What is braincare?
Why braincare needs to be on your radar, and 10 simple habits to build it into your life.
You probably already invest a lot of time and energy into your skincare, healthcare, and haircare; researching, perfecting your routine and finding out what works best for you. But, what about your braincare?
It started to really bug us that somewhere in the shuffle, our brains were being forgotten about. Why we were prioritising what’s on our heads, over what’s in our heads?
So. We coined the term braincare. The premise is pretty simple, braincare covers all the actions and behaviours that contribute to a healthy brain. Primarily this entails the right nutrition, but, a healthy brain is a 360 thing, so braincare also covers breath, hydration, mindfulness, rest, movement, compassion, learning, digital diet, and self-care.
Choosing to make braincare part of your daily routine protects your mental and physical health, now—and for your future.
Why braincare matters
Your brain impacts how you feel on a daily basis. It affects every. single. thing. from your energy levels, to your focus, to how balanced your mood is—as well as directly impacting your quality of life now and into old age.
So, how well-cared-for your brain is, governs how well it can do its job; to take care of you.
Braincare as a practice is the act of making conscious lifestyle decisions in order to better care for the brain.
The thing is, that everything you do impacts your brain either positively or negatively. Choosing to include daily braincare habits that positively impact your brain, will positively impact your health and your quality of life too.
A healthy brain essentially keeps you at your best, for as long as possible. In real talk, that means:
improved sleep and energy
sharpened focus and memory
better mental health and stress management
less brain fog
protection from cognitive decline
better memory and recall
improved learning and retention
sustained whole-body health
Get your Brain Health Score in 4 minutes
What makes a healthy brain?
Everyone’s braincare routine will be unique. No two brains are the same, in much the same way that no two people are the same. So, what works for you, may not work for someone else.
But there are some basic principles that you can tailor to your individual taste and needs, to maintain a healthy brain, every day.
The 10 pillars of braincare
Did you know that 99% of us don’t get the nutrition our brains need from our diets? It’s really hard to do.
Research suggests that the MIND diet is the best one to follow for long-term brain health. Based on the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, it encourages foods specifically chosen for their impact on brain health, and helps to prevent cognitive decline.
This is what it looks like:
Green, leafy vegetables 5x a week
5+ different coloured fruits and vegetables every day.
Berries 5x a week.
5+ servings of nuts a week
Olive oil 5x a week
Whole grains 5x a week
Oily fish 2x a week or take an algae-based omega 3 supplement
Legumes and pulses 5x a week
White meat/mix of plant-based proteins 2x a week
Vitamin D supplement
Minimal processed foods
No more than 1 glass of wine a day
1-2x coffee or tea a day max
2L water a day
There has to be an easier way, right? That’s why we developed the Smart Supplement.
Curious how your diet measures up? Take the Brain Nutrition Assessment to find out.
Most of us are under constant, chronic stress—always being ‘on’, and juggling work, life, deadlines, admin, social engagements, and home responsibilities can mean that our stress response is triggered many times throughout the day.
Breathing doesn’t take any conscious thought, it just happens, but how you breathe is directly related to how you react, and vice versa.
If you’re stressed, chances are that your breathing is rapid, shallow, and only into your chest. Breathing this way is exciting to your nervous system (not in a good way), and triggers a stress response—putting you in a reactive state.
A consistent practice of slowing down the breath creates change in the way you naturally respond to stress. Every day, try to take one minute, and breathe slowly in and out, just six times. Repeat as often as you like.
One of the main ways to include mindfulness in your day is meditation. Along with a lot of other benefits, it also helps to train your brain to be more mindful in other areas of your life too. Meta study analyses have attested to the effect meditation has on both your nervous system and—just as excitingly—in your brain, from the regulation of your stress response to thickening your grey matter in the areas of attention and emotion regulation.
Check out our beginner’s guide to meditation
We all need 2-3 litres of water per day (depending on bodyweight)—plus an extra glass for every tea, coffee, or alcoholic drink.
The brain is a thirsty organ, and if you're as little as 1-3% dehydrated, it impacts your focus, memory and concentration. And, by the time you're aware that you're thirsty, or your lips are dry, you’re way more than 3% dehydrated.
