Take a moment and listen to the whispering of your inner voice.  Are the messages motivating and captivating or depressing and dreary?  Our inner voices makeup the composition of our minds’ thoughts and have a profound impact on how we view ourselves and the world in which we exist.  Next, identify the missing letters in the phrase, “A  _ind  i_  a terr_bl_  _h_ng to wa_te.”  Our brain is the engine necessary to fill-in these blanks.

Collectively, think about (pardon the pun) our minds being the foundation for mental health and our brains driving learning, language, calculations and other physical actions behind what it means to be human.  In order for us to reach the full potential that we are each capable of achieving, we must nurture the mind and energize the brain.  Otherwise, we will likely fall short of what we are capable of accomplishing, both personally and professionally.

Look around.  Does the current state of society’s mental health appear well?  I fear not.  Acts of violence pepper the news.  As I wrote about in Part 1 of this 4 Cornerstones blog series, recent data shows that depression and dementia rates are climbing at younger ages than researchers have observed before.  Depression cripples people’s ability to enjoy life and contribute to their families, careers and communities.  Dementia robs and steals experiences, memories and relationships.

The time is now for health care systems, employers, families and individuals to become more educated and aware of the steps and measures that we can take to improve the well-being of our minds and brains so that we can begin to reverse these alarming trends.  Life is a gift to be experienced to the fullest degree possible.  To truly appreciate this gift takes proactive actions and behaviors on our part.

Neuroscientist, Dr. Sarah McKay, PhD, www.yourbrainhealth.com.au has researched and developed seven habits of highly healthy brains.  I have broken down her recommendations below for overall mind and brain health.  I also added in an additional habit or two after reflecting on Dr. McKay’s and my own work.  Ponder these steps tobe4HEALTH:

4 Habits of a Healthy Mind

Finding Calm – Chronic stress can negatively alter the chemistry of our minds.  Stress can be especially harmful when the proverbial wrecking ball comes at us and the stress seems unending.  Too many stress hormones prevent the development of new neurons, which is needed to remain healthy mentally.  Stress can also lead to patterns of negative thoughts and behaviors that can be difficult to alter if left unchecked.  Yet peace and quiet won’t find us easily in the 21st century pace that we live.  We must, therefore, seek it out and incorporate moments of calmness into our rituals.  Make time to listen to music, meditate, pray, walk or read to escape.  Find your own place to reduce stress; and when you arrive, focus on the notion of finding tranquility.

Create Connections – Loneliness can kill us – or at least kill our soul which is meant for building social interactions.  Staying connected with people (i.e., the right people) will keep us fully alive and well.  Humans are prewired for socialization, which strengthens our ability to think, feel, sense and reason.  If we connect with caring, supportive and upbeat friends and family, these relationships will provide the resources and positive energy to create and maintain a healthy mind.  Reach out and connect.

Believing – We all need to believe in a purpose for our lives.  What are we living to accomplish?  Without a sense of meaning or passion our sails become lifeless and our ship remains stationary.  Research tells us that people who feel purpose extend their life spans and live healthier.  Find the wind, set sail and follow your purpose.

Voice Lessons – I learned to sing at a young age as a member of the Atlanta Boy Choir.  In order to find that perfect tone and harmony, the choir practiced, rehearsed and then we practiced and rehearsed some more.  Training that inner voice that speaks to us is no different.  Negative images, stories and forces constantly fill our minds, so we must focus on countering such negativity with intentional purpose.  Like voice lessons, we can reprogram and condition our minds to focus on the positive, uplifting and inspiring voices within us that can feed our self-worth and sense of hope.  But yes, it requires focus, practice and training.  We can all become great if we simply listen to the right tunes.

4 Habits of a Healthy Brain

Rock a Bye Baby – Dr. McKay tells us that getting a good night’s sleep should be our top priority.  Sleep fortifies our immune system, consolidates memories and flushes out waste products in the brain.  Even power naps are important because our creativity and focus will be enhanced.  Fluff those pillows and get some sleep.

Take Action – Who knew that physical exercise also works out the brain?  Increased blood flow to the brain increases neurotrophic factors (BDNF).  These promote neuronal growth and reduce harmful brain inflammation.  Exercise also serves as a natural anti-depressant.  So let’s move!

Nourishment – We are what we eat and drink.  A well-nourished body creates and maintains a healthy brain.  Mediterranean based eating plans, with a variety of plant based foods (fruits, vegetables and legumes), fish, some meat, olive oil and nuts are optimal ingredients for a healthy brain.  Taste selectively.

Engagement – An active brain is a healthier brain.  Lifelong learning, education and pursuing mentally challenging activities build healthy brain reserves.  The risk to developing dementia lowers the more we are able to challenge and stimulate the brain.  Make time to engage.

As humans, we are the only living beings who can receive these instructions, take action and find corresponding benefits within our minds and brains.  We have evolved intelligence that is an amazing tool for development.  But do we treasure these truths and treat our minds and brains as sacred instruments designed for so many beautiful talents and contributions?

Whether you are a CEO of a business or the CEO of your own life, we must lead ourselves and others to appreciate the value and importance of creating a healthy MIND as one of the 4 Cornerstones of tobe4HEALTH.  After all, did you uncover the missing letters above?  “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Live tobe4HEATLH http://tobe4health.com/ A healthy MIND, BODY and SOUL creates a healthy BEING.  #2B4H