Very few people wake up each morning and say to themselves: “how can I nourish my brain, and keep it healthy?”. This might be odd since, for most, the brain is not like a heartbeat, and no one truly perceives their brain to be working. Indeed, our assumption of the reality of our brains working seems to simply rely on the manifestation of our consciousness, awareness, even in many phases of sleep, and our ability to perceive, understand, manipulate, and re-organize the world around us. Because all this seems to happen so naturally, and is imply part of being who we are, hardly anyone starts their day thinking how they can support the health of their brain. Yet, without a brain that is functioning well, and certainly when there is occult disease, we would not be healthy at all, and most likely prone to all sorts of malaise as a consequence, both physical and mental.
In stark contrast, even in the unhealthiest of places in the world, some would still get up to do their exercise to keep physically fit. For some, keeping physically fit carries almost religion-like dedication, to be pursued relentlessly, and an insurance policy against many important diseases that impact global health such as heart disease and stroke. Keeping physically fit is a laudable goal, with undoubted health benefits when pursued correctly through appropriate exercise, and, arguably, a source of invigoration and the prolonging of youth.
So, why is there an apparent dichotomy for most between brain health and other aspects of physical health? Perhaps this dichotomy has its roots from the earliest times of segregating the brain (some would say the mind) from the body as if they served a duality of purpose. In truth, both are inextricably intertwined, and poor physical health can affect brain function, and vice versa.
Now you are awake, and the though hits you – today, my task will be to nourish my brain. So, how do I go about it. For most, the first approach would be to consider the brain like any other organ that needs to be fed. The brain is, however, a remarkable and complex organ and incredibly energy thirsty. Perhaps as much as 20% of the body’s energy is burned by the brain, which weighs only a fraction of the total body mass; thus, one consideration would be to consider what fuel the brain needs. Much of the fuel the brain needs is similar to the requirements of the rest of the body, and in an unstressed environment with limited demands, most of us would probably get by just fine eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. But how many of us nowadays can be characterized as “unstressed” or do not make demands on our brains to compete in all aspects of life, or face challenges of our making and that of others?
Foods and beverages can provide essential nutrients that support the healthy brain. Foods and beverages rich in certain vitamins such as the B vitamins are particularly useful in driving the parts of brain cells that facilitate energy generation. Certain trace elements, amino acids, and building blocks of brain chemicals may also be helpful to support the healthy brain. Educating oneself about which foods and beverages to consume to support brain health is, presently, harder to do than finding information about nutrients to support other aspects of physical health. If the topic of nutrients that can support brain the healthy brain is important to you, then stay tuned as I continue to explore this area in subsequent blogs.
Beyond food and beverages, supporting the healthy brain also involves activity. Arguably, repeated mundane tasks are unlikely to support or improve brain health. Repeated tasks, even in highly skilled and technical areas, might also not support healthy brain development. What seems particularly important is to create a series of novel brain challenges that use different functions or cognitive skills. A good motto is to try and learn at least one new thing every single day. Whilst this may seem easier said than done, and many might say “I simply do not have the time”, taking a few minutes out of every hour to truly observe or think about something new can be particularly refreshing. It can be as simple as hearing a new word, or looking up information about something that you just saw or heard – in short, get really curious. Practiced like an exercise each day would at least keep you amused but hopefully mentally alert and ready to take on new challenges. For some, more organized challenges might be appealing such as learning a new language, especially if you are not a linguistic expert, taking on the challenge of working on a new skill or art form, or reading something novel.
Getting Inspired supports the healthy brain. Perhaps rather than attempting to read pithy texts about inspiration is, simply, to realize that curiosity is the generator of inspiration. Getting inspired means trying to take in all around you. Once, whilst walking in a busy and mostly dull city during my “on the hour” 2 min inspiration burst, a piece of paper lying on the floor came to my attention. Most of the text was in English but the rest consisted of writing in a language that I did not recognize. I then used the rest of my regular “on the hour” 2 min breaks to try and understand what was written. By the end of the day, I was able to learn that what I had come across was a hurriedly written lover’s note not in one language but in five different ones. I wish I knew to whom it was written, I am sure it would have been an inspiration to deliver it!
So, when you wake up tomorrow morning, instead of thinking of going on that jog or hitting the exercise bike, spare a thought to say: how can I support my brain today and get inspired?
Disclaimer: The author’s text do not offer a medical view of diseases of the brain, are not intended to be used to diagnose or treat any brain disorder, nor are they written as scholarly or scientific texts on the healthy brain. Instead, they are mainly personal musings on how to support the healthy brain.