Improve brain health with these tips

Photo by Affen Ajlfe

A common question from clients starting neurofeedback  is, “What other steps can I take to enhance my therapy?” Here are a few suggestions — and the great thing is, they benefit anyone’s brain!

Eat nutritious foods, and nothing else. We are so often taught that eating healthy foods is important for our health and provides the nutrition needed to support our body. We often forget that every poor food choice, no matter how small, harms our body with toxins that attack our system and are difficult to remove. Supply your brain with the nutrients it needs — and don’t bog it down with harmful substances that create metabolic stress.

Get moving. You don’t have to exercise in the same way an athlete does; you can take a brisk walk,  stretch, do tabata exercises, or any number of things. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to intense activity daily — or try for four minutes of very high intensity tabata exercises. Increasing your heart rate through movement increases blood flow and oxygen supply, helps flush toxins, and releases beneficial neurotransmitters.  Altogether, these effects help enhance the formation of new connections in the brain.

Practice mindfulness for 10 to 15 minutes every day. This doesn’t mean deep meditation or trying to push away all of your thoughts. Instead, focus on being in the moment. Allow yourself to consciously pay attention to how you are feeling, standing, sitting or lying down; how each part of your body is positioned; and how your weight is distributed.  When your mind wanders to the past or future, redirect your focus to the current moment. Learning to be present increases overall mental health and happiness.  

Take steps to benefit sleep.  It is critical for the brain to rest, and rest well. Our brains are programmed to relax and settle down over a period of time, not all of the sudden. Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m., and refrain from exercise within several hours of bedtime. Roughly two hours before bed, begin to dim lights, and avoid screens. Taking these steps will ease your brain into sleep, rather than asking it to go straight from “awake” to shutting down. Your time asleep will be more restful and constructive.

Lastly, and most importantly, be kind to yourself. You are human. We all want to be the best and greatest at all things at all times,  but this simply isn’t practical.  Set reasonable goals, and make a workable plan for how to get there. When faced with a speed bump or a bad day, remind yourself that it’s part of the journey. Congratulate yourself for your hard work, and give yourself some extra down time when things aren’t so great. Make time for activities you enjoy, and remember to reflect on how you feel.  

All of these are relatively minor tweaks in day-to-day life, but they can have a tremendous impact on your health and well-being.  It’s important to try different strategies, to find what works best for you!

Meryl Hebets is a neurofeedback technician at EPIC Functional Medicine Center in Iowa City, Iowa. Reach her at neuro@epicfmc.com.