7 daily habits that damage your brain
Your brain is the control center for all of your body’s activities. It regulates your breathing, heart rate, and many other vital activities.
However, most people do damage to their brains every day. And in most cases, they don’t even know it.
In this post, I am not going to describe apparently brain-damaging activities such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol. Instead, we’ll disprove some of the more subtle habits that can harm your brain in everyday life.
Nothing to do
One of the most overlooked ways to harm your brain is not to use it .
Think of your brain as a muscle: if you don’t use it, you will lose it.
Your brain is made to think . Difficult thoughts, new skills, different languages, interesting conversations, reading, new experiences, or even puzzles and crosswords can help stimulate your brain and develop neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to adapt.
Like any muscle, your brain needs to be used and tense to stay fit.
What to do:
Research shows that exercise for the brain has a positive effect on our cognitive abilities. So what are you waiting for? Ask yourself what you could do this week to train your brain.
How about reading a new book on an unfamiliar topic? Or sign up for the French or Spanish lessons you’ve always wanted to attend?
What might sound a little intimidating, but still tempting? Find out and make a plan to get started as soon as possible.
Our biggest enemies
Bad news: your favorite companion is your worst enemy.
Good news: you can beat him.
I’m talking about your screens. Your phone, laptop, tablet … they are all designed to keep you focused on the screen. But what’s good for social media giants like Facebook is very dangerous for your brain health.
If your eyes start to ache and feel dry when you look at the screen, know that you should stop and take a break. The problem, however, is that for the most part we don’t even notice these obvious signs.
Instead, we keep scrolling because the Instagram feed looks tempting or because we think we need to reply to another email.
However, research shows a direct link between screen time and depression. This is not surprising, because most of the content we consume online is negative and detrimental to our well-being.
First, we are faced with mental overstimulation.
Secondly, eyes hurt.
Third, most media and negative news harms our emotions and negatively affects our thinking.
And while that’s still not enough to shorten the time spent in front of the screen, research also shows that too much time in front of the screen impairs the structure and function of the brain.
What to do:
You don’t need to avoid social media or technology altogether. It’s only about setting reasonable boundaries and making sure you control your media consumption, not the other way around.
Most smartphones allow you to track your screen time to see how much time you spend in front of your device.
On average, a person spends 5.4 hours a day on the phone .
Just imagine what you could do, create, or learn if you had five extra hours every day.
Over the next few days, analyze your screen usage and ask yourself how you could minimize it so you have more time to take meaningful action.
Please don’t sit
While sitting seems to be one of the most natural activities, it can have dangerous consequences for our mental and physical health.
We often forget that we are made to stand up straight and ignore the costly fact that sedentary lifestyles are costly, such as heart disease, obesity, depression, or dementia.
However, research has shown that a sedentary lifestyle also has a negative effect on our brains. For example, it negatively affects our memory.
There is nothing wrong with resting and relaxing on your favorite couch. However, the problem is that millions of people around the world are victims of a sedentary lifestyle.
We all know how uncomfortable a stiff neck, lower back pain, or tension in the shoulders can be. However, we often find it difficult to avoid these painful experiences because sitting seems normal .
What to do:
Overcoming a sedentary lifestyle is mainly about incorporating daily activities into your life.
This isn’t about crazy workouts and running marathons, but about getting up for a few minutes, taking short walks, and standing up straight.
Studies show that even high levels of physical activity and exercise cannot compensate for the harmful effects of sitting for long periods of time. This may sound disappointing, but it’s actually good news because it means you can significantly improve your (brain) health with small daily changes.
Sometimes, in order to add more daily activity to your life, you can deceive yourself . For example, set a timer on your phone to remind you to get up and walk every 30-50 minutes.
Or use small cups for water or coffee so you have to get up more often to refill.
Aside from these small daily changes, pick activities that you really enjoy and incorporate them into your weekly schedule. Join a dance class, join a local yoga club, or whatever else you enjoy doing.
Life is sweeter when you eat less sugar
According to UCLA neurosurgery professor Fernando Gomes Pinilla, what you eat affects the way you think.
Research also shows that a high sugar diet slows down our brains and impairs memory and learning.
In most cases, sugar cravings are a natural response to stress. Once we are overwhelmed, we feel the need for extra energy, and the easiest way to get that instant boost is to consume sugar.
This is what most junk food contains: the minimum amount of nutrients, the maximum amount of sugar and salt. Thus, we will quickly get full, but soon we will feel hungry again.
