A healthy brain is an important aspect to a healthy body. Reflect, play, rest, move and mingle to promote brain health.
Meditation improves memory, increases brain size, improves cooperation between brain hemispheres and enhances emotional intelligence according to the Exploration of Consciousness Research Institute. A separate study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience concluded that participating in an eight-week meditation training program was evident in brain function outside of meditation sessions.
TRY IT: High Performance Coach Stephanie Kakris, who teaches meditation, recommends starting with a guided meditation using an app such as Relax and Rest, which gives five-, 13- or 20-minute options with music or nature sounds.
Whether cerebral exercises have any long-term effect on mental performance remains inconclusive, but play has been shown to hone brain processes neglected in routine-driven adult life. “The main problem is that although people can train themselves to do better on particular tasks, the performance improvement rarely generalises to other tasks and abilities,” says professor Nick Haslam, of the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences.
TRY IT: Neuroscientists have designed a series of games called Lumosity to help challenge certain parts of your brain. The online and smartphone resource let’s you exercise core cognitive abilities whenever and wherever you like.
There’s no greater smart sabotage than undersleeping. Conversely, fixing your sleep habits can give you an instant thinking edge. “Being well rested means you will use your cognitive skills more efficiently because tiredness, anxiety and stress interfere with mental clarity, focus and concentrated effort,” says Prof Haslam.
TRY IT: Sleeping for as little as an hour less than you need to each night incrementally nets a costly sleep debt according to studies at University of Pennsylvania and the Walter Reed Research Institute. Participants who slept for six hours a night for a fortnight exhibited cognitive parallels to being legally drunk. Aim for eight hours.
Vigorous physical exercise has been shown to have long- and short-term brain benefits. Findings published in Behavioural Brain Research suggest certain hormones, which are increased during exercise, may help improve memory and processing speed.
TRY IT: Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity into most, if not all, days of the week. You can break it into short bouts such as three 10-minute sessions each day.
Networking serves as intensive training in social intelligence. “A big part of success in life is the ability to build strong interpersonal relationships – be they in a netball team, a family unit or at work,” says Kakris.
TRY IT Mixing with new people, ideas and environments exposes you to new ideas, ways of thinking and perspectives, which can expand the framework within which you think. Face-to-face is ideal, but social media can also serve as a sort of cognitive gym according to Florida behaviour therapist Andrea Kuszewski.
Here are 5 other tips to keep your brain healthy.