Many of us spend several hours each week maintaining our bodies. But what about our minds? Our brain needs a workout just like out biceps and quads. And lest you think the best way to get your brain in shape is taking a speed reading course in Korean — think again. According to a recent study conducted by HarvardUniversity (www.health.harvard.edu/im) there are several easy methods for keeping your mind sharp. In fact I’d go as far as saying it’s so easy it’s a no-brainer!
1) Get off Your Ass! O-k, maybe I could have been more polite, but the point is “moving” — be it walking or any other type of aerobic activity — pumps up your heart rate and gets the ‘ol blood pumping which increases capillary development in the brain, which means more blood supply, more nutrients and more oxygen. All good for your brain.
2) Eat Right to Think Right: The way to a person’s heart may be through his stomach, but that also a good way to the brain. Eating the right foods — specifically the ones that contain antioxidants — not only cut down on your cancer risk but also aid in keeping a fresh, nutrient-filled flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.
3) The Need for Speed: There is a way-cool computer-based training regimen to help speed up how the brain processes information (www.positscience.com). This “brain fitness” program works with language and hearing to improve both speed and accuracy. Check it out. Even though our brains naturally start slowing down after age 30 – there’s still hope and help. So log on!
4) Relax: It’s one thing to challenge your brain, it’s another to stress over it. Traumatic stress is bad for your brain cells. Stress can even disturb cognitive processes like learning and memory. I’m not saying you need to take up meditation (although it couldn’t hurt), just stay loose. Relax and have fun.
5) Sleep: Yep — a good night’s sleep can more than double an individual’s chances of solving problems and what’s more, the sleeping brain processes huge amounts of information.
6) Laughteris the best medicine: I saved the best for last. Humor — in case you didn’t know – stimulates the production of dopamine which is the “feel good” chemical in your brain. That means laughter should be high on your list of activities you want to do every day. Whether it’s watching a comedy on TV or cracking a joke with a friend, laughter really is the best medicine.
And if that wasn’t easy enough for you, then take note of the following:
a) Don’t Smoke. Smoking may not impair memory loss but it increases the risk for stroke and hypertension all of which can kill you. That much you CAN remember.
b) Don’t Drink too Much. It’s been proven than a glass of wine each day is good for your heart. But a bottle of Jack Daniels a day will burn up your neurons which will burn up your memory. And what fun is THAT?
c) Work on your social skills. Especially when you’re older, socializing is one of those things that keep you sharp. Any social activity is a stimulant no matter what your age.
d) Give up boxing as a hobby. Head trauma results in memory impairment and worse. Want proof? Just ask Muhammad Ali. Even if you don’t box, you can prevent head injury by wearing protective gear when you ride a bike or play contact sports.
Like every other part of your body, your brain deserves the same or even more attention. So give your brain it’s due this holiday season and beyond!