Three Habits for a Healthier Happier Brain

Lee AnnNeurofeedback, Nutrition, Wellness Coaching

We all want to experience a deep sense of meaning in our lives. We want to know that our lives matter and feel like we’re making a positive impact in the world. Our brain’s ability to function well affects our ability to feel satisfied and happy with our lives.

When we are unable to sustain focus and concentration, when we’re distracted by the shiny objects and squirrels all around us, it’s very difficult to stay a course of action that leads to success and a sense of fulfillment.

There are many people in our world suffering from anxiety and depression because they feel like they are not living up to their potential. Many people know they were created to do more with their lives than they have been able to accomplish, but they don’t know how to live that purpose driven, satisfying life.

There are many good coaches and counselors who help people explore their purpose and create action steps to get them moving in the right direction. But how many people work with these wonderful coaches and counselors or spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in coaching programs and still can’t seem to experience life the way they desire?

Then, they end up feeling even more anxious and guilty for wasting money on another failed attempt to get it together.

Truth be told, most all of us go through this at some time and in some area of our lives. It’s not that we’re lazy people, nor do we have some horrible character flaw. Rather, it’s all too often the case that our brains are dysregulated and they could stand a little tuning up.

How do our brains get dysregulated? Many ways: trauma, illness, chemical exposure, poor sleep and dietary habits, and accidents, just to name a few. But the good news is that we can re-regulate or tune up our brains.

How do we tune up our brains? Well, thankfully, there are a myriad of great ways to do this! In this blog, we are going to focus on 3 things anyone can do to help improve brain function without breaking the bank.

  1. Sleep.

Sleep is the Mama of the body. And if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! We have to get good sleep – both quality and quantity. Only a very small percentage of the population have the genetic make up to be able to perform well on 6 or fewer hours of sleep, but the majority of the population think they can get by on 6 hours or less.

The average American gets only 6.5 hours of sleep a night and that is considered sleep deprivation.  Some of the effects of getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis are increased risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Sleep deprivation is also very bad for the brain. The ability to pay attention is diminished to the point that it’s similar to driving drunk. Too little sleep also leads to depression and increases the likelihood of memory loss.

Enough bad news! What do we do? We practice good sleep hygiene. Yes, that’s a real phrase – sleep hygiene. Just like you clean your body up on a daily basis, you need to clean your sleep habits up, too. Here are a few things you can do to begin cleaning up your sleep habits:

  1. Pick a bedtime and stick with it. Plan to get 8 hours of sleep and get in bed in time to do so.
  2. Make your bedroom dark. Get alarm clocks and electronics out of your bedroom and use black out curtains. Your body senses light, even through receptors in your skin, and will not produce enough melatonin for you to sleep well and heal well if you are continually exposed to light. Stop using electronics AT LEAST an hour before bed to give your body a break from the blue light they emit as well.
  3. Adjust the temperature in your bedroom to around 68 degrees. You sleep better in cooler temperatures.
  4. Prepare your body for sleep all throughout the day by practicing healthy habits.
  • Get out in the sun and watch the sunrise and sunset every day you possibly can.
  • Stop consuming caffeine early in the day.
  • Eat a lighter and/or earlier dinner so you don’t go to bed on a full stomach.
  • Limit sugar and alcohol as those substances disrupt sleep.
  • Take a relaxing bath in Epsom salts.
  • Take magnesium glycinate to help you relax (unless contraindicated by any medical condition).
  • Do some gentle stretching to soothing music, practice meditation or listening prayer.
[Note: Those who have chronic issues with sleep onset may want to consider seeing a qualified wellness consultant who can help them find the root causes of their sleep problems and find natural solutions to re-set their circadian rhythm. Many pharmaceutical sleep medications disrupt normal sleep rhythms and create undesirable side effects.]
  1. Adjust Your Stress Mindset

We’ve all heard that stress is bad for our health. That’s not the entire truth of the matter, however. There is actually such a thing as good stress. Good stress motivates us to move beyond our comfort zones and achieve more than we would if we were not goaded on to higher levels of performance. This is why many of us will do things when we are held accountable that we would not do if we were just left to our own devices.

So why is it that some people excel when the pressure is on and others buckle and shut down? In many respects, it has to do with Stress Mindset.

If I believe that expectations and pressures are helpful to motivate me perform better, then my body responds in kind by creating hormones and neurochemicals that energize me. If I believe that stress is destructive to my health, then my body responds by churning out hormones and neurochemicals that shut me down.

We can change our Stress Mindset by first becoming aware of what we believe about stress, then re-programming our thinking so we perceive, believe and experience the positive benefits of stress.

There is a great book called The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal, PhD. Well worth your read!

  1. Healthy Eating

What we eat affects every single part of our lives. And, as much as diet gurus proclaim their particular diet to be the only correct way for everyone to eat, they are all wrong! How can I make such an audacious claim? Because there is no one diet that is right for every single person. We are all different and have different needs and sensitivities.

For example, there are certain gurus who claim that a keto, high fat diet is good for everyone with dementia. Well, if you have an APOe4 gene and eat a lot of saturated animal fat, you will NOT be doing your brain any favors.

So, considering the fact that we all have unique nutritional needs and sensitivities, what are some basic dietary principles we can all follow for good brain health?

  1. Replace processed, packaged food with whole, real food your great grandma would recognize as having come out of her garden or off her farm.
  2. Eat a lot of vegetables of different colors, especially leafy greens. Eat them raw, steamed or lightly sauteed in a bit of olive oil rather than deep fried or slathered in cheese and butter….I say sweetly to my Southern friends.
  3. Eat some fruits in their whole form rather than drinking store bought fruit juices that are nothing but nutrition-void sugar water.
  4. If you eat meat, buy high quality organic, grass fed meat and use it as more of an occasional side dish than a main course.
  5. Steer clear of breads and pastas because they spike blood sugar and create inflammation. For a pasta alternative, go for zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. If you can consume grains without experiencing inflammation, bloating, gas, and pain, use whole grains that are well prepare – like sprouted rice, quinoa or gluten free oats soaked over-night.
  6. Drink lots of well filtered water.

Most importantly, learn to pay close attention to what your body is telling you. Your body is talking to you to let you know how your habits are impacting your well-being, you just need to learn to listen. Be good to your body and be good to your brain. You will be happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life.

If you would like to find out how you can get a personalized genetic assessment that helps you fine tune your lifestyle habits, read more about Epigenetic Coaching at http://www.neurosource.net.