New Year’s Resolutions to Optimize Mental, Brain Health

By: Dr. Teralyn Sell, Psychotherapist and Brain Health Expert

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - HealthThis year I want to encourage you and all of us to put our mental and brain health at the top of our new year’s resolution. We’re coming up on year three of the pandemic and it is imperative that we take care of ourselves for not only ourselves but also those around us. Dr. Teralyn Sell, Psychotherapist and Brain Health Expert, states that in order to keep ones mental and brain health in top-shape throughout the year, it’s essential that we start out strong and on the right foot.
Idea #1: Nutrition
Nutrition is brain fuel. Without it, your brain won’t operate functionally and neither will your body.  Focus on small changes that add up such as eating protein every 3 hours. This will fuel your neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, etc) and stabilize your blood sugar thus reducing stress. Also, work on eating more plants and fish. Nutrient dense plants provide essential nutrient cofactors for those neurotransmitters and omega 3 fatty acids from fish have been shown to be crucial for brain health, particularly aging. 

Idea #2: Sleep
Sleep is essential for brain and body restoration. Over time we develop poor sleep habits that interfere with our ability to fall asleep or stay asleep. One habit is eating sugary foods or drinking alcohol before bed. Though alcohol helps people fall asleep it negatively impacts every sleep phase and causes you to wake up too early (or in the middle of the night) in a state of reactive hypoglycemia. Similarly sugar before bed can induce reactive hypoglycemia, waking you up way too early or during the middle of the night. Additionally electronics before bedtime causes surges of adrenaline causing you to not fall asleep easily. Instead opt for sleepy time herbal tea or a protein snack before bed. Put those electronics down and work on a solid bedtime routine instead.

Idea #3: Movement
Physical activity has long been known for its impact on your body’s health. But it is also important for the health of your brain. Research is showing that walking has a powerful influence on your neurochemistry. Most people think hitting the gym is the only way to improve physical fitness. This year work on simplifying your movement routine and start by just moving more than you did before. Opt for outdoor activity as often as weather permits to allow in vitamin D and to stimulate your brain through using your senses. 

Idea #4: Meditation
Meditation has been used for centuries to improve mood and emotional state. However, in the western world we have it a little incorrect. Instead of thinking of meditation as ‘clearing your mind’ instead think of it as having a singular focus. Incorporate meditation with breathing exercises (long exhaled breathing) to calm your mind and nervous system bringing your brain and body into balance.

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