What makes for a better brain?

It is an endless repeated record that we must “improve the health of our bodies–work out, lose fat, less sodium–all that crazy stuff”. But what about making sure we keep our noggin in top shape? What about developing the beauty and health of our minds?

Well, I delved into some of the literature and here’s some things that the research suggests may help us cultivate and preserve the one, often over-looked but incredibly precious organ: the brain.

1. Sleep 7 hours. 

People often under-rate the incredible power of sleep. However, when you don’t give your body that down time, it hurts ALL of your precious organs. Over-working has actually led to death and is a common issue in countries such as Japan, so common in fact, that they have a word for it: “karoshi”. Your body and brain need to sleep at least 7 hours to function at it’s finest.

So at your next work meeting you can tell your boss that nap time is a GREAT way to boost employee functioning and efficiency…any takers?

2. Drink moderately, 1-2 per day showed better results than 0 per day.

According to researchers utilizing the database Lumosity, subjects who drank moderately (again MODERATELY 1-2 drinks per day) performed better on cognitive tests than those who didn’t take a sip. Now, I always caution recommending something that could potentially have bad effects on other parts of the body, but more and more research these days has shown that maybe we don’t have to feel guilty if we have a moderate vice of red wine.

Another cognitive study also showed that drinking 1-2 glasses increases creativity. Subjects wrote better and performed better in the arts while tipsy than sober. Needless to say, once you pass that tipsy mark–all bets are off and your creativity crashes. Again, it’s all about moderation.

3. Exercise… and not just for your bod.

Exercise showed the BIGGEST increases in cognitive ability when added to someone’s routine. If you’re in school, this may prove especially useful. That hour spent studying might be better traded for an hour in the gym. Just something to think about next time you talk yourself out of a daily sweat session.

4. Play video games.

Participants who engaged in first-person shooter games performed much better on tests of visual attention, auditory attention, and better executive control. Perhaps video games isn’t exactly turning our brains to mush like my mom always told me… Sorry mom, you were wrong about this one!

5. Train using programs like Lumosity.

Lumosity users performed 9.8% faster in cognitive tasks, increased math skills by 5.8%, and improved spacial memory by 2.7%. Scientists are continuously tweaking programs like this to create programs that will indeed, “train our brains”. For now, these programs do have small brain benefits that we can take advantage of.

6. Eat a diet high in fat, yes, that’s right. Fat. 

Now that we are out of the high carb, low diet craze of the 90’s, the f word isn’t so scary any more. Healthy fats are the best fuel for the brain. Almonds, avocado, coconut and olive oils are all good sources of fuel for your brain. Guacamole, any one?

This is just a bit of the research that’s been developing over the past few years, but it’s good to know some of the basics of brain care & maintenance. As I learn and discover more about this oh-so complex organ, I will keep you posted on any good tidbits I pick up!

Until next time, J out.

Kudos to Brain Power by Dan Hurley for these fun facts. 

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