Our brains control everything in our body, for the most part. Not only that, but our brains also help us by learning how to cope with the world outside our bodies. As soon as we are born, we start to learn from what we see, hear, taste, feel, and experience.
Now that we’ve grown, our brains seem to be full, and remembering things isn’t as easy as it used to be. That’s okay. Here are thirteen valid ways in which you can give your cognitive abilities a boost.
Best Ways to Give Your Brain A Boost
1. Find Time to Meditate
This ancient art of focusing on your breath in a quiet comfortable space has been proven to have a significant effect on our brains and the way they function. A study conducted at Harvard University showed that subjects that meditated regularly showed an increase in gray matter. This is the part of the brain that is associated with long and short-term memory, deep thought, and general brain power.
Just sit somewhere that’s comfortable, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. In and out, in and out. If you want to enhance your meditation experience, try breathing through your nose and out of your mouth while calling out “ohm!” If you add some brain-boosting essential oils to your ultrasonic diffuser your practice can reach a whole new level.
…it down. Keeping lists of things-to-do is doing more than just giving you an easy way of remembering what you need at the grocery store. The simple process of putting your mind to paper makes it more likely that you will remember it in the future. This goes for your grocery list, your memories, your studies, and your everyday thoughts.
The key to this method is to literally write it down with pen and paper. A study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles showed that subjects who took notes longhand had better recall than those who typed them.
There are so many ways in which reading can enhance our brain power. First of all, it requires you to look up new words, which is exercising your cognitive abilities. You can take it a step further by reading books and not limiting yourself to articles. By doing this, your brain does “deep reading” making new connections in your brain.
That’s not where it ends. Reading fiction has been proven to increase a person’s emotional intelligence. In contrast, people who read the news opposed to fiction showed a decrease in empathy.
4. Drink water
Our bodies are more than 50% water, and we expel it daily through sweat, tears, and urine. It’s important to replenish our water by drinking it, which can greatly boost your mental abilities. When we drink our daily requirement, we can improve our concentration and cognition, get a better hold on our emotions, and remember better.
That’s not all. It increases blood flow which brings more oxygen to the brain. Excellent water intake can help relieve headaches and do its part in diminishing stress.
5. Reduce Sugar Intake
While our brains feed on glucose, there is no denying that in excess sugar can cause all kinds of problems. A study in 2009 showed that too much glucose resulted in a loss of brain power. This is especially evident in diabetics.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics can suffer from cognitive deficiencies. It affects the way your brain makes connections, can lead to shrinkage of the brain, and bring about a small-vessel disease. So, limit your sugar intake and only eat from natural sources, like fruits. Even then, try to consume in moderation and give yourself a treat occasionally.
6. Eat More of These Foods
While eating too much of some things (candy, cookies, cakes, pie) can bring about negative consequences for the brain, there are foods that have the opposite effect. Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for brain function. Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids, which love the area of the brain that deals with memory.
Broccoli is full of vitamin K, which has been proven to boost memory, turmeric can help with memory and aid in brain cell growth, and the antioxidants in blueberries fight neurodegenerative diseases. A healthy diet helps more than your waistline.
7. Don’t Eat at All
Fasting is becoming a trend lately, but the fact is- this practice of centering and cleansing is as ancient as they come. When you think about it with the way some people eat, our digestive systems never get a real break. Research on mice showed that after periods of intermittent fasting, their brain functioning improved.
Studies on other animals showed that fasting showed pretty much the same thing. This might have something to do with fasting’s ability to ease inflammation, which might be linked to neurodegenerative diseases.
8. Listen to Classical Music
This type of music doesn’t appeal to everyone, but unless you hate it, having some on in the background while you putter inside the house couldn’t hurt even if only for an hour. Studies showed that, while all music influences the brain and the way we learn, specifically classical music had a direct effect of the function of synapses, memory, and learning.
In addition, it seems that classical music can “down-regulate” genes associated with neurodegeneration. Music therapy is becoming more and more applicable to patients with cognitive issues.
9. Learn Something New
Our brain is a muscle like any other. When we are young, all we do is learn. At a certain point, we become adults and the excessive education stops and life begins. Before we know it, we are settled into the routine of work, home, family, and friends.
When was the last time you really learned something new? The fun part about it is- this can be anything you want. Painting, acting, music, carpentry, ceramics, whatever. Learning activates higher levels of the cognitive process.
