In Part 1, we outlined the first 6 prescriptions for creating a brain healthy life. Here are the remaining 6:
7. LEARN BRAIN HEALTHY WAYS TO DEAL WITH PAIN
Pain is one of the most frightening symptoms that we can have. Chronic pain affects everything in a negative way, such as sleep, mood, memory and concentration. Brain SPECT scans have taught us that the use of chronic pain medications, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin, may be harmful to brain function. Long term use of these medications makes the brain look toxic, like people who drink too much alcohol.
This is not to say we must completely rule out pain medications, they can be necessary until other treatment options are available. Possible alternative treatments for pain are fish oil, acupuncture, music therapy and hypnosis.
Pain and depression tend to go hand in hand. For some people, using the natural supplement SAMe or the antidepressant medicine Cymbalta can help both problems.
Again, there are many natural ways to help the brain. Of course, you should talk to your doctor. If your physician does not know much about natural supplements, a naturopath can be helpful.
8. YOU NEED A BRAIN HEALTHY DIET
What does that mean?
• Lean protein, such as turkey or chicken.
• Low glycemic, high fiber carbohydrates, which means carbohydrates high in fiber that do not raise your blood sugar, such as whole grains and green leafy vegetables.
• Healthy fats that contain omega three fatty acids, found in foods such as tuna, salmon, avocados and walnuts.
Since the brain is 85% water, anything that dehydrates you is bad for the brain, such as alcohol, caffeine, excess salt or not drinking enough fluids. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself well hydrated.
9. PHYSICAL EXERCISE
It is literally the fountain of youth because it boosts blood flow to the brain, plus it increases chemicals that are important for learning and memory and stimulating the growth of new brain cells. Thirty minutes 3 or 4 times a week is all you need. If you don’t know what to do, walk fast, like you’re late to be somewhere.
10. MENTAL EXERCISE
Once you exercise and boost blood flow to your brain, you then need mental exercise. In one study, exercise was shown to improve memory function and maintain brain health as we age. If you stimulate new brain cells by using them, by learning something new, they connect to other cells and become part of the fabric of your brain.
Learning new dance steps is a great mental exercise, because it involves learning, coordination, music AND physical exercise. All those things are great for your brain. Crossword puzzles, learning a musical instrument or exploring a new language can also help.
11. NOTICE WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR LIFE, A LOT MORE THAN WHAT YOU DON’T LOVE
Dr. Amen once did a study with psychologist Noelle Nelson on the power of appreciation. He scanned her twice: once when she was focused on what she loved about her life, and then again while she focused on what she hated about her life. The scans were radically different. The loving scan looked healthy, while the hateful scan showed decreased activity in several important areas of her brain, involving emotions and memory.
Other studies too have found that focusing on negative thoughts changes the brain in a negative way. Creativity, learning, and imagination all go DOWN with negative emotion; while focusing on positive, happy, hopeful thoughts helps both the brain and you work better.
Here is a simple exercise: write down 5 things you are grateful for EVERYDAY and then meditate on these things throughout the day.
12. NOTICE WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE, A LOT MORE THAN WHAT YOU DON’T LOVE
Spending time with family, friends, coworkers, and even acquaintances, is a part of necessary social interaction as humans. However, with social interaction and with certain types of people in our lives, these situations can be stressful and cause anxiety. We’ve all been there. To start, it’s beneficial to surround yourself with positive energy and disassociate with negative people in your life that don’t contribute to your overall happiness. Then you can focus on the people that truly benefit you and your development throughout life.
The next step is to also be a positive light in people’s lives, focusing on what you love about the meaningful people in your life and be a guiding force for them during their shortcomings just as they hopefully are for you. In this way, we can truly learn and grow together.
There are many ways to optimize your brain and your mind. You CAN create a brain healthy life by learning how to love and care for your brain, and by focusing on what you love about your life. Take what you have learned here to develop your brain healthy life and teach it to others. By creating brain healthy families, businesses and communities ALL of us benefit.
If you, or someone you love, could benefit from an evaluation at Amen Clinics, call our Care Coordinators today at 888-288-9834 or tell us more online.
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