Your weekly brain-changing content in under 5 minutes:
It’s not just what you eat, but how.
Can you get buzzed from a photo of a flat white?
Strategies for long-term brain health that work.
Want More of This? Get Some Brain Food Every Week.
TL;DR: Cook mindfully and eat with others to reduce stress.
A few weeks ago I told you about my olive oil habit based on research around the Mediterranean diet. Some of you found the EVOO volume alarming, some of you didn’t care, and some of you quietly judged from behind your computer screens. Fair.
In addition to the facts we covered last time, another factor why the Mediterranean diet works is because of the habits formed around the food.
In general, Mediterranean peeps often:
Eat with others
Pay attention to their food
Take their time to enjoy it
And all these factors improve health and wellbeing by bringing an element of mindfulness to eating. Which brings me to my next bulleted list:
4 ways to develop mindful eating habits
Go screen-free. Put down your phone, close your lappie, and practice mindful eating. Be aware of what you’re eating using your senses and tune in to the experience. You’ll enjoy your food more, reduce stress, and won’t overeat because you’ll notice when you’ve had enough.
Reduce takeaway. Meal prep sounds kinda boring but it’s a serious game changer. Make a shitload of something delicious, and use your freezer more and Uber Eats less. Done.
Pack snacks. Channel your inner squirrel and stash some nuts in your work bag or jacket pocket. When you’re rushing to a meeting, grab those instead of a chocolate bar.
Treat yo self. Developing healthy eating habits doesn’t mean deprivation. You can still have your high-qual chocolate on occasion, just take the time to enjoy it instead of eating it mindlessly while you double tap the day’s dog pics on IG.
Get your meal prep on: here are 40 recipes for batch cooking.
FOR THE NERDY: More than food [source: Psychology Today].
HOW TO FAKE IT
TL;DR: Looking at images of coffee results in a physiological response.
You are what… you look at?
In a sense, yes. A recent study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition looked into whether an effect called priming can influence our thoughts and behaviour.
In psychology, priming refers to a stimulus or subtle cues that result in changed behaviour.
In this study, coffee-related cues were studied and psychological arousal was measured. Specifically, they looked at how areas of the brain get activated into a state of being alert, awake, and attentive.
What they found
Participants exposed to the coffee cues perceived time as shorter and thought in more concrete, precise terms.
What this means
Thinking more clearly has positive implications for how people process information and make judgments and decisions.
And what this means for me?
If you want a caffeine hit without a wallet hit, this is good news as merely seeing a photo of coffee could increase your concentration and focus.
Hot (actually, temperature-neutral) tip: replace your cat’s photo on your phone’s lock screen for a photo of coffee to get a psychological boost every time you check your phone. For most of us, that’ll be a verrrry strong fake caffeine buzz.
FOR THE NERDY: How do you take your coffee? [source: Neurosciencenews.com]
KARAOKE IS GOOD FOR YOUR BRAIN HEALTH
TL;DR: Building mental activities into your life now will reduce dementia risk as you age.
We love a good study around these parts, and one that took 44 years to complete with an 800-person sample size means biz. Sweden really knows what’s up, from creating the best oat milk brand (#notanad) to running a long-term study on reducing dementia risk: they nail it.
Anyway, back to science.
In the aforementioned study, the average age of the women in the study was 47. At the beginning, they were asked about mental and physical activities.
Mental activities ranged from intellectual to artistic, such as reading, writing, singing, or going to a concert, and included manual activities (think: needlework or baking delicious Swedish buns), and religious activities.
Physical activity was also taken into account, with participants logging light (gardening, bowling) to intense (running or swimming several times a week) exercise over the course of the study.
Time to get singing
The study found that the women who participated in mental activities were 46% less likely to develop dementia, and participants who were physically active were 52% less likely.
The researchers also took into account other factors that could affect the risk of dementia, such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.
All of the participants were white Swedish women, so the results may not be representative of the general global population.
What does this mean for me?
Regardless of whether you’re a Swedish woman or not, you’re a human with a brain to take care of. Starting now, make sure you’re making time for the activities that use your brain in a variety of ways, as listed above. Yes, that means singing your favourite ABBA song at karaoke night (as if you needed an excuse to do that).
And keep up your physical routine too. If you’re after a nearby and free community to help you do that, sign up for your local Park Run.
FOR THE NERDY: Knowing Me Knowing You [source: Neurosciencenews.com]
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WHAT WE LOVE THIS WEEK
Watch: Facebook's annual conference focused on wellness and mental health in their products, but not before Mark Zucked up, making a terrible joke about privacy. No one laughed. [Youtube]
Listen: Ayurveda in the Western world [itunes]
I'm in Kyoto, going for a mindful walk (with snacks) through a bamboo forest, visiting a temple and hitting up a karaoke bar for dinner. The Japanese culture sure knows how to help me stay on brand by accommodating the best practice for brain health!
Sayonara until next week ✌️