The problem is that not only does malnutrition harm your waistline, but it also slows down your brain development.
Although our brains make up only 2% of our body weight, it uses 20% of our resources. This is why the food you eat influences your thinking and decision making so much.
What to do:
Instead of giving up sugary drinks and foods, try substituting them for alternatives that have a positive effect on your (brain) health.
Berries, whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables are just a few of these examples.
Whenever possible, choose whole foods that include nutritious vegetables and high-quality protein sources.
If you’re craving something sweet with a cup of coffee, choose a dark chocolate bar with no added sugar. I know it doesn’t taste like your favorite chocolate bar, but it satisfies your cravings and is good for your brain, so it’s worth a try.
Also, don’t cut back on healthy fats and omega-rich foods like nuts and seeds. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may even help minimize the damage caused by high sugar intake, according to a study by the University of California Los Angeles.
Last but not least, remember to drink enough water.
If you are dehydrated, your body will not be able to work at its full capacity, and it will be difficult for you to maintain concentration or remember important things, even if you eat mostly healthy foods.
Your Facebook friends don’t count
Good relationships make us happy and healthy, according to the Harvard Study on Adult Development.
As humans, we are in the mood for genuine social interaction. The problem, however, is that we often try to replace this real relationship with Facebook friends and likes on our Instagram photos. And while they trigger an instant adrenaline rush, they don’t give us a real sense of connection.
The same is true when you are surrounded by hundreds of people with whom you really don’t feel connected.
Loneliness is not loneliness. It’s about the quality of your relationship.
Research shows that a lack of quality social contact can indeed lead to mental and physical health problems. Interacting with people can make or break our brain health, and digital communication cannot replace the value of face-to-face communication.
What to do:
The quality of your relationships and social interactions has a significant impact on your brain health and the overall quality of your life.
In day-to-day life, your to-do list can often seem more important than spending time with your loved ones, but in the long run, you’ll be better off choosing people over computers.
A 2007 study by the University of Michigan found that even 10 minutes of face-to-face conversation a day can improve memory and cognition. Oscar Ibarra, the study’s lead author, even claims that communication is just as effective as more traditional types of mental exercise.
You’re not doing it enough
When was the last time you slept badly, but felt great and performed with your best performance?
Let me guess: this has never happened.
We all know that a poor night’s sleep leads to loss of attention, harms our concentration, and negatively affects our mood.
Despite the fact that sleep is an important part of our life, we often see it as a necessary evil. In our productivity-driven world, many people sleep less in order to have more time to work. However, the consequences of sleep deprivation are fatal and can range from dementia,
At its worst, lack of sleep can lead to loss of brain cells, early memory loss, or even Alzheimer’s. These effects can slow down your thinking, impair memory, and interfere with learning. Research even shows that a lack of sleep can shrink your brain.
When you sleep, your brain is able to recover and process what you have learned and experienced throughout the day.
What to do:
How well and how much you sleep can have a big impact on your brain health and memory. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep to feel and perform at their best.
However, it is also important to take care of the quality of your sleep.
One way to get better quality sleep is to get regular sleep and go to bed at the same time.
Ideally, you should also have a little bedtime ritual to help you calm down and relax for at least an hour before bed.
Don’t let music damage your brain
Another overlooked way of daily damage to your brain is through loud noise, especially through headphones.
30 minutes of loud music (or any other noise) is enough to permanently damage your hearing. Even worse, research shows that hearing loss is linked to brain problems and cognitive decline.
If you live in a big city, you can still hear loud noise. In this case, it’s even more important to take care of your ears.
What to do:
I know it’s tempting to plug in your headphones and say goodbye to the real world. I use headphones for several hours a day, especially during work and exercise.
However, I make sure the volume is adjusted so that it doesn’t hurt me in the long run.
Whenever you use headphones for a long time, check the volume level on your devices regularly.
Most of the time, we get used to loud noise so it doesn’t sound loud anymore – that’s when it becomes really dangerous because we end up hurting our hearing without realizing it.
Take off your headphones at least once an hour to check the noise level and adjust the volume.
Performing these regular checks will help you understand that the volume has been higher than necessary because our ears naturally adapt to noise.
Another quick check you can do is remove the earbuds and hold them at arm’s length in front of you. If you can still hear the music clearly, this is a sign to turn it off.
Instead of loading your mind with negative stimuli and falling prey to subtle brain-damaging activities, see each day as a new opportunity to restart and feed your brain.
Most of these habits can have serious long-term consequences, but the good news is that they are all easy to avoid and you can start right away.