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Five Ways To Keep Your Brain Sharp

 

We all know that as we age we can lose some of our ability to think quickly and clearly. And we don’t have to be elderly to feel this. In fact, this is a normal part of the brain conserving energy: it puts its resources into pathways that are being used and reabsorbs the ones that aren’t.

Hence some of the “brain games” that are exercises for your brain. However, studies show that although doing these brain games makes you better at those specific games, it doesn’t improve general cognitive function.

To improve cognitive function we need to keep our brains healthy as well as active. Here are five tips:

  1. Get 7-8 hours sleep each night. The brain regenerates when you sleep. In fact we need sleep more than we need food. After only a few days of sleep deprivation people have been known to have hallucinations and even psychotic episodes. We all know that we focus and concentrate better, think more clearly and respond better to stressful challenges when we’re well rested.
  1. Meditate daily. Meditating each morning is like tuning a musical instrument before a concert. Without tuning, the instrument will function sub-optimally. So it is with our brains and meditation. Regular meditation changes the structure of the brain, increases both white matter and grey matter and and helps to improve communication transfer between different parts of the brain. In fact, studies show that regular meditation is one of the keys to living a flourishing life where one can achieve their best potential.
  1. Do some physical activity every day. It doesn’t have to be anything formal or serious. You might just start taking the stairs at work or home instead of the elevator, or walking when you would normally take a car, or parking your car 15 min walk from where you need to be. As well as increasing blood flow to the brain, exercise can change the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills. It’s also an effective way to reduce the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the blood. Sustained levels of cortisol, which may come from sustained stress, can be neurotoxic, making our thoughts foggy and unfocused. Exercise helps the body to “burn away” the cortisol faster.
  1. Eat more fish. We know that the Omega-3 fats in fish help to keep the brain healthy. But now there is increasing evidence that these fish oils may help in the treatment of depression and may even prevent the onset of dementia. Studies also suggest that actually eating fish may have a greater protective effect than taking fish oil supplements.
  1. Mix things up and get out of autopilot. Give your brain some novelty regularly and keep changing it. Learning new things, or doing familiar things in new ways causes the brain to lay down new neural pathways. Drive to work a different way, brush your teeth with the other hand, play scrabble, or start a crossword. Or challenge yourself even further and learn a new language, drive somewhere you’ve never been before (using a map, not a GPS), or have a go at a new sport or dance.

Enjoy building a stronger healthier brain!

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