Contrary to popular belief, the brain is not a muscle. But in some ways it can function like one. Imagine that the network of synapses running through your brain is like muscle tissue. And like muscles, the way you support it and use it can either make it stronger or weaker. If you fail to provide your brain with proper stimulation and fuel, it can start to grow weaker, providing reduced function. But your habits can literally change the way you think. When you know how your behaviors and choices affect your brain activity, you can make the changes necessary to improve cognitive function. And you might be surprised to learn that some of these adjustments are actually a lot of fun. Here are just a few effective habits to improve your brain function.
Start a new exercise routine. When you hear the term “cognitive brain training”, it probably calls to mind the many digital games and programs that have become so popular of late. And while studies are still being conducted to determine whether or not these mental gymnastics actually work when it comes to improving cognitive function, one thing is certain: they can only potentially target certain areas of the brain. And when you sit in front of a computer or mobile device all day instead of moving around, it can weaken other areas. So if you already spend all day in front of a monitor, make an effort to get physically active. And if you already exercise, try something new. Try out weight machines, join a fitness class, go hiking or biking, or joint a team sport. It will target areas of your brain that are being neglected.
Stay social. Social interactions are not only important to us on an emotional level, but they can also affect our mental health. When people are often alone or secluded, their cognitive function can suffer as a result. We need interaction with other people to feel vibrant and fulfilled, and the physical and emotional side effects of loneliness can have an impact on our mental function.
Get creative. Art, music, writing, and other creative pursuits are often the things we give up when we don’t have time to squeeze all of our diverse interests into our busy adult lives. But creativity forces your brain to work in a different way than your average daily activities. Even making time for reading new books can help to stimulate creative centers in the brain, expanding the way you interpret sensory data, increasing retention and recall, and helping you to understand and communicate better.
Relax! Stress and sleeplessness are two major contributors to decreased cognitive function, even if only temporarily. Still, you could sharpen your mind by getting forty winks and trying to de-stress through activities like yoga or meditation, just for example.
Perpetuate learning. One of the best ways to improve cognitive skills is to never stop learning. Many of us set aside structured learning when we leave schooling behind. But variety is the spice of life, and this adage pertains to all types of learning. Whether you’re trying new activities in your daily life, you’re taking classes at your local community college, or you’ve joined a program like LearningRX that offers cognitive testing and brain training, making learning a habit is a great way to keep your brain healthy and performing at peak capacity.