Cognitive and Mental Wellbeing
Genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors can have an impact on our cognitive and mental health. Taking proactive steps to maintain and/or improve your cognitive and mental health is a contributing factor towards overall brain health. Areas to focus on in order to improve your cognitive ability and take care of mental health include:
- Regular exercise
- Balanced Diet
- Adequate sleep
- Managing stress
- Engaging with social contacts
- Continue to challenge your brain
Engagement with all the above activities will assist with changes in both your brain’s structure and function.
Keeping our minds active and stimulated is essential and often occurs as a natural part of our everyday life such as when working, studying, or reading. When it comes to cognitive wellbeing the key message is to ‘use it or lose it’. Keeping ourselves mentally active over a long period of time will help build your ‘cognitive reserve’. Research has shown that individuals with greater cognitive reserve are able to delay the onset or slow the progress of symptoms of degenerative brain changes associated with disease.
What is Cognitive reserve? It is the brain’s ability to adjust and find alternate ways of completing a task. By improving your cognitive reserve, you are actively helping your brain to compensate for damage caused by Huntington’s disease.
We have included a short list below of some ways you can exercise your brain listed below to get you started:
- Lumosity app: Maths, Language and Science games to improve memory and attention.
- Duolingo app: Learn a new language of your choice.
- Sudoku stimulates your mind, improves your memory and increases your concentration power.
- Similarly, crosswords have a similar impact on the mind, and can broaden vocabulary.
Almost half of all Australians adults will experience mental health issues at any point in their lives that will have an effect on you and those closest to you. Our mental health has an impact on how we think, feel and develop relationships. Supporting your mental health enables you to have the tools you need to cope with stressors that are present across all aspects of your life.
Given the genetic nature of the disease, depression and anxiety are commonly experienced by the Huntington’s community regardless of their genetic status. “Mental health difficulties are common among people with Huntington’s disease (HD). However, such difficulties are only weakly associated with HD progression, suggesting their causes may be multifactorial rather than purely disease-related“.
There are strategies that you can implement in your daily life to look after your mental health that accommodate our differences as individuals. Here are some suggested strategies you can implement that will assist your overall mental health:
Socially engaging: Spending time with family, friends or the community. Being involved in social interaction no matter how small can make a difference to how you feel. Join in community activities such as sporting clubs or join the Huntington’s Community Connect!
Find an activity you enjoy: Activities or hobbies can focus your attention and have a positive impact on your sense of mental health and wellbeing as you are participating in something you enjoy. It can be as simple or as complicated as you like.
Investing time in your relationships: It is important to make space in your life to spend quality time with those people who are important to you. Investing in healthy relationships is essential for your overall mental wellbeing.
Focus on strengths: Directing your attention towards your strengths enables you to recognise what you can do well rather than focusing on what you cannot do.
Take time out: Give your self-permission to make time for yourself to relax and not focus on your worries for a while. Relaxing gives your mind and body time to recover from the stresses of everyday life. Mindfulness activities can reduce stress and is an easy fit into your everyday life.
A goodnights sleep: Whilst we might try no one can function properly without sleep. Sleep enables us to repair and restore our bodies and minds.
Keeping active: Your physical health plays a central role in your overall wellbeing. Engaging in physical activity does improve your mood and reduces stress.
Eating well: Nutrition and eating well does make a difference to the way you feel and therefore impacts your mental health in a positive way.
If you are currently concerned about your mental health please utilise the Beyond Blue Mental Health Check In. Engaging with the check-in will help you understand what kind of support you might need right now. Please also refer to the list of resources below for additional assistance: