bursting with essential super ingredients for brain and body stamina. Power up your brain and body with antioxidants from vegetables and fruits, especially berries. Include plant-based proteins by adding beans, lentils and chickpeas to your diet, along with omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon and nuts and seeds. And nothing beats a smoothie filled with the best superfoods – the perfect start to the day or an energizing afternoon snack!
- Take care of the tips.
At the ends of every natural strand of DNA are specialized regions called telomeres, which protect the rest of the strand from damage, just like the caps on the ends of shoelaces. Every time a cell reproduces, these tips become shorter, until vital parts of the DNA become exposed and start to malfunction. Stress, smoking and alcohol hastens the shortening of these tips of the DNA in all our cells. Thanks to Nobel Prize winner, Elizabeth Blackburn, we now know that we have an enzyme in our bodies called telomerase, which repairs these tips of DNA. The good news is that regular exercise stimulates our telomerase enzyme.
Of course, these strategies are easier to read about than to put into practice. No one gains mental stamina and body strength overnight; these are skills we have to learn, implement and, most importantly, sustain over the long term. By turning these strategies into lifelong habits, we can ensure that our brains and bodies stay healthy and continue performing at their best.