5 THINGS YOU CAN DO IN JUST 20 MINUTES FOR BETTER BRAIN HEALTH
Achieving a better brain doesn’t happen overnight, but making the decision to incorporate activities into your life that are proven to improve how your brain functions is a good way to start you on that path to a better brain. These 20 minute activities can get you there.
20 Minutes of Exercise
The sluggish way your body performs without regular exercise is the same sluggish way your brain will eventually perform without regular exercise.
Your brain, like your body, requires oxygen, nutrients, rest, exercise and some TLC to feel good and perform well. Giving your brain these essentials is the surest way to better brain health and you can get to better brain health in just 20 minutes.
The benefits of exercise are well documented and undeniable. And, I say the same thing all the time, “exercise s FREE!”. All you really need is a pair of sneakers and you’re good to go.
It’s pretty simple stuff…exercise increases blood flow to your brain which is awesome because nutrients and oxygen are transported in blood.
You may be experiencing lethargy, fatigue, lack of motivation, even cold hands and feet or the tip of your nose is always cold. These symptoms can be indications of insufficient blood flow. Exercise increases blood flow.
Exercise promotes the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are all involved in regulating mood.
Exercise also promotes the expression of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which has positive effects on memory, learning, anxiety, depression and Alzheimer’s risk. High Intensity Training (HIT) for 20 minutes has been shown to have a greater impact on BDNF when compared to longer duration HIT.
What’s important to note is that while going for a nice walk is always a good thing, getting the most desired results from exercise requires getting your heart rate up for a period of time…at least 20 minutes, at set intervals. So enjoy your walk then do some sprints :).
20 Minutes of Meditation
Studies show that just 15 – 20 minutes of daily meditation increases gray matter in the brain improving decision making, thinking and judgment which are associated with your prefrontal cortex.
Now if you’ve never tried meditation it can feel awkward, or perhaps you have tried and you sucked at it. My first attempts at meditating I thought were just ridiculous. I felt silly sitting there with my legs folded, palms facing upward, eyes closed and my mind wandering everywhere constantly. There was never a moment I didn’t have some random thought going through my head. Of course I gave up. But knowing how beneficial meditation is for my body and brain I decided to try again and while my meditation practice leaves much to be desired I love it. In time I got better and I’m still working on it, but bottom line, I feel good after I do it so I shall continue.
Give it a try. You will suck at first, but keep going to get better and you’ll start reaping its benefits.
20 Minutes of Yoga
Yoga is a 2 for 1 deal. It gives you the benefits of increased blood flow from purposeful movement that increases your heart rate (not as much as HIT), and since it is a mindfulness-based activity like meditation, it encourages your mind to be present in the moment. The practice has been shown to reduce stress, decrease inflammation and improve cognitive performance.
At least 20 minutes of yoga can bring you to a state of mindfulness.
20 Minutes of Sunshine
Basking in the wonderful warmth of the sun feels awesome and has major brain benefits. Exposing your skin to the sun allows you to make Vitamin D, a crucial vitamin (Vitamin D is actually hormone) for helping your brain to function properly and helping to improve mood. The key here is that you need to literally expose your bare skin to the sun. Covering up gets you zero Ds. And, you get the most benefit from exposing the skin of your upper torso. So bikinis, midriff tops, bare arms and dare I say…topless?
Studies show a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and depression and low vitamin D levels and increased risk for developing dementia. So go bask in that beautiful sunshine! The best time to get sunshine is first thing in the morning for 30 – 45 minutes, but going out at noon for 15 – 20 minutes will also give you adequate exposure to make those brain boosting Ds.
20 Minutes Napping
It turns out that 20 minutes is the perfect duration to recharge your brain and improve your mood. Even 10 minutes of nap time can give you a brain boost but according to The National Sleep Foundation 20 minutes is the ideal duration for a nap. Whereas longer than 20 minutes may make you feel groggy and may interfere with your bed time sleep quality.
Napping brain benefits include improve mood, increased alertness, better focus and increased creativity. Happy napping!
Should you do all 5 of these activities for better brain health everyday?
Absolutely! That is if you can, but if you can’t choose the ones that are most convenient for you. My recommendation is to incorporate regular exercise (4 – 5 days each week) and a daily meditation practice in to your lifetime health routine.