Our brain is the most crucial organ in the body as it is responsible for memory, emotion, and learning. As we grow older, we don't just lose muscle. Our brain functions may also weaken, more specifically, our brain's cognitive reserve declines, showing visible signs of slowing or memory loss. That can make it more difficult to perform mental tasks.
But just as weight workouts add lean muscle to your body and help you retain more muscle in your later years, following a brain-healthy lifestyle and performing regular, targeted brain exercises may also increase your cognitive functions.
Now let's tackle some brain exercises and lifestyle changes that you can do at home. While these activities are not designed to make you more intelligent, you might find that you feel mentally sharper and cognitively stronger if you practice them regularly.
1. Make Sure You Get Your Hours of Sleep
We want to start with this point since the key to your brain functioning well is the amount of rest which is directly linked to energy levels of an individual. Sleep deprivation can be harmful to your health and, to your brain in the long run. Sleep is vital to several brain functions.
Sleep is vital for keeping your brain functioning and your mental awareness sound. While you’re asleep, your brain has a chance to relax in order to be fully engaged for the next day.
Make an effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day of the week, including weekends. Doing this establishes a regular sleep-wake cycle. It may help you by adopting the habit of doing the same things each night before bed, such as taking a warm bath or reading a book.
2. Drawing a Draft or a Map of Your Town from Memory
You might feel like you can navigate the streets of your neighborhood with your eyes closed. However, we suggest trying to challenge your brain by actually drawing a map of your town or neighborhood from memory. No cheating! Make sure to include major streets, major side streets, and local landmarks.
You can also try remembering the layout of your way to the supermarket or doctor's office. This activity is not only fun, but you may feel that your memory gets sharper and sharper as you consistently do it every day.
Once you are done, compare your memory map to a real map of the area. Do they match? Are you 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 United States or Europe, and try to label every state or country.
3. Learn Something New
This brain exercise requires a bit of commitment, but it is also one that might give you the most bang for your buck. Learning something new is one way to keep your brain on its toes and continually introduce new challenges.
Many studies have found out that people who have engaged themselves in a new hobby or have learned a new skill experienced an improvement in the memory tests.
You might want to try to include activities such as 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 continually learning something new as you keep expanding your skills and becoming more accomplished.
4. The “Wrong” Hand
This is a simple trick to make life a little more interesting and challenge your body and brain in a new way.
The next time you brush your teeth, scroll your phone, use the mouse for your computer and your usual to-do-list, try using your non-dominant hand.
It turns out that there are several benefits to working your non-dominant side that make this a worthwhile experiment. It forces us to think, balances our bodies, helps us be more open-minded, and has been linked to improving creativity.
5. Eat Right, Eat Healthy
Nothing beats a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating. You should follow a healthy dietary pattern that includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Try to get protein from plant sources and fish and choose healthy fats, such as olive oil or canola, rather than saturated fats. The below options may also help:
- Green veggies such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like Vitamin K, Lutein, Folate and Beta Carotene. Research suggests these plant-based foods may help slow cognitive decline.
- Fatty fish are abundant sources of Omega-3 Fatty acids, healthy unsaturated fats that have been linked to help in preventing brain risks.
- Flavonoids, the natural plant pigments that give berries their brilliant hues, also help improve memory.
- Coffee and tea might offer more than just a short-term concentration boost. Just make sure you drink them in moderation
- Nuts are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats, and walnuts in particular, might also improve memory.
6. Mediation and Exercise
Exercise may improve mood and sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. If you want to build a better mind, start by working on your physical health first. Go for a walk or run and make it consistent every day. Thirty minutes is all you need! This might be more difficult than other tips, but your brain will thank you for years to come.
Mediation may also be highly effective. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is all the rage at the moment, espoused by many positive psychologists, business leaders, and alternative health practitioners. It may offer support to concentration and mental flexibility.
7. 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 out there. Brain games designed explicitly for training cognitive functions of the brain may be hugely beneficial in relation to supporting concentration and memory.
Take on new brain challenges to continually provide opportunities for your brain to ‘work out’ and remain active. Moderation is always recommended, as too much exposure may drain your energy. It is suggested you allocate at least 30 minutes to one hour per day.
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The best way to support your mind is with commitment. Applying the activities above in your daily routine may be just the starting point you’re looking for!