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When it comes to keeping things sharp at the office or school, our clothing isn’t the only factor at play.  In honour of Brain Awareness Week, I’d like to discuss how we can keep our brains sharp and healthy while at work or school.  Employees and students of all ages can benefit from these tips which will help improve their productivity, focus and overall health.

Here are my recommendations for how we can keep our brains sharp and healthy.

Proper diet and exercise

“Brain foods” really do exist! Foods such as leafy greens, fatty fish, berries, walnuts, and even some coffee and teas can improve your overall brain health and mental function.  Yes, I really did say coffee, but keep in mind it’s more of a stimulant that improves memory rather than a healthy food, so don’t go overboard with it! You may consider promoting healthy eating to your employees by hosting workshops or referring them to their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to take advantage of services such as nutrition counselling. Students also have access to this complimentary program through their Student Assistance Program (SAP).

Most importantly. ensure your employees or students take breaks to refuel their bodies.  Since many of us are working or studying virtually these days, I encourage you to check in frequently to ensure they are taking their breaks and not working or studying through them.

Proper sleep

Healthy adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.  While we can’t control when our employees or students go to bed, we can make them aware of the dangers of lack of sleep, which include the inability to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.  Additionally, we can create an environment that promotes proper sleep; yes, even in the workplace and on campus. While large companies such as Google and Facebook may have popularized the concept, smaller organizations and educational institutions have also recognized the benefits of nap rooms, break rooms or wellness rooms, quiet spaces solely dedicated for employees and students to catch some ZZ’s on breaks and lunches while at work or school.  As more of us return to the office to work and attend classes on campus, I encourage you to consider implementing this concept at your organization or institution.

Stimulation activities

While napping is one way to make the most of a break, you may also consider introducing activities such as puzzles, Rubik’s cubes or cards to your common spaces and lunchrooms.  These activities help boost memory, concentration, and focus and help break up the monotony of a workday. 

Another fantastic activity to stimulate the brain is by learning a language.  Learning a foreign language can improve memory, problem-solving and critical thinking, enhance concentration and improve listening skills.  If you’re looking for a new way to engage your employees or students, I recommend investing in group language classes or software that employees and students can take advantage of during breaks or lunches, even outside of work or school hours.  Not only will this activity help sharpen their mind, but your organization will also benefit from having multilingual speakers.  It’s a win-win!

Students may also consider taking language courses through their school or download a no-commitment language learning app such as Duolingo that they explore in their free time.

Considering that brain disorders such as dementia are on the rise according to the World Health Organization, and much of our time is spent at work or at school, it’s important that we do our part to help keep our brains strong and healthy. 

Be sure to promote your Employee or Student Assistance Program throughout your organization or institution so that your employees and students can take advantage of a wide range of services that lead them to living happier, healthier lives.