You’re at a high school reunion and you can’t remember the name of your student body president. You spend 10 minutes circling the parking lot because you have no idea where you parked your car. You put off a complicated task until tomorrow because you just can’t focus today.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, congratulations—you’re human! We all have trouble remembering things and staying focused from time to time, and it’s natural to become more forgetful as we get older. Our lifestyles play a role in brain health, too. It’s hard to always be “on” when you live in a world that never stops moving.
This is why we need brain-supporting activities and habits. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to support brain health, and it’s never too late to get started. Here are eight tips to support your brain health.
If you’re exercising your body, you’re exercising your brain. Regular exercise keeps the blood circulating, which supplies your brain with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to perform its many functions.
Studies have shown that those who exercise regularly are less likely to experience a decline in their cognitive function. Exercise is one of the best tools we have to keep our brains young and active for as long as possible.
Any exercise is beneficial, but cardio is especially helpful for brain health. Find at least one cardio activity you enjoy enough to do several times a week. This could be walking, swimming, running, aerobics, or biking, just to name a few.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of overestimating our ability to go without sleep. But our bodies need rest just as much as they need exercise. Nowhere is this more true than with the brain.
We’re still learning a lot about what happens to our brains while we sleep, but what we do know is telling. While we’re lying there, “doing nothing,” our brain cells are reorganizing and storing new information. Toxic byproducts are cleared out of the brain. These processes are crucial for learning, memory, problem solving, focus, and creativity when we are awake.
To give your brain the R&R it needs to function at its best, strive for seven to eight hours of consistent sleep per night. Give yourself mental breaks throughout the day, as well. Sometimes the best thing you can do to improve your focus is to step away from your work and do something else for a while.
Eat a Mediterranean diet
“You are what you eat” is a cliché for a reason. The food we take in has a direct impact on how our body functions, including the brain. The Mediterranean diet—which emphasize fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, healthy fats, and plant-based protein—will supply you with plenty of brain food.
Fill in the nutrition gaps in your diet
It’s difficult to get all the brain-supporting nutrients we need from diet alone, though. Availability of certain foods, taste, cost, and a lifestyle that prioritizes convenience over nutritional value are just some of the obstacles we face in acquiring those essential nutrients.
Start with Bio-C, Bone Fortify, and OmegaLife-3 Resolv to get the vitamin C, D, and omega-3s you need. The Feel Great program also provides many essential nutrients, including fiber, vitamins A and E, and several B vitamins in Balance. And of course, Unimate contains a proprietary yerba mate extract that supercharges the benefits of yerba mate (mental clarity, appetite control, improved mood—all things we need to get through the day).
Keep your brain active
Just like your muscles will weaken if you don’t exercise them, your brain will start to lose its power if you’re not giving it reasons to work a little harder. Luckily for us, keeping your mind active and engaged shouldn’t require a whole lot of brain power. Here are a few ideas:
Word and number games like crossword puzzles, Scrabble, and Sudoku
Learning a new skill
Taking a class or listening to a podcast about something that interests you
Brain exercises don’t always have to involve strenuous thinking. In fact, the brain loves games and fun. How else do you explain the popularity of word games like Wordle?
Try not to spend too much time on activities that put your brain in an inert state, like watching TV. If you watch TV more than an hour a day, see if you can replace some of your TV time with something more stimulating.
Stay socially active
You’ve heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine.” Regular social interaction plays a huge role in managing mental health. Quality time spent with loved ones affects all areas of health. In fact, not having enough meaningful relationships can be more detrimental to your health than smoking or obesity.
So make sure you’re not only maintaining the relationships you have, but developing new ones as well. In addition to carving out time for quality family and friends, consider joining a local club, sports group, or community service opportunity to keep your social life flourishing.
Manage occasional stress
Managing the occasional stress that comes our way is easier said than done. But there’s no getting around how important it is for brain health. The effects of occasional stress add up over time, and your brain is just one part of the body that will be affected by it.
It’s not possible to avoid stress entirely, so all of us need to develop coping mechanisms to help us manage it. Start with taking a few deep breaths. Take breaks to meditate. Cut back on your workload if you can. Keep a journal. Any of the tips listed above—exercise, rest, healthy diet, etc.—will help keep any stress you experience more manageable, too.
Protect your head
Last but not least, it’s important to protect your head from any kind of collision. Wear a helmet, put on your seatbelt, and avoid situations that might cause you to fall. Even a mild concussion can cause cognitive impairment—usually temporary—so minimize the risk of head injury however you can.
A well-rounded, healthy lifestyle is ideal to give your brain its best chance to support you through a long life. Not only will you be more likely to remember where you parked your car, you’ll also be more able to handle any challenges that come your way. The brain is too important to leave its health up to chance, so start following these tips today.