Unlike with quads or glutes, we can’t see or feel when our brain isn’t quite as… thiccc (yes, with three c’s) as it used to be from how we’re treating it. Instead, any decline will become obvious when we’re struggling to recall a common word, being driven to tears trying to remember the e-mail password we type every single day, or when we realise we can no longer sing the entirety of A Thousand Miles without hesitating.
While we’re all aware of the obvious habits we could pick up to positively affect our brains (e.g. eating, sleeping, not spending a lifetime trawling social media), there are a few things that are helpful to cognitive health that may have slipped your radar. Below are six things you probably never knew your brain needed.
Good news for Dubai dwellers: a short walk outside is all you need for improved memory and mood. Exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin, which is responsible for making us feel calm and focused, while boosting our mood. Sunlight also helps our bodies manage our sleeping pattern and state of wakefulness, which helps regulate a number of essential brain functions.
Most of us probably associate essential oils with boujee spa days where the scent from a diffuser feels like a luxe sensory experience. But studies show that you can actually smell your way to a healthier brain.
Arguably the most underrated of the five senses, your sense of smell has a potent effect on your brain function. Breathing in any scent will affect your limbic system (which regulates emotional processing, fear, motivation and pleasure), your hippocampus and the amygdala, all of which influence memory and learning capacity.
Research shows that rosemary oil can significantly increase the numerical short-term memory; lavender and chamomile oils promote wakeful relaxation, calmness, and alertness; and peppermint oil enhances concentration and accuracy of memory. We'll have one of each, please!
When two tones of different frequencies are played, one in each ear, our brains tune in and process a beat at the difference of the frequencies. This is called a binaural beat.
Exposure to certain sound waves allows our brainwaves to adjust to specific frequencies, which may decrease cortisol and increase melatonin levels in our bodies. That’s science speak for reduced stress and better sleep.
A decluttered space
A messy desk may seem harmless enough but studies show that disorganisation and clutter have a cumulative effect on our brains.
Constant visual reminders of disorganisation drain our cognitive resources, increase cortisol levels and reduce our ability to focus. The visual distraction of clutter also over-stimulates the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive overload and reducing our working memory. Ensuring your surroundings are neat and clutter-free can keep your brain clear, focused and stress-free.
Naturally found in fruits, vegetables, spices and dark chocolate, polyphenols are packed with antioxidants that have a number of positive effects on the brain. They can protect neurones against injury induced by neurotoxins, suppress neuroinflammation, and promote memory, learning, and cognitive function. They're also delicious (but not together).
Good coffee is essentially a national pastime in the Middle East - as is honouring your morning latte with a post on Instagram. And for good reason: contrary to popular belief, caffeine is actually rather good for the brain - in moderation, that is.
Aside from allowing us to feel alert, caffeine stimulates the central nervous system by promoting the release of neurotransmitters like noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. As such, moderate caffeine consumption may improve aspects of brain function such as vigilance, attention, learning, mood and reaction time.
Photos: Instagram and Unsplash