Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you struggling with bad habits or a lack of focus? Combatting anxiety or discouragement?
As we navigate our lives filled with technology, relational challenges, social unrest, and growing demands on our time, it’s natural to get off balance sometimes. However, we have the power to change our lives and commit to practices that create healthy habits to keep our brains fit. And brain fitness is crucial for a happy life; it is, after all, the hard drive! With the right strategies, we can become healthier, learn new habits of mind, and become mindful versions of ourselves—no matter the circumstances.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.... and a lifetime practice!
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Brain Research to Support Behavioral Health
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I love simplicity and efficiency. Those two words are what originally intrigued me about the brain and how it works. So, I’ve spent decades drilling down to simple habits and emotional intelligence skills that create brain fitness.
Turns out, our brains are built to be highly efficient, and one chief principle that prioritizes what the brain makes important is what you might expect: "If you don’t use it, you lose it!" Any physical fitness trainer would agree wholeheartedly.
Therefore, what you put your attention on matters!
Studies show that our brains actually contain a simple algorithm to assist us in learning. Once you know what a door, chair, or dog is, you don't have to repeat that learning. Pretty cool.
Tsien from the above study goes on to say, "Intelligence is really about dealing with uncertainty and infinite possibilities." So, one way to keep your brain sharp is to keep exposing yourself to new experiences and challenges.
And through simple, yet powerful practices done regularly—anyone can spare a few minutes a day—you can also invest in a lifetime of better mental and emotional health by creating good habits. (Remember, there's an algorithm in play.) And a great way to keep the brain fit is through brain fitness apps—it's a fun way to exercise your brain.
But before we dive into the tips to create healthy habits, let’s look at the ways brain fitness and more positive behaviors can benefit you significantly.
Why Create Good Habits for a Healthy Brain? Why Focus on Behavioral Health?
A healthy brain and mental or behavioral health are essential for living a happy and productive life. The brain is the control center of our body, responsible for regulating functions such as thinking, emotions, memory, learning, behavior, and much more. Therefore, it is important to take care of our mental health just as we do our physical health.
Good mental health can be defined as having a positive outlook on life, being able to cope well with stress, feeling confident in social situations, and having good self-esteem.
5 Ways that Healthy Habits Optimize Brain Health
Here are five ways that brain fitness and behavioral health are optimized by healthy habits.
Whatever we do regularly that becomes a habit has either a negative or positive effect on our quality of life.
Why not create good habits that support our best life experiences? Once activities are on auto-pilot, you won’t have to exert any effort or focused attention—they will be unconscious positive habits that are life-giving and healthy!
Mental well-being is determined by what we think or revolve
the majority of the time.
Negative habitual thinking habits significantly fuel anxiety, decrease motivation, and dampen the quality of life. For instance, choosing to focus on converting complaining into reasons for gratitude, dramatically uplifts and gradually becomes an encouraging unconscious habit that supports happiness.
Or you could replace negative thinking patterns with encouraging self-talk. This practice will eventually become a new habit and translate to a better attitude, enhanced inner peace, and boost your motivation to make healthier choices.
Pretty awesome payoffs, right!?
Brain fitness and behavioral health dramatically impact our relationships.
This one reason might be the most gratifying. When you bring more vitality to life, more meaningful relationships are forged. With a healthy outlook comes more motivation to engage and participate in life and our relationships. Optimizing brain fitness will support healthier relationships personally and professionally.
Creating healthy habits that support your well-being builds resiliency.
Unhealthy habits or addictions that detract from our wholeness impair our ability to make wise decisions and when stressed, we typically react instead of responding from a place of personal power.
When we are relaxed and have tools to lean on, managing difficult situations becomes less stressful. When healthy habits are in play and automated, we can use our energy to navigate challenging experiences with more resiliency and grace. We also feel more confident and therefore, rebounding from life's curveballs is easier.
A healthy brain promotes behavioral health, which often results
in better self-care.
