Stop feeling brain dead!

February 18, 2010

Do you feel tired, forgetful, irritable and vague? Your brain might not be getting the love it needs. Here’s how to butter it up.

According to new research*, 85 percent of all Australians suffer the effects of feeling ‘brain dead’, tired and low in energy at least once a week. So what do we do? Reach for the stimulants such as coffee or chocolate.

“Nutrition is clearly not top-of-mind when it comes to ‘treating’ a tired brain,” says Accredited Practising Dietitian Susie Burrell. “It seems we are inclined to seek healthy foods to keep our weight down but far less healthy choices to keep our tired brains awake. Australians need to understand that the brain and body are highly connected – what you do for one can benefit both.”

“You can help your brain by enjoying a balanced family meal that contains important brain nutrients and offers social stimulation, such as steak with 3-4 brightly coloured vegetables. For busy mums they can grab a wrap with lean meat and salad vegies to keep their minds alert throughout the afternoon,” she advised.

So feed your brain the right stuff thanks to these tips from cognitive scientist and brain health expert Mimma Mason and dietitian Susie Burrell.

1. Feed your brain

Choose nutrient-rich foods, such as red meat, and healthy fats from foods including oily fish, olive and sunflower oils, nuts and seeds. Eat plenty of fruit and brightly coloured vegetables every day. The anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals play a crucial role in protecting brain cells from the day to day damage that accompany busy lifestyles.

2. Think about why you eat not just what you eat

Identify the emotion and stress drivers that may cause you to eat for comfort and instead use exercise, relaxation or brain training as outlets for stress and mood fluctuations.

3. Set realistic goals you can achieve in three months or less

Your brain will react to genuine personal goals which are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound.

4. Train your brain: Neurons that fire together wire together

Your brain can change with training. Each time you solve a problem you give your brain a workout and form new brain connections. Try new, challenging activities like learning a language or recipe, completing a crossword or Sudoku.

5. Train our feelings too – focus on ‘what works’

Aim to increase your optimism and positivity by focusing on what works for you rather than magnifying your weaknesses. You can change your brain with your thoughts so train yourself to tune into positive thinking by playing games like “e-Catch the Feeling” (available on iphone or at www.brainresource.com)

6. Build supportive relationships

Tune into and try and react to people’s needs rather than their emotions – better emotion recognition helps you read between the lines. This will help to develop meaningful relationships that will provide support when needed. Try smiling at people to increase positive engagement.

7. Exercise your body

Add periods of strength and intensity training (reaching 85% of your maximum heart rate) to your regular exercise routine to increase blood flow and generate new brain cell connections.

8. Get a good night’s sleep

Decrease brain stimulation from TV, computer work and food intake at least 30 minutes before you go to bed at night.

9. De-stress every 90 minutes

Reset both your body and your brain throughout the day by taking 2 minute breaks. Try ‘4,3,7 breath in to the count of 4, hold your breath and count to 3 and breath out to the count of 7.

10. Protect your brain

Limit use of recreational drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, wear a helmet when riding a bike and seek help for mood and anxiety concerns if they become unmanageable.

Information from Brain Resource which has developed the first and largest international human brain database.

Get more great health advice here!

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