Guest reviewer, Kitty Parker, shares her thoughts about How to Build a Healthy Brain.

What did I learn from Kimberley Wilson’s How to Build a Healthy Brain?

I learnt that what you do to, and with, your body, and your lifestyle choices, all affect your brain. Kimberley Wilson guides us through the most recent scientific research relating to what happens to the brain when we, for example, change our sleeping pattern, or what stress really does to us physically as well as mentally.

In order to understand the premise of the book, we first have to understand the function of the brain. The first two chapters outline this, and Kimberley’s perspective is that of a neuroscientist - factual, without being too out of reach for an arts graduate like me. Did you know for example, that cytokines are the early-warning systems that alert other cells in the immune system and rest of the body that there is an impending bodily threat? I certainly didn’t!

The book discusses factors that contribute to a better, healthier brain such as: sleep, exercise, heat, therapy, emotions and psychological resilience, money matters and nutrition. All are key areas to consider when thinking about how to build the healthiest brain; and all are reflected in the case studies in each chapter.

A nutrition-trained chartered psychologist, Kimberley Wilson uses her background in nutrition to explore the gut-brain-axis. She is fascinating about the influence on food and mood, not only in the book but also in her podcast (Stronger Minds) and Instagram (@foodandpsych).

Her take on social media resonated with me – a person keen to detach herself from mind-numbing scrolling habits. She says that the more time spent being passive (aka not posting) and scrolling on social media sites like Instagram results in an increase in the upwards comparisons we will make to other people. As Instagram can be a showreel of a person’s best traits, we can internally inflict damage to our self-esteem, which has negative consequences on our overall brain health. More interestingly, social media can be positive. when used correctly. A study highlighted in the book showed that teen girls who only followed inspiring female role models on social media and made sure that they took breaks from time to time, felt a greater sense of self-motivation and self-worth.

Sometimes reading self-help and wellness books can provoke a negative feeling of ‘I should be’ doing something more to help myself, but ‘I can’t’. Kimberley addresses how to make change stick, setting out a set of achievable goals to explore in creating healthier brain habits. She also reassuringly points out that relapsing into old habits is part of the cycle for change. No need to be beating ourselves up for skipping one day of exercise or forgetting to brush our teeth at night. Recognising our relapse is all part of the process.

Key ‘takeaways’ at the end of every chapter are brilliant short summaries that act as a place of reference for the reader to assess where they may be in terms of brain health, and how to progress. All in all, it was an insightful read into what lifestyle factors can influence brain health, and Kimberley Wilson is sure to be one to watch at ChipLitFest.

How to Build a Healthy Brain 4:30pm Fri 22 April Parish Rooms. Ticket price includes brain-healthy snacks.