Are you doomed to slower reflexes and poor memory as you age?
Science says, “Not necessarily!”
Every person’s brain, like their body, is uniquely different. Not everyone is subject to the slowing down of mental faculties that tends to come with aging.
The Benefits of Brain Exercises
Like every muscle, the brain needs stimulation and exercise to sustain its function. Exercising the brain has as many benefits as exercising the body: You’ll be able to remember things later on in life, you won’t forget as many details about other people, and you won’t have as many “senior moments” as perhaps you may fear.
But brain training isn’t limited to those who are approaching their golden years. Experiments with multiple sclerosis patients with cognitive damage have shown that doing activities specifically tied to brain training can help the brain develop stronger connections. Their brains literally became stronger through the power of exercise. There’s also a suggestion that doing brain exercises early in life can expand your later amount of cognitive reserve (i.e. how much your brain can bounce back as you age).
Some Brain Exercises You Can Complete On Your Own
Not all brain exercises need a machine or website to provide benefits to their users. Lumosity and NeuroNation have become popular in recent years, and have proven very popular. But these activities still help give your brain a boost:
1. Reading. What’s the last full book you read? The more you stimulate your brain by learning, the harder and longer your brain will be able to work.
2. Meditation or Concentration Techniques. The benefits of meditation are endless, it reduces stress, releases endorphins, better sleep and of course it benefits your brain at many levels, it helps with synchronization, slows down aging, increases concentration, relaxes the nervous system which in turn increases awareness. The list is never ending.
3. Staying in touch with friends. Maintaining social ties is extremely important. Having people around to talk to and challenge you keeps your brain working in a way that it wouldn’t ever work when you’re by yourself. I’ve talked about it before in previous blogs, the most important factor on wellbeing is relationships, being true to your nature, choose authentic and positive people to be around, it will make all the difference.
4. Talk about problems. Holding on to problems is much more troublesome to your health than just annoying you in the moment. It can lead to serious stress, and can even impair your brain’s abilities later in life. So, if you’re feeling depressed or have a mental problem you want to address, bring it up sooner rather than later. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress and potential harm to your brain.
5. Try new things. Force your brain to be creative, whether by building something in your backyard or playing a game of squash for the first time. It’ll do your brain good! Yoga & other types of mindful exercise are extemely beneficial because what they have in common is the repetition of poses on both sides of the body, thus making the left & right side of your brain work evenly.
6. Quit smoking. This decision benefits many different parts of your body, but the fact that your brain will potentially reverse deterioration is a very good benefit! For smokers, and trust me been around many, in the Mediterranean is sort of a sport, this is a huge challenge, but the beloved Louise Hay had an insight about it that I enjoy, what if smoking was about creating a screen to shield you from seeing uncomfortable situations or relationships you need to deal with? Think about it, going to the root is always necessary to change and create new habits.
7. Sleep more. Sleep doesn’t just restore your body. Your mind also benefits from having enough time to rest through the night. Create a ‘go to bed” ritual where you wind down slowly by switching off any electronics, create some space for meditation or silent contemplation, perhaps add a bath with essential oils and epson salts to relax your muscles, the brain ones too, and remember have clothing specifically for sleeping… that will make a difference.
And one extra little secret shhhh…. use your non-dominant hand every day, when my mother had a stroke, the neurologist who treated her told us that one of the most effective ways to slow down aging and promote optimal brain function is to use both hands often. So go on, craft, draw, write! and have some fun with it.
Do you do brain exercises? If so, what have you found benefits you most? Share your story in the comments!