Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Five Ways to Improve Your Brain

This morning, you are in for a surprise.  Today, I'm featuring a guest blog from Dr. Judith Glasser concerning boosting brain power. 

Dr. Glasser is a clinical psychologist with more than 30 years of experience working with families in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  Currently, her main office is in Silver Spring, MD, and she works in Rockville two afternoons a week. Dr. Glasser specializes in therapy and assessment with children and teenagers. Throughout her career, Dr. Glasser has specialized in issues related to ADHD and co-existing conditions.  She co-authored a book for children with Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., titled Learning to Feel Good and Stay Cool: Emotional Regulation Tools for Kids with ADHD (2013), published by Magination Press.  For more information, visit www.JudithGlasser.com.


We all benefit from ways to boost our brainpower.  After all, the brain controls the rest of the body. Kids need good brainpower to concentrate in school and to learn. Teenage brains are growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, the brain isn’t finished developing until we are in our mid to late twenties. As we age, we begin to think about trying to minimize the impact of aging on the brain and preventing dementia.
Here are five things we can all do to help our brains work optimally:

  1. Exercise!  We have all heard about the health benefits of exercising on a regular basis.  However did you know that it is the single best thing you can do for your brain?  In recent years it has become clear that exercise helps us manage stress. Exercising also helps us to focus and concentrate. As we age exercise can help us to maintain healthy brains and may even help prevent dementia. Find something fun you can look forward to, perhaps with a friend or family member.
  2. Healthy eating.  I know, we all have heard about the importance of healthy eating for managing weight and cholesterol.  However what we eat feeds our brains as well. Protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and lots of water are really good for our brains.  We all benefit from eating something within two hours of waking in the morning and every two-three hours after that to keep our brains going strong all day long. Also some pesticides and food additives have been linked to causing symptoms of hyperactivity in children. Parents ask me, “Does this mean we have to go organic?” My answer is, it certainly won’t hurt and it might help.
  3. Essential Fatty Acids. When I was growing up, my mother used to say that fish is “brain food.”  It turns out she was right!  Certain fish like salmon are high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which promotes healthy brain function. These essential fatty acids have been found to reduce symptoms of ADHD as well as depression.
  4. Sleep.  There have been many reports that we Americans do not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is reportedly a big problem in reducing efficiency and mental functioning. Here are some guidelines to help you get a good night’s sleep:

a.   Turn off all screens (i.e. TV and computer) 1-2 hours before going to bed.  There is a blue light in the screens that triggers the brain to stay awake. 

b.   Exercise during the day, but not right before trying to go to sleep.

c.    Take a shower or hot bath to wind down.  The warmth can make you sleepy.

d.   Go to bed and get up at the same time every day (as much as possible).  This kind of routine can help you regulate your body’s sleep cycle.

e.   Remember your bed is for sleep not for work.  If you have a lot of things on your mind, keep a pad of paper by your bed and write them down.  If you can’t sleep, get up and read a book.  But remember not to read a really exciting one that you can’t put down! And don’t work in bed.

f.    If all else fails, warm milk and graham crackers might help make you sleepy.

5.   Meditation. Almost everyone can learn to meditate. It is easy and doesn’t require any special equipment. Even a few minutes a day can restore your sense of calm and peace. Meditation has been found to improve mental as well as physical wellbeing. In addition meditation may be an intervention with potential for helping many to learn to deal with chronic disease and stress.

You may have to push yourself at the beginning to try these new behaviors, but once you get started hopefully you will find that you feel great.  After a few months of pushing yourself, these will become new healthy habits.  Good luck!

Fitness for Health utilizes the latest technology to help our clients reach their health goals while improving their cognitive abilities.  To learn how our fitness trainers can help you boost your brain power while having fun, visit www.FitnessForHealth.org.

No comments:

Post a Comment