Here are a few of our favourite hydration hacks:
Put a large glass of water by your bed, and drink it first thing in the morning when you wake up before you put the kettle on.
Make it easy to drink water at work. Buy a water bottle to sip from while you’re at your desk, or fill a large water jug you commit to finishing throughout the day.
Download a water app that sends you push notifications to remind you to drink.
Evolution gives us a pretty good indication of how important sleep is for the brain. Instructions for a daily rest are hard-wired into our DNA. We can survive for longer without food than without sleep.
So what was the evolutionary advantage for our cave-dwelling ancestors to lie down with our eyes closed, as predators prowled around outside? Why haven’t we evolved not to sleep?
And especially for today’s workaholics, the idea of ‘switching off’ for the recommended 7-9 hours each night can feel like a threat to career survival…
We need to stop thinking about sleep as switching off. Quite the reverse. Sleep is an active process for repairing and enhancing brain performance—and is essential for a healthy brain. Even a cheeky 10-minute nap can improve mood and memory.
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Our bodies and brains are designed for, and need, lots of regular movement throughout the course of the day.
So yes, absolutely leap around your living room, do your downward dogs, and squeeze in a quick 5K—but it’s important for your brain to make sure you’re generally moving throughout the day too.
Walking is an easy solution our brains adore and are built to profit from. Lots of regular, reliable, rhythmic, up-tempo walking throughout the day stimulates the production of molecules promoting brain health and even brain resilience to the effects of chronic stress. (Obviously, much easier to do when you’re not in lockdown!)
Read more about the power of walking
The act of caring—either for yourself or others—triggers the parasympathetic nervous system. When this is engaged is when we are at our healthiest.
We can positively affect our health by consciously making this shift into compassion, but it does take some work.
With time and practice (like building into your daily braincare habits), kindness and compassion can actually shrink the area of your brain associated with the flight or fight response—the amygdala—making room for other areas of the brain to increase in size.
Being genuinely kind and compassionate can even help you to live longer. Seriously.
Listen to how kindness can impact your life with expert Dr James Doty
Continuous learning throughout your life is a great way to encourage neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change and adapt. This is important because a flexible brain is more easily able to:
learn, and pick up new skills
recover from brain injuries or disease
adapt to new situations
protect itself from cognitive decline
Learning something new provides an opportunity for a new neural connection to be created in the brain.
Take the word ‘apple’ for example. The brain creates a new neural pathway between the visual of an apple, the word in your native language, the sound of the word in the new language, as well as the spelling of it, and commits all of that to a memory that you can access whenever you need to say 'apple' in the new language.
See? Lots of new connections that require an intense amount of attention, changing the brain’s neuroplasticity.
Learn more about neuroplasticity
Want to learn more? Subscribe to the Braincare podcast #1 in mental health.
9. Digital diet
Our lives are increasingly digital-dependent. But, do you ever consider its impact on your brain and mental health?
Apps, notifications, fitness trackers, who you follow, and how you consume social media all have huge impacts on your brain—some good, some not so much.
Looking at your digital diet through a braincare lens essentially means being mindful of your consumption. Here’s what it could look like for you:
Making sure to have some screen-free time in the day
Unfollowing accounts that don’t make you feel good
Allocating “faff around time” and “work time” so one doesn’t melt into the other
Paying attention to how your data is being used
Noticing your relationships with your tech
Using different tech for work and leisure
Listen to Technology and Mental Health
10. Random act of self-care
Of course, these pillars are just for starters. Every person is unique, and no-one knows your brain better than you do.
So, for the tenth pillar of braincare, it’s choose your own adventure. An act of self-care that your brain will thank you for—that you can chop and change to suit you. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Book yourself into a therapy or counselling session
Explore binaural beats or lose yourself in other sound therapies (ever tried a gong bath?)
Give yourself a distraction-free focus hour
Dance, sing or get creative
Be intimate with yourself or a partner
Firmly on the braincare wagon? Join the club! Our Braincare community on Clubhouse is a thriving group of people passionate about braincare.
Join us on Clubhouse for meditations, discussions, workshops and more from braincare experts across the globe. All completely free.
Add the schedule to your calendar here.
Need an invite? No problem, if you have an iPhone, just send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll sort you out.