5 New Year’s resolutions to benefit the brain

Published 12:10 am Saturday, January 6, 2024

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Resolutions made at the start of a new year often focus on personal improvement.

Giving up poor habits like smoking or drinking too much alcohol and losing weight through diet and exercise are some popular resolutions.

Health and wellness certainly dominates the resolution landscape. Improvement-minded individuals interested in gaining long-term benefits from their resolutions this year may want to consider ways to improve brain health and function.

Here are five ideas to consider.

Get moving: Exercise does the body good and even positively affects the brain. The American Academy of Neurology has found aerobic exercise may play a significant role in reversing and preventing cognitive decline. Researchers have found that even a little exercise each day can result in improved brain function in less than six months. Andrew E. Budson, M.D., a professor of neurology at Boston University, also says aerobic exercise releases growth factors in the brain, which can help grow new brain cells.

Start a new hobby. When doing the same activities over and over, you eventually learn how to do those activities better. But doctors can’t confirm this is actually helping the brain in a meaningful way. Rather, there is evidence that doing new things can be beneficial to the brain. So learning a new hobby, taking a class, or even learning to play a musical instrument can push the brain to improve from a cognitive standpoint, indicates The Healthy, a Reader’s Digest brand.

Make more time for fun. Repeated stress can have detrimental effects on the body and mind. Harvard Health says stress has been linked to cognitive problems and a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Taking time to relax and enjoy oneself can tame stress, and in turn, alleviate issues affecting memory and cognition.

Practice mindfulness more often. Mindfulness is an exercise in paying attention to one’s surroundings, senses and more. Too often people are multi-tasking and never fully devoting their attention to one thing. Mindfulness gives the brain a break and brings a person into the present.

Eat a better diet. The benefit of eating healthy foods extends beyond the waistline. Many of the foods that are good for the heart are important for preventing cognitive decline and dementias. A 2015 systemic review found strong evidence for a protective effect of the Mediterranean diet, according to researchers at Deakin University School of Medicine in Australia.

By making brain health a priority when coming up with New Year’s resolutions this year, individuals can benefit for years to come.