Lately I’ve been having a lot of fun watching a television show called Brain Games on the National Geographic channel. I sit down with the intention of watching only a half hour of it and then wind up having to pull myself away from the show, it’s that interesting. It’s all about Brain Games – how your brain perceives messages and what exercises/games you can do to keep your brain young. You know that it’s important to work out your body with regular exercise. It helps keep your weight stable and strengthens your muscles. But, your brain also needs exercise to stay sharp and function optimally. So, I’ve assembled 10 great ways to boost your brain power every day to stay sharp.
Keep Your Brain Young with Brain Exercise
These activities don’t take long and can quickly become part of your daily routine. I recommend permanently adding #1, 2 and 10 to your daily activities but the others you can pick and choose in different, random orders, whichever suits you. Try to do a few every day though.
1. Start your day right. Going for a walk or doing aerobic exercise first thing in the morning really wakes up your body and your brain. It makes you more mentally alert as well as gives you more energy to get through your day. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise – doing it outside in nice weather, in a park, or in other pleasant environments can add to your brain’s stimulation.
2. Eat breakfast. It’s not just a saying – breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. After fasting for 6-8 hours or more, your brain is starved of glucose and other nutrients which need to be replenished. Aim for a high protein (eggs, cheese, meat, poultry, protein shake supplements) cooked with high Omega-3 fats (olive oil, walnut, flaxseed oil). Pair with a low glycemic carbohydrate (oatmeal, quinoa, sweet potatoes, wheat bran cereal) and a low glycemic fruit (berries, apples, grapefruit) for long-lasting brain and body energy. Omega-3 fats also help cut down inflammation in your brain as well.
3. Map a different route. Figure out a new way to take to work or wherever you’re going for the day. This stimulates your brain’s problem solving capacity and the new sights and sounds stimulate your brain’s learning centers.
4. Switch your hand usage. If you’re typically right-handed, try using your left hand for as many activities as you can, and vice versa if you’re left handed. This helps you exercise the other side of your brain, as well as equalizes the strength on the other side of your body.
5. Ditch the calculator. Do as many math problems that arise in your day with YOUR brain rather than the calculator’s. Working with numbers stimulates your brain’s problem solving and memory capacity. If you don’t remember how to do certain math problems, look up a tutorial on the internet to refresh your memory, and/or learn something new.
6. Read more books, newspapers. Preferably, paper copies if you can. Reading on computers puts more eye strain into what you’re reading and can rob brain energy. But if that’s the only time you have, then at least read more news and as much new information as you can find.
7. Play computer, or board games. Games like Sudoku, Scrabble, Brain Age (Nintendo DS), sites like Giggle Trigger, Rubik cube-like rearrangement puzzles, putting together a landscape puzzle with many same colored pieces, are fun and challenging ways to stimulate the learning, memory, and pleasure centers of your brain. You’ll be surprised at the mood boost these games offer.
8. Learn something new. Get a Word-A-Day dictionary to learn, and use, a new word every day. Paint a picture. Learn how to read and play music – experts say that learning/playing classical music benefits your brain the most. Take a class in something you’ve always wanted to learn or had an interest in. Socializing with other people, as well as learning new material, has a beneficial stimulating effect on your brain.
9. Learn to multitask. When you’re watching TV, talking on the phone, or exercising, try to also read something, rearrange the moving parts of a puzzle cube. This teaches your brain to do more than 1 thing at once which helps it to expand its perception and learning capacity.
10. Meditate. Slowing down your brain and relaxing it, is as important as stimulating it to learn. Meditation helps calm and de-stress your brain. Practice meditation in a well-oxygenated area (outdoors in a quiet environment is perfect), it helps your brain, and your entire body, to detox and turn off stress hormones.
As you can see, it really doesn’t take much to stimulate your brain. You’re likely doing some of these exercises/games already. It’s even more fun to engage in these activities with a friend! Remember to keep your brain’s nutrition optimal with Omega-3 fats, protein and water! Keeping your brain functioning at its best capacity, by feeding and exercising it properly can help you stay youthful and independent well into your older years.
Use It or Lose It: Brain Games, http://braingames.nationalgeographic.com/
How to Exercise Your Brain, http://www.wikihow.com/Exercise-Your-Brain