Five Daily Habits for a Smarter Brain
Most of us already feel as if our days are jam-packed from morning to night. So adding one extra thing on our to-do list often feels like a daunting task. However, we can hack our daily habits by simply taking what we already have on our list and tweaking it just a bit with brain health in mind. It’s easy to boost our habits towards a smarter, healthier brain with these five simple additions.
Adding some brain-healthy foods into our daily routine can kick start cognitive function. In general, the healthier our diet, the healthier our brain and body will be. According to the Brain Health Food Guide, our diet should focus on higher amounts of vegetables and fruits, nuts, and legumes, as well as fish and seafood. We should minimize meat and poultry, high-fat dairy, and white breads, and avoid sugary drinks and sweets as much as possible.
However, changing our entire diet is not a quick and simple habit hack. Instead, commit to one brain-healthy food per day. When it’s part of our daily routine, commit to changing a meal. Soon enough, our entire daily food habits will be geared towards brain-healthy meals and snacks. Research has shown that eating a brain-healthy diet can decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 36% and mild cognitive impairment––a condition likely to develop into Alzheimer’s–– by 27%. Taking small steps towards a brain-healthy diet is a short term hack with a ton of long-term benefits.
Most adults require between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, but given how busy our lives can be, this priority can be a challenge. However, quality sleep is imperative to cognitive function and is vital to memory storage. By making a small adjustment to our sleeping habits, we can train our brains for better sleep.
One way to hack our sleep is by setting a schedule. When we actively focus on going to bed and waking up at the same time, we help our body and brain find its natural rhythms. But making drastic changes to our schedule may be difficult. Instead, try getting up and going to bed ten minutes earlier. Once our bodies adjust, make the next incremental change. Soon our bodies will adjust to the time schedule that’s best, and we’ll wake rested, refreshed, and ready to conquer the day.
Take A Break
In our busy days, sometimes even taking a break feels impossible. But according to a study published in Sci-News.com, taking scheduled breaks to rest our brain can help the brain consolidate and solidify memories. And while this study focused on learning new tasks, memory is essential in managing our daily lives. We juggle work projects, manage household schedules, and take care of a thousand small tasks to ensure our work and personal lives are handled. All of which require memory.
Taking five to ten minutes breaks throughout the day where we simply rest our brain can be a game-changer. Even if it means sitting in the car or practicing deep breathing at our desk. These small rest periods help our brain reset, which means we can do more when we refocus on our tasks. In addition, these small breaks can help improve circadian rhythm, which can help improve our sleep, giving this brain habit hack a powerful punch.
It’s a modern irony that while our days are increasingly filled, our activity levels tend to drop drastically. But daily activity is vital to our brain health. When we raise our heart rate, we increase blood flow which brings more oxygen and nutrients to the brain. In addition, studies show that this improved blood flow decreases stress hormones, such as cortisol. When these stress hormones build up into an excess, they can be damaging to cognitive function.
The best part of this habit hack is that there is no need to commit to time-consuming exercise routines. Any activity that increases our heart rate for even five minutes works. We can add these little bursts of activity throughout our day by making small changes. Park the car at the farthest end of the parking lot and always take the stairs. Take the family on an after-dinner walk or do jumping jacks during commercial breaks.
If meditation isn’t part of our daily routine, it may seem like getting started is more than a simple hack. But really, meditation is a form of mindfulness, and we can begin practicing that at any time throughout the day.
A busy life brings a busy mind and many of us suffer from constantly running thoughts. Our inclination is to try and control these thoughts, but one way we can tackle a racing brain is through mindful focus. Having a specific loved one to concentrate on, reciting types of trees, walking through easy mathematical equations are all ways we can train our brain as an introduction to meditation. Once we are able to redirect our thoughts, we can begin scheduling meditation time. Meditation has shown to improve attention span and reduce stress.
Hacking our habits begins with small, simple steps. Take one habit and make small adjustments. And we can make these habits even more powerful by hacking habits to work together. We can take brisk walks to raise our heart rate while also strengthening our circadian rhythm. This improves our sleep and focus, giving us more energy to tackle our daily tasks and solve problems. Hacking our habits in small increments will build on each other, each improving multiple areas in our lives, giving us a happier, healthier brain.