For Adults Who Want to Increase Performance at Work and at Home
(These 5 core elements will help kids as well!)
Your brain is the boss… Your brain and nervous system is responsible for every system and function in the body. Therefore, when we neglect the brain, it shows up in every aspect of life. That could be fatigue, stress, frequent colds or illnesses, digestive issues, decreased performance, etc. Summer is a great time for us parents to push the restart button on our own health and work towards improving our health and well-being. For that reason, I am going to list the 5 core building blocks to having a healthy brain. I am going to encourage you to take a stock of where you and your family are at with each one and try to make small changes in improving each of these areas. Your brain and body will thank you!
1) Drink More Water
Drinking water is the most important thing we can do for healthier brains and bodies. Our body is made up of 70% water and every function in the body is dependent on water, including the activities of the brain and nervous system. Lack of water can affect our memory, hormones and neurotransmitters, increase brain fog and fatigue, as well as increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Most of us know this but still usually start the day off with copious amounts of coffee or energy drinks, followed by La Croix and soda throughout the day and topped off with a glass of wine or two in the evening. Maybe on a good day we’ll sneak in a few glasses of water here or there. So how can we make sure to get enough water in during the day?
It is recommended we drink at least half our weight in ounces of water daily, so if we weigh 160 lbs we should then drink 80 oz of water each day at a minimum. The best way to accomplish this is to drink a quarter of your total water intake first thing in the morning. Next make sure you are drinking from a water bottle throughout the day and before any meals. Lastly, make sure to have 1-2 glasses of water in the evening before bedtime.
2) Get More Sleep
Our world is getting busier and busier. Especially as parents, we wake up early with our kiddos, get them ready for school, go to work, drive them around to all their activities, make dinner, help with homework and then finally get them back to bed. With our day being so busy taking care of everyone else we often just want to sit on the couch and relax with some “me” time in the evening. This often means TV, Netflix, Facebook, etc. By the time we start headed to bed it is already 11 pm – 12 pm. This makes the morning feel even earlier and the cycle continues to repeat itself.
Sleep is absolutely crucial for brain health. We know that sleep makes us feel more energized and improves our mood, but what’s really happening in the brain and body when we’re at rest? Sleep helps the brain form new memories, consolidate older ones, and link more recent memories with earlier ones. For this reason, sleep plays a very important role in learning and cementing the new information we’re taking in for better later recall. Sleep is also an important function be to give the brain a chance to do a little housekeeping. Researchers at the University of Rochester found that during sleep, the brains of mice clear out damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration. The space between brain cells actually increased while the mice were unconscious, allowing the brain to flush out the toxic molecules that built up during waking hours. Lack of sleep has also been shown to decrease immune function and therefore more colds, increased digestive issues, mood swings, weight gain and decreased sex drive.
So, what are some ways to increase the amount of sleep you are getting? The most important step is to prioritize your own sleep just like your kiddos... Make a sleep schedule and stick to it. It is also important to decrease screen time in the evenings, less caffeinated beverages and alcohol and find ways to wind and slow down before bedtime.
3) Move More
Movement is life! Many people look at exercising as a way to lose weight, gain strength or simply look good in your bathing suit or birthday suit. But what many people don’t know is that exercise and movement play a big role in how our brain functions. In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Exercise can also reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors which are chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. It also improves mood, sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Exercise is also a great way to reset and recharge your day.
You don’t have to be a CrossFit games athlete or marathon runner to improve your brain health with exercise. The most important first step is to schedule a time into your day to get moving and exercise regularly. This can be 15-20 minutes of high intensity functional movements or 30-45 minutes of walking, biking or running. The key is to be moving and breaking a sweat.
4) Reduce the Two Major Toxins in Our Life