How to maintain your brain

Your mind plays an essential part in your life, both inside and out of work and, well, everywhere. Because staying sharp and balanced is part of the Whole Person, or work-life balance, concept, consider these five ways to keep your brain healthy.

1. Follow a brain-healthy diet. Eat lean protein and low-glycemic, high-fiber carbohydrates. Beware of consuming too much sugar, which is pro-inflammatory, and caffeine, which constricts blood flow to the brain and dehydrates you.

2. Continue to learn. Whenever you learn something new, the brain starts to make new connections. Without learning, the brain starts to disconnect. Strive to spend 15 minutes learning something new each day.

3. Exercise regularly. Exercise provides blood flow to the brain. It also boosts a chemical in your brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which encourages the growth of new neurons.

4. Eliminate negative thinking. Do not believe every stupid thought that comes through your head. Thoughts lie. Our research shows that when you think negatively, you actually become physically less coordinated and more vulnerable to depression.

5. Focus on the positive. We have proven that writing down five things you’re grateful for every day will make a positive difference in your life within three weeks. Your level of happiness will significantly increase — it’s as good as antidepressant medication.

Excerpted from “Magnificent Mind at Any Age,” presented by psychiatrist and brain imaging specialist Daniel Amen, M.D., at the 2009 MDRT Annual Meeting.

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