Our brain. We only have one, so we better be sure we’re taking care of it. After all, we want it to last a long time. When it comes to our bodies, we know that exercising and staying active ensures our body functions at its best, but how do we make sure our brains stay as fit as our bodies?
It turns out there are types of exercise and training that we can do to improve our brain health.
Give Your Dominant Hand a Rest
Whether you are a lefty or a righty, the opposite side of your brain controls your dominate hand. That is, if you are left-handed, the right side of your mind controls the movement. If you are right-handed, the left hemisphere of your brain is in control. So mix it up. Consciously make an effort to use your non-dominant hand in simple activities, such as brushing your teeth, using your computer mouse, or opening a door.
Not only has doing so been found to increase our self-control overall, but because it takes our brain out of its standard routine, it has also been found to strengthen and create new connections in the brain. And who doesn’t like a challenge?
Close Your Eyes
We’ve come a long way from the days when we thought listening was the best way to get something out of the classroom. These days, we recognize how important both tactile and visual learning are. In fact, studies show that people who were asked to recall memories did far better when they related to objects they held and images they looked at versus sounds they heard.
It goes without saying that our brains can benefit from concentrating on our senses. Try zeroing in on your sense of touch. Close your eyes for everyday activities such as eating a meal and allow your brain to focus on the sensory input it is experiencing. You’ll force your brain to pay attention to common experiences that it would have otherwise tuned out – which is great for its awareness and memory.
Play a Game
Scientists are mixed on the results, but there is a body of evidence that shows games such as crossword puzzles and Sudoku are good for your brain’s health. And over the past few years, studies have shown that these types of brain games can have memory and cognitive benefits that can last up to as ten years.
One of the best things we can do for our brain is to give it variety. Why? Because doing something we don’t do all the time requires our brain to put out more effort than it typically does.
This variation can be achieved in a multitude of ways. Whether you decide to cook a new recipe, visit a museum, or read about something new and break down the learnings from what you read, all of these activities keep your brain active and at work.
Move your Body
It turns out that physical exercise isn’t just good for your body — it’s good for your mind too. In fact, it may be one of the very best things we can do to keep our brains healthy and alert.
One recent study showed that 45-60 minutes of moderate physical exercise improved brain function in older adults, no matter what their cognitive level was before the physical activity. Another showed that aerobic exercise positively impacts the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that deals with memory and learning. And yet another review showed that aerobic and resistance training, tai chi, and yoga all improved the brain power in those studied, though each benefited the brain differently – including boosting memory, cognitive, and executive functions.
When it comes down to it, exercise is great for pumping blood through your body, in the process which delivers nutrients and oxygen to your brain, essential ingredients for growing new brain cells and blood vessels.
What tricks do you use to keep your mind spry and active? Drop us a comment on Facebook and let us know!