From losing your keys to forgetting appointments, at one point or another we all wonder if our brain is slipping. Instead of growing old gracefully, there are plenty of activities you can do to increase your brain activity and function.
Our minds consist of five main cognitive functions: memory, attention, language, visual-spatial skills, and executive function. Keeping these areas mentally sharp is one key to increasing brain activity and reduce the brain fog.
1. Mind the Memory
Memory is a complex process that involves different areas of the brain. Short term memory utilizes different brain cells than long term memory. In our fast-paced society, quick memory recall has becomes more and more important. There are multiple brain enhancing techniques that you can use to improve your memory and acquire new skills.
Did you ever wonder why certain scents trigger your memory? Research suggests that when we engage several of our senses into a learning activity, the brain absorbs this information rapidly. Integrating visual and sensory details will increase the effectiveness of learning for people of all ages.
2. Switch Your Routine
According to the Franklin Institute, a great way to improve brain activity is to switch up your everyday tasks in order to force your brain to compensate. For example, try using your non-dominant hand to write. Not only does this take more focus, it also strengthens your hand-eye coordination. You can do similar tasks using your non-dominant hand including brushing your teeth, holding your computer mouse, and opening jars.
These challenges help build new associations between different neural connections of the brain. The following exercises will help improve your memory and strengthen brain function. Try doing one or more of these activities daily.
3. Surf the Web
You heard it right, there are benefits to spending time surfing the Web. According to researchers at UCLA, spending time on the Internet may stimulate and improve brain function. In the UCLA study that was reported in a 2008 issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, twenty-four volunteers ages 55 to 76 underwent reading and Internet tasks.
While the two groups had similar brain activity when it came to reading, the group that “surfed” the Internet showed more activity in other areas of the brain. That’s good news for all the Web junkies. Keep surfing!
4. Language, Word Games and Crossword Puzzles
Put that word of the day calendar to good use. By stimulating the mind with new words, new languages, and word games, you may be able to protect against the development of the pathologies associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Language activities will challenge your ability to recognize, remember and understand words. They also exercise fluency, grammatical skills, and vocabulary. By practicing language and word games daily, you can expand your knowledge of new words and much more easily retrieve words that are familiar.
5. Exercise For Your Brain
Moving the body demands a lot from the brain. Even light to moderate exercise activates countless neurons, which generate, receive and interpret repeated, rapid-fire messages from the nervous system. These neurons coordinate muscle contractions, vision, balance, organ function and all of the complex interactions of bodily systems.
Physical exercise can keep your brain healthy with age and may prevent diseases such as dementia. As you age, your circulatory system slows which can cause cognitive deficits. Since exercise provides benefits to the circulatory system, it’s no surprise that it helps improve brain activity.
As a mom, I read countless articles on playing Mozart for my baby. It’s supposed to stimulate brain activity, and according to my mother-in-law, it makes “smart kids.” Music has long been theorized to boost your brainpower. Research has also shown that listening to music while exercising boosted cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills in people diagnosed with coronary artery disease.
Music can enhance cognitive functioning and mental focus. A research team from Stanford University Medical Center showed that music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory. Here's your excuse to download some new songs and sing along.
7. Brain Aerobics
One of the simplest methods to boost your brain function is to keep on learning new things. There’s that old saying, that you should learn something new each day. This doesn’t mean you need to break out school text books and tackle the geometry that gave you a tough time in high school. Learning new things can include traveling. learning about different places and cultures, learning to play an instrument, or taking on a new hobby like knitting or scrapbooking.
Aerobics for the brain might consist of memorizing state capitals, or recalling movie stars whose name began with A. Force you brain to search for stored information. This will improve recall time, and help keep your brain fit as you age.
Mental exercises can boost your memory and can strengthen neural connections, as well as form new connections. Although taking up a new task or trying an unfamiliar mental exercise may seem daunting at first, repeated effort will pay off. The Mayo Clinic recommends practicing mental exercises and learning new tasks to maintain mental fitness. For best results, keep your exercises consistent and challenging, just as you would with physical exercise.
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