Build A Better Brain for Better Mental Health

If you knew of a method for enhancing your brain’s health and function would you make that system part of your daily health routine? For me, the answer to that question is a no-brainer. It’s a resounding YES!

Today’s post shows you a way scientists say strengthens the health of our brain, body, and mental well being. Thanks to research advancements in the mind and body connection, over the past three decades, the brain and psychological sciences began to look more at the role of brain health to mental stability and well being in conditions like major depression, bipolar disorder, the anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders, attention deficit disorders, post traumatic stressschizophrenia, autism, and epilepsy.

What questions did these researchers ask themselves? What are the features of a healthy brain? How do these factors promote brain health and what is their relationship to physical and mental disease?

It seems that brain health rests on the brain’s ability to repair and renew its nerves and their connections to each other throughout the body. The brain copes with wear and tear on the body caused by stress, poor lifestyle habits, genetics, or a combination of all three, through regenerating its nerves. This is how we are able to keep our physical and mental health.

A breakdown in the brain’s ability to renew itself can lead to cellular inflammation and degeneration, body organ wear and tear, and negative changes in the way our genes were meant to express themselves in our body. If the brain didn’t have this remarkable capacity, we would have no buffers against physical and mental illness.

But, fortunately, the brain does, if our lifestyle habits support it. One of science’s more interesting findings of the past few decades has to do with a brain protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

BDNF: Fertilizer To Our Brains

The Brain's Miracle Grow

The Brain’s Miracle Grow

BDNF is fertilizer to the brain’s neurons. This powerful neurotrophin growth factor is a secreted protein that is critical to the functioning of the adult brain. BDNF supports the survival of existing neurons and also initiates the growth and differentiation of new nerves and their connections through a process called neurogenesis.

BDNF seems to be very active in the brain’s hippocampus region that is responsible for memory formation and oscillation of excitatory and inhibitory brain wave activity. This has significant implications for disorders of movement, inhibition, and memory disturbances like in epilepsy, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease and also in disorders of mood, attention and learning.

There is also a higher level of BDNF activity in the brain’s frontal lobe region that is responsible for higher order thinking processes that include reasoning, goal direction, problem solving, anticipation of consequences, imagination and future planning. Low BDNF levels in the frontal lobe region can result in thinking and learning impairments and in the regulation of mood, self-control and ability to learn from one’s actions.

BDNF and Mental Health Conditions

It’s easier to see the negative effects of stress on our behavior than it is on the actual workings of the brain. Stress increases the stress hormone corticosterone that decreases BDNF in the brain. BDNF has been shown to be low in people who are in a state of chronic stress, which can be a trigger for many psychiatric disorders (Resilience to Chronic Stress Is Mediated by Hippocampal Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) that include major depression (BDNF and Depression, The National Center for Behavioral Information ; BDNF and Depression), bipolar disorder (The Role of BDNF as a Mediator of Neuroplasticity in Bipolar Disorder), schizophrenia, epilepsy, autism, and childhood and adult ADHD (Decreased serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Animal studies show that manipulation of BDNF levels can produce impairments in behavior that mimic depression and also disrupt movement and ability to learn. But, once BDNF levels are restored to a normal level these impairments go away. This has huge implications for advancements in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

The Good News:

You CAN Build A Better Brain for Better Mental Health

There is a lot you can do to raise BDNF levels in the brain. There is an abundance of research that shows that exercise, food, and prescribed medications raise the brain’s BDNF levels that improves cognitive function, mood stability, and general well being.

Exercise: Thanks to brain-imaging studies in humans and neurochemical studies in animals, scientists have found evidence that exercise actually makes a stronger brain. “Physical exertion induces the cells in the brain to reinforce old connections between neurons and to forge new connections (increases BDNF level). This denser neuron network is better able to process and store information, essentially resulting in a smarter brain” (Sweating Makes You Smarter,

What is more, we don’t have to exercise 24/7 to get this benefit. Even a moderate program of exercise has been shown to boost brain function, help us to heal faster from injuries, and also to reduce depression. Harvard University’s Dr. John Ratey recommends that “everyone should participate in a minimum of five sessions of moderate intensity aerobic exercise lasting at least 30 minutes each week to maximize the benefits of exercise on neurotrophin production ( Thus, if you wish to build a better brain and to strengthen your mental health, just start to move.

