Just like the rest of your body, your brain too needs regular “exercise” in order to function at its best. And it’s important to start now to prevent your cognitive skills from declining as you age. We bring to you some scientifically proven ways in which you can enhance your brain power.
Meditation may positively affect your health in many ways. It’s relaxing and soothing, and has been found to reduce stress and pain, lower blood pressure and even improve memory. Just as you exercise to expand and strengthen your muscles, you can meditate to increase the size of your brain. A 2000 study conducted by researchers at Harvard University found that meditation increases the size of the brain regions that are associated with focused attention, deep thought, and memory. The study says meditation can also help alleviate anxiety, depression, fear and anger. Various other studies have also shown that meditation can change our brains for the better in just eight weeks – even if we’ve never done it before.
Learn a new language
Learning foreign languages ignites cognitive abilities in infants, benefits the aging brain, and sharpens the mind. Learn one or many foreign languages to slow down cognitive decline. Studies have shown that learning foreign languages enhances the elasticity of the brain and its capacity to code information. Apparently the more languages a person learns, the faster their neural network reacts to process the accumulated data. Another research, which was led by the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, revealed that speaking two or more languages might slow down the cognitive decline associated with aging, even if the other languages are learned during adulthood.
This might come to you as a bit of a surprise, but playing Tetris is known to have several positive effects on your brain. Playing Tetris will increase gray matter for a short amount of time, and it can also help with performing spatial-related tasks. The most interesting part is that playing Tetris after a traumatic experience can prevent your brain from solidifying those memories. That means fewer flashbacks to negative memories over the long haul. If you have a smartphone or tablet with you at all times, then incorporating a little bit of Tetris into your day can be fairly easy.
Pick up a musical instrument
It’s a proven fact that musicians have bigger and well-tuned brains. Scientists have discovered that learning to play an instrument can increase the size of brain parts like the cerebellum and motor cortices. These parts of the brain literally become larger as you learn to play an instrument, and it doesn’t matter how old you are. This is because you’re constantly storing auditory information, which makes your verbal memory grow. Playing an instrument makes you use both sides of your brain, which strengthens memory power and improves abstract reasoning skills as well.
Eat “smart” foods
If you want to have a healthier brain, you have to include “smart” foods in your daily diet. What you put in your body will enter your bloodstream, flow to the brain, and affect the way you think and feel. Some superfoods that help your brain function better include blueberries, salmon, avocados, eggs, dark chocolate, yogurt, green tea and whole grains. Also, have a handful of nuts ever day. Nuts of all kinds are full of magnesium, a mineral linked to improvements in short- and long-term memory. It’s also important to avoid foods that will slow you down and affect your focus and productivity. Stay clear of saturated fats (red meat, butter), spicy foods, fried foods and processed foods. Also, cut down sugar. Research has shown that a sugar-laden diet can lead to poor memory and reduced brain volume, particularly in the area of the brain that stores short-term memory.
Manage stress and seek help if and when required
Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. When you are stressed, your body produces cortisol that has adverse effects on your brain. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression. Depression also increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream that, in turn, elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Research has found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus, which is where short-term memories are stored. Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat depression – your brain will thank you for it.
Other ideas to boost brain power
Work on being ambidextrous. Brush your teeth or hair, write, use the mouse and eat and drink with the “wrong” hand. When something is broken, try to find creative solutions using common objects. Make the repairs with odd items that you already have at home. Learn to convincingly argue both sides of an argument. Read something upside down. Exercising your word skills is also known to protect against memory loss as we age. Also, consider getting your Vitamin D levels tested. Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to a host of health issues, including a reduction in cognitive function. Make it a point to get some exercise every day. Many studies have shown exercise may increase the secretion of neuro protective proteins and improve the growth and development of neurons, leading to improved brain health.