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RTE presenter Dr Lara Dungan's simple tips for success and how to keep your brain engaged

Dr Lara Dungan, presenter of RTE One's 'Eco Eye', and contributor to Newstalk's 'Futureproof', talks to Liadan Hynes about the simple habits that can keep your brain engaged.


Lara Dungan

Lara Dungan

Lara Dungan

'I have tried to build a range of habits into my daily life to ensure I keep mentally and physically healthy and active," says Lara. "I walk in and out of work every day, come rain, hail or shine. It's a great way to clear the sleep from your mind in the morning and let go of the day's events in the evening."

She is a big believer in taking even the smallest chances to build exercise into your life. "When I'm in work, I force myself to take the stairs rather than the lift. It's only a small thing but it can make a big difference in fitness for people who are moving around a big building all day."

Boundaries with work have proved important in terms of achieving peace of mind for Lara.

"I always make sure I leave work behind when I leave in the evenings. Even if it means I have to stay 20 minutes late to get one last task done or to make a list of the things I need to do the next day. Then you can switch your brain off. Don't have your work emails in your phone. Very few people really need to be available all the time, work can become an addiction if you let it and, more and more these days, people are letting work take over.

"I never snooze my alarm. Even though it's the most tempting thing in the world, it's not worth it. I would advise everyone to set your alarm for the actual time you need to get up, and then get up as soon as it goes off. Snooze sleep is bad sleep so don't do it."

Learning is hugely helpful, but it is crucial to keep trying when attempting to master something new.

"I find a lot of the time adults will give up when trying to learn a new skill. The thing is to persevere.

"Secondly, just keep going, because your brain will adapt and you will learn any task through repetition."

It's also important to remember that we are never too old to take on board new skills.

"The concept that you can't teach an old dog new tricks is completely erroneous. You can still learn and expand your brain at any stage; your brain will eventually mould. It will keep your brain active and it can help to offset diseases like dementia."

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* I can't emphasise enough how important good sleep hygiene is. Go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time. Don't eat just before bed. Sleep well and sleep often. Without sleep you can't function. You think it's good to stay up and do an all-nighter, but it's not.

* Eat a healthy diet - eat properly and regularly. Concentrate on what you're eating, don't just eat whatever's in front of you, or because you're bored, or because the portion was doled out and you feel that you should finish it. The big thing for bringing your brain to an optimal level is food.

* If at first you don't succeed, try not to give up. And even if you don't succeed, if you're enjoying it, keep going. Try new things, give yourself new adventures - as long as they're safe and you're comfortable doing it.

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