Smarten Up! Everyday Habits That Can Negatively Affect Your Brain

By far, our brain is the most complex, mysterious, and debatably important organ of the human body. It allows us to process information, regulates the body, and makes us sentient beings with feelings and depth. Yet, regardless of how important it may be, unfortunately, there are countless things in our world and decisions that we make that can be harmful. So, protect that beautiful brain of yours and educate yourself on these daily habits that aren’t doing your brain any good.

Go Easy On The Television, Especially Reality Shows

Woman with remote
Bermix Studio/Unsplash
Unsplash/Adrian Swancar

In the United States, it’s safe to say that reality television is one of our favorite past times. Shows like The Bachelor, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Real Housewives, and more, are mindless, entertaining, and an easy way to kill some time.

Psychiatrist Dr. Marcia compares reality television to junk food for our brain that does little but slowly chips away at it. Although watching too much of anything isn’t necessarily beneficial, reality TV has proven to be some of the most detrimental.

Multitasking Accomplishes The Opposite Of What You’re Intending

Woman with baby
Standson Worklife/Unsplash
Standson Worklife/Unsplash

Multitasking may seem like a faster way of getting things done. In reality, it means that you’re semi-completing several things at once. Trying to juggle multiple things takes your attention away from the task at hand, resulting in a worse job than if you were to take on one thing at a time.

Furthermore, the University of London found that multitasking can temporarily drop IQ scores by a whole 15%, with another study claiming it can lead to permanent although mild brain damage.

Avoid Sleeping With Your Head Under The Covers

Picture of person under covers
elizabeth lies/Unsplash
elizabeth lies/Unsplash

While many enjoy sleeping with their head under the covers or a pillow, it isn’t exactly healthy. Putting a pillow over your head can help keep out light and sound, or show that you want to be left alone.

But oxygen is vital for brain function, and if you sleep with your head buried in the covers, you won’t be getting the 20.95% of it found in the air that we typically breathe. Furthermore, sleeping like this leads to an increased intake of carbon dioxide, which can kill brain cells.

Don’t Skip Breakfast

Couple making breakfast
Wright Brand Bacon/Unsplash
Wright Brand Bacon/Unsplash

There’s a reason breakfast has been deemed “the most important meal of the day,” which many people don’t take seriously. It’s not uncommon for people to skip it in our hustle-and-bustle society, even though it is damaging to your body and brain.

According to a Japanese finding that studied 80,000 people over 15 years, participants who regularly skipped breakfast had an increased chance of high blood pressure and stroke. The study further shows that blood pressure drops after eating breakfast, which can reduce brain hemorrhaging.

Chewing Gum Isn’t Just Bad To Swallow

Girl chewing gum
Quinten de Graaf/Unsplash
Quinten de Graaf/Unsplash

If you want to have a better short-term memory, one way is to stop chewing gum. Although chewing gum has shown to help reduce stress, which is always good for the brain, it’s detrimental to your short-term memory.

In a 2012 study from Cardiff University in Wales, participants that were chewing gum had a harder time recalling a list of words and numbers in the order that they were presented than those that weren’t in the act of chewing.

Treats Aren’t All That Sweet For Your Brain

Picture of candy
Luis Aguila
Luis Aguila

As we all know, eating too much sugar has numerous negative side effects on the body including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cavities, and more. Furthermore, overindulgence of sugar can also lead to brain damage due to malnutrition.

In order to work at a normal level, the brain needs good nutrients to sustain it. In a 2011 study, researchers discovered that there was a cognitive functioning difference between those who had a well-balanced diet compared to those with a large sugar intake.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Girl drinking water
Bindle Bottle/Unsplash
Bindle Bottle/Unsplash

In a survey of over 3,000 Americans, it was shown that 75% likely had a net fluid loss that resulted in chronic dehydration. Plus, you can be dehydrated without even feeling the effects of it!

