Brain Gain

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How do you become mentally strong?

A certified health & wellness coach, Catherine Cooley states, “research has shown that the adult brain is not stagnant; it is constantly at work, producing new cells and forming neural connections through a process called neuroplasticity.” This is good news, meaning that the brain is malleable and if we put in the right time and energy, we can see positive results.

Here are some helpful tips on how to improve brain fitness and cognitive function.

1. Brain Fitness

Brain fitness is exercising your mental strength by challenging your brain’s ability to understand and absorb new projects. One way to practice brain fitness is by developing a growth mindset. A growth mindset is defined as “the belief that construes intelligence as malleable and improvable.” This way of thinking can allow people to approach challenges as a normal part of the learning process. According to the article, The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset and Intrinsic Motivation, people who embrace a growth mindset tend to appreciate lifelong learning and see their intelligence as not a fixed trait. This openness to knowledge has been shown to improve cognitive function. To practice a growth mindset, it is necessary to step out of our routine and be open to new learning opportunities. While engaging in activities that help challenge your brain is important, the health of your mind and body plays a crucial role in developing mental growth.

2. Physical Exercise

Exercise can be just as important for your body as it is for your brain. Physical exercise can help the brain reduce inflammation while stimulating growth factors that boost the function and development of neural cells. Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase blood flow to the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory. Being inactive can be a major risk factor in dementia but staying active can help fight against it. Fortunately, studies show that even walking for as little as two minutes a day can make a difference.

3. Maintain a healthy diet

While there isn’t one simple pill to take to ensure brain health, according to Harvard Health Publishing, “the most important strategy is to follow a healthy dietary pattern that includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.” They state that the most effective brain foods are the ones that protect your blood vessels and heart. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants are shown to improve brain wellbeing. A list of foods includes the following:

  • Fatty Fish

  • Green, leafy vegetables

  • Berries

  • Walnuts

  • Tea and Coffee

4. Mental Health

It is common knowledge that stress can have a heavy impact on the body, but now neuroscientists have found that high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) harm the brain. This damage can lead to long-term effects on brain function and structure. If prolonged could take a toll on cognitive function, resulting in impaired memory and cognitive decline. Dealing with stress can be a difficult journey but it is important to put the work into addressing the cause and take steps on how to effectively cope.

5. Quality Sleep

Quality sleep plays an important role in allowing your brain and body to function properly. Not getting enough sleep can make it difficult to problem-solve, concentrate, and make judgments. If you are not getting enough sleep, you might be in danger of killing brain cells. When you sleep your brain is expelling toxins that have built up during your waking hours, this helps keep the brain clear. Sleep helps with storing memories, while you are sleeping the brain collects all the memories from the day. If you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, try maintaining a set schedule. You can also try exercising for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day and avoid caffeine late in the afternoon.

All these practices can improve cognitive functions and problem-solving skills. Depending on what mental goal you have in mind, acknowledging that the brain can change and grow allows for countless opportunities. Just changing a little part of your lifestyle can greatly impact your brain and overall health. If you or someone you love, would like to take steps in improving your brain health please reach out. Our trained medical team would be happy to help!

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If you are experiencing symptoms of mental or physical distress and would like to discuss your treatment options, schedule an appointment with one of our providers today by using our online form or by calling (805) 341-3416 during normal business hours.

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fpcw@familypsychiatry101.com
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