Brain Health – Back to Basics

Feeling tired?  Having trouble concentrating?  Memory seems to have holes in it?  Can’t think of the answer to things you thought you knew?  May be it’s time for a brain health check!

Our brains are truly amazing thinking organs, able to adapt and grow, process multiple pieces of information at any one time.  Over 100 billion neurons act as virtually instant message carriers, if you piled up that many pieces of paper, the pile would be over 8000 kilometers high!  To keep your brain working in optimal condition, it requires looking after.  Here are some back to basics – brain health tips.

1. Sleep.  Really, this should be obvious but so often we think we can get by with less than optimal sleep.   For teens, optimal means an average of 8 hours/ night.  While you are sleeping your brain is doing all sorts of cool things like renewing skin cells (beauty sleep) and re-organizing memories to give you the best chance at that test tomorrow.

2. Breathe.  On purpose.  Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen you inhale.  When you are stressed your breathing becomes shallow.  Stress = Less Oxygen = Unhappy brain.  Take a deep breath, hold it, let it out slowly, pause and repeat.

3. Eat well.  You know the old adage – you are what you eat!  Your brain also uses 20% of the energy you consume to maintain cell health and build neurons.  Feed your brain rubbish and it will produce rubbish.  Eggs, fish and nuts are all great brain foods.  In the UK there is a campaign called “five a day”.  It refers to five servings of fruit/ veg per day.  Really! FIVE!!

4. Exercise.  It reduces stress, regulates breathing and improves circulation.  The more efficiently your heart pumps blood through your body, the better the supply of oxygen and nutrients to your brain.  20 min/ day is all it takes.

5. Get de-wormed.  Ok, gross, I know.  But here is the thing.  Worms eat your food before your brain can get it.  They are the most common cause of learning difficulties and contribute to malnutrition and poor growth as well as poor school attendance.

6. Focus.  As amazing as our brains are, there is a limit to how much they can process at any one time.  If you are trying to learn, reduce distractions, and tune your focus to the one problem at hand.

7. Go Multi-media.  Your brain finds out about the world through your senses.  Use as many as you can in a learning environment to increase your brain’s learning power.  Use color, draw crazy pics or symbols, talk it out – on your own or with a friend.  Don’t be boring black and white.  Your brain knows life is better than that!

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