Studies have also shown that prolonged periods of dehydration can lead brain tissue to shrink. Harvard Medical School notes that without water, the cells in your brain dry up and lose their function. The only solution to this? Consistently drink water throughout the day!

Don’t Skimp On Sleep

Woman sleeping
Gregory Pappas/Unsplash
Gregory Pappas/Unsplash

Although sleep is necessary for all bodily functions, today, people are getting less sleep than at any other time in human history. Back in 1900, people slept more than 9 hours a night, and by 1975, it had decreased to 7.5 hours and is still increasingly falling.

According to the CDC, over one-third of the 440,000 people surveyed reported that they were getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night. A lack of sleep can reduce cognitive function and even kill brain cells. Now, get to bed!

Be Wary Of Carbs

Man eating
Josh Appel/Upsplash
Josh Appel/Upsplash

Although anyone trying to lose weight knows to stay away from an excess of carbs, eating too much, in general, is detrimental to your cognitive abilities. In a 2012 study, it showed that overeating could increase the chances of developing memory loss or mild cognitive impairment in the later years of life.

Dr. Gad Marshall notes that later in life, people who are already at risk for cognitive impairment can increase their chances even more with a high caloric intake.

Headbanging, Well, Bangs Your Head

Man headbanginging
Avalon/PYMCA/Gonzales Photo/Peter Troest/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Avalon/PYMCA/Gonzales Photo/Peter Troest/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Headbanging may be a prevalent part of the heavy metal culture and other music genres, and although it may be fun and instinctual, too much of it can be harmful.

In a study published in the Lancet regarding headbanging, the authors commented, “While such shows are enjoyable and stimulating for the audience, some fans might be endangered by indulging in excessive headbanging.” So, the moral of the story is, headbang responsibly you heavy metal lovers.

Think Before You Drink

Picture of a bar sign
Patrick Tomasso
Patrick Tomasso

It goes without saying that anything that changes the chemistry of your brain such as alcohol and other substances should be avoided. When it comes to alcohol, a study by the University of Oxford and University College London analyzed the cognitive ability of more than 500 adults over 30 years.

The results were that those who consumed around 15 and 20 standard drinks a week were three times more susceptible to suffer from hippocampal atrophy, the part of the brain that is associated with memory and spatial navigation.

Jetlag Does More Than Just Make You Tired

an on a plane
Kevin Maillefer/Unsplash
Kevin Maillefer/Unsplash

For anyone that’s had jet-lag, you know that it is not a pleasurable experience, so you can imagine that too much of it is not good for you. From a study published in Nature Neuroscience by the University of Bristol, it was discovered this is indeed the case.

Short-term objective memory and abstract cognition affected 20 female aircrew members who regularly flew between seven different time zones. The authors also mention that this damage may become irreversible if repeated over a long time.

Cut Soda Out Of Your Life

Soda in a cup
Omid Armin/Unsplash
Omid Armin/Unsplash

Not only are soda drinks packed with an excessive amount of sugar, but many of them also contain brominated vegetable oil, which is a toxic flame retardant that has even been banned in some countries!

Thankfully, small levels of BVO aren’t incredibly harmful to humans. Still, over time, the substance can build up in our bodies, leading to increased memory loss and other severe nerve disorders. Luckily for us, there are plenty of other drink options besides soda beverages.

Take The Sick Day

Woman in bed
Isabella Louis Fisher/Unsplash
Isabella Louis Fisher/Unsplash

In today’s work-driven society, people are more willing than ever to work while they’re sick instead of using one of their precious sick days. Not only does it put everyone else at risk that you work with, but it’s terrible for your own wellbeing.

Your brain is using extra energy to try and fight your illness and get your body healthy, so trying to work at the same time puts it into overdrive. So, working while your sick might not only further weaken your immune system but slows cognition.