It’s no surprise that exercise is good for the body. In fact, to anyone reading this who isn’t aware of the many benefits of working out, whether they do it or not, were you aware that one of the many payoffs to exercise is increasing brain function?
As it turns out, your memory and thinking skills can get a serious boost from some time spent on the treadmill. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published a study that seniors who practiced tai chi enhanced their brain functions including attention, problem-solving, verbal reasoning, planning, and working memory.
11. Memorize Phone Numbers
Are you old enough to remember a time when your contacts were a list of names in a book that you kept in your drawer? Some people out there do, and there are some people reading this who have never had to memorize a phone number.
Doing this would be beneficial in more ways than just being unable to reach anyone if you lose your phone. When you memorize things, your brain learns to remember. It gives your brain a workout and challenges it to be better. A great way to do this is to only allow yourself to dial the actual number for the people you are closest to. You’ll be giving your brain a boost and a way out if you ever find yourself phone-free.
12. Play Video Games
When I think of video games, I instantly get an image of a kid in their room, playing with their headphones on, while the parents downstairs are worried about how unhealthy it is. This is a stereotype after all because the fact is- people of all ages and genders play video games and love them. Parents who complained likely didn’t have all the facts.
Some video games can improve cognitive functions. One study showed the growth of new neurons was stimulated by playing a video game. Of course, this isn’t the case for all video games so research the ones you plan on playing. Also, just because it has positive effects doesn’t mean you should play all day.
There are very few consistencies in life but one that you can stick to is that everyone loves to laugh. Sure, there may be some people out there that don’t like to laugh, but we are sure they are few and far between. As it turns out, laughing does a lot more for us other than make us feel good.
A study conducted at Loma Linda University took a group of adults and spit them in two. Both were made to wait 20 minutes for a test. One group watched a funny video while they waited, and the other group just waited.
Both groups gave a saliva test for cortisol levels and then took a quick check on their short-term memory. The group that laughed did much better. Scientists theorized that the reduced stress gave the brain a boost to enhance memory, and the laughter is what caused the low levels of cortisol.
14. Sleep Well
Do you love to sleep? Just like laughing, it would be difficult to find a person that doesn’t enjoy catching a few Zs, as they say. Sleep is a cherished activity for so many reasons.
The obvious one is fatigue, but there are so many other benefits we get while we sleep. It boosts our physical and mental health alike. As for the latter, when you sleep well, your ability to learn increases, your problem-solving skills sharpen, and your attention span gets stronger.
So, the next time you think about pulling an all-nighter to learn something, think of what a waste of time that might be. You are better off getting a good night’s sleep and getting back at it early in the morning.
15. Get Away from The Screen
While the technology we have today keeps us constantly connected, this isn’t always a good thing. Sure, not looking at some type of screen in life is almost impossible in today’s world but taking a break from it for a decent amount of time every day can do wonders for your brain.
Spending too much time looking at the smartphone, television, and computer monitor can cause a series of problems like weight gain and a lack of sleep, which will inhibit your cognitive abilities. If you limit the time you spend with your face on a screen, you will be preventing any health-related issues.
16. Experience Some Culture
Getting cultured may sound snobby to some people, but there is something to it. When you go to a museum, a play, a symphony, or an art gallery, you are doing your conversation skills and your brain some good. A study published in 2012 showed clearly that cultural exposure showed a significant influence on neurocognitive processes.
No matter where you live, there is bound to be something cultural going on. Universities hold all types of events that stimulate the brain as well as your local park districts and other private venues. Whether it’s the local art classes first showing or an afternoon of Shakespeare in the park, a little culture in your life won’t hurt.
17. Play an Instrument
Do you play an instrument? If not, you should try. Not only is it fun, but it also has a ton of positive implications on our brain’s health.
It seems that playing an instrument has the ability to alter the shape and power of our brains. Sure, it seems intimidating to start up something like an instrument, but you shouldn’t let that stop you.
Playing music doesn’t mean you have to be a huge star or play in front of a crowd, but it can be an activity for yourself in a private setting. But, if you have ever had the desire to play music in public, then we highly recommend following that dream. Your brain will thank you for it.
There are so many fun ways to boost our brain health. Among the things I mentioned above, there must be something that appeals to you. The good thing about it is you can alter them and try some that are new to you. Just remember that it’s always good to keep our brain stimulated and engaged to prevent any degenerative diseases from creeping on as we age.