“Essential nutrients for your brain and relationships”
Robyn Manzano, MA (R.Psych)
September 22, 2017
For the majority of us, from the moment our alarms go off in the morning to the moment we close our eyes at night, we are bombarded with a flurry of mundane and critical tasks and responsibilities, countless internal and external expectations, and an overload of notifications and information. We continually strive for success and efficiency. We feel comfortable with things that are logical and concrete. We seek pleasure and avoid pain. In short, the fast-paced busyness of our lives often leaves us fragmented and does not naturally provide us with the requirements of a healthy mind.
Dr. Daniel J. Siegel (a well-known psychiatrist, professor and author) and David Rock outlines “The Healthy Mind Platter” that include seven daily essential mental activities to optimize brain matter and create well-being. They propose that a healthy mind emerges as we engage in the process of “integration” where we intentionally nurture connections internally with our mind and body as well as externally with our environment and social relationships. Read through the list of “nutrients” and determine where you have adequate amounts and where you may need a boost.
7 Essential “Mental Nutrients” for Your Brain and Relationships:
When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, taking on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.
Ex. Focus completely on what another person is saying without thinking about or rehearsing your response, focus deeply on doing just one task at a time, close your eyes and see how long you can focus on thinking of an object, place, or loved one’s face, etc.
When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, which helps make new connections in the brain.
Ex. Smile and laugh often, sing, keep fun or funny things in your workspace, try fun and new things, watch or play with young children or pets, etc.
When we connect with other people, ideally in person, or take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, richly activating the brain’s relational circuitry.
Ex. Journal about your experiences and feelings, get in touch with your spirituality, explore what helps you feel your best, get out into nature, read fiction, volunteer, do a kind gesture, etc.
When we move our bodies, aerobically if possible, which strengthens the brain in many ways.
Ex. Dance to your favourite song, go for a walk, take the stairs, stand up and move every hour, etc.
When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, helping to better integrate the brain.
Ex. Engage in any reflective practice that is meaningful to you, prayer/meditation (still or walking), etc.
When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, which helps our brain recharge.
Ex. Give yourself permission to silently enjoy a cup of coffee/tea, turning off electronics, take a bath, enjoy a sunrise/sunset, sit and enjoy a room in your house, etc.
When we give the brain the rest it needs to consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.
Ex. Ensure adequate amount of sleep and establish good sleep hygiene (consistent bedtime, use all your senses to help you wind down, turn off electronics 60 minutes before sleep, etc.)
Not surprisingly, the number of servings of each of these nutrients depends on your unique individual needs and it can change over time or circumstances. As you begin to focus your attention in this new awareness of mental nutrients and become more intentional in integrating them into your daily routine, your brain has the opportunity to strengthen connections within itself and develop in different ways to promote overall wellness.
Have fun discovering, exploring deeper and nourishing your mental well-being!