Holiday Gift Guide 2022: Six Pillars of Brain Healthy Giving
The holidays are fast approaching and if you’re looking for memorable gift ideas for your loved ones, our Brain Healthy Gift Guide will help you find a gift for each person on your list. Inspired by the 6 pillars of brain health, these gifts support the lifestyle habits that evidence shows are best for your brain. Everyday choices like diet, exercise, sleep/relaxation, managing overall health, mental fitness and socialization all contribute to brain health, and this list includes a variety of practical and unique holiday gifts. Everyone you love deserves a special gift that will nourish the brain and inspire wellness.
This list includes some of our personal favorites (and we aren’t affiliated with these brands).
The foods we eat have a big impact on our brain health. Recent long-term studies have found that the Mediterranean (MeDi) and MIND diets are especially good at strengthening and protecting our brains. In fact, people who follow these diets enjoy the benefits of better memory, cognitive function, and over 50% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Give these gifts to inspire brain health through nutrition:
- High quality coffee or tea, including Purity Coffee, Samovar Tea, or Pique. Did you know that tea (especially green tea) is rich in catechins and l-theanine which are known for being neuroprotective? Coffee includes antioxidants that are good for the brain as well.
- Dark Chocolate is rich in flavonols and magnesium, which studies suggest have neuroprotective qualities. Dandelion and Nussli118 are both high quality brands, or consider a virtual chocolate tasting class.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a superfood full of healthy fats and polyphenols, and studies have linked higher olive oil consumption with improved cognitive health and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Frantoio Grove is a high quality brand that’s great for a gift!
- Red Wine, when consumed in moderation, may be good for brain health! The wine connossieurs in your life will appreciate a subscription box from Dry Farm Wines, including a variety of organic wines that are sugar free, have no toxic additives, and lower alcohol content.
- RELEVATE nutritional supplement, including 17 evidence-backed nutrients from the Mediterranean and MIND diets, which have been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Order a subscription of RELEVATE for your loved one and give the gift of brain nutrition. And, for a limited time, order the holiday special RELEVATE Women's Brain Health Gift Pack celebrating the advances in women's brain health, research and advocacy in 2022.
- A Brain Healthy Cookbook or Nutrition Resource like the ones on this list will delight and inspire, whether you want to learn more about how food can keep your brain healthy or want to expand your collection of delicious and nutritious recipes.
- A cooking club subscription that shares weekly or monthly recipes, like this one from Natalie Cooks.
- CSA (aka community supported agriculture) Box membership is a nice way to get locally sourced, seasonal produce directly from farmers. There are several types to choose from, depending on where you live. Find your local CSA here.
- Smoked Salmon (like regular salmon) stands out as a solid source of Omega-3 fats that are known to be good for brain health. This wild sockeye salmon from Patagonia Provisions is a great one to try.
- Kitchen gadgets to inspire healthy cooking, like a vegetable spiralizer, mandolin vegetable slicer, olive oil sprayer, or a premium quality knife.
- Personalized engraved plate with a family recipe like this one as a practical and sentimental keepsake.
Regular exercise is key to supporting brain health. Studies show that people who exercise regularly perform better on memory tests and have lower risk of dementia. Endurance and resistance exercises promote cardiovascular health, improve blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation, lower stress hormone levels, and stimulate neuroplasticity. Consider these gifts to support brain health through exercise:
- Yoga has benefits for physical, mental and cognitive health. In fact, studies show that people who practice yoga regularly strengthen brain areas associated with attention, learning and memory. Gift a loved one with classes at a local yoga studio, or sign them up for an online membership for virtual classes like Yoga Download.
- A fitness subscription either in person or virtual) will encourage physical health and strength. For in-person clubs, check out 24 hour fitness, F45 or Lifetime. For virtual options, consider Beachbody, FitFusion, Peloton App.
- Strength training equipment like resistance bands, set of weights or pull-up bar are all gifts that the (current or aspiring) fitness enthusiast will love.
- Weighted bracelets like Bala Bangles provide a constant but versatile resistance to any workout, whether it’s walking, yoga or aerobics. These stylish bracelets can be worn on the wrists or ankles.
- Rebounder Trampolines like this one from Jump Start offer a great form of aerobic exercise that’s good for the heart and brain. These personal fitness trampolines don’t take up much space and more modern versions are made with bungees (instead of squeaky coils).
- Rollerblades, like many things from the 90’s, have recently made a comeback, and for good reason! These in-line skates from Rollerblade brand are fun, can be used on your own or with friends, and provide brain-healthy benefits like increased heart rate and balance. Just don’t forget the helmet!
- Pre-paid lessons for a new sport like pickleball, tennis, ice skating or golf.
Sleep and stress management are essential for long term brain health. When we sleep, the brain is very active in removing toxins that have built up during the day and storing new memories. In addition, relaxation and stress management act as anti-inflammatories for the brain, which have a positive effect on memory and mood. Here are some gift ideas to support sleep or encourage relaxation:
- A weighted blanket like this one offers therapeutic benefits like stress relief and improved sleep. It relies on pressure therapy which promotes your body’s ability to produce seratonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood.
- Blue light blocking glasses block the potentially harmful blue light that electronics emit. Too much blue light exposure can cause sleep disturbances, headaches, eyestrain and visual fatigue. These glasses from Bon Charge are stylish and reduce the possible harm from blue light exposure.
