Every part of the human body is important. But while a human can still survive without some body parts, one cannot survive without some other body parts, one of which is the brain.
The brain is the central organ of the human nervous system, and with the spinal cord, it makes up the central nervous system. The brain consists of the cerebrum, the brainstem, and the cerebellum.
The brain controls most of the activities of the body, processing, integrating, and coordinating the information it receives from the sense organs and making decisions as to the instructions sent to the rest of the body. The brain is contained in, and protected by, the skull bones of the head.
According to scientists, the brain is an amazing three-pound organ that controls all functions of the body, interprets information from the outside world, and embodies the essence of the mind and soul.
Intelligence, creativity, emotion, and memory are some of the many things governed by the brain.
It receives information from the five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing – often many at one time. It then assembles the messages in a way that has meaning for human beings and can store that information in the memory. The brain controls thoughts, memory and speech, movement of the arms and legs, and the function of many organs within the body.
However, like other parts of the body, there are lifestyle habits that affect brain health, particularly in an era of technology where human beings are being rewired to do more to the detriment of the brain.
According to experts, the modern lifestyle is chipping away at neural pathways and making humans slower, denser, and less capable of original thought. Hyper-connectivity is increasingly taking its toll on the brains and in the end, many people end up less productive and ineffective.
A UK-based entrepreneur and health expert, Thomas Oppong, said when talking about health, many people did not always think about nurturing their brains the way they nourished their bodies.
“But to be our most productive self, we need to do more of what improves our brain health, and less of what causes cognitive decline. Start by adjusting your daily habits and avoiding these common modern habits – your brain will thank you,” Oppong wrote on businessinsider.com.
Physical inactivity has its price tags – it’s linked to the development of chronic health problems like heart disease, obesity, depression, dementia, and cancer. Many people are too busy to make time for “basic movement activities” that can slow cognitive decline–walking, cycling, stretching, etc.
Being sedentary changes the shape of certain neurons in the brain, according to a study in the Journal of Comparative Neurology that suggests a link between inactivity and mental decline.
Regular physical activity can benefit you cognitively as they increase brain chemicals which promote better memory and learning.
For emphasis’ sake, sitting is one of the worst things one can do to their health. A study at the University of California, Los Angeles, reported that people who were more sedentary had thinning in brain regions linked to memory. The study found that sitting wasn’t just a physical health risk – it’s a neurological risk as well.
The study authors wrote, “It is possible that sedentary behaviour is a more significant predictor of brain structure, specifically (medial temporal lobe) thickness, and that physical activity, even at higher levels, is not sufficient to offset the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods of time.”
You can reduce the amount of sitting you do by adopting interventions like moderate walking, standing while working, even for just 10 minutes at a time, and standup meetings.
In this age of technology, smartphones have become Swiss army knives. Many people use them all the time. They text while walking across the street, catch up on email while commuting, read or listen to podcasts while standing in a queue.
According to mental health experts, multitasking is not only bad for productivity, it’s also a habit that rewires the brain and makes one less effective.
A neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, and one of the world experts on divided attention, Earl Miller, noted in his study that human brains “are not wired to multitask well.”
“When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so,” he said.
“Multitasking also increases the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking,” he added.
Things are happening fast and many people want to catch up on events around them as they happen. However, this can lead to unnecessary over-stimulation of the brain.
The sheer volume of emails, social updates, and notifications people receive can be overwhelming and take a huge bite out of the day for many. The constant stream of content, if not managed, can cause stress and lead to decision overload.
“Too much information or information overload is one of the biggest irritations in modern life,” experts at The Economist wrote.
Some people proudly boast of how many things they can juggle in a single day. But Glenn Wilson, a former visiting professor of psychology at Gresham College in London, found out in his research that being in such a situation could reduce one’s effective Intelligence Quotient by 10 points.
Oppong advised that to maximise the brain every day, one should use better tools and settings to filter information throughout the day.
“Be proactive about how you consume media. Prepare your brain to ignore unnecessary information. When you organise your day with these principles in mind, you will likely increase your brain’s efficiency significantly,” he said.
