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Enriched Environments Build Better Brains

6 Lifestyle Choices for a Healthier Brain and Stronger Mind

From the womb to the tomb, your environment and life experiences affect the health and structure of your brain. You have the power to make your mind and brain stronger by making the right lifestyle choices everyday. In a very competitive world, staying mentally sharp is paramount. In this blog I share 6 factors that will help you fortify a healthy brain at any age.

A research study from January of 2012 published in the British Medical Journal found that cognitive function begins to decline as early as age 45, which is much earlier than previously thought. The researchers, led by Archana Singh-Manoux from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in France, found that lifestyle choices that lead to cardiovascular health made during middle age greatly impact cognitive function as we age. Singh-Manoux says, "There is emerging consensus that 'what is good for our hearts is also good for our heads,' making aggressive control of behavioral and cardiovascular risk factors as early as possible key targets for clinical practice and public health."

Heart disease is the number one killer in America. The double whammy is that the same lifestyle choices and environmental impacts that are killing our bodies are also prematurely degenerating our minds. The good news is that our bodies and minds are adaptable and it's never too late to reverse a negative trend. The 6 basic factors that will ensure a healthy brain (and body) well into old age are:

1. Healthy Diet: Eat more nutritious foods and limit the junk.

2. Physical Activity: Move your body for at least 20 minutes most days.

3. Challenge: Habitually nudge yourself out of your comfort zone.

4. Novelty: Enrich your brain by exposing yourself to new things daily.

5. Laughter: Be playful and have fun everyday.

6. Human Love: Maintain intimate close-knit human bonds.

These are timeless and simple principles that you should consciously make a part of your day. Use these 6 factors like a checklist. Make a commitment every morning that you will seek out each of these 6 things and over time your brain (and life!) will be transformed.

This article is inspired by the work of legendary neuroscientist Marian Diamond who did pioneering research in the 1960s linking enriched environments to brain development. She discovered that rats who lived in an enriched environment developed larger brains, while those living in impoverished environments showed brain atrophy The same is true for humans. Dr. Diamond is an exuberant and athletic person who leads by example. She believes that, "In any language, having fun is extremely important to learning and brain development. Physical activity is equally important because "the body needs the brain and the brain needs the body."

Below is a short YouTube clip of Dr. Marian Diamond that expands on her research into enriched environments and the impact they have on building bigger brains throughout a lifetime: