Improving Our Brain Health in 2022

If the past two years have shown us anything, it’s the importance that brain health (mental health) plays in our day-to-day wellness.

As we turn the page into a new year, the 14 regions of Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS) are offering ways we can improve our brain health in 2022. It’s never too early (or late) to put a focus on building the strength of our mind through simple lifestyle habits.

Here are five easy ways you or a loved one can start enhancing your brain health in the new year.

1. Heart health = brain health.

It’s no secret that healthy blood flow — thanks to cardiovascular activity and steering clear of smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol — is key to ensuring our mind and body are well connected. Just 30 minutes a day of walking, swimming, dancing or lifting light weights can dramatically boost blood flow to the brain. In turn, cognitive health improves, keeping the entire body fit.

2. Feed your body, feed your mind.

Eating your veggies shouldn’t stop as we age! In fact, a recent article from Harvard Health stated rich, leafy greens, fatty fish (like salmon), berries, tea and coffee and walnuts are all excellent substances to consume to boost brain power and slow cognitive decline. Try adding these things in bit by bit to your normal meals if they are new to you, such as putting berries on top of oatmeal in the morning.

3. Build your (in-person) social network.

We’re not talking about upping your Instagram followers or posting more to your Facebook page — far from it, actually. Instead, experts recommend spending time face-to-face with friends and loved ones, engaging in conversation and being present. The brain activity associated with being social also wards off depression and anxiety.

4. Teach yourself new tricks.

When we engage our brain to learn new things, it builds new connections between brain cells. An article in Psychological Science reported that older adults who engaged in learning a new skill — and difficult ones at that, such as digital photography or quilting — saw significant gains in memory that were sustained over time. An NPR article highlighted this study and the impact it had on participants.

5. Check in with your local MHDS brain health services providers.

Just as we prioritize our physical health, make it part of your new year to put your mental health (brain health) at the top of your list. Any Iowan in any community can utilize MHDS brain health services by visiting or by calling the Your Life Iowa line at 855-581-8111.

Iowa MHDS Regions work with care providers across the state to ensure you’re not alone when it comes to addressing concerns with brain health, personal well-being, developmental disabilities, addiction and more. A range of affordable, well-organized and high-quality health services are available for you, wherever and whenever you need them.