Socializing Is Important

Two girls talking
Priscilla Du Perez/Unsplash
Priscilla Du Perez/Unsplash

While some people may pride themselves on being introverts and their lack of need to be around other people, that’s not necessarily healthy. If you’re constantly alone and not interacting with other people, the parts of your brain that control language, memory, and organizing thoughts can begin to suffer and weaken.

Although being alone has its benefits, it’s important to engage in conversation, which acts as a much-needed exercise for your brain. And no, that doesn’t mean just texting someone.

Saturated Fats May Be Tasty But Not Healthy

Picture of french fries
Lois Hansel/Unsplash
Lois Hansel/Unsplash

Fats are an important part of a healthy diet, but too much of them, especially those that are saturated need to be minimized. As it turns out, a Vanderbilt University study discovered that people who eat too many fatty foods can develop a brain defect that affects their ability to realize that they are full.

So, the next time you’re at a breakfast buffet, it might behoove you to skip all of the grease-drenched bacon, sausages, and other fatty foods.

Turn Down That Volume!

Girl listening to music
bruce mars/Unsplash
bruce mars/Unsplash

Let’s be honest, we all have those favorite songs that we turn up the volume for. However, listening to music at a loud volume for extended periods of time when using earphones is not only harmful to your ears but to your brain.

It can lead to memory loss as well as damage your brain tissue. This is because the intense noise puts pressure on your brain, which is never good.

Google Isn’t As Helpful As You May Think

Woman on the computer
Anete Lusina/Unsplash
Anete Lusina/Unsplash

We certainly live in an incredible time, with access to information around the world at our fingertips at all times of the day. While this is incredibly useful, it’s not all that great for our learning or brain capacity.

With smartphones and Google, we no longer feel the need to memorize things like phone numbers, addresses, or even directions to get to the places we need to. We often mindlessly go about our lives without having to put too much thought into anything because we rely on the Internet to do it for us.

Don’t Over-Indulge On Tuna

Plate of tuna
Farhad Ibrahimzade/Unsplash
Farhad Ibrahimzade/Unsplash

The American Heart Association may recommend eating a type of fatty fish once or twice a week to benefit your heart, but eating too much of it isn’t necessarily good for your body or brain.

Fish such as bigeye, ahi, albacore, and yellowfin tuna are all high in mercury, which is toxic and can cause cognitive disruption. If you’re a fish lover or have a dietary restriction, change it up a bit and add some anchovies, trout, or salmon to your meals instead.

You Don’t Have To Put Salt On Everything

Salting fries
Emmy Smith/Unsplash
Emmy Smith/Unsplash

Although salt is a necessary aspect of hydration, too much of it can prevent your brain from doing its job correctly. In a 2014 study released by Neurology, high sodium foods can lead to hypertension, which can restrict blood flow to the brain, affecting the organization, focus, and memory.

So, it’s important always to keep an eye on the salt content you’re eating, and if your meal already has salt in it, maybe skip the extra shakes of salt.

Get Back In The Gym

Man working out
Gordon Cowie/Unsplash
Gordon Cowie/Unsplash

Countless studies have proven that regular exercise is essential for just about every part of the human body. While going to the gym several times a week or starting a workout routine may be daunting, it’s well worth it.

Michael Daane, the author of Headstrong Performance Improve Your Mental Performance With Nutrition, Exercise, and Neuroscience, notes, “Movement produces proteins and hormones in the brain that stimulate memory and make you more alert […] “Just 12 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise improves cognitive function and oxygenation and provides energy.” So, you don’t have to do all that much to improve your brain function!

Humans Aren’t Meant To Sit All Day

People at work
Lucas Schifres/Getty Images
Lucas Schifres/Getty Images

Even though a large part of the population is required to sit for the majority of the day, whether it be in a classroom or at work, we’re not designed to do this. Not only does it increase weight gain due to immobility, but there can be even worse side effects.

