5 ways to keep brain healthy in lockdown


By Dr Laura Phipps | Wednesday 13 January 2021

Looking after your brain is really important and a positive investment for your future health. But in the middle of another lockdown, even thinking about adopting new habits can be hard. It’s not as easy to get out and meeting people outside your household is allowed only in certain situations.

So can we still follow the Think Brain Health rules …

  • Be heart healthy
  • Stay sharp
  • Keep connected

… in the middle of a lockdown?

The simple answer is yes.

It might need a bit more ingenuity, but we’re here to help.

1. Get moving

To get your heart beating and blood pumping to your brain, try to get up and active at least once a day. That might be a walk around the block as part of your daily outdoor exercise or joining the family for Joe Wicks’ PE class in front of the TV.

If you’re shielding or leaving the house is hard, there are still plenty of easy ways to get your heart rate up indoors. Vacuum cleaning and dancing around the kitchen to your favourite tunes both count towards your half an hour a day of moderate exercise and yoga or pilates could help improve your balance and posture too.

If you have a garden, why not get those leaves raked up and dig your borders to get your heart pumping.

2. Learn something new

After almost a year of social restrictions, we know it can take a lot more energy to do something new than it used to when the world was fast-paced and connected. But there are services and websites out there to make it easier.

You could:

  • Teach yourself to play chess or master a new card game.
  • Take a dance tutorial on YouTube.
  • Join in with our friend Jay’s Virtual Pub Quizzes.
  • Learn a new language through a phone app.
  • Take a free online course on a topic you’ve always been interested in.
  • Watch a TED talk by someone you’ve never heard of.
  • Re-read a book you haven’t picked up for years, or challenge yourself with a different genre.

“Since lockdown began, I’ve been spending time looking into my family history. It’s easy to spend hours looking at old photos, talking to relatives on the phone about their memories and trying to piece together the people and the stories that went before me. And if you have access to the internet, it’s amazing what information you can find online – maps, documents and records. I’m trying to write it all up to share with my children and grandchildren too.” Julie

3. Connect (virtually)

If you’re living alone or feeling disconnected from friends and family, why not call someone during your daily exercise to have a natter while you’re clocking up your steps.

Set up a regular internet call with your old pals to check in on each other or write a letter to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and tell them what you’re doing – that way you know they’ll be supporting you even if you can’t be together.

If you’re lucky enough to have others in your household to chat to, make time to talk each day – reminisce about old holidays or make a bucket list of things to do in the years ahead.

Take advantage of the opportunity to make a pact together to keep each other motivated on those harder days.

4. Set yourself a goal

Taking the first steps towards better brain health needn’t mean a radical change overnight. In fact, habits are more likely to stick if you work them gently into your day-to-day routine.

There may only be a few things you could do differently to help your brain, or you might need to work on tweaking a few things over a longer period. Whatever works for you, the important thing is to make it stick.

So why not get a pen and paper, and write down the one thing you’ll do each week or month to give something back to your brain. Stick the note somewhere you’ll see it every day, so you don’t forget. Your brain will thank you for it in the years ahead!

5. Be kind to yourself

If there’s anything you and your brain need this year, it’s kindness.

You’ve still got a long journey together ahead of you, so take your brain health pledge one step at a time and don’t be hard on yourself if you need a break.

We celebrate every positive step towards better brain health, and it’s never too late to start.

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About the author

Dr Laura Phipps