Nine Ways To Improve Your Brain's Health In The Long Term

Last updated on : January 15 2021

Picture of a brain

Boosting Brain And Cognitive Function

It’s easy to adopt a reckless attitude when you’re early on in life. A young body and a resilient mental and emotional state can keep you feeling on top of your game for years and even decades at a time.  

However, if you don’t treat your mind, body, and soul with respect earlier in life, some of those more foolhardy activities can eventually take their toll. 

Not just on your physical body but also on your mental health and brain function well.

Why You Should Care About Your Brain

It’s easy to find examples of ways that youthful indiscretions can hurt your physical body. Things like smoking, drinking, drugs, eating fast food, and staying up late can all lead to health issues sooner or later.

What is a bit harder to diagnose — though no less of a threat — is the effect your lifestyle can have on your brain as you age. Numerous mental concerns can creep into the picture over time and impact your cognitive functioning.  

Alzheimer’s affects nearly 6 million individuals aged 65 and older. Dementia and depression are rampant among the more aging population, as are anxiety and severe cognitive impairment.

It doesn’t matter what data set you review. Numerous mental health concerns come with age. With that in mind, it’s essential to take steps early on to prevent these issues from arising. 

Ways To Boost Brain Health And Cognitive Function

Below are several of the best mental health habits that you can adopt to improve your mental state, brain health, and cognitive function over the long term.

1. Get On A Good Diet

Table full of healthy food

If you want your brain to operate effectively throughout your life, you need to give it the necessary nutrients it needs. Giving it the essential nutrients starts with your diet. 

What you eat affects how you feel and think every day. 

For instance, 95% of your serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your moods, is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. It’s just one out of countless other examples of how your food can impact your emotions — both for better and for worse.

With that said, while it’s fair to have a treat occasionally, and it’s OK to try to lose weight at times, your ultimate long-term, food-related goals should revolve around maintaining a healthy diet

In other words, you should find a diet that focuses on long-term and not short-term goals. Look for a consistent food regimen that gives your body the nutrients it needs — for your mind as much as anything else. 

While each individual’s dietary needs can differ, many foods, like avocados and nuts, can specifically help combat mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.

Whatever your particular situation, talk to your doctor and then take some time to create a long-term dietary plan designed to give both your body and brain what they need to stay healthy over time.

2. Make An Effort To Exercise

Exercising at gtm

Exercise is another activity that isn’t just good for your body. It’s also an excellent way to keep your brain sharp, healthy, and even relaxed. 

In particular, exercise is a classic stress reducer, thanks to the army of endorphins released when you get in a good run or start lifting weights.

You can use exercise to help protect your mind from the long-term effects of things like excessive stress and chronic anxiety.

You can also bring exercise and food together to create a synergistic effect to get your body the specific nutrients and exercise it needs each day. 

For instance, you can focus on things like proteins, carbs, anti-inflammatory fats, and micronutrients on your recovery days in between trips to the gym. 

By being strategic about your food intake and exercise routine, you can maximize its effect on your physical and mental state.

3. Remember, Sleep Is Essential

Girl sleeping

In addition to exercise and eating, it’s also important to remember the third essential physical ingredient to well-rounded health: sleep. The average adult should get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. And, of course, while this is a great baseline, more than 7 hours is OK, as well.

While it may sound attainable, it’s straightforward to sacrifice hours of precious rest in the name of other activities. If you don’t allow your mind to rest, though, it can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and even a full-blown sleep disorder.

Sleep disorders can negatively impact mental health through poor judgment to depression, anxiety, and excess mental distress. 

By getting a respectable amount of sleep each night, you’re allowing your brain to rest and recover, thereby bolstering its health and longevity.

4. Find A Healthy Hobby

Paint set

Hobbies aren’t just for those who are retired or bored. They’re excellent tools for all. 

A useful, engaging hobby can help keep the mind focused, excited, creative, and alert. These are essential elements to encourage if you want your cognition to remain healthy into your old age. 

Healthy hobbies span the gamut, from jogging and reading to metal detecting and even competitive puzzling. The important thing is to find an activity that sparks your passion and engages your interests more than spending an evening binging Netflix.

5. Always Be Learning

Man sitting on chair with book

Another study sought, among other things, to find a connection between lifelong learning and mental health. The results were, not surprisingly, that the two are indeed connected. 

When the study interviewed those involved in the focus group, they found that the simple act of maintaining a learning attitude throughout life helped heal and preserve mental health. 

This shed light on the fact that learning isn’t an activity that you should relegate to youth. It should take place throughout one’s lifetime. 

The act of always seeking to educate oneself serves to stimulate the brain and provide consistent challenges. It opens up growth opportunities and helps to maintain a mindset that is still hungry for more. 

This mindset is a great way to fight everyday mental battles, such as complacency, discouragement, and depression.

6. Cultivate Positivity

Think Positive text

Positivity can be hard to come by. With things like social media and the 24-hour news cycle continually dampening spirits, finding a mental light in the darkness can be a challenge at times.

Nevertheless, cultivating positivity in life is one of the best ways to improve your mental health. 

One study found that “greater optimism, positive attitude, positive affect, life satisfaction, and purpose in life were all associated with reduced risk of dementia.”

You can try to cultivate all of these things through several different activities, such as: 

● Listing off the things that you’re thankful for

● practicing mindfulness.

● Saying please, and thank you.

● Meditating and praying daily.

Consistently adopting a positive perspective is an effective way to strengthen your cognition for years and even decades.

7. Pursue Purpose

Person standing on arrow sign

The study referenced above combined positivity with the socioeconomic, generational, and psychological variables associated with its participants, it made an exciting discovery. 

Taken together, the amalgam of positive and personal information revealed that the simple sense of having a purpose in life was one of the strongest predictors of having a healthy brain.

This sense of purpose is powerful. It pulls together the factors we discussed above, such as positivity and having hobbies. Then, it amplifies their impact. 

By pursuing purpose throughout your life, you give yourself a reason to think, overcome problems, engage in activities, and generally live a healthy life. All of which can go a long way in bolstering your brain power no matter how old you are.

8. Foster Relationships

Three woman friends

The social distancing protocols brought about by the coronavirus threw into stark contrast how meaningful relationships are. When denied consistent human interaction, an individual can suffer, and their mental state can atrophy. 

By fostering healthy relationships with family members and friends, you can tap into various mental health benefits. These include more self-esteem, less anxiety, decreased depression, and increased empathy, trust, and cooperation.  

Now, it’s essential to take the time to identify which relationships in your life are worth an investment. For instance, you shouldn’t continue to pour into a toxic relationship that exacerbates your mental health struggles.

However, if you can figure out which interpersonal interactions feed your body, mind, and soul, you can lean on these for mental support as you age.

9. Create a Long-Term Strategy for Brain Health

Chess pieces on board

It’s wise to address mental health concerns as quickly as possible because issues like depression and anxiety can be crippling. 

However, it’s equally important to consider your long-term mental health, even when things are relatively calm and peaceful.

To recap, some of the best ways that you can set up healthy mental habits to boost your brain function and health include:

● Adopting a good diet.

● Making an effort to exercise.

● Sleeping at least 7 hours each night.

● Finding healthy hobbies.

● Always learning and growing.

● Cultivating positivity.

● Pursuing purpose in your life.

● Fostering your healthy relationships.

If you can adopt some or even all of these habits into your daily routines, you’ll be able to set your mind up for a long, happy, and healthy life.

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