Overall wellness is important for normal brain function. It helps protect us from mental disorders that disrupt our mood, thinking, and behavior. Brain wellness provides us the chance to be the best version of ourselves and make positive lifestyle changes. To have optimal brain function, you must focus on not just the brain, but the whole person – brain, mind, body, and spirit. 

It can be a lot of work to achieve brain wellness, especially if you are struggling with some sort of mental disorder or disease, but it can be done. There are a variety of factors that impact our brain health, along with ways to improve it. Below are the 10 pillars of brain wellness:

1. Physical exercise – Fitness not only keeps our body healthy, but our minds too. Exercise improves memory by stimulating chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood, and thinking. Exercise also reduces the chance of developing diseases that negatively impact our brain health. It’s recommended to have a daily exercise that incorporates aerobic, strength, and balance. 

2. Sleep – Sleep is important for a number of brain functions and has a profound impact on our brain health. One night of bad sleep can make you more vulnerable to risky decisions with negative consequences the next day. We need an adequate night of sleep for thinking, memory and to function at our best. Sleep not only affects a person’s brain function but our overall health, including hormones and the immune system.

3. Nutrition – The foods we eat play a key role in brain function. A healthy diet contributes to increased memory, concentration and may even reduce the risk of brain diseases such as Alzheimers and dementia. Unhealthy diets high in refined sugars may cause impaired brain function and can worsen mood disorders like depression or anxiety. By choosing to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet we can help to support our brain health and boost our alertness, memory and mood.

4. Stress – Stress can interfere with the way our brains function, and prolonged stress can actually reduce the size of the brain, specifically the area responsible for memory and learning. Stress management can reduce the risk of cognitive problems and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. There are many ways a person can practice stress relief and strive for a healthier response to stress, for example, with meditation, getting a good night’s rest, and establishing control over the situation.

5. Intentional thinking – This is a way to manage our brains, in other words our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It explains how some people are able to find peace with a devastating health diagnosis or after a traumatic event. By managing control over our brains, we can begin to achieve our goals and lead a successful life.

6. Social activity – Connecting with people and participating in social activities is known to slow the rate of memory decline and helps to keep your brain active. It also makes you feel less isolated, reduces the risk of depression, and provides a source of support. There are many ways to stay socially active, such as taking part in clubs, volunteering, or simply engaging with friends and family regularly.

7. Mental exercise – Just like we need to exercise our body, we also need to exercise our mind. Brain exercises help to improve memory, focus, and daily functioning. There are many brain exercises we can do to help improve our memory and cognitive function, for example, working on a puzzle, teaching a new skill, meditation, or learning a foreign language.

8. Lifestyle choices – Making positive lifestyle choices leads to better brain health. How much exercise we get daily, what we eat, the amount of social activity we take part in and how we choose to spend our free time all play a part in enhancing our brain health. Negative lifestyle choices such as smoking or drinking alcohol can contribute to a number of health problems and are linked to unhealthy brain function. By cognitively choosing to make healthy lifestyle choices daily, we increase our chances for prolonged brain health.

9. Emotions – Ignoring our emotions is bad for our brain health. Suppressing the stress or trauma of an event can lead to other problems with memory, anxiety, and depression. You might even find yourself angry all the time without realizing how you got there. By acknowledging the power of emotions and taking charge we can begin to learn skills on how to cope and feel better, making a positive impact on our brain.

10. Medical health – There are many medical conditions associated with the decline of brain function. Diseases like diabetes and obesity are at higher risk for dementia, hypertension is linked to mental decline, and stroke is also associated with dementia. By following medical advice and having regular checkups we can stay on top of our medical concerns and our brain health.