Today, most talk about self-care revolves around the body and our emotional state. Many people opt for smaller creature comforts to help them get through a difficult work week. This could be a bath bomb, a meal from a favourite restaurant, or just a few extra hours of alone time. Others might instead watch their favorite cheesy movies or journal to release stress.
But not many people incorporate their brains into their self-care routine. Some even believe we only use 10% of our brains, which is false. In reality, our brains work overtime to process the world with the help of its 86 billion neurons. These neurons fire off to make sense of the world, whether or not we’re paying attention.
In fact, Northwestern University reports that our brain’s storage capacity is unlimited. Those 86 billion neurons make up to one quadrillion connections and can move as quickly as 268 miles per hour. All that hustle helps us form memory, critical thinking, and those pesky habits we find hard to drop.
But if we’re not careful with giving our brain the right tools to function optimally, then all the self-care work we do won’t add up to much. Keep reading for tips on how to foster greater brain power—without getting bored along the way.
The Basics of Body & Mind
First, it’s important to understand that the brain’s health and efficiency are closely tied to three elements in our daily lives: the quantity and quality of our sleep, our diet, and exercise. The first is what gives our brain time to rest and prep our neurons for making more connections.
Diet is important because the brain, which weighs three pounds and is composed of 60% fat, needs certain nutrients to perform well. These include salmon, eggs, blueberries, nuts, and leafy greens. Lastly, exercise provides the brain with restorative and motivating endorphins, which help neurotransmitters like dopamine do their job.
The Brain as a Muscle
Technically, the brain is an organ—not a muscle. However, it helps to think of our brains like muscles that need to be exercised. The more exercise we provide them, the stronger they become. This tends to be a turn-off for those starting their self-care journey with the brain, but not all logical-thinking activities have to be boring.
Card games, for example, have been around for centuries and are still a popular hobby. Whether looking for a game like blackjack, poker, or roulette, there are plenty of top-tier online platforms that make gaming a breeze. There are even new combinations of different titles, like 21 +3, which combines traditional blackjack with elements of three-card stud poker. Just choose a game that meets your interests and exercising the brain won’t feel like a chore.
The Brain as an Algorithm
All those neurons we mentioned above are doing one thing in particular: identifying patterns. This means that, at times, our brain works like an algorithm. It sees a certain set of conditions, then prepares a response based on previous input. If you have good habits, this tendency to form patterns is good; if not, it can be devastating.
But one way to prepare our brain to change our long-term habits isn’t overly complicated. In fact, simply doing things backward can re-train the brain to form new neural connections and, therefore, new patterns. Examples can be as simple as writing with your non-dominant hand once a week or even walking backward as you perform your morning routine. No matter the activity, just be sure to switch it up.
The Brain as Your Best Friend
So far, we’ve covered boosting the brain’s power and forming new patterns. Clearly, the brain serves our interests and is receptive to our guidance. In this way, we can also ‘prep’ the brain for more positive thinking. Much of this comes down to familiar tricks, such as deep breathing exercises and therapeutic journaling sessions that release anxiety.
However, there are even more straightforward ways to foster happiness in our daily lives. Simply invest in small things that make you happy, just like more self-care routines prescribe, and keep reminders around of these happy moments—your brain will notice.