How to Show Your Brain Love with Expert Guidance
February is the month of love, a time when we express appreciation for our partners and loved ones, acknowledging the profound impact they have in our lives. As we create new memories together, it's essential to remember to show love not only through our hearts, but also to show love to our brains. By prioritizing brain health, we can help ensure that we can cherish these memories for years to come. Incorporating simple yet effective additions into our daily routines can have a significant impact on brain health. Whether it's short-term practices like mindfulness exercises or longer-term commitments such as regular physical activity and a balanced diet, each choice contributes to the overall well-being of our brains, regardless of our family history or age.
We've gathered some knowledge from health experts specializing in brain health, functional medicine, and caregiver support/dementia professionals. With a shared commitment to lifelong brain health, they offer their expertise to help you show some extra love to your brain, on this Valentine’s Day!
Dr. Heather Moday, Founder of the Moday Center, Medical Professional in Conventional and Functional/Integrative Medicine
I've been studying brain health for years and how our behaviors, environment, and nutrition play a huge positive and sometimes negative role in our brain health. What I see is that we often ignore some integral ways to support and love our brain.
One of the biggest is being out in nature. Our brain processes all the sensory information from touch, smell, sound, and scent. Being outside, away from technology, noise, and distraction, our brain can be present and take all of this soothing input. This is relaxing and allows our brains to simply rest.
Another way we forget as adults to love our brains is to allow ourselves to be creative. We often focus so much on doing tasks and staring at a screen. Dip into your inner child- allow your brain to daydream, write a story, paint, draw, build something, and explore without an agenda and without your inner critic. This is profoundly satisfying and encourages neuroplasticity and lowers stress.
Olivia Companion, CDP, CMDCP, Owner of Purple Hydrangea Dementia Care Consultation
As a Certified Dementia Practitioner with over a decade of experience in the field, I've had the privilege of working closely with numerous caregivers and those living with dementia. Among the challenges they face, high stress ranks as one of the top reasons people seek support and education from professionals like myself. When it comes to showing love to your brain, one of the fundamental steps is to ensure you're effectively managing stress levels.
I often recommend what I call the caregiver alphabet – a set of principles aimed at reducing stress and promoting well-being. This alphabet consists of four key elements: Awareness, Boundaries, Communication, and Delegation.
It’s crucial to become aware of what is causing stress in your life. Once you've identified these stressors, the next step is to establish clear boundaries. Decide what you can realistically handle and what you need to let go of. Next, communicate to your support circle – those individuals who understand the unique demands of your specific situation. Don’t hesitate to delegate tasks that are adding unnecessary pressure. Your support circle can play a crucial role here, allowing you to pass off responsibilities that you simply can't manage alone. (Pro tip: when someone says “let me know if you need anything” – take that as the opportunity to say “Thank you! I actually need…” and assign one of your pain points!)
Now that you’ve offloaded some stressors, it’s time to add in some supportive factors! Consider using the International Council on Active Aging's 7 Dimensions of Wellness as your starting point: physical, social, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, vocational, and environmental wellbeing. Choose one task daily from different categories to boost yourself up: maybe today you can take a 15-minute walk and tomorrow you can start journaling or today you can meet a friend for lunch and tomorrow you can sign up for that course you always wanted to take.
By focusing on one dimension each day – no matter how small the effort – you can consistently show love and support to your brain, ultimately leading to a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Dr. Edward Park, Founder of NeuroReserve
I've noticed a few standout factors that people often overlook when it comes to showing love to their brains. An important one is regular socialization, which packs a lot of punch for cognitive health, since it combines relationship-building with other brain healthy activities like mental exercise (think witty conversation and games) and learning new things. Many Americans, older adults and mid-life adults alike, find themselves more and more isolated, neglecting the importance of regular social interaction. We can counteract this by reconnecting with friends, volunteering for a charitable organization, or signing up for a new hobby or class. These all involve meeting new people, provide valuable opportunities for social engagement, and ultimately add to greater meaning in our lives. This builds our cognitive reserve - the brain's ability to adapt and change - which becomes increasingly important as we age.
Another vital aspect of loving our brains is regular movement. Many people mistakenly believe that exercising for brain longevity requires intense daily workouts at the gym. However, the truth is much simpler. Activities like taking a 15-minute walk after a meal, opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, or even dancing can all be considered brain nourishing physical activity. I particularly like taking a short walk in the morning as the sun rises, which provides movement and a reset of our circadian rhythm. The key is to keep our bodies moving consistently throughout the day.
And of course, I’m a big proponent of brain healthy diet and nutrition. Beyond protecting our brains, maintaining a proper diet can also have a significant impact on our mood. When we nourish our gut with nutritious foods, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, we trigger the release of neurotransmitters associated with happiness, calmness, and reward, such as serotonin and dopamine. Additionally, the consumption of these foods can stimulate the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a crucial neurochemical involved in neuroplasticity, neuronal survival, and the growth of new neurons and synapses.1 By incorporating these nutrients into our diet, we can effectively combat depressive symptoms, keeping our mindset uplifted and providing us with the energy needed to tackle the day ahead. The Mediterranean diet, in particular, is renowned for providing these nutrients, making it our preferred choice for maintaining both brain and emotional well-being.
For additional actions you can take to help show your brain love, download our FREE E-guide “6 Steps to Building Lasting Brain Power” by visiting here.
Our brain is the powerhouse of our body, tirelessly working to ensure we function, remember, think, and store all the precious memories we make. It's easy to overlook its importance, but our brain deserves just as much love and care as the rest of our body. Today, let's take a moment to show our appreciation and gratitude for all that our brain does for us. After all, a healthy brain leads to a healthier and more fulfilling life.
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1. Lachance, Laura, and Drew Ramsey. “Food, mood, and brain health: implications for the modern clinician.” Missouri medicine vol. 112,2 (2015): 111-5.