An article by The Washington Post reads, “Moving muscles pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and trigger the release of all sorts of brain and mood-enhancing chemicals. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.” To combat this, be sure to get up and move every hour.

Coffee Is A Double-Edged Sword

Woman drinking coffee
Bildquelle/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Bildquelle/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Yes, coffee is one of the most popular stimulants in the world and most people prefer it to even get out of bed in the morning. However, a study by Neuropsychopharmacology showed that over time, too many cups of coffee can increase the number of adenosine receptors, which makes you feel tired.

So, even though that cup of coffee may give you the boost you need to get your day going, too much of it can lead to headaches, grogginess, and other withdrawal symptoms later in the day.

Put That Cigarette Out

No smoking sign
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

If you don’t know that cigarettes are all-around harmful to your health, you might have been living under a rock. While it’s common knowledge that cigarettes are responsible for around 20% of deaths in the United States, nicotine also has drastic effects on the brain.

UCLA found that “the greater a teen’s addiction to nicotine, the less active the prefrontal cortex was, suggesting that smoking can affect brain function.” It also has similar effects on those who begin the habit later in life.

Draw Up The Shades

Woman walking
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Human beings need light, and one of the ways we can get this best is through the sun. Living in constant darkness can lead to depression and impair your brain function. So, it’s important that you make sure to get some sunlight whenever it is available.

Studies performed by the National Institutes of Health show that sunlight helps the brain work more efficiently. If your living space is dark, adding mirrors to reflect the light can help, or consider installing a skylight if you can.

Trade Out The Orange Juice

Man drinking orange juice
Wolfgang Kuhn/United Archives via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kuhn/United Archives via Getty Images

Although orange juice may seem like the perfect beverage to pair with breakfast, it’s not necessarily the best choice. The journal Neuroscience published a study that demonstrates how high-sugar diets can result in a decline of cognitive function and impairment of short-term memory.

This relates to orange juice because one 12-ounce glass of it contains a whole 33 grams of sugar! this sugar interferes with gut bacteria in the microbiome which then affects cognitive ability. When in doubt, choose water.

Try A Different Way of Making Popcorn

Picture of popcorn
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Microwavable popcorn may be simple, easy, and delicious, but you might want to think twice about buying it. Many popcorn brands use microwavable bags containing perfluorooctanoic acid, which is a chemical found in Teflon, which impairs learning.

Furthermore, if that isn’t enough to steer you away, there’s a possibility that you’re also eating diacetyl, a chemical that can hinder the effectiveness of your brain-protective cells. Knowing this, maybe it’s time to switch up your methods of making popcorn.

The City You Live In Could Be Harming Your Brain

Picture of a city
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

While many people don’t have the ability to choose exactly where they want to live, every place has a different impact on your brain– some places better than others. For example, if you live in a bustling city, you’re more likely to breathe polluted air, which decreases the amount of oxygen that goes to your brain.

Because oxygen is vital to your brain function, a lack of it can lead to lower brain activity and other more serious problems down the line.

Save Red Meat For Special Occasions

Steak being cooked
VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you’re a steak and potato kind of person, it might be time that you expand your dietary horizons. In a study published by Physiology & Behavior, researchers concluded that consuming the saturated fats found in red meats correlates with the development and Alzheimer’s disease and overall decreased brain function.

Take into account that if one ribeye steak can have as much as 12 grams of saturated fat per 6-ounce serving, it shouldn’t be eaten regularly.

Manage How Much You Eat In One Sitting

Man with large plate of food
Nathan Figueroa / Barcroft Image / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Nathan Figueroa / Barcroft Image / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Overeating over an extended period of time can have harmful effects on your mind and body, but so can eating a lot in one sitting, otherwise known as binge eating. WebMD notes, “eating too much food, even the healthy kind, can affect your brain’s ability to build the connections it needs to think and store memories.”

In addition, eating as much as you can handle can expand your stomach and heighten your blood pressure which can lead to stroke and dementia.