So much of our daily routines affect brain health. Most of the time, however, we’re not even conscious of it. I mean, do you really go through your day thinking, “How is what I’m doing at this moment affecting my brain?” My son recently wanted me to give him a helium balloon someone had given me at a rally. I knew that he wanted to suck in the helium to make his voice sound funny. When I was growing up, kids used to do that all the time. He was disappointed when I wouldn’t let him do it. (Intentionally suck in helium so it breaches your brain barrier and causes physiological changes that affect your voice box? UM…NOPE.) There are five habits that many people have that are causing brain damage.
You might think nothing of these things. In fact, you might do some of them everyday without giving them a second thought. You only get one brain. And, the health of your brain has a direct effect on your mental, emotional and physical health, as well. Learning more about how certain issues can impede brain health can set you on a better path. Some habits are more challenging to break than others. It’s helpful to make a strong effort to replace a bad habit with a good one. It usually takes approximately 30 days to break, so don’t give up if you’re not immediately successful.
A sedentary lifestyle causes brain damage
If you follow my posts here on The Hot Mess Press (HMP) on a regular basis, you might feel like I’ve been “harping” about sedentary lifestyles lately. It’s true. I have been, and for good reason. In recent years, people have been at home a lot more than usual. In fact, many people have transitioned to working full-time from home. Being at home isn’t the only factor that has caused more people to become sedentary. Issues like political mandates, lock-downs, face masks, forced injections, etc., have sparked high rates of depression and other mental illness. This, in turn, has led to a large percentage of the population becoming sedentary. Being sedentary is really bad for your health. In a past article, I shared how being sedentary can harm your kidneys. It can also drain your energy, which you can read about, here.
Well, guess what? I hate to be the one to have to tell you, but being sedentary also causes brain damage. Too much sitting appears to be associated with thinning in certain areas of your brain. These areas are closely linked to memory formation. Researchers in a study that was done at UCLA made a startling conclusion. Not only was sitting for extended periods of time associated with thinning in the brain, physical activity was not enough to repair the damage. Neurologists consider thinning in this particular area of the brain to be a precursor to dementia and other degenerative cognitive diseases.
Brain damage occurs if you’re not exposed to light
If I had a dollar for every time I tell one of my kids to stop reading in the dark, I’d be a wealthy woman. Neuroscientists have determined that staying in the dark too much spurs changes in the brain. Again, these changes appear to cause decline in memory skills. Lack of exposure to light also disrupts healthy sleep patterns. Both melatonin and (get ready for a super complicated vocabulary term) the suprachiasmatic nucleus in your brain need light to function properly. In short, too much darkness negatively affects your circadian rhythms.
Studies show that too much darkness can also spark depression. Some researchers even claim that people who spend a majority of their time in the dark are more prone to lie and cheat than people who are regularly exposed to light. Additional studies showed that students who sat in dark areas of a classroom consistently scored lower on tests than kids who sat by a window.
Your brain needs good news
Have you ever heard someone say, “I stopped watching the news because it makes me depressed.”? In fact, such people are being more literal than they realize. Too much negative news can cause brain damage. Every time you consume bad news, it activates your sympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, causes an increase in adrenaline and cortisol. The problem with that is that cortisol, in particular, is a “bad stress hormone.” Too much cortisol is known to increase the risk of developing cancer.
The media you consume on a daily basis affects your emotions, as well as your thought patterns and behavior. While it’s important to stay updated on happenings in the world around us, an overload of negative news has an adverse effect on your emotional, mental and physical health, especially your brain. Here on the HMP, we like to say that we are “news for people who hate the news.” In fact, we make an effort to provide a variety of topics. While some posts might feature “bad” news. There are plenty of others that include helpful or interesting information, good humor and happy stories, as well.
Your brain will thank you if you reduce your screen time
People who have trouble falling asleep at night are often people who engage in electronic screen time shortly before going to bed. Data shows that kids who have more than two hours’ worth of screen time per day consistently score lower on tests that gauge language and thinking skills. Shockingly, children who spend seven or more hours per day engaged in screen time experience thinning of the cortex in their brains. The cortex region of the brain controls critical thinking skills and reasoning ability. Today, approximately half of all children ages 8 and under have their own tablet device. Consider how much brain damage is occurring in kids that have too much screen time.
Human beings are social creatures, and isolation isn’t good for your brain
We could write a list of posts about the damage that lock-downs and isolation have wreaked upon our society. Isolation isn’t good for brain health. Spending time alone on occasion is healthy, of course. It’s a wonderful means of seeking solitude, peace and quiet, especially when life gets busy. However, social isolation, meaning lack of interaction with others, causes brain damage. Lab experiments have shown that isolation in rats creates changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Social isolation also causes reduced immune system function. (I digress, but seriously — think of all the damage that was done when people were on lock down, which caused isolation. The lack of social interaction reduced immune system function. People who are ill NEED their immune systems to function well! Ugh.)
Brain health, mental and emotional health and physical health are all connected
Do you have any of these five bad habits? If so, it might be time to try to kick them to the curb to help improve brain health. Your brain is the central hub of your overall health and well-being. Everything, from your mood to your cognitive ability and physical health, is connected to brain function. Brain damage causes a substantial decline in quality of life. Learn more about habits that cause brain damage, as well as ways you can replace bad habits with good ones to improve brain function and good health!