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The brain

5 ways to care for your brain

Care for your brain like a pro—we’ve been lucky enough to learn from the best brains in the business.

Laura Sugden
Lead Copywriter and Health Coach
April 11, 2021
8 min read

The health of our brains is the most important deciding factor when it comes to living a long and healthy life. And yet, unlike our hair and our skin, most of us don’t give our brains a second thought.

Luckily, good braincare habits don’t only impact your brain—but have knock-on benefits in your life, well-being, and physical health too. 

Learn why it’s so important to take care of your brain and maintain good brain health with these top tips from our braincare experts. 

1. Nutrition: building blocks for the brain

Nutrition plays a key role in your brain health. The function of your brain is directly related to the structure of your brain. And, the physical structures are created from what you eat and drink.

Your brain hates trendy diets

Dietary trends can drive people towards cutting things out that can ultimately lead to negative consequences. Common complaints include brain fog, anxiety, lack of mental clarity, and afternoon slumps. 

Tips for great brain nutrition:

  • Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

  • Optimise polyphenol-rich purple fruits and vegetables (e.g blueberries and red cabbage). Evidence shows that they improve mental health conditions, help with concentration and focus, and can even help in the prevention and management of long-term neurodegenerative disorders like dementia. 

  • Include a variety of whole-grain carbohydrates for microbiome diversity.

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners and processed meat. 

  • B vitamins are vital. They’re involved in the cellular metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. You can get B vitamins from eggs, fish, poultry, meat, and dairy products. 

  • Oily fish or algae oil for omega 3 fatty acids—the foundation of brain structure. Omega 3 fatty acids have three different components: EPA, DHA, and ALA. EPA is important for cardiovascular health and DHA is important for brain structure. 

  • If you’re eating a well-balanced diet, you should be able to get enough magnesium. However, people can massively benefit from supplementation or magnesium baths. 

  • Try strategic snacking. For example, carrying almonds in your pocket and snacking on those before you eat your meal will reduce hunger, and help you in making smarter decisions. 

Want to see how many MIND diet boxes you tick?

Try our Brain Nutrition Assessment

2. Hydration: why your brain loves a drink

Did you know that the brain is 75% water? That’s why being even 1% dehydrated can have huge detrimental effects on your brain function—making it hard to concentrate, remember things, or think clearly.

Not only will good hydration help your brain function better, it’ll also balance your mood, clear out toxins, and even help you sleep better.

Hydration tips for the brain

  • You need about 35-40ml per kilo of body weight in order to maintain good hydration. That’s about 2-3L of water a day.

  • Don’t drink a lot of coffee—it dehydrates you. So add an extra glass of water for every cup.

  • Keep a glass of water by your bed to rehydrate the moment you wake up.

  • Download an app to remind you to drink throughout the day.

  • Fill a 2L bottle of water and keep it by your desk as you work.

3. Breathe for your brain 

There is a tendency within the current culture to live with very high levels of stress, it’s become normalised and even celebrated. And, while there’s no way for us to avoid stress completely, we do have a simple way of helping us cope with it better.

It’s free, couldn’t be easier, and you’re doing it right now. 

Breathe.

We average 20,000 breaths every day and each one sends a signal back to the brain and body. So, if you’re doing it in a suboptimal or inefficient way, you could be harming yourself. Breathwork raises your level of consciousness.

You can use your breath to tap into something called the autonomic nervous system—it is made up of the fight and flight sympathetic nervous system, and the rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system. Breath is the only part of this system that we can consciously control.

Try and increase the length of your exhale. If your exhale is longer than your inhale you're going to be stimulating that rest and relaxation response. But, if there's more of an emphasis on the inhale, then you're looking at a more energizing fight-or-flight response.

Tips on breathwork for your brain

The three parts of breathwork form the acronym ART: Awareness, regulation, transformation.

  • Awareness needs to come before anything else, we need to understand how we’re breathing and what role the breath can play in shifting our physical and mental states. (Noticing if you’re breathing into your chest is a great one to look for.)

