Mindful: Counsel for Brain Health

Living in Arizona, especially in the hot summer months, we know our bodies need water. Without a healthy dose of H2O every day, our body, as well as our mind, suffers. Hydration is vital. So, in addition to water, what else is vital, particularly for our brain?

Experts list seven elements of a healthy lifestyle for our brain. Like a healthy diet, our mind needs variety. The following activities engage, renew and even energize our mind.

Deep Focus is the first element of necessary activity for our brain. Just as our muscles grow stronger as they are exposed to resistance, our brains need a certain amount of uninterrupted time to work on complex or challenging tasks without distractions or interruptions. Research by the Human-Computer Interaction Institute suggests distractions, such as the notifications on our devices, notably negatively affect our brain power.

Connecting Time is the second element. Our minds crave connection—connections to others and the world. It is true: no man is an island. Isolation is dangerous. Take time for deep talks or chit-chat, a walk, saguaro silhouettes at dawn, or a sunset reflecting off one of Arizona’s lakes or streams.

Down Time is the third element. Thankfully, our brains also benefit from non-goal focused time. It is also healthy to disconnect. Some ideas of down time include reading a book or magazine, watching a show, or doodling.

Time In is the fourth element. Our brains need time to turn inward. Do you keep a journal or enjoy deep conversations with someone you trust? These are a few core examples of “time in” activities. Others include meditation and prayer. The ability to understand and manage your emotions is known as emotional intelligence. Activities such as journaling and those listed here provide us opportunities to process emotions and increase self-awareness. From these introspective activities stems an empathetic connection to the world around us.

Play Time is the fifth element. Good news: the brain officially needs fun! It wants some laughs. Play a board game, remember an embarrassing moment. Find joy. Smile every day. Find a joke to share. Even better, enjoy it with someone else.

One easy way to give your mind time to connect is to get out into nature and enjoy the beauty you see. Photo courtesy of Emily Boyle

One easy way to give your mind time to connect is to get out into nature and enjoy the beauty you see. Photo courtesy of Emily Boyle

Physical Time is the sixth element. Experts suggest that you are much more likely to have an effective day on days when you take time to exercise.

Sleep is the seventh and last element. Catching some z’s not only allows your body time to rest, sleep is helpful for creativity, coming up with insights, and finding themes and lessons in life’s complexity.

It can be easy and tempting to overlook little moments such as those discussed here. Our free time is often spent on our devices. Spending large amounts of time on electronics is not balanced for our overall health, including for that particularly important organ on the top floor. As Gary Turk puts it, “Go out into the world, leave distractions behind.”

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