Mind

3 Simple Daily Tweaks To Improve Your Brain Health

Boost your brain health with these simple, fun and tasty daily tweaks!

We practice yoga for strength and flexibility and we run for heart health, but what about our brain? When was the last time you gave this muscle a good workout?
In fact, the brain, like any other muscle, needs regular exercise to stay strong and healthy. And the more stimulation you give it, the stronger it becomes. Making a few simple lifestyle tweaks to eat well, play often and rest regularly can make a big difference.

Eat well

According to Head to Health, an Australian Government Department of Health initiative, how we fuel our body also fuels our brain, and certain foods champion our brain health.
Foods high in refined sugars, refined oils and processed foods should be approached with caution but can be enjoyed in small quantities.
Our tip: Trade indulgences (and chocolate addiction) in for delicious, fresh whole foods similar to the widely recommended Mediterranean diet. Prioritise the good stuff like vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish and occasional grass-fed meat.
Foodie bonus: Try a new recipe, such as this easy weeknight Mediterranean fish bake dinner. Not only will it treat the palate, but research shows that learning something new, such as challenging the brain with a new recipe, may improve brain function. Better Health, an organisation authorised by the Victorian State Government, notes that learning new skills can help improve cognitive functions such as concentration, memory recall, attention to detail and problem solving.

Play often

We know exercise is fundamental for overall health, but extensive studies by The University of Queensland show that play can provide a plethora of benefits for the mind too. Like learning, play encourages increased blood flow to the brain, creating new blood vessels, which directly counters the natural reduction in brain connections as we age.
Staying physically active several times a week is also a great way to see friends or maintain a community, another crucial element to a robust brain.
The brain thrives on social bonds, so that lunch with friends just became a non-negotiable. Excellent!
Schedule regular catch-ups or phone calls with friends and family each week, and join clubs and groups for a simple way to both create and maintain social connection over a shared interest.
Mental agility is another playful way to support your brain, promoted by the Brain Foundation. Stimulating activities future proof the mind, by generating new cells and neural pathways, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. Getting involved in something new and challenging is the name of the game!
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said while this is a great opportunity to try something new, it's also important to remember to keep your goals realistic and do things you enjoy.
"You don't need to be too ambitious in order to make a positive change," Ms McCabe said.
"It could be as simple as taking a different route when walking each day on your regular walk, or trying a new kind of puzzle. Or, if you do want to stretch yourself a bit further, you could take up a new hobby or team sport. The important thing is that it's fun, and that you're trying something new."
It's not only fun and challenging activities - it's about factoring in games that are new to you. Think outside the box. If you haven't picked up word puzzles like Sudoku - and yes, it might mean jumping on the Wordle train - or creative hobbies like drawing and painting.
New skills and concepts are also key to cross-training your brain and creating new neural pathways, such as learning an instrument, language, recipe or courses in unfamiliar topics.

Rest regularly

Brain health isn't all fun and games, though — recharging and resting are actually just as important as being active for living a brain-healthy lifestyle.
Rest not in your repertoire? Try learning meditation, which isn't as intimidating as it sounds. Even simply sitting and focusing on your breath can allow your brain to rewire itself, backed by research evidence. This means over time, your daily meditation habit could encourage greater focus, emotional control, and thoughtful decision making. That can equate to better brain health.
Sleep more your thing? You're in luck! Sleep may just be the simplest yet most effective way to improve brain function, as well as your ability to leave and remember new knowledge.
Hitting the pillow for seven to eight hours of quality slumber each night is a key aspect of living a brain-healthy lifestyle, according to Harvard Medical School.
A simple daily tweak to help support great sleep is to set up a nightly 'wind down' ritual for the hour before bed. Use repetition of activities to train your brain that it's time to rest, such as lighting your favourite candle, having a hot shower and reading for 30 minutes before lights out.
Eat.Play.Rest is an initiative of Dementia Australia.
Follow @eatplayrestaustralia on Instagram or check out eatplayrest.org.au for more ideas.