Brainpower fuels our organizations, communities and a well life. We rely on this approximately three-pound marvel to learn, remember, feel, multitask, dream, focus, create, transform and much more. Yet, it’s easy to take the brain for granted. The following information is designed to help you successfully support brain health in your organization/company—and at home. We hope you will use these ideas to celebrate the amazing human brain during March and beyond.
“The human brain is the most complex biological structure in the known universe. Its roughly 86 billion nerve cells power all of our thoughts, perceptions, memories, emotions, and actions. It’s what inspires us to build cities and compels us to gaze at the stars.” – BrainFacts.org
Why Brain Health Is Essential
Advancements in brain science offer new reasons to pay attention. We once believed the brain developed through childhood and remained fairly static as an adult. Today, we know the brain has neuroplasticity by design; it is adaptable and responsive to our inner and outer worlds, and its structure and function can evolve throughout our lifespan.
The evolving field of epigenetics adds that while our genes are fairly set at birth, our gene expression isn’t. How and what we eat, how we respond to stress, the relationships surrounding us, and other factors in life and work influence which genes turn on and which turn off—and this directly impacts brain health.
Plus, Western science now supports what Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have recognized for centuries: Your gut and brain are inextricably tied. Disruption in what’s dubbed the gut-brain axis is linked to a diverse range of mental and physical illnesses and diseases. In other words: Gut health empowers brain health.
As complexities increase at work and in our world, brainpower is more essential than ever. Mental stamina, focus, continual learning, emotional intelligence, creativity and holistic thinking are rated high among skills that will enable people to live well and work well in the 21st century.
So, what can you do to take charge of your brain—and how can you launch meaningful brain health programs at work and home?
Healing and Rewiring this Three-Pound Marvel
March is the perfect time to help your organization commit to fresh ideas for keeping brains agile and sharp. “It’s never too late or too early to heal the brain from damage inflicted by a poor diet, poor health or even physical injury like concussion,” says Dr. Richard Carmona, former US Surgeon General and author of Canyon Ranch 30 Days to a Better Brain. From genomic tests and gut microbiome assessments to neuroenhancement technologies and brain gyms to psychedelic substances and laser therapies, we are witnessing an explosion of new approaches for healing and rewiring the brain.
The good news: You can invest in your brainpower wherever you are. Try these actions and use them to inspire programs in your workplace, community or family:
- Meditate. Mindfulness meditation helps increase attention control. One example, Transcendental Meditation, promotes calmness and restful alertness, while loving-kindness meditation fosters empathy. Discover and share the many varietals of meditation in the 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report. Choose a form that works for you and your colleagues and make it part of the daily routine.
- Try something new. For instance, if you and your coworkers usually drive to work, take the bus, carpool, ride your bike or walk and share the experience. Explore a route you’ve never taken before and encourage others to do the same. New surroundings wake up your awareness, stimulate your senses, and forge new neural connections.
- Get better ZZZs. Redesign your habits for high-quality sleep. Avoid big meals, alcohol and digital devices a few hours before bedtime. Experiment with sleep tools—eye masks, white noise, wake-friendly alarm clocks, the “night shift” setting on your smartphone, and sleep apps are among the many methods to support brain rejuvenation. Share sleep wisdom at home and work.
- Prime your brain for focus. Do a handful of push-ups, squats, jumping jacks or lunges right before an intense meeting or during your midday slump. Exercise helps you combat fatigue and sharpens your attention. (This is a fun pre-meeting group exercise.)
- Light it up. A sunbath or regular exposure to natural light can boost serotonin and vitamin D levels to help counteract depression and anxiety plus lift your thinking and mood. Take a sun break at work—and explore healthier lighting.
- Breathe together. At the start of your next team meeting or family meal, invite people to close their eyes or soften their gaze. Ask everyone to inhale evenly through the nose for the count of six, pause for the count of two, exhale for a count of six, then pause for a count of two. Repeat this cycle 10 times. Conscious breathing can reduce reactivity and stress, enhance mental clarity, and foster openness and trust.
- Make your nutrition matter. Your gut is your “second brain.” It is where brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are made. A good diet is critical for optimal brain health. A poor diet, consisting of junk food, food additives, processed food, fast food and excess sugar, impedes your ability to have a well functioning, happy, healthy brain. Stock healthy snacks and encourage healthy eating by partnering with organic restaurants and food chains.
Share Your Commitment
Take a picture of yourself and others, at work or home, making a commitment to a healthier brain. Post it on social media with the #wellnessmoonshot tag, and we’ll spread your inspiration to others.
- Interview with Dr. Richard Carmona, former US Surgeon General and author of Canyon Ranch 30 Days to a Better Brain
- GWI Mental Wellness Initiative Whitepaper
- World Economic Forum Articles on Neuroscience
- A Collection of Brain Research, NPR
- Go To Bed!, Washington Post
- Why Sunlight is So Good for You, TIME Magazine
- Wellness in the Age of the Smartphone, GWI Digital Wellness Initiative Whitepaper
- Would You Plunk Down $30,000 to Get the Most from Your Brain?, Fast Company
- Could Psychedelics Transform Mental Health?, BBC
- Does Vitamin D Improve Brain Function?, Scientific American