Secrets to a Sunny Mind

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Try these six easy ideas to age-proof your memory, stop brain drain and think happier – and smarter.

Express yourself: When you’re feeling blue, do-it-yourself art therapy can help you get to the core of whatever is causing your anger, grief, or other difficult emotion, and move forward. A Thomas Jefferson University study found that women who sketched experienced much less depression, anxiety and overall stress.

Reach for rhodiola: Most research into this brain-rejuvenating herb was done by the Russian military and kept secret until 1994, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is one of the best tonics for mind problems, especially for cognitive function and mood. Studies show it improves learning and memory, enhances alertness and concentration, and lessens menopause-related ‘brain fog’.

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Jog your memory – literally: A Columbia University study shows that exercising triggers the regrowth of neurotrophins (compounds that enable brain nerve cells to communicate with each other effectively) in parts of the brain affected by age-related memory loss. The findings were most noticeable in people undertaking aerobic activities, e.g. bicycling or walking, because they stimulate oxygen flow to the brain.

Feed your brain: Studies show that eating a Mediterranean-style diet — with lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil and seafood — reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Add extra nutritional insurance with fish oil capsules, to provide omega-3 fatty acids, a brain-boosting B-group vitamin formula, and the trace mineral chromium picolinate — a study from Cincinnati University shows that taking 1,000 mcg daily sharpens memory, probably because it improves insulin sensitivity and allows glucose, the brain’s main fuel, to be used better.

Add a cocoa kick: According to a study from the British Psychological Society, chocolate improves mental focus and problem-solving ability. Adults were given either a chocolate drink containing cocoa flavanols or a placebo drink before working on challenging tasks. The participants who had the flavanol-enhanced drink performed dramatically better.

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Be a glass half-full person: Studies show that optimists have significantly better mental health than pessimists. To get happy, cultivate stronger relationships you’re your friends and family — studies also link social isolation with higher rates of dementia — and practise ‘thought-switching’, where you turn off negative thinking. A Wake Forest University study found that people who make a deliberate effort to be grateful really do become happier and calmer.

Your say: How do you keep you mind healthy?

Video: Dealing with stress

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