- A gratitude journal is a simple gift that encourages gratefulness, which studies have shown to be good for overall happiness and mental health. There are many to choose from, for adults, teens and children.
- Gardening supplies to encourage spending time in the backyard or outdoors, because research suggests that gardening relieves stress, improves concentration and helps you soak up brain-healthy Vitamin D. Try an herb garden kit, subpod composting box, plant subscription, or microgreen growing kit.
- Bees Wax Candle like this one from Lomar Farms to inspire relaxation and air purification.
- Subscription to a Magazine like Mindful for mindfulness practices, advice and insights.
- A subscription to mediation apps like Calm or Headspace, because studies suggest that meditation can reduce anxiety, improve mood, and slow brain aging.
- Dry brush like this one from Yerba Prima. Dry brushing is a health and beauty aid that may be helpful for blood circulation, exfoliation, and cleansing the lymphatic system.
Manage Overall Health
Regularly monitoring our metrics for heart and metabolic health can play a major role in maintaining optimal health, including brain health, as we age. Heart health is directly connected to brain health because the blood that your heart pumps throughout your body also goes to your brain, and issues with the blood vessels in the brain can have devastating effects on brain health and function. Metabolic health also has a strong connection to brain health, as insulin resistance is a risk factor for cognitive decline. Give these gifts to promote overall health:
- An activity or health trackers can monitor metrics like daily steps, heart rate, sleep quality, and more. Check out brands like Whoop or Fitbit.
- Non-toxic cleaning products like Branch Basics help reduce exposure to toxins, which evidence suggests are detrimental to brain health.
- DNA Testing kit like 23 and Me to test what your DNA says about your health, genetics and risk. Knowing more about your genetics and risk can help you make better decisions about your lifestyle and modifiable risk factors.
- Clean beauty products, including brands like Primally Pure Skincare, are important for brain health because they avoid harmful ingredients, reduce skin sensitivity and are better for the environment.
Cognitive stimulation and training are critical to preserving our brain’s “cognitive reserve” or ability to resist damage. It is developed through lifelong educational pursuits and curiosity. Cognitive training involves practicing different activities and techniques to support learning, memory, attention and problem solving. Having a deeper cognitive reserve enables the brain to better compensate for damage and continue functioning well. To inspire mental fitness, check out these gifts:
- Music Lessons, whether it’s guitar, piano, trumpet or voice lessons. Studies have found that playing an instrument strengthens the brain and changes the structure and function of the brain to benefit long-term brain health.
- Subscription to a brain training app like Lumosity for fun, interactive games that challenge your mental abilities.
- Board games including chess, because researchers have found evidence that playing the game may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline or postpone the effects of dementia as you age. It challenges memory and critical thinking abilities and helps develop planning and foresight. Other board games to consider are Mensa, Rummikub, Scrabble, or Trivial Pursuit.
- Bridge Magazine subscription like Audrey Grant’s Better Bridge to become more skilled at this challenging card game.
Ultimately, the brain is meant to help us survive and thrive in the context of relationships with the people around us. Interacting with others helps stimulate different parts of the brain and supports attention and memory, and adds purpose to our lives. In fact, studies have linked more social activity with less cognitive decline during old age. To create lasting memories and social connection, consider these gifts:
- Escape Room Experience is a fun event for groups in which people are locked in a room and required to solve a series of puzzles in 1 hour, with the goal of finding a key to unlock the door. Your mental fitness will also be challenged!
- Amusement park tickets like Six Flags, Disney, or local fairs will create lasting memories for the whole family.
- Botanical garden passes are not only good for socialization, but for relaxation, getting outdoors and enjoying nature.
- A special class registration for you and your loved one to enjoy together, like cooking or painting.
- A wellness retreat like this one at Rancho La Puerta with guest chef Annie Fenn, M.D., founder of Brain Health Kitchen.
Supporting Brain Healthy Causes
Need additional inspiration beyond the 6 pillars of brain health? The following gift ideas support organizations that are making a difference in the brain health community and beyond. Make a donation in your loved one’s name, start a fundraiser in their honor, or buy merchandise that supports a mission you believe in.
- Mind What Matters is a nonprofit that provides relief for caregivers caring for someone with dementia. Donate or order merchandise that supports their caregiver relief fund.
- Regional Alzheimer's Organizations like Alzheimer’s Orange County, a nonprofit that provides education, resources and support to individuals with dementia and their families.
- Hilarity for Charity (HFC) is a national nonprofit that provides care for families impacted by Alzheimer’s and resources/education to spread awareness and help prevent the disease. Donate or create your own fundraiser here.
- Women's Alzheimer's Movement at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is a partnership focused on addressing and reducing women’s risk of Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders. Their goal is to advance gender-based research, treatment, prevention and education of Alzheimer’s. Learn more and donate here.
- And for the caregivers in your life, this caregiver sweatshirt by Mom of My Mom will help them feel appreciated.
These memorable gift ideas will be sure to inspire brain health, wellness and nourishment for all the special people on your list. Give a gift that will ensure the memories of today are not forgotten by supporting lifestyle factors that make a difference for lifelong brain health.
For more brain healthy resources visit NeuroReserve.com.