6 Ways to Improve Mental Health
Just like regular exercise is good for your body, cognitive health is vital for wellness. PositivePsychology.com recently reported on the following six key factors that researchers at Harvard Medical School identify as keeping your mind sharp:
A plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains
Challenging your brain
Those first four are part of the “healthy body equals healthy mind” approach that doctors have taken for years. But in this time of more isolation and working remotely, the last two bullet points may need some additional focus.
According to researchers, those who have broader and more complex social networks seem to have larger or more developed amygdala and related brain structures. These structures are where emotional regulation and memory storage take place, so expanding your social network can help ensure overall brain health.
The last bullet can be harder, but Harvard gives six ways you can strengthen cognition that are mostly low-cost and low-tech:
- Learn a new language. A new language makes new connections across a person’s neurons, making them more resistant to disease. It also helps with mental agility.
- Listen or make music. Music has long been proven to activate multiple areas of the brain including those that process emotions and memory.
- Play cards or board games. These tools can help build memory or strategy depending on the game.
- Travel. You don’t have to go far—a new place exposes a person to new sights, sounds, and experiences that builds so-called “place cells” in the brain’s memory.
- Cultural consumption. Take in a play, museum, or poetry reading. The newer and more unusual for each person, the more stimulating it will be for that person’s brain. Culture can wire and rewire the brain that continues throughout a person’s lifespan.
- Puzzles. Obviously they can be challenging, but they also build on perceived patterns, sequences and problem-solving.
Look for the right challenge level—one that is stimulating but not overwhelming, and continue to build your cognitive health.