During Lockdown, we’ve noticed that it’s very easy to fall into a routine where we’re not really looking after ourselves in mind or body. The cycle of Work/Eat/Sleep/Repeat seems to occur on a regular basis throughout the week and tends to bleed into the weekends. There’s Zoom calls throughout the day, along with emails to answer, projects to implement and results to produce. By the time we log off from our laptops, all we want to do is find something mind-numbing to watch on Netflix whilst our partners pour us a drink!
I was talking (moaning) about this to my mother the other day and her response was, ‘But it must be so nice to have something to do to keep you busy all day’. Well, yes, to a certain extent it is but it is also primarily the same things every day. I often feel like Bill Murray constantly waiting for the groundhog to emerge from his burrow. However, I do also acknowledge how lucky I am. My mum is 73 and the only things she currently has to occupy herself with are housework, walking the dog, talking to her friends on the phone and the occasional bit of knitting.
Nevertheless, both of our brains are struggling – they want more stimulation! We both forget things throughout the day, we’re both desperate for new things to talk about and we’re both struggling with the occasional sleepless night and the days when cabin fever hits us hard. With over 30 years between us, it’s interesting to note that our brains are both suffering in similar ways.
The importance of looking after your brain’s health cannot be underestimated. It’s involved in everything we do and like every part of our body, we need to care for it too. As we age, changes to our body and brain are normal but the effects of Lockdown also seem to be having an impact on our brain’s health.
Luckily, there are many things that we can do to keep our brains in peak physical condition as well as slow the decline in memory that we experience as we age. Here are some top tips for getting your brain in gear and keeping your little grey cells active:-
Although Lockdown has impacted our ability to see our friends and family face to face, we are lucky enough to be able to pick up the phone, text them or even video them. It’s not quite the same but social interaction is hugely important to help us ward off stress and depression, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Some research shows that isolation and solitary confinement are linked to brain atrophy therefore remaining socially active should have the opposite effect. I now have the perfect excuse for having a good chinwag and running up the phone bill!
Move Your Body
Regular physical activity increases the blood flow to your brain. Those who are physically active on a regular basis are less likely to experience a decline in their mental functions. Aim to exercise for between 30 – 60 minutes several times per week. Go for a walk or a run, hop on your bicycle or dance along to the radio. I personally struggle to fit this in but I’m making more of an effort to get up early and go for a walk before my working day begins. It’s slightly embarrassing that my mother actually gets more exercise walking the dog every day than i do throughout the week. Did I say slightly embarrassing? I meant very embarrassing!
Regular, uninterrupted sleep plays such an important part in keeping our brains healthy. Theories suggest that a good night’s sleep will help to consolidate memories and clear abnormal proteins from our brains, effectively boosting our overall memory and brain health. Try to get a solid, unbroken sleep every night rather than a series of fragmented naps. If you’re having trouble sleeping, why not check out our Overcoming Sleep Sabotage blog for some hints on improving your snoozing.
Stay Mentally Active
Think of your brain as a muscle. Just like every other muscle in your body, it needs to be used regularly so that it doesn’t wither or atrophy. There are lots of activities you can do to keep your brain in shape including jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, reading, brain training apps on your phone, playing cards and playing computer games (I can hear my boyfriend whoop with joy from here). Puzzle solving in particular uses multiple cognitive abilities and is a great way to challenge and exercise your little grey cells.
Embrace A Mediterranean Diet
Those olive oil adverts have actually got quite a few things right after all! Your diet plays a big role in keeping your brain healthy. A Mediterranean diet typically contains much less red meat and salt and puts the emphasis more on fish, whole grains, plant-based foods and of course healthy fats, such as olive oil. Those who follow this diet are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and coronary artery disease.
Get Your Groove On
Research suggests that listening to music actually boosts our creative brain power, helping us to generate more innovative solutions compared to when we are sitting in silence. It also doesn’t hurt when it comes to improving your mood and getting you into a positive mindset. Also, if you fancy learning a new instrument, now is a great time to start. Your brain is never too old to learn new skills and you might even end up being the next big thing!
Write Away Your Worries
Anxiety and stress can have quite a negative impact on our brain. If we have a lot on our mind, racing thoughts can hinder us from switching off or even being able to concentrate on other important things. The easiest way to expel these feelings from our mind is to write them down and get them out of there. When you write them down, your brain realises that it does not need to be concerned with those thoughts and feelings any longer. The same effect also occurs when you talk to people about your problems. That weight you feel has lifted when you’ve talked everything through? That’s your brain problem-solving and de-stressing.
We hope that these tips will help you to exercise your mental muscle and get your brain fit and active. Staying healthy in Lockdown isn’t always easy but following some of the tips above is a sure fire way to get your brain engaged and improve your mood as well.
I’m off to do the crossword. Until next time….