6 RESEARCH-BACKED TECHNIQUES TO “REBOOT YOUR BRAIN” AFTER A BRUTAL YEAR
January 21, 20214 min read
There is no doubt 2020 was difficult for everyone and tragic for many. But now vaccines against Covid-19 are finally being administered – giving a much-needed hope of a return to normality and a happy 2021.
However, months of anxiety, grief, and loneliness can easily create a spiral of negativity that is hard to break out of. That’s becausechronic stress changes the brain. And sometimes when we’re low we have no interest in doing the things that could actually make us feel better.
To enjoy our lives in 2021, we need to snap out of destructive habits and get our energy levels back. In some cases, that may initially mean forcing yourself to do the things that will gradually make you feel better. If you are experiencing more severe symptoms, however, you may want to speak to a professional about therapy or medication.
Here are six evidence-based ways to change our brains for the better.
Volunteering can also give a sense of meaning in life,promoting happiness, health, and wellbeing. Older adults who volunteer regularly alsoexhibit greater life satisfactionand reduced depression and anxiety. In short, making others happy is a great way to make yourself happy.
Exercise has been linked with both better physical and mental health, including improved cardiovascular health and reduced depression. In childhood, exercise is associated with better school performance, while itpromotes better cognitionand job performance in young adults. In older adults, exercise maintains cognitive performance and provides resilience against neurodegenerative disorders, such as dementia.
What’s more, studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of fitnesshave increased brain volume, whichis associatedwith better cognitive performance in older adults. People who exercise also live longer. One of the very best things that you can do to reboot your brain is in fact to go out and get some fresh air during a brisk walk, run, or cycling session. Do make sure to pick something you actually enjoy to ensure you keep doing it though.
4. EAT WELL
A study of older adults who consumed only a small amounts of flavonoid-rich foods, such as berries, apples and tea, were2 to 4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s diseaseand related dementias over 20 years compared with people whose intake was higher, according to a new study led by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University.
The epidemiological study of 2,800 people aged 50 and older examined the long-term relationship between eating foods containing flavonoids and risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). While many studies have looked at associations between nutrition and dementias over short periods of time, the study published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at exposure over 20 years.
The research team determined that a low intake of three flavonoid types was linked to a higher risk of dementia when compared to the highest intake. Specifically:
• Low intake of flavonols (apples, pears and tea) was associated with twice the risk of developing ADRD.
• Low intake ofanthocyanins(blackcurrants, blueberries, strawberries and red wine) was associated with a four-fold risk of developing ADRD.
• Low intake of flavonoid polymers (apples, pears, and tea) was associated with twice the risk of developing ADRD.
Loneliness and social isolationare prevalentacross all ages, genders, and cultures –further elevatedby the COVID-19 pandemic. Robust scientific evidence has indicated that social isolationis detrimentalto physical, cognitive, and mental health.
One recent study showed that there were negative effects of COVID-19 isolationon emotional cognition, but that this effect was smaller in those that stayed connected with others during the lockdown. Developing social connections and alleviating loneliness is also associatedwith a decreased risk of mortalityas well as a range of illnesses.
In 2021, be sure to keep up with family and friends, but also expand your horizons and make some new connections.
2. LEARN SOMETHING NEW
The brain changes during critical periods of development, but is also a lifelong process. Novel experiences, such as learning new skills, can modify both brain function and the underlying brain structure. For example, jugglinghas been shownto increase white matter (tissue composed of nerve fibers) structures in the brain associated with visuomotor performance.
Sleep is an essential component of human life, yet many people do not understand the relationship between good brain health and the process of sleeping. During sleep, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself and removes toxic waste byproducts, which helps tomaintain normal brain functioning.
Sleep is very important for transforming experiences into our long-term memory, maintaining the cognitive and emotional function, and reducing mental fatigue. Studies of sleep deprivation have demonstrated deficits in memory and attention as well as changes in the reward system, which oftendisrupts emotional functioning. Sleep also exerts a strong regulatoryinfluence on the immune system. If you have the optimal quantity and quality of sleep, you will find that you have more energy, better wellbeing, and are able to develop your creativity and thinking.
So have a Happy New Year! And let’s make the most of ourselves in 2021 and help others to do the same.