Typically, a healthy brain accompanied by conscious behavior results in excellent self-care, which equals a happier life.
If we do not have downtime or give ourselves breaks, it’s near impossible to operate at our best. Therefore, one of the most essential things you can do to shift bad habits is to practice self-care.
There are many forms of self-care: being mindful of how we think, speak, and act toward ourselves. Physical activities such as yoga have been shown to improve mental well-being by releasing endorphins that create an overall sense of calmness or relaxation. Many people understand just how critical regular exercise is yet they fail to make it a priority in their lives. Even if you only get a 15-minute walk in three times a week, the movement will help you feel better.
Or perhaps, self-care is a weekend getaway with your partner or a day of hiking with a group of friends. Self-care is unique for everyone. Design a regular self-care routine for yourself.
Related reading: “Deep Breath: The Best Yoga Poses for Anxiety.”
Good Habits to Start While Simultaneously Breaking Bad Habits
Below are some of my best tips to create healthy habits so that you can stay sharp and perform at your best every day!
So what creates brain fitness? Of course, I could tell you all the common advice such as playing brain-stimulating games, learning a new skill, eating healthy, exercising, getting plenty of sleep, and good nutrition, but what if I could tell you there are very simple and practical habits to form that will give you more outstanding results?
These focuses have hefty leverage and power to uplevel your life. And the best part? They’re SIMPLE!
Learning how to supplement and replace daily mundane habits with something new and novel is key to positive change, brain fitness, and personal growth.
Two words: new and novel. (Told you I loved simplicity!)
Neuroscience shows that “novelty has a wide range of effects on cognition; improving perception and action, increasing motivation, eliciting exploratory behavior, and promoting learning.”
So, put more simply: Your brain loves to learn new things and is stimulated in a positive way. Once an activity is done regularly and consistently, a habit is formed. Anything that is habitual creates deeper inroads and becomes unconscious. This promotes efficiency, speed, and ease.
Therefore, not only do you want to be mindful of WHAT habits you create, but if you disrupt automated activities, you will generate new neural pathways in the brain, enhancing brain health.
brush your teeth with the right hand, alternate your brushing by using your left hand.
work out in the gym every day, change up your workout from your favorites to something you tend to avoid.
eat at the same restaurant for lunch regularly, make a point to try a new place each week.
frequently eat a candy bar or grab a coffee in the afternoon to give yourself a boost, replace the ritual with simple yoga exercises at your desk, or spark a stimulating conversation with a friend or co-worker.
have a desktop picture, change it daily or even hourly to surprise your brain!
Yes, it’s that simple! Try it.
And the best part? You'll be able to "change it up" anywhere, anytime, which increases resiliency and adaptability.
One of the best ways to manage stress and disrupt anxiety is through laughter. When the brain is stressed, it perceives some sort of threat so by laughing, you not only show the brain you’re safe but that it can chill out!
The research on laughter is shown to have immense benefits. It is one of the keys not only to a happier life but also to better physical and mental health!
Another great variation of laughing is engaging in activities that increase joy or creativity. Whatever replenishes you, do MORE! Happiness and laughter release brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin that uplift us and counter stress, anxiety, and depression.
Related reading: “Increase Your Energy with Natural Feel-Good Drugs.”
Take a break from the digital world and spend some time connecting with your family and friends, or in nature. Having real interactions, meaningful conversations, and social interactions can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as increase your overall well-being.
Spending time with family and friends can also decrease feelings of isolation since the need to belong is such a high value and basic need for us all.
By following these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way toward forming positive new habits for a healthier mind and body.
Remember to take it one step at a time and focus on making small changes that are achievable and sustainable! Small changes encourage us when we can see our progress and results.
For more information, check out "Why Brain Fitness Is Important."
Or sign up for a brain fitness app to exercise your brain!
And for customized coaching or training in greater brain fitness and increased emotional intelligence skills, reach out! Email support@heartmanity.