Believe it or not, mental health is just as important as physical health. The mind controls everything from driving a car and carrying on a conversation, to processing thoughts and memories. The mind controls a person’s entire life, so it is crucial to keep it sharp. Just like a physical body, the mind can become injured and unhealthy.
Here are eight tools to keep your mind healthy and sharp:
Eating a healthy diet is not only good for your physical fitness; food low in fat and high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids can enhance your memory. These nutrients are concentrated in the brain, are needed for cognitive function and can only be attained through diet. Fish such as salmon, tuna and halibut are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Food rich in antioxidants — including blueberries, apples, bananas, dark green vegetables, garlic and carrots — help rid your brain of toxins.
Daily exercise will not only keep the doctor away, but it will also sharpen your mind. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, which can elevate the mood. Aerobic exercise also increases brain volume in areas responsible for memory and cognition. Aerobic activity is the best for raising levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that encourages neurons to grow.
Reading is a way to relax and can sharpen your mind. Reading magazines, books and journals helps improve concentration, memory and focus. For a challenge, try reading in a foreign language. Reading and writing in a foreign language increases connections in the brain, resulting in memory improvement.
Sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles are challenging because they make you think and problem solve. These puzzles can help you improve visual, spatial and tactile skills while they relax you. Brain games are also a popular way to enhance memory, cognition and hand-eye coordination. These fun games are a great distracter to pass the time when traveling and they can actually improve your memory.
Your body and brain are more than 70 percent water so, needless to say, water is a necessity. Eight glasses of water a day can keep your mind and body healthy. Avoid soda, juices and other sugary drinks. Try to limit coffee to one cup a day. Your brain will benefit by your drinking lots of water and, by cutting out juices and sodas, you can lose weight as well — improving your physical health.
Keeping a positive outlook on life can help you increase happiness and avoid depression. Avoid toxic relationships — those that pull you down and make you feel negative about yourself. Do things that you love and surround yourself with positive people. Much can be said about the person you are by the company you keep.
Positive relationships, pleasant conversations and laughter are great for boosting happiness and sharpening the mind. Having good social skills requires cognition and memory. Remembering a person’s name, or a special date or event requires a well-maintained short-term and long-term memory. Companionship is extremely important for a healthy mind. Often when an elderly person dies, soon afterward his or her spouse also dies. This is because humans are meant to have companions. It makes us feel better.
Engaging in a hobby
Whether it is gardening, playing an instrument, hiking, baking or playing chess, hobbies are fun and mentally stimulating. They keep you busy and encourage you to improve a certain skill set. Many hobbies require visual and spatial orientation, physical fitness and/or hand-eye coordination. Keep in mind that hobbies should be active. Watching television and movies are not considered hobbies.
We can become bogged down in our daily routine: Go to work, watch television, eat dinner, go to bed and repeat. We often stay in a repetitive routine cycle because it is easy, but this is not healthy. It is important to break the cycle, learn something new, be healthy and always try to sharpen your mind. The Sovereign Health Group recognizes the relationship between physical health and mental health. That is why we focus on brain wellness and customize our treatment programs with nutrition, exercise, sleep hygiene and nurturing relationships. For more information, please contact our 24/7 helpline.
Written by Kristen Fuller, M.D., Sovereign Health Group writer