Clarified intentions at the beginning of a year offers the leverage of a head start. While it seemed like time stopped for a bit in 2020, the opportunity to carry our learnings into 2021 is precious.
Preparing for – while leaning into – uncertainty can be a delicate challenge. The trick lies in keeping it clean and simple. Ever heard of SHIELD? This acronym and guide to physical and mental health – coined by Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Alzheimer’s Genome Project™ and detailed below – just might work.
Tying similar ideas together in another unified and highly motivational concept is The Miracle Morning – our movie recommendation for the new year. Here's to waking up to your full potential!
Working from home with unpredictable schedules has upended many of our sleep cycles – we’ve covered it before in a quiz that analyzes one’s chronotype. The questionnaire, along with research by author Daniel H. Pink, is refreshing especially for night owls, whose productivity is highest after sunset.
Irrespective of when and how, regular sleep is crucial. Here’s why: amyloid plaque develops in the brain to protect brain cells and overall, more plaque is produced when you are awake. However, too much plaque in the brain can interfere with cell function and bind to nerve cells, harming them over time. During sleep, amyloid plaque production decreases and the brain is able to produce more fluid to clean out excess plaque. At least eight hours of sleep ensures your brain has the chance to carry out this cleanup process.
Stress is a natural reaction to life’s experiences, and in short-term situations, can be beneficial. Yet if these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms including irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia (see how every point is connected?)
Manage your triggers by adopting practices that relieve daily tension. Take 10 extra minutes a day to meditate, take a walk, run a bath, or journal – anything that relaxes you.
I – INTERACT WITH OTHERS
Studies suggest that loneliness can lead to additional stress and may even be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. In the wake of quarantine and isolation from loved ones, this can hit hard.
“Focus on meaning—finding meaningful social activities and building meaningful relationships. If you nail those two, happiness takes care of itself.”
E – EXERCISE
Keep your heart rate up. Not only to help prevent cardiovascular disease but also for the release of endorphins i.e. hormones linked with a positive boost of mood like that which follows a run or workout, often described as "euphoric."
Mind-body therapies are especially effective for their ability to help us modulate our immune and nervous systems. If you don’t exercise regularly, work your way up to three times a week for 30-45 minutes. If you aren’t motivated to exercise, switch up your workouts and try new ones that may interest you.
“Fun fact: Walking 8,000-10,000 steps per day helps grow new nerve cells. ”
L – LEARN NEW THINGS
Along with physical exercise, mental exercise is just as important. Studying and learning new skills can build new nerve connections that maintain optimal brain health. Whether a new hobby, language, musical instrument or career switch, never underestimate the fresh lease of life that’s in store for those who continuously try.
D – DIET
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to benefit your brain the most. On the diet, you’ll eat more fruits and vegetables, nuts, and olive oil, and cut back on red meat consumption. If you have high blood pressure, the DASH diet offers similar benefits as well. Listen to your body and when in doubt, consult your nutritionist. For the sake of our planet, adapt your ingredients to what is available locally and seasonally.