Healthy lifestyle includes doing some sort of regular physical exercises. That part is known. However, there is one part of your body, which is frequently overlooked, yet also requires regular training. Brain.
If you think that by solving a crossword puzzle or playing Sudoku now and then you are good, think again. All the stuff you do for fun, which does not truly challenge you or make you do something completely new, doesn’t qualify as exercising, or brain fitness as they call it. In a nutshell, brain fitness is a system which focuses on improving various aspects of your cognition, such as attention, memory, focus and even brain speed. Brain fitness is also about your diet, as there are certain foods which benefit your brain.
Let me start with the last point — food and then share some brain fitness exercises I consider useful.
Speaking about food:
- if you want to improve your memory and boost learning abilities, add some dark chocolate to your diet, and the darker the better. Surely, go for the least sugar content and no extras. Just darkety-dark-dark.
- if you care about slowing down cognitive ageing, regularly eat different sorts of beans. Dr. Martha Clare Morris (the author of the MIND diet) in her research found that eating beans significantly reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- from the same research of Dr.Morris, those who eat at least one serving of greens (like spinach, chard, kale, etc) per day were cognitively speaking 11 years younger.
- also a daily serving of nuts is always a good idea (don’t overdo with the quantity, as otherwise that might affect your stomach and bowels).
- weekly portion of fish (especially salmon, trout, sardines,…) likewise is great for your brain.
Now, the actual exercises.
- Jigsaw puzzles! (hey, mom, this one’s for you!) Apparently, visual judgement, constant switching from big picture to small pieces, even “rotating” them in your head in attempts to find the right fit — all that increases your brain speed and improves attention span.
- In order to improve brain plasticity you need to focus on activities which engage all levels of brain operation, like receiving, remembering, thinking and delivering information. To train that, try to listen to some sort of a podcast or watch a video about a subject which you are not familiar with. Listen attentively, but don’t take any notes. When the video (or podcast) is done, try to reconstruct what you heard: the sequence, main points, as much detail as you can. A guided tour in a museum also serves this purpose well. Go, listen, remember, come home, recreate.
- Another good exercise from “receiving input – processing input – delivering output” type is training your peripheral vision. Next time you are sitting on the terrace with a glass of wine, try looking straight ahead of you without moving neither your head, nor your eyes. With peripheral vision only try to capture as many details as you possibly can from the full picture which surrounds you. Which are the cafes and shops nearby, which commercials are hanging on the billboards. Everything you can possibly capture and remember. I will not go into scientific details, but training your peripheral does a lot of good to your ability to focus!
- Change roads, routines and hands. Whenever you start doing something automatically, your brain goes into a sleep mode. However, when you start doing something as simple as holding your toothbrush in a different hand, your neurones start actively working and that overall increases the speed and flexibility of your “inner processor”.
- Learn juggling. Not juggling million tasks at hand, but juggling with actual balls in the air. That hand-eye coordination which is perfected by juggling will significantly benefit your brain and especially memory.
- and in general, commit to regularly learning something new, not only because this is required for your work, but just because it’s fun and it engages your brain in a right way! When you need to learn a new skill or new information, you need to focus, pay close attention, perhaps engage multiple senses. Thus, lifelong learning is a must for a lifelong fit brain.
To conclude, you heard that one, right?
What gets trained, gets developed.
So are you going to try walking another road home this afternoon?