New York Times bestselling author Daniel G. Amen, M.D.’s states in his book ‘Use Your Brain to Change Your Age – Secrets to Look, Feel and Think Younger Every Day’ in a section titled, “Natural Ways To Treat Depression, Grief, And Stress To Look And Feel Younger” he offers this advice:
- Eating proper food to nourish your body is critical during times of stress. Fruits and veggies will reduce inflammation that leads to more pain and illness. Protein will assist a strong transmission of nerve impulses in the brain and is a key fuel for healing and optimizing brain function. One of the amino acids in protein, tyrosine, will increase the levels of two important neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and dopamine. This habit will help your energy levels and you will feel better physically. If you don’t feel like eating solid food, a high quality protein shake can come to your rescue. Sip on it as you can, even though you may not feel hungry at first. Though your appetite might not be present during the worst days, your body needs nutrients now more than ever.
- Get physical exercise, which will help you withstand and heal emotional pain. Force yourself to put on those sneakers and walk, preferably outside so you can also get the benefit of sunlight. You may find that pushing past initial reluctance to get out of the house and move will pay big dividends. Listening to music or an audio book may help make the walk more enjoyable. Even if you don’t “love” walking while you are doing it, you will notice an improved mood during the day, which will make this investment in your brain health worth the effort. Yoga may also be soothing if you are feeling anxious as well as sad.
- Take healthy supplements. Smart supplementation is important, such as using omega-3s, optimizing your vitamin D level, and using targeted supplements depending on your own type of brain.
- Eradicating the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that infest your mind is critical to keeping your mind fertile for long-term growth.
- Cry. Did you know that tears of sorrow have been shown to have toxins in them, where tears of happiness do not? This is one reason that you tend to feel better after a good cry when you are sad. So don’t postpone or push back the tears. Let the grief waves flow, and wash some of the pain out of your brain and body with a good cleansing cry.
- Set goals. Having a specific goal is critical for positive brain function. After that good cry, you’ll probably feel some lifting of sorrow and this is a good time to treat yourself to something you like to do, that is good for you. You need breaks from sadness! Meet an understanding friend friend for lunch, browse to your heart’s content at a bookstore, play or run with your dog. Watch a sitcom or read a light, funny book if you can. Do whatever soothes and offers even a small bit of joy.
- As soon as possible, learn something new. Perhaps take an art class, a gourmet cooking class, learn how to fly fish, or dance the samba. Learning anything new, especially outside your comfort zone, will stimulate the growth of new cells and neural connections. If the new skill really catches your attention, you may experience periods of “flow” where you feel almost transported away from worry, regret, and sorrow for a time. A fascinating new hobby or interest can give you mini-vacations from grief. One widow who was struggling to find a reason to live woke up one morning and thought, “I’d like to work at a horse rescue ranch.” She followed that small desire volunteering at just such a ranch and found the work to be meaningful and healing. As she comforted the animals, they in turn comforted her. It also put her in contact with compassionate people who shared her love of animals and nature.
- Hydrate. Water is crucial in brain function and will also keep your lymph system working to remove toxins from the immune cells and reduce the possibilities of infections when under stress.
- Make every effort to focus on what you can do to strive to be more loving and grateful.
Daniel G Amen M.D., ‘Use Your Brain to Change Your Age,’ pg 236-238