Ever heard the phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” As more research is done to help doctors and scientists understand neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, many are finding that this old time phrase isn’t too far off from the truth. These studies have proven that as we age, the neural circuitry of the brain becomes increasingly complex; in turn, making the neurological pathways to memories and new information more difficult to access.
Though the brain isn’t technically a muscle, it can be worked like one. Modern science has proven that the brain grows and changes as it learns. As you work out complicated problems, the brain responds by building more direct pathways to information. This allows you to access information more quickly and easily and can also repair, rebuild and strengthen damaged neurological circuitry.
1. Pump it Up with Mnemonics
Just like working out your pecs or biceps, you need to push your brain fitness boundaries to get maximum results. Research shows that mnemonics are an excellent way to help your brain build strong associations. Next time you meet someone new, whether a business associate or social acquaintance, use mnemonics to help you remember their name. Mnemonics built upon something unique you learned about the person during you first meeting often work great; for example, Andrew the architect, or Deana dirty martinis.
2. Work Your Weakest Link
It is common when starting any new fitness regimen to work the easiest muscles first to help you build confidence. Though this is a good tactic for building confidence it doesn’t give you the best fitness results. The same goes for working your brain. If you tend to use crossword puzzles and word games most often to help improve cognitive function, try kicking it up a notch by adding brain games you are totally unfamiliar with. For example test your wits using sound cues generated by auditory recognition games. Putting your senses to the test can seriously enhance your brain workout. There are a plethora of brain games to choose from on sites like Luminosity and Fit Brains.
3. Break a Brain Sweat With a New Hobby
Whether it’s painting or building model planes, starting a new hobby can greatly enhance brain function. Mastering new mechanical tasks allows our brain the opportunity to map out new circuitry and create and repair neurological pathways to both new and old information.
4. Eat & Sleep for Brain Fitness
Balance is always the key to total mind and body wellness. Maintaining your balance means feeding your brain and body for success. Foods that are high protein such as fish can help nurture brain growth and repair while supplements like ginkgo biloba are said to improve concentration and enhance memory. Getting enough sleep is imperative to overall fitness and good health. Adults should get at least 7 solid hours of sleep each night. One helpful tip is to enjoy a light snack before bed that contains a small amount of natural sugar, such as a piece of ripe fruit. The extra boost you receive from this healthy snack will support positive brain activity while you rest.
Though your brain is not really a muscle, it sure seems to act like one. Just like muscles can become atrophied when they go unused, so can your brain. So get out there and try something new, challenge your brain to grow. You will be surprised at how little effort it takes to give your brain a meaningful workout with lasting mental benefits.