Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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To Harness Neuroplasticity, Start with Enthusiasm

3. Fuel it the finest.
Our dietary choic­es affect not only the health of our bod­ies but also the health of our brains. In fact our brains con­sume one fifth of all the nutri­ents and kilo­joules we ingest. What we eat has a sig­nif­i­cant impact on our neu­ro­trans­mit­ters (chem­i­cals that car­ry mes­sages between neu­rons across synaps­es), our alert­ness, our mood and our cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing.

4. Keep the car­go light.
Obe­si­ty is a major risk fac­tor for demen­tia.

5. Run the motor.
With­out phys­i­cal exer­cise our brains waste away as much as our mus­cles waste away. Exer­cise actu­al­ly induces the growth of new brain cells.

6. Learn the ropes and keep on learn­ing.
Hav­ing a good edu­ca­tion and engag­ing in life­long, active learn­ing help to pro­tect us from demen­tia and con­tribute to our devel­op­ing “cog­ni­tive reserve”. This reserve acts as a buffer against men­tal decline as we age.

7. Sail to new shores.
Bore­dom and monot­o­ny are poi­so­nous to our brains. We need to get out there, get explor­ing and get out of our com­fort zones. We need to sail to new shores to find rich­es out­side our usu­al bound­aries. We need to change our rou­tines, do things dif­fer­ent­ly and give our­selves ongo­ing chal­lenges.

8. Use it or lose it.
This applies to every func­tion of the brain and body, from study­ing to social­is­ing to sex. In order to main­tain our capac­i­ty for learn­ing new skills, we need to engage in learn­ing new skills on a reg­u­lar basis.  In order to become cre­ative, inven­tive and re-source­ful, we need to give our­selves tasks that require cre­ativ­i­ty, inven­tive­ness and resource­ful­ness. In order to have a good mem­o­ry, we need to make a con­scious effort to pay atten­tion. In order to remain social­ly adept, we need to remain social­ly active.

9. Train it and regain it.
If we lose a spe­cif­ic brain func­tion, all is not lost. Pro­gres­sive, per­sis­tent, goal-focused prac­tice can help us regain the lost func­tion.

10. Charge the bat­tery.
Still­ing the mind is as impor­tant as stim­u­lat­ing the mind. Get­ting ade­quate sleep and press­ing the pause but­ton on our mind chat­ter are essen­tial for peak per­for­mance on a day-to-day basis, as well as preser­va­tion of brain func­tion as we age.

11. Con­nect with fel­low trav­ellers.
Life­long social inter­ac­tion and mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion with oth­ers is vital for a healthy brain.

12. Choose the des­ti­na­tion.
The brain is a tele­o­log­i­cal device—it is fed by hav­ing goals to strive for and aspi­ra­tions to work towards. The clear­er we are about where we want to go and what we want to achieve, the more effec­tive the brain is in accom­plish­ing the required tasks. This is anal­o­gous to the cap­tain giv­ing the crew clear instruc­tions about where they’re going and what is expect­ed of them.

13. Com­mand the crew.
Hav­ing decid­ed on what we want, we need to direct our self-talk to sup­port our goals. Our inter­nal dia­logue is a con­stant stream of instruc­tions to the sub­con­scious mind. Uplift­ing, solu­tion-focused self-talk switch­es on brain cell activ­i­ty; neg­a­tive, dis­cour­ag­ing self-talk damp­ens it.

14. Com­mu­ni­cate grat­i­tude.
When we think about what we’re thank­ful for, we wire our brains to con­tin­ue find­ing things to be thank­ful for. Our brains are designed so that we see what­ev­er we’re look­ing for. We are nev­er objec­tive, even when we make a con­cert­ed effort to be so. Sub­jec­tiv­i­ty always enters our per­cep­tions. We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. There­fore, by reg­u­lar­ly reflect­ing on things that we’re grate­ful for, we con­struct a fil­ter through which we see the world and we cre­ate more expe­ri­ences for which to feel grate­ful.

15. Prac­tise per­fect­ly.
When we prac­tise a skill in our imag­i­na­tions, the same neu­rons are fir­ing as if we were per­form­ing the skill in real life! If we see our­selves exe­cut­ing a task per­fect­ly in the mind’s eye, we become bet­ter at it in the real world because every men­tal rehearsal increas­es the effi­cien­cy of elec­tri­cal trans­mis­sions between the involved nerve cells. Men­tal prac­tice tur­bocharges our progress.

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2 Responses

  1. So true!! This is what we prac­tice with our stu­dents every day at Eaton Arrow­smith School in Van­cou­ver, Vic­to­ria and soon to be Sur­rey, BC, Cana­da. By strength­en­ing their capac­i­ty to learn, as opposed to accom­mo­dat­ing for their learn­ing weak­ness­es, our stu­dents are build­ing stronger and tighter cog­ni­tive ships…which will lead them on a far more inde­pen­dent­ly run jour­ney through­out life!

  2. Great anal­o­gy! It real­ly ties every­thing togeth­er nice­ly. It’s inter­est­ing too, if you com­bine every­thing we are told to do to stay phys­i­cal­ly healthy with the things we are told to do to be hap­py, you basi­cal­ly get a healthy brain.

    Bot­tom line, exer­cise and be hap­py and your brain will work real­ly well even when you are old!

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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