By Shahnaz Radjy, Executive Committee member, Women’s Brain Project
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared October 10 as World Mental Health Day. But what does that mean? Why should we care?
The easy answer is that we should all care because we all have a brain. It’s that simple.
This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic and everything else happening around the world – from hurricanes to earthquakes and floods, elections, and so much more – it is time to act. There is no time like the present to invest in our brains!
As it turns out, the 2020 theme for World Mental Health Day is “increased investment in mental health”. That refers to the importance of allocating resources to brain and mental health, making our healthcare professionals and systems better at diagnosing and treating mental health related diseases.
This is critical, and the Women’s Brain Project not only supports this but actively works on policy changes and raising awareness across sectors to make this happen.
How can You and I invest in our Brains?
But what about us? You and I, as individuals. You and I, as daughters or brothers, mothers and fathers, grandparents, caregivers, friends, students, policymakers, innovators, CEOs?
We also need to invest in mental health. Ours and our loved ones’.
The WHO and the Cleveland Clinic have science-based guidelines that translate to six pillars of brain health:
- Physical exercise: You don’t have to run marathons, but it’s important to move your body. Dancing has been proven to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, and activity overall can improve memory and boost your immune system.
- Food & nutrition: “You are what you eat” isn’t just a clever idiom. Try to eat less processed food, and focus instead on local and seasonal produce whenever possible. Meals don’t have to be complicated or take long to make, and healthy snacks can improve your mental and physical well-being.
- Medical health: Getting annual check-ups and improving your lifestyle to prevent chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, reducing unhealthy habits such as excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking is a key way to manage medical risks and improve your health.
- Sleep & relaxation: Sleep is as essential to your mental health as stress is not good for it in the long term. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and relaxation both in terms of quantity and quality.
- Mental fitness: Just like exercising your body and muscles is good for your physical health, exercising your brain is good for your mental health (with some clear cross-benefits in both cases). Learning is one big way to keep your brain fit, as are activities such as playing chess, crossword puzzles or sudoku, and reading.
- Social interaction: We are social beings. Stay connected to loved ones and to your community, and it won’t just make you happier – it will keep your memory sharper and your brain healthier.
These sound good but are perhaps difficult to put into practice (at least some, more than others). This is why we launched a whole campaign campaign– a 30-Day Challenge that gave science-based tips that turned these six pillars into actionable, practical to-dos: the Be Brain Powerful® Switzerland campaign.
The Be Brain Powerful® Switzerland Campaign
Launched originally in the US in 2019 by the Global Alliance for Women’s Brain Health (GAWBH) and US Against Alzheimer’s, the Women’s Brain Project even adapted the successful campaign and translated it into German, French, and Italian.
The six pillars of brain health were complemented by a seventh one: advocacy – so that we went beyond investing in our brain health and shared the importance of doing so with family, friends, and our broader community.
And while the campaign was primarily targeted to women – to empower them as agents of change for themselves, their families, and their communities – all were welcome to join. It was an absolute success!
So, on today of all days, we invite you to invest in your brain and even create your own challenge based on these facts and concepts. Invite friends, family or even your online community to join in! Your brain deserves it.
Featured Photo Credit: Darius Foroux