Bob Denny: The care and maintenance of your brain


Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.

It’s the very center of your awareness, knowledge, memory, behavior and feelings. It’s your most important and valued possession. But, we tend to take it for granted. Like anything you own, don’t you want to give it the best care, attention, and maintenance, to last for your lifetime?

What can we learn from science and psychology that will help build and maintain the very best brain health? Here are some ideas.

Your brain is part of your body, and as such, needs the same nutritional needs, exercise, diet, and activity. It needs the proper amount of water, a healthy diet including protein, carbohydrates, and yes, even fats. It needs vitamins and minerals. You may want to supplement with multiple vitamins and minerals (check with your doctor.)

Your brain needs oxygen and good circulation of blood. Don’t carry around excess weight as fat. Each pound of fat requires miles of extra blood vessels, and places more demands on your heart. Light to moderate exercise increases blood flow, and research shows that physical fitness is one of the best things you can do for your brain and mental fitness.

You ask, “Do I need to work puzzles, or try to memorize lots of stuff, to develop my brain?” No, research shows that doing things that you enjoy, like hobbies, sports, interests, and activities like reading, games, social activities, and conversation; all are stimulating to the brain. And, when you do things you enjoy, instead of working hard or putting yourself under stress, your brain does its best work.

“Does my attitude make a difference?” Absolutely! Having a positive, enthusiastic attitude may be the best thing you can do for your brain, for your general health, and for the quality of your life. Research shows that a positive outlook on life may add 7 to 10 years to your lifespan, on the average.

Finally, protect your most valuable possession the best you can. Don’t abuse alcohol, drugs, caffeine, or cigarettes. Choose a healthy diet over junk food. Wear that seat belt. Put on that helmet for contact sports, bikes or motorcycles. Get annual physical exams, and follow your doctor’s advice. Be careful: Accidents are a leading cause of death for most every age. Check your home for safety risks. Don’t be a distracted driver with cell phone calls, texting, or even dashboard adjustments. Wait until you are parked.

Take the very best care of yourself. You’re the only “you” that you’ve got!

Bob Denny counseled youth and families as a licensed mental health counselor for 15 years, and currently teaches psychology at Florida Gateway College.

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