One need to exercise your body, but it is extremely important to exercise your mind. There is an old adage “use it or lose it.” This maxim applies to your brain health according to researchers.
Brain training is quiet popular these days, often touted as a way to sharpen your mind and even boost intelligence. Many cognitive scientists suggest that the claims surrounding brain training are both exaggerated and misleading. However, there is an abundance of research suggesting that certain types of activities can be beneficial for your brain’s health.
What Can You Do to Strengthen Your Mind?
The brain’s plasticity allows it to adapt and change as you grow older. As you learn new things, you can create and strengthen neural pathways and networks making your brain stronger, more flexible and adaptable to change.
These benefits can be particularly useful for keeping one’s mind sharp as they get older. An extensive study involving more than 2,800 participants over the age of 65 were engaged in one of three different forms of cognitive training. Types of training included speed of processing training, memory training, and reasoning training.
The researchers found that those in the speed of the processing group experienced the maximum benefits, possibly because the training resulted in a broader brain activation pattern. However, all three groups benefited, experiencing protection from age-related cognitive declines that lasted at least for five years. Therefore certain mental activities can have important brain benefits.2
One of the best ways to strengthen your mind takes a bit of commitment, but it is also one of the most effective and rewarding experience.
• Take Care of Your Body to Take Care of Your Mind
One needs to start taking care of your body to take care of the mind.
Research has time and time again shown that people who engage in healthy habits such as exercise and proper nutrition are less vulnerable to the cognitive declines associated with the aging process.
Some studies reveal that exercise can make you smarter and protect your brain from shrinkage as it ages.3 Exercising regularly can increase neurogenesis, or can form new brain cells, in the brain’s hippocampus.
The researchers found that men who practiced certain healthy habits were around 60% less likely to experience cognitive impairment and dementia as they get older.
These healthy habits included not smoking, maintaining a healthy BMI, regularly exercising, consuming lots of vegetables and fruits, and consuming a low to moderate amount of alcohol.
So if you want to build a healthy mind, one needs to start working on their physical health first. Go for a walk or a jog, incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, and give up bad habits like excessive alcohol consumption or tobacco use.
• Draw a Map of Your Town from Memory
While one might feel like they can navigate the streets of your neighborhood with your eyes closed, try challenging your brain by actually drawing a map of your town or neighborhood from memory. Do not cheat! Try to include major streets and local landmarks.
Once you are done, compare your memory map to a actual map of the area. You will be surprised by some of the things that you missed. If you found this activity too easy, try drawing a less familiar area from memory, such as a map of the entire Country or state, and try to label every city.
• Learn Something New
This brain exercise needs a bit of commitment, but it is also one that just might give you the most bangs for your buck. Learning something new is one way to keep your brain on its toes and introduce new challenges every now continuously.
In one study, researchers assigned older adults to learn a variety of new skills ranging from digital photography to stitching quilts. Then did memory tests and compared the experimental groups to control groups. Those in the control groups had engaged in activities that were fun but not mentally challenging such as watching movies and listening to music.
It was also discovered that these memory improvements were still present when tested again a year later.
Some things one might want to try including learning a new language, learning to play a musical instrument or learning a new hobby. Not only will you be stretching your mind, but you will also be continuously learning something new as you keep expanding your skills and becoming more accomplished.
• Try Using Your Non-Dominant Hand
There is an interesting brain exercise that one neurobiologist suggests might help “keep your brain alive.”
In his book Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurotic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness, neurobiologist Lawrence Katz suggests using your non-dominant hand to strengthen your mind. As using your opposite hand can be so challenging, it can be a great way to increase brain activity.
Try switching hands while you are eating food or when you are trying to write something down. It will be hard, but that is exactly the point. The most effective brain activities are those that are not necessarily simple.
https://www.ivalueplus.com/humanresource/Next is an activity that you probably do every day, but you might not realize just how beneficial it might be for your mental strength.
Studies suggest that people who are socially active are also at a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Socializing tends to engage multiple areas of the brain and many social activities also include physical elements, such as playing a sport that is beneficial to one’s mind.
Even if you are an ingrained introvert, seeking social interactions can be beneficial to your brain in both the short and long-term. Some ideas for staying socially engaged to include signing up for group activities in your community, joining a club, signing up for a local walking group, and staying in close touch with your friends and family.
Meditation is a brain exercise that has been in use for thousands of years but has recently gained considerable recognition for its effectiveness.
One brain exercise you might not have considered might actually be extremely effective is meditation. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is all the rage at the moment, support by positive psychologists, business leaders, and alternative health practitioners.
Some research has also shown that meditation can help improve attention, focus, empathy, and even immunity. Studies also suggest that meditation might even increase the capacity of working memory of a person.
• What About All Those Brain Training Games?
Chances are probably pretty good that you’ve at least heard, or even tried, some of the many brain training games, websites, and apps that are available. Many of these tools claim that these computerized brain exercises can increase your mental flexibility, keep you mentally sharper as you age and even make you intelligent.
If, however, you already spend too much time staring at your computer screen or smartphone, your time is probably much better well spent going out for a jog, enjoying a new hobby or even visiting with a friend. All of these activities can have major long-term effects on the health and vitality of one’s brain.
Brain Exercises to Help Keep You Mentally sharp
Research suggests that there are many ways you can hone your mental sharpness and help your brain stay healthy, no matter what age you are. Doing certain brain exercises to help boost your memory, concentration, and focus can make daily tasks quicker and easier to do, and keep your brain sharp as you age.
1. Have fun with a jigsaw puzzle
Whether you’re putting together a 1,000-piece image of the Louvre Museum or joining 100 pieces to make Donald Duck working on a jigsaw puzzle is an excellent way to strengthen your brain.
2. Try your hand at cards
When’s the last time you played a game of cards? Researchers who conducted a study on mentally stimulating activities for adults, say a quick card game can lead to greater brain volume in several regions of the brain. The same study also found that a game of cards could improve memory and one’s thinking skills.
3. Build your vocabulary
A rich vocabulary has a way of making you smart. One can also turn a quick vocab lesson into a stimulating brain game
• Keep a notepad with you when you read.
• Write down one unfamiliar word, and then look up the definition.
• Try to use that same word five times the next day.
4. Dance your heart out
The learning of new dance moves can increase one’s brain’s processing speed and memory. Take a salsa, tap, hip-hop, or contemporary dance class or Try a Zumba exercise class.
5. Use all your senses
To give your senses and your brain a workout, try to do activities that simultaneously engage all five of your senses. You could try baking cookies, visiting a farmer’s market, or trying a new restaurant while you focus on smelling, touching, tasting, seeing, and hearing all at the same time.
6. Listen to or play music
Listening to happy tunes helps make more innovative solutions compared to being in silence. Which means, listening up some feel-good music can help boost your creative thinking and brain power?
7. Learn a new language
According to multiple studies, bilingualism can contribute to better memory, improved visual-spatial skills, and higher levels of creativity. Being fluent in more than one language may help one switch more easily between different tasks, and delay the onset of age-related mental decline.
The good news is that it’s never too late to garner the rewards of learning a new language. According to researchers, you can boost your memory and improve other mental functions by becoming a student of a new language at any given point in life.
The Bottom Line
Focusing on brain health is one of the best things you can do to improve your concentration, focus, memory, and mental agility, no matter what age one is.
By incorporating brain exercises into your everyday life, one gets to challenge the mind, sharpen your cognitive skills, and possibly learn something new and enriching along the way, too.