Physical exercise – jogging, walking, working out in the gym – is part of our everyday activities for most of us. It is a substantial part of our routine that helps us to reduce stress and keeps us fit. Working on the fitness of the mind and brain might have a slightly different story. Even if there are several tips and tricks to help the mind focus or relax – depending on the occasion – the brain’s health should get more attention. Here’s 8 tips to keep your mental muscle at its best shape!
Neuroscientist dr Jaan Aru says that we use our brain muscle for concentration, which works quite the same way as other muscles in our body: we cannot use it constantly as it gets tired. “When we think, our frontal lobe, which controls other areas of the brain, works very hard. It is very complicated and challenging for the muscle.” As we know, it is possible to train the muscles to enhance the results. What can we do to make our brain operating on a higher level? Here are some ideas!
- Focus on the thing in hand & turn off the notifications. Dr Jaan Aru says that we only learn and work efficiently when we have one task in hand because this is when our brain moves the fastest. “It is really easy to confuse the brain – whenever there is an intruder – we hear a phone beeping, new e-mails arriving – it disturbs us tremendously. We have to keep in mind that our brain is not created for the nowadays work environment. It had evolved throughout evolution when people had to deal with many different challenges. Our ancestors had to be alert all the time, so they could run when there was a threat. Our generation does not need to be so alert, but when something is blinking and making sounds, we have trouble concentrating,” he explains.
- Learn to use your other hand. We are the slaves to our habits, and it is good for the brain to shake things up a bit. Let’s try to learn something new, like using your other hand (if you’re right-handed, use your left hand, or vice versa) for daily activities like brushing your teeth and eating. Doing such activities can drive your brain to make positive changes. It is like millions of neurons learning new tricks as you finally establish better control of that other hand.
- Play Games. There are so many games relying upon logic, word skills and math that tease, challenge, and train your brain. Starting from sudoku, crosswords to electronic games, and solving puzzles improve the brain’s speed and memory. Another very beneficial game for your brain is chess. Research says that playing chess, a game associated with intelligence and strategy and suitable for everyone, has several upsides: it trains both sides of the brain, improves memory, and increases creativity. So, maybe it is time to dust off the chessboard?
- Train Your Brain. Training the brain is trendy – you can find courses, books and website, but the main idea is to work on memory, visualisation and reasoning. According to the specialists, working on these three concepts every day will improve the brain to be ready for anything.
- Discuss things attentionally. According to dr Jaan Aru, we should discuss our problems with others because it is good for our brain. “When people exchange ideas, it might turn out that the plans that seemed super-perfect for us are not so great after all. The reason here is that we do not have censorship in our brain, and that’s why discussing important matters with others might be beneficial in the end. Others might point out the obvious things that we should have considered ourselves. Also, when you carefully listen to the feedback to your ideas, your mind will start to generate new connections and thoughts in your head – that is the starting point for innovation,” he says.
- Work your body. Taking care of physical health comes naturally for us. The good news is that exercising also improves the fitness of your brain. According to tho Harvard Health, exercising even only for 20 minutes helps with information processing and memory functions. Exercise helps the brain create new neural connections faster that would mean you will learn quicker, and your alertness level will increase.
- Sleep well. Sleep quality is crucial for brain fitness, as this is when it consolidates learning and memories. Studies have shown that people without enough sleep have more trouble learning new information. Sleeping well after learning something new helps the brain effectively put that information into long-term memory. Set up a regular sleep regime and do not feel bad for sleeping 7-9 hours every night – your brain thanks you every time!
- Eat healthy – Dark Chocolate and other brain foods. As suspected, the brain does not appreciate junk food. Your brain is thanking you when your diet includes food like fish, fruits and veggies as these help the brain perform the best in the long run—if you have a sweet tooth, try dark chocolate; it gives your brain a boost. Yep, it is 100% justified to get a dark chocolate bar from the snack bar. :) While eating chocolate, the brain produces dopamine that helps to learn faster and remember better. Also, chocolate contains flavanols, which have antioxidant functions that can improve the way your brain functions.
Keeping the brain fit is not so challenging, but as with every training, results might not present themselves overnight. Still, having a brain working like clockwork has excellent benefits in the long run and should not be overlooked. What are your tips for brain fitness?
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