Feeling fatigued and unable to focus? You’ve noticed that your memory’s not what it used to be. Could bad habits be having a negative effect on your brain? It’s probably fairly obvious that they do – but if you’re like most people, you’ll try to get round actually doing anything about it. Time to pay attention to your body. Stress, bad diet and sleep deprivation all take their toll when you forget to properly look after that indispensable part of your body: the brain.
The human body is synergistic. Your behaviours directly influence your body and, in many ways, you can control whether the effects are negative or positive. Some of the choices you make can what’s more, certain prevent normal brain function or even damage its structure. If you develop bad habits and keep them for years, they’ll eventually catch up with you and your cerebrum. Now’s the time for change. Adopt a healthier lifestyle and drop those harmful habits. Both your mind and body will benefit. With this article, we’ll help you to identify those habits that damage the brain so that you can take positive action.
You and your brain
How often do you sit and ponder the extraordinary complexity of the brain? No, we thought not! We all just get on with it and take the poor thing for granted, don’t we? Poor brain. It’s got so much to do, as it’s involved either directly or indirectly in all of our bodies’ processes. For starters, it regulates homeostatic functions such as the beating of the heart, the balancing of fluids, blood pressure, hormonal balance and body temperature. Additionally, it’s responsible for movement, cognition, learning, memory, emotion and…well, general health.
A number of scientific studies has illustrated that the way that we lead our lives has a significant impact on the health of the brain. Some things we do can damage brain cells over short or long term periods and these choices can lead to degenerative diseases and other unwanted conditions. The good news is that more positive lifestyle decision – eating a balanced diet and getting sufficient amounts of physical exercise, for instance – can stimulate the brain and restore its health. Right, then! Let’s get to know about these 11 daily habits that can damage the brain.
11 habits that can be harmful to the brain
1. Skipping breakfast
You’ve heard it all before, but maybe you need to hear it again if you’re not heeding the advice: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s been shown in countless studies that your morning repast has a positive influence on your performance, endurance and emotional resilience. The first few hours of the day are recovery time, when the brain allots nutrients that manage physiological processes. It needs sustenance after the lengthy overnight fast. If you don’t supply this energy, it has to dip into its reserves – and that requires extra effort, which puts a strain on its ability to maintain proper functions. Depriving your noggin of breakfast can cause general lethargy, memory loss, inability to focus, foul mood and poor intellectual performance. Bottom line: break that fast, every day.
If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, why haven’t you quit. Not only is it a drag for your finances, but for every drag you take, your grey matter dips further into the red. What we’re trying to tell you is that your nasty habit reduces brain matter by restricting oxygen supply. It’s true. Plenty of clinical studies show that smoking promotes neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, DNA reproduction is inhibited by the heterocyclic amines that are released during cigarette combustion. This is the action that triggers cell mutations (otherwise known as cancer).
3. Too much sugar
Refined sugars are everywhere – especially if you eat loads of processed foods. A diet filled with white flour, fried stuff and packaged foods tends to lack the counterbalance of fresh vegetables, fruits and sufficient amounts of fibre. These foolhardy dietary choices contribute to an accumulation of harmful substances that can ultimately promote the development of tumours. Nutrient deficiency weakens the immune system, leads to malnutrition and significantly impedes neurological development. Our advice? Eat as much pure, nutrient-dense food as you can and give the junk a miss.
4. Prolonged exposure to toxic environments
A brain starved of oxygen is a brain that won’t survive. Toxic substances interfere with the transit of oxygen to the cerebrum and that leads to mental inefficiencies. Whenever possible, limit your exposure to chemicals and other toxic substances. Your mind is a terrible thing to waste.
5. Sleep deprivation
It’s that old chestnut, but there’s a lot of wisdom to it. Your brain needs a decent rest at night after all the stress and strain of the day. Give it 8 hours of peace if you can. If not, it it won’t have time for its metabolic processes to take place and this can inhibit cellular renovation. If you deprive yourself of sleep, you’re – plainly put – killing off your brain’s cells. You’re also more likely to be short-tempered, anxious and grumpy.
If you’re stuffing yourself with extra calories that your body doesn’t need and can’t easily process, you’re needlessly causing the accumulation and storage of fats. This usually leads to a hardening of the cerebral arteries, which dulls its ability to function efficiently.
7. Too much alcohol
Alcohol is often fine in moderation. However, if you drink too much or rely on it too often, you could be taking a negative toll on your organs – most notably the nervous system, the liver and the heart. Booze affects your brain’s equilibrium and interferes with its chemical reactions. Alcoholism damages neurological processes and slows the speed at which nerve impulses are transmitted.
8. Stress and violence
Stress can be debilitating to the nervous system. It’s been shown to shrink mental capacity and increase your risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.
9. Sleeping with your head covered
If you have a tendency to sleep with your head under a pillow or your duvet, you may be exposing yourself to a higher concentration of carbon dioxide. This, of course, impedes the transit of oxygen to your brain, which could do very real damage to it.
10. Taxing the brain when you’re ill
When your body is ill, you should let it rest. The same applies to your brain. Remember that synergy we mentioned at the beginning of this article? Well, if you’re forcing the brain to concentrate whilst your body is trying to fight off an illness, you’re reducing the body’s ability to heal and you may even be further weakening your immune system. What does that mean? It means that you’re likely to be sick for longer or experience more frequent bouts of ill health. Don’t be silly. Rest and recover properly.
11. Lack of mental stimulation
Never underestimate the power of a good game of Sudoku. Doesn’t appeal to you? Then try reading or talking politics with someone. The point is this: use it or lose it. Whether you’re playing music, creating art or writing a blog, your brain will benefit. Cerebral activities increase your capacity for learning and retaining information. They also improve your reaction time. Think fast or think deeply. Just think!
Last words of wisdom
Here are some simple things that you can start doing today to thank your brain for its good work:
- Eat well. Indulge yourself with fresh fruits and vegetables that will feed your brain beautifully. Get some flaxseed into your diet, too. The omega 3 fatty acids facilitate neurological communication.
- Enjoy 3 or 4 cups of tea or black coffee each day. That’s right! They’ll improve your short and long term memory, plus reduce your risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- Commit to an exercise routine. You can do different activities, but do them regularly!
- Avoid drugs, tobacco and alcohol. If you must drink, do it sensibly and with moderation.
- Get sufficient shut-eye. Aim for 8 hours per night.
- Think positive thoughts. It really does work.