Welcome to my top tips for Health and Wellbeing.
This is part two: Six tips for a Healthy Mind.
In the same way that we have a physical body, we have a physical brain. It’s measurable, scannable and touchable. And in the same way that the soul or spirit in the body represents that invisible element of life we also have a mind that is immeasurable but that reveals itself in our thoughts, our personality and creativity. It’s our mind that creates the thoughts and imagination that create the world and our life experience.
Here’s how I suggest you keep your brain and mind healthy (and set the stage to live a happier life!)
TIP ONE – A healthy mind lives in a HEALTHY BODY
How we care for the physical, impacts the soul and mind.
As the population of Boomers ages many studies are looking at how to slow down the aging process and how to preserve physical and cognitive functions.
Many of these studies show that when we invest in our physical health, our mental health thrives.
Looking back to my article on tips for a healthy body, this means: floss your teeth, stay hydrated, move your body every day, avoid sugar and get enough good quality sleep.
TIP TWO – Learn to live in the NOW
Being present gives your mind a chance to deal with what is happening skillfully. Problem solving, healing, and prevention are creative processes that can only happen in the present.
The alternative is to push the AVOID button.
We come by this urge to avoid honestly. Our survival wiring primes us to run away from distress. This results in short term relief from the discomfort BUT the stress and the issues don’t go away. They pile up and our brain and body suffer the physical and mental consequences.
Learning grounding skills and using mindfulness practices makes the present an okay place to be where we can see possibilities and respond to things in more productive ways.
TIP THREE – BREATHE AND PAUSE
The extra oxygen you inhale when you take a ‘belly breath’ (breathe all the way out and then take a deep – but still comfortable breath that expands your belly, then gently exhale) feeds the brain and sets you up to access higher brain functions like thinking instead of reacting.
The pause we create when we take a deep breath makes the possibilities in the present accessible.
TIP FOUR – CHOOSE
When we choose something, we are accessing higher level thinking. Choosing to respond instead of defaulting to reactive habits (survival mode actions like avoiding and defending) lets us problem solve and build resilience. And a resilient brain is a happier, healthier brain because it has more options and more confidence in dealing with difficulties.
Let’s make this tip practical - do you know what’s important to you?
Because when you do, choosing how to spend your energy, your time and even your money is easier. Taking the time to explore what your VALUES are makes prioritizing things easier which means you make clear and confident decisions more quickly.
And super bonus - when your choices and priorities align with your values, you feel happier!
TIP FIVE – Be SOCIAL
Humans are designed to interact with each other and nurturing social connection has been shown to increase both longevity and quality of life.
Especially in the dark and isolating days of winter, I invite you to make an extra effort to connect. Make eye contact and smile at someone when you’re out doing errands. Join a virtual group, make a phone call, or send a note to someone. Look for opportunities to share yourself with others in a context of respect and kindness – it will boost your brain health!
TIP SIX – Get EMOTIONALLY AGILE
Emotions provide cues that drive us to not only survive, but they help us perform better in a variety of contexts. When emotions are not managed, they can cause significant damage to our physical body, to our relationships and to the quality of our lives in general. Managing emotion is a key brain health skill.
We’re all familiar with emotional overwhelm that can leave us drained, exhausted or frozen. This all too familiar scenario results from unregulated emotions.
When we learn the skills of emotional agility – things like naming what we’re feeling and managing the intensity of our emotions, we begin to access the information and vibrancy they offer.
You can start by simply naming what you’re feeling. This expands your emotional vocabulary and gives you a leg up in regulating those named emotions.
Summary - Six tips for a Healthy Mind
Making these tips daily practices will help you align with your how you’re designed. Instead of fighting your biology and demanding your brain do things it is not designed to do (like perform well on lousy sleep or in a state of reactivity) these habits will help you feel better and do better.
Here they are again
Look after your body – a healthy brain lives in a healthy body
Be present – the power to choose and respond lives only in the present
Pause – learn to give your mind a chance to respond
Choose to respond according to your values – explore these values.
Be Social – we humans work better when we’re connected
Manage your Emotions – identify them and learn to benefit from them.