Daniel Amen and David Smith have written a very helpful book called Unchain Your Brain. Here are seven suggestions they give to improve your brain function:

  1. Appreciate your brain. What would you do without it? Just doing regular exercise can improve your mood. Additionally, you may find it reduces the cravings for acting out.
  2. Feed Your Brain to Prevent Relapse. The foods you eat can either help your brain and keep you on track with your recovery or hurt your brain and set you up for relapse. If you eat only junk-food, it won’t help your sexual cravings go away.
  3. Rest Your Brain. Are you getting enough sleep? Teens need eight to nine hours of sleep every night. Your brain doesn’t work as well when you get less than six hours of sleep a night. Research also shows that when you don’t get enough sleep, you are more prone to addictive behavior.
  4. Work Your Brain. The brain is like the human body. The more you work it, the healthier it gets. Learning new things such as taking music lessons, or taking a foreign language class makes new connections in the brain, making you more aware and your brain more capable. You are never too old to learn more!
  5. Exercise Your Body for Your Brain. Exercise can activate the same pathways in the brain as morphine and increases the release of endorphins. Remember that these endorphins give you a temporary mood boost. There’s considerable scientific evidence proving that exercise encourages the growth of new brain cells, improves cognitive ability, alleviates depression and anxiety, and reduces ADD symptoms.
  6. De-stress Your Brain. Did you know that stress is one of the most common causes of relapse? Traffic jams, cramming for a big test, or arguing with a best friend can be all it takes to trigger a relapse. Stress will happen no matter what. Knowing how to handle stress in your life is critical if you want a healthy recovery.
  7. Kill the ANTs That Infest Your Brain. ANTs stand for automatic negative thoughts, the thoughts that just pop into your mind and wreck your day. You have to change your thinking in order to change your behavior. You must challenge and change the lies that you tell yourself, like “I can’t overcome this struggle” or “I will never be happy.”

The brain is a marvelous tool deserves the best of care! How healthy are your brain habits? Do you need to make some changes? The next exercise offers you an opportunity to assess the impact of your habits on the health of your brain and to make positive improvements.

Unhealthy Brain Habits Quiz

Directions: Read and consider each of the statements. Rate each question on a scale of 0-4.

0 = Never, 1 = Rarely, 2 = Occasionally, 3 = Frequently, 4 = Very Frequently, N/A = Not Applicable

1. I exercise regularly to increase the flow of oxygen to my brain.
2. My diet is balanced ensuring the necessary nutrients.
3. I limit taking risks by doing such things as wearing my seat belt, helmet, and avoiding high-risk activities, etc.
4. I practice stress management daily to reduce stress in my life.
5. My thoughts tend to be positive and calm.
6. I regularly get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night to recharge my brain.
7. I avoid smoking because it accelerates the decline of the brain.
8. I definitely avoid using illegal drugs, and use prescriptions only as directed.
9. I take tech breaks by stepping away from the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and video games to stimulate my own creativity.
10. I limit TV viewing to no more than one-half hour a day.
11. I restrict playing computer video games to no more than one-half hour a day.
12. I generally spend no more than one-half hour a day on the computer.
13. I limit how many times I check my email, Facebook, or Twitter accounts.

Your Score: ______________
0-6, Poor: time to be very concerned
7-12, Fair: you are prematurely aging your brain
13-20, Really good: work to be better
Greater than 20, Great brain habits: keep it up

What did you learn as you completed this quiz? Will you make any changes?

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