  • Regulation. We can change and shift the breath by using simple exercises to move between the autonomic nervous system (fight or flight sympathetic nervous system) and the rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system. You can use your breath to shift between those two. 

  • Transformation. Breathwork is usually centered around a technique called conscious-connected breathing. Your breath has the ability to go deeper into your subconscious and emotional body to clear and process blocked emotional energy.

  • Try simply breathing in for 4, out for 6 for about a minute every morning and evening.

  • Join our daily breathwork sessions on Braincare Club.

Step away from the stress of the everyday with our quick guide on using yoga breathing.

Learn more

4. Sleep—the best brain recovery tool in our arsenal

Rest has long-term creative benefits. During resting periods, our creative subconscious has an opportunity to do its thing. For example, did you know that 20% of startup ideas happen when people are out on holiday or doing leisure activities like surfing?

Of course, the biggest component of rest is sleep.

Quality sleep is an important determinant of mental health and well-being. Even a 30-minute increase in your quantity of sleep can improve your work performance and your productivity. The average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep every day, and it should be one of, if not your top priority for a healthy brain, and a happy life.

Good rest starts with good nutrition. Get better quality, longer sleep by feeding the brain and body the nutrients they need.

Learn more

Top tips for better sleep

  • Wake up at 7 am, and go to bed at 11:30 pm. Your wake up time is your anchor—everything stems from the time you get out of bed. 

  • One hour before bedtime, do your winding down routine. Try to avoid screens and dim the lights around your home to allow your natural melatonin levels to rise. 

  • Only go to bed when you’re going to sleep.

  • When making up for lost sleep, make sure to not take a 45 or 60-minute nap. This is because you're going to have to wake up out of a deeper stage of sleep, so you’ll feel more groggy and sleepy. Instead, opt for 30 or 90-minute naps to work your natural sleep cycles. 

  • Think you won’t sleep later? Think again. People avoid napping because they think they won’t be able to sleep at night. But, if you’re making up for lost hours, your naps won’t impact your ability to sleep at night.

Want to up your sleep game even more? Read up on more tips from Sleep Scientist, Sophie Bostock, and make sure you’re getting the right vitamins to support your sleep.  

5. Why your brain needs a healthy digital diet 

The average UK adult spends almost 9 hours on screens every day (that’s more time than we are asleep). But, what do we know about the effects our digital habits have on our brains?

Excessive screen time can damage emotional processing, and has made our attention spans shorter than your average goldfish. Internet addiction has even been shown to fundamentally alter the structure of our brains.

How does this happen?

It’s by design. Big tech is very good at keeping you scrolling, using gambling-esque methods to keep you online, eat up your time, and take your information until all of sudden you feel a nagging sense of time wasted. 

Balance is key.

While, granted, we’ve been relying on technology for human contact lately—screens don't give us the same level of connection that we get from face-to-face interactions. In person, we pick up facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. You just don’t get that on the two-dimensional form on a phone.

How do we regain control over our tech?

There are individual resets you can do. Removing technology in your everyday life, going for a walk, turning off your internet so that you're not getting notified, putting your phone in a different room, or removing work emails off your phone. These little habitual changes reset your relationship with technology.

Top tips for a healthy digital diet

Start off with simple adjustments:

  • Switch your phone off, or turn on night mode an hour before bed.

  • Avoid your phone for the first hour after you wake up.

  • Slowly adjust the time to 2 hours before bed and in the morning.

Want to get a handle on your digital health habits? Try listening to these episodes of the Braincare podcast with researcher Dr Rachael Kent and executive coach, Maya Gudka to learn more about the relationship between technology, social media, and our mental health.

Want to learn more? Subscribe to the Braincare podcast #1 in mental health.

Learn more

Braincare is vital for long-term health and happiness. And yet, while haircare and skincare are seemingly top of mind—why do we forget about our brains? Looking after your brain with good braincare habits is simple, you just need to know where to start. That’s where our 10 pillars of braincare can help. 

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