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Washington State University

Our office is moving in July!

NOTE: June 30, 2022 will be the last day we will be open so we can pack and move.

Research projects and community programs scheduled outside of our physical office will continue as planned. If you need to reach us, email us ( or leave us a message on our voicemail, (360) 778-5806, so we can respond to you as soon as possible.

We will open at our new location on July 18th at: 600 Dupont Street, Bellingham, WA

Healthy Brain Pledge

Take 4-H Healthy Brain Pledge silhouette of a brain

Take the 4-H Healthy Brain Pledge

Your brain is important, and like any other part of your body, it needs exercise to stay in peak performance. Promoting sound mental health isn’t so different from exercising your muscles: there are active times and regeneration times and you need both. The brain is like a huge web of evolving connections, and the more connections you can build, the healthier your brain will be. In order to “pledge your head to clearer thinking” try our 4-H Healthy Brain Pledge.

Keep track!

Try to engage in each of these activities everyday for one month.
Tracking Sheet (pdf)



circle divided into two halves, much like yin yang symbol, but with a ocean wave silhouette

Get in the Flow!

Have you ever been so focused on what you are doing that you lose track of time? Your brain releases the chemicals that build synapses when you focus, and the more synapses you have making connections the smarter you’ll get! Your ability to focus is an invaluable tool for learning and making decisions. Focusing on challenging and enjoyable activities gets you in the flow. Try not to multi-task when you enter a focused state, and try to avoid interruptions. A good flow activity is one you enjoy that is still challenging.


Lose yourself while actively engaging your focus in something you enjoy at least twice a day, at least an hour each time.




Arms reaching upwards to a butterfly


Be creative, let your imagination go, be spontaneous: all these things are a big part of keeping your mind sharp and flexible. Being open to exploration, possibilities and self-expression helps the mind sort and integrate its connections in new ways. Helping your brain seek out multiple ways of doing and connecting to things makes it resilient! (Neuroplasticity is healing.) Play is often also a form of emotional release. Take a chance and don’t take yourself so seriously! Play!


Do something spontaneous and creative at least once a day. Bonus points if you do it with other people!




figures embracing

Hug Somebody Special!

There is a lot of evidence that people with positive caring relationships live longer, happier lives. Positive social connections release oxytocin in the brain and that can improve your health and steer you away from depression (and possibly the unhealthy choices that follow it.) If you find yourself without people, try communing with nature or with animals, these are also equally satisfying connections. If you like to be alone, that’s one thing, if you are alone and you don’t want to be, reach out!


Share in a friendship activity or hug at least one person every day.

Social Distancing and Hugging

When illness restricts us from getting those hugs it doesn’t make human interaction any less necessary for us. During times of isolation here are some ideas to help your brain keep churning out oxytocin:

1) Sing together (music heals)
2) Tell each other stories
3) Hug a tree, be in nature
4) Care for animals
5) Make things for people you care about
6) Make plans with people you care about
7) Imagine sharing hugs with your special people
8) Hug a pillow while you talk to someone special




Human Brain and Oxygen

Embody your Brain

Your brain is more than the control center of your body, it is a part of your body. A healthy body is going to help keep a brain healthy too. Almost 25% of the oxygen you breathe goes to your brain! Brains need oxygen! Everyone should be able to find some kind of physical exercise they can enjoy, the kind that makes your heart beat fast and gets the blood pumping!

Think about what you put in your body. Your diet can have a lot to do with how your brain functions and how you feel. Healthy food choices = healthy brain.


One hour of vigorous activity each day and eat at least 5 veggies a day!





Lighten Up!

Mindful awareness is listening to what’s going on inside your heart and mind. Focusing the attention inward in order to recognize our own thoughts and feelings, has been shown to improve immune function. It can help build self-control, empathy and a willingness to take on new challenges. Some people are comfortable with stillness, solitude and self-reflection as a way to turn inward. More active people may discover mindfulness through non-competitive physical activity such as running, swimming, yoga or t’ai chi. Maybe you like a little of both? 10 to 20 minutes a day turning your awareness inward might change your whole outlook on life!


Keep a daily journal of the good things that happen to you and spend at least 10 minutes a day thinking about “How am I doing right now?”




electronic power symbol


You probably spend a whole lot of time doing things. Even when you aren’t doing something you are probably making plans about what to do next or stewing on what you just did. Very often we let our media devices fill in empty time. Do you live in a world where there is always something distracting you? Taking a little time each day to relax and just “be” gives the brain time to shift down a gear or two and integrate all of your experiences. Just relax! All the busy-ness will still be here when you get back.


Spend one hour a day relaxing without any electronic media. (HINT: Best hour for this is the one right before sleep.)




human sleeping in bed at night

Catch Some ZZZZs!

In deep uninterrupted sleep the brain slows, and control of the body is returned to the parasympathetic nervous system so the body can repair from the day’s stimulations. Sleep is critically important! People who sleep next to their portable electronics often have interrupted sleep patterns and memory and attention challenges related to sleep deficits. Leave your phone in another room.


6-8 hours of quality sleep every night.


Afterwards… let us know how you did!

At the end of the month, let us know how you did with this:

3-Minute Online Form


Adapted from “The Healthy Mind Platter for Optimal Brain Matter” © 2011 David Rock & Daniel J. Siegel and research indexed in “The Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology : An Integrative Handbook of the Mind” by Dan J. Siegel ©2012

Video Presentation: This is Your Brain Online: The Impact of Digital Technology on Mental Health by Dr. Scott Becker



WSU Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local WSU Extension office.