Our brains are amazing machines. Containing around 86 billion nerve cells which connect to other nerve cells, our brains are masters at creating an amazing coordinated network that shares and receives information at astounding speeds and with great precision.
They can adapt and change for better – or worse – no matter how old you are. This flexibility helps shape our personalities through the advancing or the decline of our brain power which can happen in 2 ways; neural connections are constructed thereby creating new pathways and boosting cognitive abilities, or they’re disjoined resulting in a decrease in brain power.
While the aging process does weaken neural pathways resulting in a diminished memory along with other cognitive skills, there are things we can do at any age to enhance neural connections and promote the creation of new pathways while strengthening existing ones.
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association have come up with a list of 7 steps that keep our brains healthy and working at their maximum potential.
- exercise regularly
- eat a balanced diet
- keep your weight in check
- control cholesterol levels
- moderate blood sugar levels
- maintain healthy blood pressure
- refrain from smoking
Add to these 4 more brain-boosting activities you can do today to improve your brain power even further.
1. Give your brain a good workout
Just like you exercise to stay physically healthy, your brain needs a good workout too. The great part is that there are so many activities to choose from, such memory games, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, chess, and many more. Even something as simple as trying a new recipe or taking a different route to work can create new neural pathways.
2. Learn a new language
Young or old, learning a new language can provide the brain with a healthy boost. It also can hone its elasticity and enhancing cognitive abilities. One study shows that those who speak more than one language are able to deal with large amounts of information faster because their neural network has a faster reaction time.
Another research carried out at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom found out that a person speaking two or more languages experienced reduction in cognitive abilities than those who spoke only one.
3. Pick up a musical instrument
Learning to play a musical instrument at any age can protect the brain from regression. The sounds of an instrument not only wards off cognitive decline, but improves listening skills, while the hand-eye coordination required when playing improves spatial reasoning and memory skills. The benefits of music are so vast that even learning a physical task while listening to music enhances the area of the brain responsible for movement control and processing sound.
4. Meditate through mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness allows your brain to focus on the here and now, rather than just being on autopilot and cruising through life. Medical studies show that this technique, when practiced regularly even for a few minutes each day, can affect up to 8 major areas of the brain.
Plus, it helps reduce stress and anxiety which can speed up cognitive decline by killing off existing neurons and stopping new ones from being created. Mindfulness can help you see things from a brighter, more positive viewpoint, helping your brain create new neural pathways. Some studies even suggest that meditation can prevent, and help reduce symptoms of, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Finally, try each of these activities and see what works best for you. Try to incorporate all, or a few, of these tips into your schedule and turn them into habits so you can give your brain the boost it needs to stay healthy and alert well into your golden years.