The Importance of Keeping Your Brain ‘Fit’
Who doesn't love to show off firm and defined arms? Or an abdomen cut like a washing board? And that's fine, too. But we really should have the same dedication and enthusiasm for showing off when it comes to training the brain. To avoid having the connections between neurons wear out and deteriorate faster than normal due to normal aging, it has been proven that mental exercise can improve brain function and slow cognitive decline in adults over time. (1) Let's get to work!
Online brain challenges
Being quarantined in many parts of the world is no excuse for not training the brain, especially since most games are completed individually while technology offers an array of options. A few years prior to the pandemic, a small study in Saudi Arabia was conducted on the use of a computerized brain training game program, in healthy adults. Fifty-one people were studied, using this method for 15 minutes a day, seven days a week. After 3 weeks, the purpose was to see if Lumosity had an impact on improving attention and memory capacity. The games included processing speed, visual memory, and attention challenges, among others. The results demonstrated a significant enhancement in brain performance and other functions, such as attention and memory. (2)
Read out loud
You don't have to be a Master of Technology to keep your brain in shape, though. The basic activities that our grandparents did in their day are just as effective as computerized ones today. A study in Japan found that reading aloud activates the bilateral temporal and frontal cortexes, compared to normal reading, by processing sound in parallel with reading. In addition, this can be a doubly functional activity when performed as an emotional connection tool, such as reading stories or telling tales to grandchildren, for example. If there is distance between you and loved ones, create reading sessions over the phone with video or regular calls, turning the exercise into a family time for both children and older adults. (3)
The numbers add up
Just like with reading out loud, research has shown that solving simple arithmetic problems can help improve learning, processing speed, short-term memory, and working memory, among other things – especially in older people. (4)
You can also complete number games such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles, which alternate letters and numbers. Both are excellent ways to keep the brain active. (5)
Challenge your weak side
We are accustomed to using our dominant side (right or left) to perform major activities like writing, cooking, brushing our hair, or picking something up off the floor. A very simple brain exercise is to use your non-dominant hand every day for a few minutes! This will help activate the hemisphere of the brain that is usually on vacation. Do it with non-risky activities, including brushing your teeth or hair, picking up objects, etc. You can start in front of a mirror until you get the hang of it. (6)
Organize your thoughts
Other research has shown that systematic mental training, such as meditation practice, is another excellent tool for neuroplasticity. Meditation can help you maintain focus longer, just like physical practices that include breath work. Either method seems to produce positive changes in brain structure and function. (7)
Stop and smell the roses
Memory can be activated by certain smells related to our childhood and other important moments, places, and people in our lives. There are also smells that, although new to us, can promote relaxation, concentration, and mental clarity. Certain smells can provoke positive emotions, improve mood, and decrease stress and inflammation markers that can affect the brain. Incredible that smell can boost cognitive function. (8)
A simple exercise to start is to smell food and attempt to distinguish its different ingredients. For example, you can start with something that contains spices like cloves, turmeric or cinnamon, or a chocolate dessert. Try smelling a comfort dish that takes you back to your childhood. You can even evoke pleasant memories by dabbing on essential oils or lighting incense with a specific aroma.
Eating and Exercise
Physical exercise also plays an important role in proper brain maintenance and function. One study found it promotes neuroplasticity, slowing down factors that atrophy neurons, as well as promoting the formation of new neurons and improving brain function. (9)
It is also important to note that proper nutrition, with green leafy vegetables, fruits such as blueberries, nuts, cocoa, healthy fats like avocado, and blue fish, in addition to supplements such as omega 3, turmeric, ginseng, and vitamins E and B, will always be an important part of good brain function that we should maintain throughout the rest of our life. (10) (11)
Let's get our brain in shape, together!
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