You’ve probably heard the old adage “use it or lose it.” Many researchers do believe that this maxim applies to the brain health.
Brain training is all rage these days, often touted as way to sharpen your mind and even boost the intelligence. While many cognitive scientists suggest that claims surrounding the brain training are both exaggerated and the misleading, there is an abundance of the research suggesting that certain types of the activities can be beneficial for the brain’s health.
The brain’s plasticity allows to adapt and change, even as you grow older. As you learn the new things, you can create and strengthen the neural pathways and networks. This helps make your brain stronger, but it can also help make it more flexible and adaptable to the change.
These benefits can be particularly useful for keeping the our mind sharp as you get older.
One extensive study involved more than about 2,800 participants over age of 65 who each engaged in one of three different forms of the cognitive training. Types of training used included the speed of processing training, the memory training, and the reasoning training.
However, all three groups benefited, experiencing the protection from age-related cognitive declines that lasted at least the five years. Clearly certain the mental activities can have important the brain benefits.
Now let’s tackle some of the brain exercises that you can do at home. While the brain games are not designed to make you more intelligent, you might find that you become mentally sharper and cognitively stronger if you do practice them regularly.
One of best ways to strengthen your mind takes bit of commitment, but it is also one of most effective and rewarding. Find out what you need to do to get that brain of yours in the tip-top shape.
Take Care of Your Body to Take Care of Your Mind
If you want to take care of the mind, you need to start by taking care of your body.
Research has time again shown that the people who engage in the healthy behaviors such as the exercise and the proper nutrition are less susceptible to the cognitive declines associated with the aging process.
Studies from 2006 even suggest that the exercise can make you smarter and protect your brain from the shrinkage as it ages.
Research on the mice in 2013 has even revealed that the exercise can increase the neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells, in brain’s hippocampus.
One study published in the 2013 looked at the healthy behaviors in nearly 2,300 men over the course of thirty years. Researchers looked at the participants’ behaviors and the cognitive abilities starting in middle age tracked their progress throughout the old age.
The researchers found that the men who practiced certain healthy behaviors were around the 60 percent less likely to experience the cognitive impairment and dementia as they age. These healthy behaviors included not the smoking, maintaining a healthy BMI, regularly exercising, consuming lots of the vegetables and the fruits and consuming a low to moderate amount of the alcohol.
So if you want to build better mind, start by working on your physical health first. Go for walk, start incorporating more fresh fruits and the vegetables into your diet and try to give up any bad habits like the excessive alcohol consumption or the tobacco use. Some of these might be more difficult than the others, but your brain will thank you for the years to come.
Draw a Map of Your Town from Memory
While you might feel like you can navigate the streets of your neighborhood with eyes closed, try challenging the brain by actually drawing the map of your town or the neighborhood from memory. No the cheating! Try to include the major streets, major side streets, and the local landmarks.
Once you are done, compare your memory map to the real map of the area. How did you do? Are you surprised by some of things that you missed? If you found this activity too easy, try drawing less familiar area from the memory, such as a map of the country.
Navigating your way to supermarket or the doctor’s office might seem simple and almost automatic when you are behind wheel of your car. However, forcing yourself to remember layout of your neighborhood as well as draw and label it helps activate a variety of the areas of your brain.
Learn Something New
This brain exercise requires bit of commitment, but it is also one that just might give you most bang for your buck. Learning something new is one of the way to keep your brain on its toes and continually introduce the new challenges.
In one study, the researchers assigned the older adults to learn variety of the new skills ranging from the digital photography to quilting. They then did the memory tests and compared the experimental groups to the control groups. Those in control groups had engaged in the activities that were fun but not that mentally challenging such as the watching movies and listening to the radio.
The researchers found that only those participants who had learned the new skill experienced improvement on the memory tests.
They also discovered that the memory improvements were still present when tested again year later.
Some things you might want to try include the learning a new language, learning to play the musical instrument or learning the new hobby. Not only will you be stretching the mind, but you will also be continually learning something new as you keep expanding skills and becoming more accomplished.
Try Using Your Non-Dominant Hand
Up next is an interesting the brain exercise that one neurobiologist suggests might help “keep your brain alive.”
In his book which he wrote ” Keep Your Brain Alive: the 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase the Mental Fitness”, the neurobiologist Lawrence Katz recommends using your non-dominant hand to strengthen your mind. Because using your opposite hand can be so challenging, it can be great way to increase the brain activity.
Try switching the hand while you are eating the dinner or when you are trying to write something down. It will be difficult, but that is exactly point.
The most effective the brain activities are those that are not necessarily easy.
Up next is the activity that you probably do every day, but you might not realize just how beneficial it might be for the mental strength.
Studies from the 2019 suggest that the people who are socially active are also at lower risk of developing the dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Even if you are an inveterate the introvert, seeking the social interactions can be beneficial to your brain in both short and long-term. Some ideas for staying socially engaged to include the signing up for the volunteer opportunities in your community, joining a club, signing up for local walking group, and staying in close touch with friends and family.
Up next is 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 – the meditation. Before you say that this ancient Buddhist tradition is too the New Age for you, consider some of the research demonstrating the many benefits of the meditation.
Studies from 2007 suggest that the mindfulness meditation can help engage new neural pathways, resulting in improved self-observational skills and increased the mental flexibility.
The 2007 research has also shown that the meditation can help improve the attention, focus, empathy, and even the immunity. Studies also suggest that the meditation might even increase capacity of working the memory.
Are you ready to try this brain exercise? You can read quick guide to practicing the mindfulness meditation. You can also check out some handy tips for incorporating mindfulness into everyday life.
Once you’ve tried some of the brain exercises, you might be left wondering if any of those online “the brain training” websites might also help. Next up, let’s explore
So What About All The Brain Training Games?
Chances are probably pretty good that you’ve at least heard, or even tried, some of many brain training games, the websites, and the apps that are out there. Many of these tools claim that these computerized brain exercises can increase the mental flexibility, keep you the mentally sharper as you age and even make you more intelligent.
While there is still plenty of debate about whether or not these claims are the true, there is chance that playing these types of the mental games might is good for your brain.
How much exactly is still up for the debate. If you think you would enjoy such games, you can find nice list of brain training resources that you might want to check out.
If, however, you already spend too much of the time staring at your computer screen or the smartphone, your time is probably much better well spent going out for stroll, enjoying new hobby or even visiting with the friend. All of these activities can have the major long-term effects on health and vitality of your brain. (source)
Focusing on the brain health is one of best things you can do to improve the concentration, focus, memory, and the mental agility, no matter what age you are.
By incorporating the brain exercises into your everyday life, you’ll get to challenge your mind, sharpen the cognitive skills, and possibly learn something new and enriching along way, too.
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