You probably want to keep your body’s command center as healthy as NASA wants to keep its astronauts. Your brain is crucial for your overall health and body functions. But this all-controlling organ can only operate smoothly if you do your part in giving it what it needs—and avoiding what harms it as an astronaut would try to avoid a meteor. Luckily, a slew of research suggests that by simply tweaking daily habits, you can give your brain a big boost, optimizing its function and staving off disease.Here are six easy steps you can take to keep your brain healthy for years to come:
1. Stop Worrying. Do you sweat the small stuff? Well, not to give you one more thing to get worked up about, but all that worrying could be upping your mental dysfunction risk. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden studied a group of anxiety-prone women in their 40s and found, after following them for 38 years, those most easily upset by stress were twice as likely to develop brain dysfunction.It can be tough to break this habit or keep yourself calm when stressful situations arise if it’s engrained in your personality. But whether you’re a straight up stress addict or just slightly anxiety-prone, learning how to manage your stress is something that will keep your brain younger, and that’s good for every aspect of your health.
2. Get Moving. Other than the clear health and weight management benefits of working out, you can now add “razor sharp focus” to the list of good things physical activity might give you. Joining a gaggle of articles showing that physical activity increases brain size and connections (especially in your memory center) is a paper published in Pediatrics reports that kids (seven- to nine-years-old) showed an increased ability to pay attention and switch between tasks after nine weeks of attending an after-school fitness program. So whether it’s just a five-minute run or a 30-minute walk, getting in your 10,000 steps each day will benefit you in so many ways — at work, school or wherever else you need an extra nudge.
3. Cook With Turmeric. The potent spice commonly found in Indian cuisine has been lauded for its skin benefits, but researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Jülich, Germany, have now discovered that it could be a powerful ingredient for treating brain disorders. The study, published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy, found that a compound in the spice reinvigorates your stem cells to proliferate (that’s good) and differentiate to great brain cells (that’s really good).
4. Pump Some Iron. Lifting weights specifically improves your memory. Published in Acta Psychologica, the study found that participants who used a leg extension machine while studying photos were able to recall those photos 48 hours later more accurately than those who hadn’t been exercising while studying. Although further investigation is necessary, researchers guess that other activities such as squats are likely to produce the same results. So do whatever strength training you prefer — and get ready to be the next champion of trivia night.
5. Explore Nature. Need an excuse to go apple picking this weekend? A recent study from the University of Michigan shows that group nature walks are linked with lower depression, less stress, and overall improved mental health and well-being. Interestingly, even those who had recently experienced a stressful life event, such as the death of a family member, experienced a mood boost after the outing. So grab a friend and go get some fresh air!
6. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know eating fruits and veggies is non-negotiable for great health. But what none of us knew until recently is that eating your five a day could improve mental well-being as well. In a study published in BMJ Open, researchers used data from the Health Survey for England that included close to 14,000 adults, and found that mental health was directly related to fruit and veggie intake. It makes sense: When you’re doing something that is wards off diseases like heart disease and cancer, extends your life and improves your complexion, you’re bound to be happier and more content.