The brain is the most remarkably complex organ in the human body. The average human brain weighs about three pounds, but don’t let its lightness fool you. A highly complex, evolved network of billions of nerve cells, known as “neurons,” resides within that skull of yours, and these neurons are a bundle of hyperactive energy that never stops— even while you’re fast asleep. As illustration, the brain produces enough electrical energy to power a 40-watt light bulb for 24 hours, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Needless to say, neuroscientists have yet to decode all of the inner workings of this very complex organ and its high-level secrets. But we are making strides every day, including in the area of brain health. There new findings have revealed that, regardless of how complex an organ the brain is, taking care of it doesn’t have to be rocket science.
On the basis of that research, here are three simple things you can do today to boost brain health….
1. Drink a cup of tea. Yep, that’s what a study by researchers at the National University of Singapore concluded this fall. They found that tea drinkers had better organized, more highly interconnected brain regions than non-tea drinkers, which meant that the tea drinkers also had better cognitive function.
Here is how the study’s lead author Assistant Professor Feng Lei explained it: “Take the analogy of road traffic as an example – consider brain regions as destinations, while the connections between brain regions are roads. When a road system is better organized, the movement of vehicles and passengers is more efficient and uses less resources. Similarly, when the connections between brain regions are more structured, information processing can be performed more efficiently.”
Of course, building a well-organized system of interconnecting brain regions requires more than just one cup of tea. The tea drinkers in the Singapore study had been drinking black, green or oolong tea four days per week for 25 years. Still, this is not the only study to find that drinking tea is good for the brain. A 2017 study found that daily consumption of tea can reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults by as much as 50 percent. So … put the kettle on and drink up!
2. Unplug from your computer. If you have ever suspected that technology may be changing your brain, you now have some scientific evidence to back up your hunch. In June of this year, scientists at Western Sydney University’s NICM Health Research Institute teamed up with researchers from around the globe to publish the first study of its kind into how the Internet is changing the brain. They found that high levels of Internet use “could indeed impact on many functions of the brain,” in the words of the lead researcher Dr. Joseph Firth. He explained that the Internet and its “limitless stream of prompts and notifications” encourages a state of “divided attention” which discourages sustained focus on one task at hand. Consequently, over time the brain can undergo acute and sustained changes that mean compromised cognitive abilities in the areas of attention, memory and social interactions.
The takeaway: Instead of spending your lunch break surfing the Internet, try unplugging from your phone or computer and picking up a book instead. Or, take a walk. A little less technology will be good for your brain.
3. Get in some face-to-face time with a friend. Whether it’s taking a walk, having coffee or inviting someone to dinner, engaging in some simple, face-to-face social interaction will do your brain a great big favor. A whole body of research has underlined the importance of social interactions to brain health. As the latest illustration, a study at Oregon Health & Science University found that older adults who regularly met in person with friends and family (as opposed to called or emailed) had much lower levels of depression— and, these positive effects were long-lasting. What this suggests is that their brains had higher connectivity (whereas depressed brains show lower connectivity in key regions).
Drink tea, unplug, and catch up in person with a friend. Doing these three simple things alone may pave the way to better brain health, starting today.