As we continue to deal with the challenges of the pandemic we look for tools to help us better manage our day-to-day lives. One area getting more focus is the impact the pandemic is having on our mental and emotional health. We are bombarded with issues that we must address as we struggle to get through this chaotic time. We are in a constant battle managing stress, isolation and uncertainty. How do we keep ourselves sane and motivated as we confront an enemy we cannot see?

A new book, “Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at any Age” written by Sanjay Gupta outlines a strategy and provides us with tools to help maintain and enhance our brain health.   I was drawn to this book because I am concerned about my own brain. After being confined so much during this last year I worry that my brain is getting dull. Having always been a fan of self-help books I wanted to see if this one provided insights that would help address my “brain fog”

Gupta’s strategy is composed of five elements: sleep, diet, exercise, social connection and having purpose and learning new things. The goal of this strategy is to shape a better life through a sharpened brain. None of these elements are actually new but the focus specifically on the brain is the strategic goal.

  1. Sleep and relaxation – In order for the brain to function effectively we need to get adequate amounts of sleep and relaxation. During this critical phase the body replenishes itself.
  2. Diet – It is not a surprise that the diet recommended here is version of the Mediterranean plan. The focus is on vegetables, nuts, whole grains, berries, fish and poultry. The message is the diet that is good for the body is also good for the brain.
  3. Exercise – Movement is essential. Gupta stresses that exercise is the only behavioral activity significantly proven to trigger biological effects that can help the brain. Exercise reduces brain inflammation, stress and anxiety and builds brain resilience.
  4. Social connection – Staying social and interacting with others provides a buffer against the harmful effects of stress on the brain.
  5. Purpose and Learning – Find joyful and satisfying things to do that give your life meaning and purpose. Learn new things.

This book is very insightful, thoroughly researched and fact based. It gives me hope to know that brain cells can regenerate and there are things that I can do to keep my brain sharp. The take away for me is to be more intentional about brain health. I know my goal of walking 10,000 steps a day contributes to my physical health and I focus on that. My plan is to enhance my daily routine to include activities from all five elements of Gupta’s strategy. My hope is this will help me sharpen my mental faculties and make my life more joyful.