5 Healthy Brain Essentials

5 more proven ways to enhance brain functioning and can help anyone live up to their full intellectual potential...

  • Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

Alcohol and drug use are significant societal problems. The highly destructive effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain cannot be understated. These substances wreak havoc on the neurons’ ability to send signals by altering the levels of neurotransmitters within the brain. In addition, alcohol and drugs literally destroy the cells within the brain which can lead to permanent brain damage and cognitive impairment.

tech addiction
  • Limit the Use of Technology

The average person spends more than eight hours each day using technology. The internet, cell phones and texting have altered the social and     educational landscapes of society. Unfortunately, they also appear to be rewiring our brains, resulting in an inability to form close relational bonds, false intimacy, and an increased frequency of errors from multi-tasking and attention problems. Chronic use of information technology appears to have a suppressive effect on frontal lobe executive functions. To overcome these negative effects, everyone should schedule regular breaks from technology, increase face to face interactions with peers and include the use of more traditional approaches to information gathering, like reading books, magazines and newspapers.

  • Read Everyday

Reading is a highly complex cognitive task that simultaneously engages a significant  number of neural systems throughout the brain. Much like an athlete that works his or  her muscles through physical exercise, the brain is strengthened by the “mental” exercise of reading. Individuals who read often have superior memories, vocabularies,  comprehension skills and attention. Good readers are also better writers.  The neurocognitive effects of reading are perhaps most apparent in the fact that reading is protective against damage to the brain as a result of lead exposure, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, other dementias, sleep apnea, or traumatic brain injury.

  • Reduce Stress

In a stressful situation, the body reacts with a flood of stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) to prepare you for the circumstances at hand. Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises and you breathe faster, pumping oxygen rich blood to your muscles. This is the famed “fight or flight” response. Unfortunately, prolonged stress can have damaging effects  on the body and the brain. Research has shown that extended exposure to stress hormones actually causes cell death in certain brain areas, particularly the hippocampus (which is vital to learning and memory). This is supported by the fact that highly stressed individuals consistently report forgetfulness and difficulty learning new material.

  • Develop an Active Spiritual Life

Spirituality encompasses the ways people find meaning, hope, purpose, a sense of internal peace and a connection to things greater than themselves. Studies show that religious and spiritual practices improve mental and physical health.  Individuals who are able to connect with a transcendence larger than themselves are able to cope better with stress, resulting in lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels. They also report less anxiety, less depression, and increased feelings of security, compassion, and love. Neuroimaging research with highly religious individuals has shown that regular prayer and meditation can positively alter brain structure and function.

- Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D