Articles - 8th July 2019

Exercises For Your Brain

Words by Juju Sheikh

So, let’s talk about our brains. We, as a generation, are very health conscious and fitness obsessed. Everyone wants rock hard abs and a nice round bum. So, we sweat it out in the gym day in, day out. The ‘healthy lifestyle’ has become in fashion these days. It’s cool to be healthy. Poke bowls? Super cool. Green smoothies? Out of this world. So, my question is, why isn’t having a healthy brain a part of this? It is kind of an important organ in our body, after all. We should be trying to put as much emphasis on looking after our brains as we do our bodies.

So, how do we look after our brains? Well, I’ll break it down into 2 sections; Mental (emotional) Health and Cognitive Function.

 

Mental Health:

1. Sleep

Sleep is, as we all know, incredibly important for both mental health and cognitive function. Sleep stimulates new connections in the brain and is essential for brain growth. A lack of sleep is connected to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. 

 

2. Meditate

Meditation is an invaluable way to look after your mental health. It is not easy at first to try and totally empty your brain of any thoughts in the outside world, but you will find yourself feeling incredibly calm and grounded once you have got the hang of it. 

 

3. Practise mindfulness

Mindfulness is all about being aware. Be aware of your feelings, tensions and stresses, and try to think from an objective perspective about them. Can I fix this stress or do anything to better the situation at this exact moment in time? If the answer is no, your stress is adding unnecessary pressure to your day. It is good to be aware of what is going on in your brain and why. 

 

4. Talk to people

We are social creatures. We need human interaction, it makes us feel good. If you have something on your mind, or something is worrying you, talking to someone you trust about it can help a lot. Unloading, even if they can’t give you a solution, can make you feel way better. 

 

5. Understand yourself

Are you a positive or negative person? Do you like mornings or evenings? Do you prefer organisation or spontaneity? Knowing yourself is important for understanding what exactly it is you need, how to look after your mental health and what you can do to help yourself. 

 

6. Physical Activity

Physical activity, along with its many other benefits, causes your body to produce endorphins. It literally makes you feel happier. Get moving, you will probably find yourself feeling a little more energised and upbeat. 

 

7. Socialise and let loose

It is so important to have fun. As I mentioned above, we are social creatures. Socialising with friends, letting loose and doing things you enjoy – not just work – is incredibly important for your mental health.

Cognitive Function:

1. Brain games

Do you ever think back to the maths you used to do at GCSE and think ‘wow, I could never do that now..’ well, our brains are a bit like our muscles in this sense. If we don’t work it out regularly, it will become weaker. There are hundreds of brain game apps out there; download one and play it when you travel.

 

2. Challenging conversations

Human interaction is not only for partying and talking about pop culture. Have conversations that challenge you. Debate with people on topics that make you think. This will stimulate your brain. 

 

3. Watch things that have substance

There is so much trash TV out there these days (I won’t lie, I do dabble in a bit of E!), but don’t forget that there is also a mass of interesting documentaries, movies and series that you will enjoy and actually learn from at the same time. There is a time and place for trash TV, but try to watch something with substance to stimulate your brain too. 

 

4. Eat right

It goes without saying that what we eat is integral to the health of our brains and bodies. Here are some foods that improve brain function: Oily fish, Eggs, Broccoli, Nuts, Blueberries, Dark Chocolate. There are also some great supplements you can take to improve brain function (before buying any, do your research and make sure the ingredients are natural)  

 

5. Read

Reading has been proven to improve memory, protect our thinking skills and even lessen your chances of getting dementia.

 

In conclusion, there are a lot of things you can do to improve your mental function. Don’t forget about your brain! (oh, the irony in that sentence).

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