Diet: The positive effects of nutrients on brain function are well known. For example, dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in humans has been associated with increased risk of several mental disorders, including attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Studies have shown that different dietary factors can affect the brain’s ability to repair and renew its nerve networks and also lower inflammation throughout the brain. Diets, like the classic Mediterranean diet that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, colorful fruits and vegetables (high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties), nuts (rich in monounsaturated (almonds) and polyunsaturated (walnuts) fatty acids), beans, olive oil, whole grains and fish and low in dairy products, meat, and alcohol intake) increase the brain’s BDNF level that improves cognitive function, mood, lowers brain inflammation and promotes cellular growth. In contrast, diets rich in saturated fatty acids or high in total fat content actually lowers BDNF level and are associated with impaired memory, brain atrophy and mood disorders. (Can the Mediterranean Diet Treat Depression,

Also, eating too much (excess calories) can over-oxidize brain and body cells beyond their ability to protect themselves and lowers BDNF levels in the brain. By reducing daily caloric intake to a moderate level, we can increase BDNF in the brain. Moderate caloric restriction not only protects the brain against oxidative damage but also assures its regeneration of nerve cells.

Prescribed Medications: If you have to take a prescribed medication to manage a mental health condition, do not despair. BDNF and serotonin (one of the nerve transmitters involved in mood regulation) play central roles in regulating mood, especially in major depression. BDNF promotes the survival and differentiation of serotonin neurons. Conversely, administration of antidepressant selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) enhances the positive expression of the BDNF gene in the brain (Interaction between BDNF and serotonin: role in mood disorders). Hence, counter to popular thinking, prescribed medications, like the SSRIs actually strengthen the brain and mental health. Animal studies show that if an animal is treated with a drug like Prozac (SSRI) for a few weeks, long enough to get a clinical effect in humans, there is new nerve growth in the brain’s hippocampus associated with an increased level of BDNF in the brain.

Too, BDNF level seems to be a marker for mood stability, especially in major depression disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BPD). Studies show that blood stream levels of BDNF are significantly lower in persons with these disorders, especially during manic, depressed and mixed state episodes (BDNF as a Biomarker for Mood Disorders) and that BDNF level is associated with severity of symptoms. But, the good news is that antidepressant and mood stabilizing medications, like Depakote, lithium, and  Lamictal restore BDNF to normal levels.

There’s little doubt that we can improve the health of our brains and thus our mental health. All we have to do is take our health into our own hands. Now that you know of a method for enhancing your brain’s health and function are you willing to make that system part of your daily health routine?

I hope you liked today’s post and found its ideas and information helpful to your life. If you did, please let me know by selecting the Like icon that immediately follows. You can also Tweet and Google+1 today’s article to let your friends know about it. Take good care and do what you can to live the best life possible. Warmly Deborah.

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25 Responses to “Build A Better Brain for Better Mental Health”

  1. avatar Istiaque says:

    we Have totally detailed in solutions on how to move on during depression and anxiety and other disorders regarding mental health .. people are not born lucky all the time so 80% are always looking for answers or a motive to get rid of that mental torture they been having .. which drives them to do crazy stuff some occur criminal option for being rage .. If u dont have money to pay your rent .. theres lot of option rather than stealing or lie to get your job done .. but in years it will stumble upon on ur doorstep .. realizing wish u havent done that .. The solution is to accept the natures test for u being worthy .. the 60% of us busy on the other context of life .. so it might get hard wat medical research has got for us .. Every thing u do .. even walking to starbucks ordering ur perfect latte .. u knw wat suites u well .. The sensitiviy of emotional vibes works the same .. if not working for u .. u find something else like a company .. where joy nd happiness slowly covers ur past .. its never lost .. but its on da background .. sealed on ur treasure chest ..once u crossed that level .. every thing will be understandable .. u will have ppl inviting u to do good activities and there will be ppl who will be motivation to stay home and talk shit bout the friends you have who u been together for years .. Its always their need for ur importance.. And you know why .. Because u are special on some prospective that others cant .. they choose u to do it either deir way.. Freedom is a big thing to achieve .. Dr . Khoshaba is trying out for years .. wat i am trying is to interpret it in easier way to understand who are not as analytical ..U have problems .. share wid ppl who actually cares .. but not wid some one who makes it a Fb hit ..Friends are hard to find .. specially ones who would actually pay $10000 dollar for ur inneed of help .. it can be ur brother ur sister or ur parents .. Believe in universal powers .. Think wats going to hapen next .. we are counting on you all dat one day u will bring a change to our human mentality nd change the running world

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Istiaque, thank you for your comment. Yes, many of us are not born lucky so that information that can help us to improve our circumstance and our lives is so vital. I like that you point out that we know what suits us in the type of Starbuck’s coffee we like to drink, the style of clothing we prefer to wear and the activities that suit our natures. We do need to choose as carefully when it comes to choosing friendships, work, activities, food and drink that nurture our emotional and physical well being. Thank you again for your comment. Hope to see you here soon. Warm regards Deborah.

