5 Key Factors For Long-Term Brain Health
A few decades ago the health and wellness movement rose to prominence, fueled by a proliferation of books, videos, CDs, and experts espousing the benefits of aerobic exercise, running, walking, strength building, stretching, counting calories, faddish diets, and the importance of weight loss to ward off cardiovascular disease and other illnesses.
Missing from the voluminous array of information on how to improve our overall health and wellbeing were details on how to protect and boost the health of our brains. Technology at the time did not provide sufficient methodologies and means for research scientists to identify and link specific approaches to maintain or improve this three-pound engine that drives and controls our bodies.
Things have changed markedly in recent years as both technology and research grants have enabled neuroscientists to pinpoint the key factors impacting brain health. The top five methods nicely form the SEEMS acronym:
Mindfulness and Meditation
Not surprisingly, there is mounting evidence that many of the best steps you can take to improve the health of your body are also some of the best things you can do for the health of your brain.
Having a healthy brain, particularly into old age, is a lifestyle choice. In addition to the Big Five factors above, there are a multitude of things you can do to help protect or strengthen your brain, at any age. These include:
Break out of your comfort zone. Your brain will stay fit and alert for longer if it is continuously challenged. Learning new skills, traveling to new places, and just being more curious about the world around you entices the brain to form new neural pathways and develop new connections. Even driving a different route to work can help take your brain off autopilot mode.
Maintain an active social life. As human beings we are social creatures. But as we age, our social circles tend to become fewer and we typically engage in less social interactions on a daily basis. This bad habit actually starts for many when increased workloads and job pressures reduce the time spent with family and friends.
Take five. The pressures of work and life, combined with unending information flow, means there is always something to clog or entertain the brain. But the brain needs to frequently reset. One recommended approach is called five-by-five: take five minutes five times a day to let your brain rest and reset. This can be a five-minute meditation session, a short stroll outside, or even five minutes of peaceful concentration on the sounds of nature.
This article is partially excerpted from my award-winning book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. The book is the recipient of a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association for bringing “a comprehensive plan of action for improving life through recognizing decision-making patterns that don’t serve us well, don’t enrich our lives, and don’t bring us to our goals and dreams.” It also received a Distinguished Favorite Award in the 2019 Independent Press Awards leadership category.