What You Should Know:
- The Importance of Mental Fitness
- Mental Fitness Activities to Boost Brain Function
- Foods that Improve Mental Health
Just as we try to eat right and get enough exercise to maintain good physical health, we should also pay attention to the right activities and nutrition for our brains.
The Importance of Mental Fitness
As we get older, we realise that our physical form changes. We start to have less energy, are more prone to muscle injury, and even take longer to recover from aches and pains. While we can’t avoid aging, we can slow down the process by staying physically active and eating a balanced diet.
Similarly, the brain too starts to change as we age. We find it harder to remember everything that has happened, and we might take longer to learn new concepts than we did as children or young adults. Mental fitness helps to keep our brains sharp and possibly even retain optimal memory and other functions well into old age.
Mental Fitness Activities to Boost Brain Function
These four simple activities can keep help maintain good mental health no matter what age we are:
Physical exercise: Over the past two decades or so the connection between the mind and body has received a lot of focus. Studies have shown that individuals who are more physically active also have better mental fitness. They are also at a lower risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and strokes. So, make sure to get enough exercise daily to keep your mind healthy along with your body.
Mental puzzles: As you can imagine, the brain needs a good mental workout regularly. The best way to exercise the brain is by solving puzzles like Sudoku or even doing mental maths. Memory games are another fun way to help you maintain mental fitness. And finally, reading and learning new things also keeps a mind healthy.
De-stressing: We all know that it is hard to focus or remember things when we are stressed. This is because the stress hormone cortisol reduces the blood supply to the pre-frontal cortex or decision centre of the brain and redirects it to our arms and legs. This is the typical fight or flight mode. However, in the absence of any life-threatening danger, the brain and body don’t know what to do with the fight or flight mode. It tends to shut off when faced with the chronic stress of modern lifestyles. Taking time to de-stress by meditating, journaling, listening to calming music, getting a massage, and so on, could help reduce stress and keep you in good mental health.
Sleep: The brain performs all its housekeeping functions while we sleep. From processing all the new information acquired during the day to cleaning out waste matter like dead cells and damaged tissue, the brain is very active while the body sleeps. Lack of sleep disrupts these essential brain functions which is why adequate sleep is necessary for optimal mental health.
Foods that Improve Mental Health
Food and diet also plan an important role in good mental health. Here’s an interesting fact: A low-fat diet could impair brain function. The brain is composed of 60% fat and a diet rich in good fats is the only way to prevent mental deterioration while we age. Include these foods in your diet to make sure you are getting the right amount of brain nutrients:
- Fatty fish and fish oils
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Pumpkin seeds (good source of zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron).
- Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli.
- Dark chocolate (70% or higher).
Try getting at least some of these foods daily to make sure your brain is well-nourished and healthy.