  2. Dear Dr. Khoshaba: Your article not only contains all the new elements of exciting ways we can enhance brain development but it also is instructive and you describe each area in language accessible to everyone. I will be printing this fine article and leaving it in my waiting room for my patients to read this week. Thank you very much for your thoughtful contribution to brain health. Just got back from spin class with our two daughters so I guess I’m heading in the right direction. My Best, Arthur

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Dr. Ciaramicoli, thank you very much. Today, there’s so much advancement in the areas of brain science and psychiatry and psychology that it is exciting to be able to share it with people. This as well as the innovative Internet venues for making mental health accessible to people worldwide, like, is positively changing how we service people and our professional work. Thank you again. Warm regards, Deborah.

  3. avatar Wasim says:

    exellent helpful article.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you Wasim. I’m glad you stopped by to read this post. Hope to see you here again. Warm regards Deborah.

  4. avatar atiq says:

    Its awsum article,,, i being a resident of third word country,,,, neva get that kinda brief and concise information,,,that is really some thing that should be appreciated , Dr Khosshaba , am suffering from anxiety ( i think so) , restlessness,wories, i want to take advice from you ,,, can i ask u things over here or should i email you ?? My email id is mentioned….
    would be anxiously waitng for ur reaply,,, i need ur help and i think u r the appropriate person who could help me out
    Thanking you in anticipation

  5. avatar Sunny says:

    Your article is worth reading. I have bit query about my mental strength.
    can i ask you about that?

  6. avatar afeerah says:

    hye MAM DEBORAH. This article is really interesting and helpful to build mental health by changing life styles and eating patterns.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah says:

      Hello Afeerah, I’m so glad this article was of interest to you and other people. You are right, we can build our mental health by our lifestyle habits. Take good care. Warm regards to you Deborah.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Afeerah. Yes! Isn’t it wonderful that we can eat and exercise to build a healthier brain. I’m so glad you liked the information in this post. Take good care. Warm regards Deborah.

  7. avatar Md ektier uddin says:

    Dear mam ,
    The article you wrote is very helpful to lead sound health.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you Dr. I’m so glad that you liked this post. I had a lot of fun writing it because I love the information involved in helping all of us to live more healthily and better! Thank you for visiting Psychology in Everyday Life and for taking time to say hello today. Warm regards, Deborah.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Dr. thank you. There’s so much we can do to have a better life. I’m glad that you find the information in this article helpful to strengthening our health. Thank you for visiting and for your comment. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  8. avatar Mohammad A. Wahab says:

    Dr. Deborah, you deserve genuine appreciation for your work especially the one you have posted above. You may not know how beneficial it could be to many professionals and commoners. What you have elaborated above has its outreach in every nook and corner as it deals with human psychology. Many of us don’t know that our psychological sickness provoked by today’s life are treatable. We keep complicating so many things within ourselves and one way or the other, we make ourselves sick and take it to disastrously high levels. The heart diseases these days are our own creation. By improving our approach to life and fellow beings, by modifying our food habits, by streamlining our life routine and by making exercise a compulsory routine of our life, we can wonderfully improve our life quality. But how unfortunate we are that we don’t give any attention to health unless our arteries are choked and our heart refuses to beat. Hats off to the Doctor for bringing possible revolution in our lives… You must be proud that at least there is one in the world who may change his life after getting inspired by your writing…

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mohammad. Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so pleased that this and other posts are so helpful to people. That’s what Psychology in Everyday Life is all about–giving people the tools they need to take their physical and mental health into their own hands.

      You are so right. So many of our illnesses, including mental illnesses come about because of stress and our lifestyle habits. And, unfortunately, some people do have to get very ill before they see that their habits have harmed them. I am so happy for you that you will use some of the information toward personal change. Thank you again for your generous words. Hope to see you here again soon. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  9. avatar zohaib says:

    Great article and just worth reading for every one,just simple steps to improve mental health.Thanks Docter Deborah…..Regards Zohaib

  10. avatar Muhammad ALi says:

    Impeccable Article , in your article , the brain-storming is one of the best exercise as you prescribed . In Pakistan , there is number of people who are facing mental disorder due to family , Neighbour , friends and relative conflict that arises because of some internal reasons . However , It was knowledgeable article . I really enjoyed while reading your article .

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Muhammad, thank you. Yes, I know our relationships can cause us so much pain at times–and that a lot of this comes from our own psychological tendencies and conflicts. Thank you for contributing this important wisdom and for being a supportive friend of Psychology in Everyday Life and of mine. Be well. Warmly Deborah.

  11. avatar Kunjo says:

    Thanks a lot, Doc…….
    I hope u’ll post new new effective matters…
    Long live Doc ………..

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      You are very welcome Kunjo. I will continue to post many articles that help all of us to live better. Long life to you as well. Warmly Deborah.

  12. avatar Azam says:

    Important,Impressive,helpful article and applicable to our daily Lives routine.


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