Less face-to-face interaction
Today, face-to-face interactions are increasingly being replaced by digital tools. People spend more time online than ever before.
“Anything with a screen – television, phones, tablets, computers, video games – constitutes screen time,” said Tom Kersting, a psychotherapist and mental health expert.
“If the majority of our waking hours entails looking at a screen, then we know it is way too much. A face-to-face conversation is incredibly beneficial for your brain,” he said.
Also, a study by the University of Michigan found that even just 10 minutes per day of conversation with another person could improve memory and cognition.
“In our study, socialising was just as effective as more traditional kinds of mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual performance,” said Oscar Ybarra, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research and a lead author of the study.
The lack of true personal interaction limits the brain’s opportunities to make better connections. It can also lead to loneliness and depression – mental conditions that contribute significantly to reduced brain health.
Looking at screens all day can hurt one’s eyes, ears, neck, shoulders, back, wrists, and forearms. It also interferes with getting a good night’s sleep.
According to experts, excessive screen time has a negative effect on intellectual abilities as well as emotional well-being.
Therefore, it is advisable to set clear boundaries with screens to avoid developing detrimental habits. The goal isn’t to avoid screen time entirely, as that’s not realistic in modern life. However, if you’re going to use a device, be mindful.
Listening to loud music
Many people love to switch up the volume as it makes the music sounds more fun and immersive. In the age of noise-cancelling earbuds and headphones, you can easily damage your hearing.
When the rest of the world gets too distracting, it’s tempting to pop in your earbuds, crank up your favourite tunes, and close yourself off to focus better.
According to experts, if you consistently blast your music too loudly, you can damage your hearing. But it’s not just your ears: Hearing loss in older adults is linked to brain problems, such as Alzheimer’s and loss of brain tissue.
When your brain has to work hard to understand what’s being said around you, it can’t store what you’ve heard into memory. So, protect your hearing by adjusting the volume of your headphones – it’s an excellent way to preserve your hearing and allow your brain to work better.
“One test we recommend is to remove your headphones, keeping them at your preferred volume, and hold them out in front of you at an arm’s length. Can you hear the music clearly? If so, try turning it down and repeating again,” wrote experts at Headphonesty.
Always aim to take regular breaks during the course of the day to give your ears a much-needed rest.
Insufficient sleep is a huge problem for many busy professionals. Sleep deprivation can have serious short-term and long-term consequences – it can delay reaction times, glucose levels, mood, headache, impaired memory, and hormone imbalances. Researches showed that not getting enough sleep may actually shrink your brain.
Sleep is absolutely essential for your brain. When you deprive your brain of healthy sleep, how it processes information, consolidates memories, makes connections, and clears out toxins suffers.
Lack of sleep slows down your thinking, impairs your memory, concentration, judgment, and decision-making, and impedes learning.
Improving your sleep habits could be an important way to improve brain health. Seven to eight hours of good sleep a night is essential for stimulating new connections and brain growth.
If you are concerned about the health of your brain and the quality of your thinking now or in the future, learn to take care of your brain. A few simple changes to your lifestyle could boost your memory, learning, mental resilience, and overall health of your brain.
Eating excessive junk food
According to researches, parts of the brain linked to learning, memory, and mental health are smaller in people who take lots of hamburgers, fries, potato chips, and soft drinks in their diet.
On the other hand, berries, whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables can preserve brain function and slow mental decline. So next time you start to reach for a bag of chips, grab a handful of nuts instead.
Meanwhile, if you eat too much food – even the right kind of food – your brain may not be able to build a strong network of connections that help you think and remember. If you overeat for too long, you may get dangerously overweight, which can cause heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure – all linked to brain problems and Alzheimer’s.
Similarly, experts said smoking could cause the brain to shrink, which is a bad thing.
“It (smoking) makes your memory worse and makes you twice as likely to get dementia, including Alzheimer’s. It also causes heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure,” experts at webmd.com said.
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