While we are still (hopefully) enjoying some downtime, let’s review some good lifestyle options we can all follow to not only maintain, but improve, our vibrant brains.
1. Learn more about the “It” in “Use It or Lose It.” A basic understanding will serve you well to appreciate your brain’s beauty as a living and constantly-developing dense forest with billions of neurons and synapses.
2. Take care of your nutrition. Did you know that the brain only weighs 2% of body mass but consumes over 20% of the oxygen and nutrients we intake? As a general rule, you don’t need expensive nutritional supplements, just make sure you don’t stuff yourself with the “bad stuff.”
3. Remember that the brain is part of the body. Things that exercise your body can also help sharpen your brain: physical exercise enhances neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons), at any age!
4. Practice positive, action-oriented thoughts until they become your default mindset and you look forward to creating something beautiful every new day. Too much stress and anxiety–either induced by external events or by your own thoughts–actually kills neurons and prevent the creation of new ones.
5. Thrive on Learning and Mental Challenges. The point of having a brain is precisely to learn and to adapt to challenging new environments. Once new neurons appear in your brain, where they migrate and how long they survive depends on how you use them. “Use It or Lose It” does not mean “do crossword puzzle number 1,234,567”. It means, “challenge your brain, and often, with new activities beyond your comfort level.”
6. Explore, travel. Adapting to new locations forces you to pay more attention to your environment. Make new decisions, use your brain.
7. Don’t Outsource Your Brain. Not to media personalities, not to politicians, not to your smart neighbour… Make your own decisions, and mistakes. That way, you are training your brain, not your neighbour’s.
8. Develop and maintain stimulating friendships. We are social animals, and need social interaction. Which, by the way, is why ‘Baby Einstein’ or so many of those educational apps have been shown not to be the panacea for brain development.
9. Laugh. Often. Especially to cognitively complex humor, full of twists and surprises. Better, try to become the next Jon Stewart.
Now, remember that what counts is not reading this article–or any other– but practicing a bit every day until small steps snowball into automatic, internalized habits.
Keep in mind that “cells that fire together wire together”… so, start improving one of these nine habits today. Revisit the habit above that really grabbed your attention, and make a decision to try something different.
–> To learn more about all this, check out The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age