May is Mental Health Month, so we’re sharing five things you can do to improve your brain health, some of which may surprise you!
1. Connect with others in your community
Having strong relationships with the people around you will enrich your life. People who maintain relationships with their families, friends, neighbors, and others in their community benefit from a stronger support system, which lowers stress and helps us to keep things in perspective.
Volunteering your time for a cause or issue that you care about is a wonderful way to give back to your community, meet new people, and also boost your mood. For volunteer ideas, you may consider checking out online resources including VolunteerMatch.com
, or reaching out to your local United Way
2. Pump up your gray matter with meditation
A 2015 study
conducted by a Harvard affiliated research team found solid evidence that meditation can actually transform your brain’s gray matter, sustaining a positive and relaxed state. They found that daily meditative mindfulness exercises resulted in two positive benefits:
3. Eat your way to mental health
- Boosts in gray matter density in the part of the brain that increases self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
- Decreases in gray matter density in the areas of the brain associated with anxiety and stress.
It turns out that what (and even when
) you eat can positively, or negatively, influence your brain health. For example:
4. Remain positive! a
- Certain fats are healthy for your brain, helping you maintain a happy state. UCLA's Brain Research Institute determined that the Omega-3 fatty acids in foods such as salmon, walnuts, and kiwi fruit not only enhance memory but also reduce depression, schizophrenia, and dementia.
- Another study determined that cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, collard greens, etc.) can improve your mental functioning.
- Research shows that foods with beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, can decrease inflammation, which in turn positively affects your mood and cognition.
- Dark chocolate’s antioxidants increase blood flow to the brain, which aids both mood and memory.
- Studies also show that the curcumin in turmeric can reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease, ADHD, and autism. And a 2004 study showed that the smell of cinnamon can boost brain activity. Nutmeg is often used to reduce fatigue and stress.
According to neuroscience research
, engaging in negative thoughts causes the brain to be hardwired for chronic negativity. Complaining -- an offshoot of anger that leads to anxiety and stress -- compromises our immune systems, upsets hormonal balance, and makes us susceptible to stroke and heart disease. And our complaining words negatively influence the brain chemistry of those around us.
5. Aromatherapy: smell your way to brain healtha
suggests that some fragrances may have a clinically significant effect on your mood. For example, one study
found that roasted coffee bean aroma resulted in stress relaxation in rat brains. Another study
found that the scent of orange oil decreased anxiety in dental patients and reduced reliance on antidepressant medications.This information should not to be considered medical advice, so first consult with your physician before considering any new health regimen. And if your doctor prescribes medicines, don’t forget that you can significantly reduce the cost of your prescription with the free FamilyWize card.