Apparently our brains begin a slow decline at around the age of 30. While 30 years seems like a lot of time in which to learn, given that most people can expect to live another 50 years after that, it does seem a little imbalanced. Even if you’re not too worried about the possibility of dementia, little irritations like forgetting where you put your car keys can make life frustrating.
It doesn’t have to stop there though - there’s a lot you can do to increase your brain function and stop it going into decline. In fact, you can keep learning and absorbing knowledge your entire life.
Youth is the time for adventures of the body, but age is for the triumphs of the mind.
– Logan Pearsall Smith
did you know?
Strategic games like chess have been shown to increase learning ability and IQ levels. Studies also show that chess can increase your creative ability, as well as memory.
READY, AIM, FIRE
To get your neurons fired up, exercise is key – and although physical activity is a great brain booster, sedentary exercises also work like reading or writing. A recent study that tested participants’ cognitive ability six years prior to their death and then examined their brains after death showed those who read and wrote had fewer signs of Alzheimer’s than those who didn’t. Reader’s whose brains did show signs of dementia, didn’t actually display any symptoms of it while they were alive.
There are numerous every day activities that can exercise your brain and help stave off the dreaded memory loss, confusion and mental decline that haunts many elderly people.
Here are five ways you can easily exercise your brain:
Talk & play
While you may spend most of your time thinking (or think you do), talking to people forces you to focus on their responses and how that may affect your own thoughts, as opposed to just having yourself to agree with. Note that if your conversation merely covers the polite ‘how are you’ type information, it’s not going to tax your brain much – so, engage in deeper conversations that allow your brain to be challenged. This exercises your strategic and logical thought processes. Social interaction is a great way to exercise your brain. And, if you’re still a child at heart, there’s nothing quite like playing a video game to get your strategic juices flowing.
Exercise your visual and spatial abilities by observing and remembering the location of five things when you enter a room. By quickly looking around, identifying and then remembering the items, you’ll be forcing your brain to be more observant of your surroundings and exercise your memory skills.
Expand your vocabulary
To increase the area of your brain responsible for language, read something every day you wouldn’t ordinarily read – for example, if you usually only read the business portion of the newspaper, try reading a sports article for a change. You’ll encounter new words, in context. If you’re jumping from the social pages to a book on philosophy, keep a dictionary nearby so you can more easily integrate new words and phrases into your everyday speech. Practise using these new words in your daily life.
Many of the tasks we perform everyday are so routine we do them without thinking. Keep your mind attentive by using a different hand to brush your teeth, work out a riddle or maths problem while you’re driving, or listen to an audio book while you exercise. Do things differently, drive different routes, if you usually dry yourself from top to bottom try it the opposite way, sleep on your partners side of the bed one night, get dressed in a different order.
Increase your memory ability by challenging it – learn the lyrics to a new song (not just the chorus), or get dressed in the dark – you’ll be surprised at how much you rely on sight to accomplish things, rather than memory.
LEARN TO PLAY AN INSTRUMENT. RESEARCHERS CONTEND THAT LEARNING TO PLAY AN INSTRUMENT CAN INCREASE YOUR IQ BY AS MUCH AS 7% – IN BOTH CHILDREN AND ADULTS. APPARENTLY, MUSICIANS’ BRAINS FUNCTION AND DEVELOP DIFFERENTLY IN THE AREAS RESPONSIBLE FOR CONTROLLING MOTOR SKILLS AND HEARING, STORING INFORMATION AND MEMORY. THIS IN TURN INCREASES YOUR ALERTNESS, EMOTIONAL PERCEPTION AND PLANNING ABILITY
did you know?
It’s now been well established that physical activity increases cognitive ability – not only is exercise good for physical health, it’s also a must for good mental and emotional health. Physical exercise actually helps your brain generate new neurons; a vital foil to the neuron-depleting results of stress. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise has a significant effect on the brain’s structure and increases the brain’s plasticity (learning ability or capacity) – so the anti-ageing effects of exercise on the brain are clear.
JUST DO IT
Any activity that encourages you to use your brain can be construed as exercise – but as with physical exercise, you need to keep pushing just a little to up your fitness levels – so, choose something challenging each day, from doing Sudoku or playing a strategic video or board game, to having a friendly debate or reading an academic article on something new to you.
Stress is a huge factor in bringing on cognitive decline – so, choose a brain-exercising activity that’s also relaxing, such as having a few friends over for dinner (choose a recipe you haven’t yet mastered) – a Harvard Health study indicated that people with five or more social connections had half the risk of cognitive decline than those who had none.