You work out and eat healthy to keep your body in decent shape, right?
Well, I don’t, and the only exercise I get is running my mouth, but that’s just me.
Most people do (or at least know they should do) the standard upkeep to keep our physical beings feeling good.
But do you do the same with your brain?
If not, you absolutely should be doing these brain exercises to keep your lobes in tip-top condition as well – especially as you age.
More and more I find myself searching for words that once flowed out of my big mouth with ease — on more than one occasion I’ve said to my editor, “My brain is bad.”
Because as we age, our memories decline a bit. Luckily, there are exercises for our cerebrum that can help!
We found some fun things to do that can keep your medulla oblongata (thanks for introducing me to that term, The Waterboy) at peak performance.
Why You Should Do Brain Exercises
According to cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf, “The brain is the only organ in the body that gets better with age, but there is a caveat: It needs to be used properly!”
Our minds are always working — even while we sleep — and she says that the quality of this activity is where our focus should be if we want to try to keep our brains youthful and fit.
Lucky for us, maintaining optimum brain power doesn’t require weird scientific methods or medical procedures.
There are five relatively easy and interesting activities Dr. Leaf recommends for keeping your brain young.
Reading is a great way to open up our creative minds and expand our knowledge.
And we can gain even more amazing rewards if we pay attention to how we’re reading.
Dr. Leaf explains, “You’ll need to dive in with enthusiasm, consume and enjoy the words.
“Rather than half-heartedly reading a couple of pages before you go to bed because you heard it’s good for you, embrace the escape — let your mind wander into another world.
“This generates excellent blood flow in the brain and activates a balance of frequencies across the brain that can stimulate healthy neuroplasticity.”
Neuroplasticity is “The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.”
As Dr. Leaf puts it, “One of the main keys in keeping your brain young is driving this neuroplasticity in a healthy direction.”
I love puzzles — my dad and I do them together and I had no idea they exercise our brains, so this is great news.
“A good puzzle stimulates gamma activity in the brain,” Dr. Leaf says, “which is excellent for creativity and keeping the brain young.”
And it’s not only puzzling that can energize brain activity.
Psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist Daniel Amen told CNBC Make It that he recommends ping pong.
Ping pong?? I’m ordering a table because I adore ping pong. Even the name is fun.
Calling it one of the “world’s best brain exercises,” Dr. Amen says ping pong can help your mind stay sharp, citing a recent small study published in the American Academy of Neurology that found that people with Parkinson’s who played ping pong once a week for six months showed “improvement in their Parkinson’s symptoms.”
The study’s author, doctor Ken-ichi Inoue of Fukuoka University in Fukuoka, Japan, added that ping pong has been shown “in the general population to improve hand-eye coordination, sharpen reflexes and stimulate the brain.”
Walk And Daydream
For most of my life, I’ve been a prolific daydreamer (just ask my teachers who would call me out for not paying attention in class), so I’ve got that covered, but I’ll need to step up the walking part.
Because we should be doing both these activities daily — not once a week, but once a day.
Dr. Leaf says that letting your mind and body wander every day engages the 200 different sections of the brain in a creative and stimulating way that can aid in keeping the brain sharp.
“Walk and immerse yourself in a conversation with your own mind, noticing all the details of everything around you,” she stresses.
“There’s no need for a path or specific train of thought, the point is to let your mind (and body) wander.”
Change the Way You Listen to Music
Have I been listening to music wrong? Let’s find out.
Dr. Leaf states that “Really tuning into and listening to music — letting it carry you away — can have a regenerating effect on the overall energy flow and networks in the brain.”
Nope, I do this to the point of distraction so I’m good on the music listening front.
And who doesn’t listen to music? This one’s a no-brainer that can be practiced almost anywhere and for good chunks of time!
Practice Observing Yourself And Your Impact On Others
This means you shouldn’t zone out constantly and really be present for yourself and the people in your life.
“This will engage the different frequencies of the brain, particularly the alpha frequency,” Dr. Leaf says.
The alpha brainwave represents non-arousal and American Scientific describes it as:
Someone who has completed a task and sits down to rest is often in an alpha state
A person who takes time out to reflect or meditate is usually in an alpha state
If you are taking a break from a conference and walking in the garden, you are often in an alpha state
“This can help you identify toxic patterns you need to detox, which can really impact brain age and health.”
Do you practice any of these brain exercises? Share with us below!
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