Our best brain tips for a healthier, happier life

To put it mildly, life can be stressful. Amid the noise and the haste, it can often feel difficult to take care of our mental health.
Even relatively small, simple changes to our daily routine or mind-set can have meaningful, positive effects on mental health and well-being in both the short and long term.
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Here are seven of our best brain tips for a healthier, happier life in 2024.

Stop and listen to the birds

Take a walk and take in the sights and sounds of birds. Or ask your smart speaker to play bird songs.

Research has consistently shown that interaction with nature is associated with better body and brain health. Our feathered friends appear to be a specific source of these healing benefits. They are almost everywhere and provide a way to connect us to nature. And even if they are hidden in trees or in the underbrush, we can still revel in their songs.

Another study found that listening to short — just six-minute — audio clips of birdsong could reduce anxiety, depression and paranoia in healthy participants.

Read more: Why birds and their songs are good for mental health

Take care of your teeth and gums

Keep brushing and flossing, early and often.

Emerging evidence suggests that what goes on in our mouth can affect what goes on in our brain. More research is needed, but studies have suggested that oral health may be a modifiable risk factor for dementia.

Read more: Take care of your teeth and gums

Channel your inner Betty White

Exercise your body, eat fiber-rich foods, stay social and do hard things. These are some of the habits of “SuperAgers.” They are the “Betty Whites of the world,” says Emily Rogalski, a cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Rogalski was part of the research team that coined the term “SuperAgers” 15 years ago. It describes people older than 80 whose memory is as good as those 20 to 30 years younger, if not better.

What researchers are learning from SuperAgers could allow us to discover new protective factors in lifestyle, genetics and resilience for common changes that arise with aging. Becoming a SuperAger is probably partly because of the genetic lottery, but our lifestyle choices — food, exercise, social connections and taking on new challenges — can also make a difference in our cognitive health span as we age.

Read more: What superagers teach us about longevity

Do a five-minute breathing exercise

Practice cyclic sighing for five minutes a day. Slowly inhale through the nose to begin expanding the lungs. Inhale again to maximally fill the lungs. Now, slowly and fully exhale the breath through your mouth.

Breathwork exercises allow us to consciously slow down our breathing. And research shows it can improve not only mood but also physiology by inducing a more relaxed physical state. Cyclic sighing appeared to be particularly effective among different breathing exercises and better than mindfulness meditation, a recent study reports.

Read more: 5-minutes breathing exercise can improve your mood and lower anxiety

Take steps to reduce inflammation

Prolonged exposure to inflammatory agents in the blood can break down the barrier between the body and the brain, causing neuroinflammation and altering key neural circuits, researchers say. In people at risk for depression, inflammation may be a trigger for the disorder.

Patients experiencing depression should seek advice from their doctor or therapist. And regular use of anti-inflammatories can be risky. But there are things everyone can do to lower inflammation in the body without drug treatments.

Your doctor can order a C-reactive protein blood test to measure your level of inflammation. It has been repeatedly shown that exercise has anti-inflammatory effects. Try cutting carbs or eating a vegetable-rich Mediterranean diet. Talk to your doctor if you experience disturbed sleep, which increases the risk for systemic inflammation and depression.

Read more: How inflammation in the body can hurt the brain

Hug or hold hands

With just a hug, a caress or a gentle squeeze of the hand, we can take advantage of the power of social touch.

Social touch is so important for our well-being that we have specific cells in our skin to detect it. Our skin gives us the power of discriminative touch, which allows us to feel the pressure, texture and vibration of objects. But our skin also has sensors known as C-tactile fibers or afferents that are specifically sensitive to social touch from people and the caress of a loved one.

Studies show that social touch is essential to our mental well-being and can reduce stress and pain while helping us bond with one another.

Read more: How a loving caress really can ease anxiety

Let your mind wander

The shower is a wonderful place to let your mind wander. Amid the mist and suds, a good shower can relax not only your body but also your mind, unleashing streams of consciousness, clarity and creativity. It’s called the “shower effect,” but it also can occur outside the shower. Many of our best thoughts don’t happen at work or school — but occur while going about our days with ideas incubating in the background.

In a 2019 study, 98 professional writers and 87 physicists recorded their most creative idea each day, as well as what they were doing and thinking when it struck them. While most of the ideas occurred at work, 20 percent of their most meaningful ideas came while doing something else — washing dishes or taking a shower.

Read more: Why do we get our best ideas in the shower?

Source of Article : The Washington Post

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