If you're interested in improving your brain health, you're in luck. There are so many little things you can do every day to not only to feel better mentally, but to also give your brain what it needs to function at its best. And this can include simple stuff, like drinking more water, exercising, meditating — and even doing nothing.
Small habits like these can all add up to a healthier brain, which is something you should prioritize. After all, "lifelong brain health matters as we get one brain for our lifetime," Dr. Krystal L. Culler, DBH, M.A., founder of Your Brain HealthMatters, LLC, tells Bustle. So the sooner you can start taking care of it, the better.
"Prioritizing your brain health at a younger age can have cumulative effects as you get older," Dr. Culler says. "How you live your life and your daily choices matter to your future brain." Though, she adds, it's never too late to start taking better care of yourself.
By adding certain habits into your life, you can build up your "cognitive reserve," Dr. Culler says, which is important when it comes to combatting age-related diseases and dementia risks. "Cognitive reserve is built up throughout your lifetime through your lifestyle and daily choices," she says, "such as education and continual lifelong learning, physical exercise, sleep, meditation, and so on." Here are more things you can do every day for a healthier brain, according to experts.
"Research shows that regular meditation can improve memory and concentration," Rose MacDowell, chief research officer at Sleepopolis, tells Bustle. But that's only one reason why it can be a healthy habit to get into.
Meditation has also been shown to increase the volume of gray matter in the brain, including parts of the brain related to learning and emotion processing, MacDowell says. And it's also been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression.
"If meditation is not a daily part of your routine aim to add it in," Dr. Culler says. "Start with a shorter interval (a few minutes per day) and then work your way up to a longer interval (20 plus minutes per day)."
"Quality sleep, between seven and nine hours, can be extremely helpful in managing your overall health and your brain health," psychotherapist Patrick Schultz, MA, LPC, NCC, tells Bustle. "This is the time for your body to recharge, manage life stressors, and allow you to file away memories and information into short and long-term memory."
You can ensure you're getting enough rest by going to bed on time every night, and sticking to a sleep schedule, as well as sleeping in a slightly cool, dark, and quiet environment, Schultz says.
To make your mind more resilient, try practicing gratitude every day, possibly by writing down what you're grateful for, telling a friend, or simply thinking it to yourself, therapist Kimberly Vered Shashoua, LCSW, tells Bustle.
And then watch as other areas of your life improve, too. "Researchers have found gratitude has an effect on more than just brain health," Vered Shashoua says. "People who practice gratitude have stronger immune systems, sleep longer, and feel more refreshed upon waking."
Even if you have a busy schedule, it's worth it to set aside time to exercise a few times a week.
"Exercise has a significant impact on brain health from multiple angles," Dr. Thanu Jey, clinic director at Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic, tells Bustle. "Regularly exercising causes the release of healthy growth factors and reduces inflammation, which plays an enormous impact in brain health."
By exercising, you may be able to reduce your risk of inflammation-related brain issues, such as Alzheimer's disease.