Use it or Lose it: Brain Fitness for Full Function

In Donesa Walker, Health and Beauty by Lola Magazine

Brain Awareness. What is it? I am aware that I have a brain and that I use it occasionally, but what am I supposed to be aware of in particular in the special month of time? Brain Awareness is a special time set up to recognize the higher-order thinking processes called cognitive function that make us human and help us rise above the animal population. Most of the tips I give you here are truly no brainers as they are things that you already know and some of you already do, so this will just reaffirm that you are doing well and you are human! Some of us can benefit from these reminders as we get too busy to process all that we should and often fail to follow through. So, for those of you wanting to check on your progress toward being aware that you are human and have a brain, here are a few reminders of the things you should be doing each and every day as you celebrate Brain Awareness Month.

Break a sweat. An overall healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise is believed to boost brain health and to lower the risk of dementia. Partner up for a daily walk or hire a personal trainer to challenge you to new heights as a local gym. There are so many opportunities to get daily exercise. Did you know that gardening was one of the leading ways to exercise the brain and the body while getting the benefit of the rich foods that your body needs at that same time? Relaxing the body afterwards with an Epsom salt bath can also give the body some needed magnesium as nutritional aid while calming those tired muscles. Get in touch with local fitness experts or join a local gym as there are a myriad of offerings in our area.

Fuel the brain. Keep a hydrated body and brain. Dehydration can lead to short-term memory loss as well as a myriad of other issues in the body that ultimately affect the brain. The rule of water is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily just to maintain full function. Did you know that your brain uses 80% of your daily water intake to power it? So how much fuel are you giving your brain? Save the trees, use your brain instead of sticky notes or recording the memos…to increase the brain power, fuel it with water.

Feed the brain. The brain’s brain is the gut, so choosing good foods that are high in nutrition for the brain is a smart choice. The old adage you are what you eat holds true as more than 85% of Americans are magnesium deficient and this is only one mineral that is necessary to the brain health as well as gut health. There are lots of vitamins and supplements as well as shortcuts out there but truly there is nothing better than plain nutritionally rich foods. Your brain prefers colored foods because these bright-colored foods are rich in the vitamins and minerals that your brain needs to perform at full capacity. Fish oils and omega

Challenge your brain. Break a mental sweat. Doing what is easy for your brain does not give it enough challenge to grown and change so do what is difficult. Hire a personal brain trainer to challenge you to new heights. If you find that logic games and activities are challenging for you, do more of this. If puzzles are easy, try Sudoku instead. Get a personal fitness checkup with local experts. These assessments can be had for a small price with long-term benefits. Make your brain health a priority. LearningRx of Shreveport-Bossier is your local brain fitness expert and you should contact them at 318.797.8523 for an assessment or personal.

Protect your head. Remember that a hit to the head can lead to traumatic brain injury, which has a permanent effect on your thought processes as well as everything else that your brain controls. Wear helmets, seat belts and other protective gear when traveling or playing sports. Be proactive about brain health and particular about your head. For more information on this, contact ThinkFirst of the ArkLaTex at 318.226.0066.

Maintain strong social connections. One of the leading causes of suicide is lack of social connections or feeling bereft without a go-to person to contact. Shreveport-Bossier is blessed to have so many resources to stay involved in our community. One way to stay connected and to give back is to volunteer your time. There are so many places that would love to have a volunteer at all ages; one is to contact Laura Alderman at StepForward 318.404.1755 as she can plug you in to great opportunities to form lasting social connections to the children in our community or contact Volunteers of America locally as they have many ways for you to get connected.

Keep a healthy soul. Prayer and meditation can lead to a better outlook. Get involved with a local church that can help you find ways to nourish your soul. Get a daily devotional book or read the Bible. Spend time focusing on the things outside your normal hustle and bustle by enjoying the beautiful nature gardens or lakes we have around the area.

Destress your life. Put away the high-demand projects and things that eat your time and leave you with nothing but negative words and feelings. Do not engage in social media that dries you out but focus on the things that bring you joy and light. If your job is stressing you out, find an outlet to destress during that day such as time away mentally doing something you enjoy during breaks or plan time away to destress. Get a massage, read a good book, use scented oils, or simply paint your nails to feel more alive.

Give out of nothing. This is the number one way to boost brain health. Give a smile, give a kind word or a thought to someone else. The brain actually is rewarded every time you give. Give to those in greater need than you. Give time. Give gifts. Give money. Pay for the food of the person behind you in the drive through or prepare an extra dish of food and drop it off at a senior center as a gift to someone in need. Go through your pantry and take cans of food to the food pantry. There are so many ways to give and you can even combine this with your social time and gets both benefits for your brain. Contact the Community Foundation at cfnla.org. Send a card to a soldier or to a resident of a care facility. Go sit with someone in need at the Cancer Center or drive someone to their doctor appointments.

Share your life. Not enough is said about this but sharing your life stories and experiences is incredibly good for the brain and boosts our self- esteem. If you do not know someone to share with or feel like you want to keep things private, contact a local counselor or therapist. These folks are there for a reason and are so willing to listen. Share your thoughts in a journal or a blog, even Facebook if you feel open enough to do so. Sharing is a necessary part of life and can greatly benefit brain health. Share with those around you because by doing so you open connections in your brain and form new neural pathways. Your schema is developed more fully, and you get deeper connections to the world around you. Share your joys and your pains, share your sorrows and your wins. Share your good times and your bad because after all this is what makes us human.

Challenge your brain. Break a mental sweat. Doing what is easy for your brain does not give it enough challenge to grown and change so do what is difficult. Hire a personal brain trainer to challenge you to new heights. If you find that logic games and activities are challenging for you, do more of this. If puzzles are easy, try Sudoku instead. Get a personal fitness checkup with local experts. These assessments can be had for a small price with long-term benefits. Make your brain health a priority.

Destress your life. Put away the high-demand projects and things that eat your time and leave you with nothing but negative words and feelings. Do not engage in social media that dries you out but focus on the things that bring you joy and light. If your job is stressing you out, find an outlet to destress during that day such as time away mentally doing something you enjoy during breaks or plan time away to destress. Get a massage, read a good book, use scented oils, or simply paint your nails to feel more alive.

Donesa Walker, M.ED. is the owner of LearningRX of Shreveport-Bossier