Brain and Mental Health
At Noggin we believe the brain is amazing but undervalued. It controls everything we do. It is the operating system for our entire lives. And yet, be honest, how much thought do we really give to looking after it?
This complex magical organ is certainly nothing to look at, and when it starts to play up it can change our lives. At one end of the spectrum – such as a brain injury or a stroke, (most commonly when the blood flow in the brain is blocked by a clot) the effects are instant and life changing and indeed can be life threatening at times. Serious diagnoses such as the dreaded Alzheimers, Parkinsons Disease, Depression or Multiple Sclerosis, often creep up without warning, especially to those around us. We might, at the back of our minds worry about these things, especially if a loved one has suffered, but otherwise we don’t really think about our brains.
Like most doctors I think I’ve been well educated on heart health, on lung health, skin health, and the health of the gut but I’ve never thought about brain health until recently when a series of members of my family were diagnosed with Alzheimers, Multiple Sclerosis, Anxiety and Epilepsy.
So I decided to investigate more around brain health and review some of the latest research from across the globe on the subject. I was amazed to discover that there are multiple things we can all do to change our brains for the better. The great thing is that these simple to execute interventions can positively help influences how we feel today and in turn may reduce our risk for developing conditions such as Alzheimers in the future. I’ll explain what you can start to do right now to help your brain health below.
So what about mental health? IS that the same thing as brain health? Well from what I’ve researched there is growing scientific evidence around the impact that lifestyle choices we make on a daily basis have on our risks for developing some mental health conditions and even more importantly interventions we make to improve our brain health may reduce severity of some mental health symptoms we experience.
What sort of things do I mean when I say lifestyle choices. Put simply, I mean the choices we make regarding sleep, how we deal with and manage sources of stress, what & how we eat and drink, keeping active & the importance of looking after our gut.
Let’s look at one of the easiest examples – keeping active.
It was John Wooden who famously said “Nothing will work unless you do”. Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger positive feelings in your body. You don’t have to train for a marathon, any movement, is better than no movement at all.
Sleep is another simple example. A Psychiatrist told me on the first day of my working with him that “ if you have a problem with sleep it is almost impossible to have good mental health”
And given that we are in an epidemic of disordered sleep it may not be surprising to think sleep and how this affects our mental health are connected.
At Noggin we will want to decipher the latest sciency stuff to help us all get our head round what we can do to help our amazing brains keep up their good work. Simple.
But please remember, every day is a learning day. Things change. Current thinking moves on with more research. We do not claim to have all the answers [and always be wary of those who claim they do]. But we are looking for latest evidence behind how to help maintain a healthy brain and generally feel better. We look forward to updating this blog as we find them & sharing with you all. Stay tuned.