The light has gone out for some reason?
This week I have been trying to fix the reversing light on my car. A replacement bulb proved not to be the solution and I was tempted to ignore matters. But the warning light on the dash display reminded me of the problem, and so I booked into my local car repair centre.
Of course we do expect our cars to develop electrical faults over time despite regular maintenance.
Which is entirely different from our attitude to that immeasurably more sophisticated device we also rely on – our brain. We so take it for granted. With no regard or appreciation for the 100 billion neurons that have been sparking trillions of times per day for more years than we care to remember. Even if we could – remember that is. And it is only when we do start to get the odd memory flat spot that we give any thought to our grey matter and to looking after it.
Fortunately our brain is not only incalculably smarter than a motor car but also a whole lot more forgiving for our previous neglect.
So if you have been neglecting yours and wanting to enjoy lots more trouble free miles then this 9 point maintenance routine should do it for you:
Brain Fitness – The 9 Good Habits Program
- Sleep – Getting enough Get your recommended 7 to 8 hours in. Ignore the suggestion that you need less as you age. That is a false belief borne out of acceptance that the 5 or 6 hours that precedes any unwelcome interruption is all we will get. Not true.
- Sleep – Getting ready Emphasize the awake and sleep contrast by upping your daylight time and then in late evening ensure lights are dimmed and you stop viewing your bright TV screen, PC monitor or Pad. Get your mind into a “winding down” routine ahead of a newly set regular sleep time. Avoid the foods that plague your digestive system and the drinks that plague your bladder. Get a comfortable bed.
- Sleep- Getting back again Accept that interruptions will happen and do not fret about them. Do not lay there trying to sort out yesterday’s problems. If you have a eureka moment write the idea down and tuck it away for the morning. Be your own hypnotist. Create a trance distraction, a thought or image to focus synapse xt your attention on that displaces all other thought. When you wake up tell yourself you had a good night’s sleep.
- Nutrition – Fueling the brain Your brain uses up 20 – 30% of your energy output and so needs fueling. Popular advice is to not miss out or skimp on breakfast or lunch if you want to maintain your mental energy level across the day. The brain also has a thirst, being 75% water by weight, and dehydration will impair its performance as will alcohol! So plenty of water or water rich fruits like melons are again highly recommended.
- Nutrition – Protecting the brainWe hear a lot about free radicals, the “polluted” oxygen atoms that attack our cells causing damage. As we age this threat to brain cells increases and is reflected in memory problems. The best advice is to combat this with anti-oxidants as provided in vitamin C rich foods like tomatoes, oranges, blueberries, green tea, red grapes, and broccoli, and for a change you can also enjoy dark chocolate and moderate amounts of coffee.
- Nutrition – Nourishing the brain The repair and renewal of brain cells requires unsaturated fats. The Omega 3 – fatty acid variety is available in salmon, mackerel, and walnuts. Salmon also helps the plasticity of synapses that spark the impulses between cells, so growth and cognitive ability both benefit. Blood flow also contributes to this, and whole grains, avocado and olive oil all support that.
- Exercise – The mind The use or lose it maxim really does say it all. Just as muscle will decline if not used so will the brain. So work out regularly, remembering that your brain has different functions so vary the exercise to build your calculating, reasoning, memorizing, decision making and innovating “muscles.”
- Exercise – Stretch the Mind Help develop new cell clusters, build under used functions and sharpen your creativity by learning about totally new topics, by acquiring new skills and by changing habits. Something as simple as swapping hands to brush your teeth or operate your mouse can have quite an effect.
- Exercise – The body and the mind Physical exercise that pumps the heart is known to lead to improved learning and memory. Even a brisk walk as we all know will clear the thinking. New skills requiring mind and body co-ordination have the same benefit, so persevere with those guitar lessons or salsa dancing or tai chi classes.