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How to improve brain function

How to improve brain function

We all seem to talk about health and fitness in regards to our bodies. How about our brains? This post will cover some of the things we can all do to improve our brain power.

Our brains are an amazing piece of evolutionary design and development. However we only use a very small proportion of our brain and even then many fail to make the most of that. The brain has what is called neural plasticity, essentially the ability to grow and adapt, developing new neural pathways and new connections between different areas of the brain.

Our brains have the ability to learn new skills. When we are younger our brains are like sponges, soaking up information and making it easier to learn all sorts of new skills. Although this slows down as we age, it should not stop older people learning new skills at any stage of their life.

When your brain builds more neural connections it increases its ability to learn new skills or improve upon those that it already has. However if you fail to give it enough stimulus you could in fact start to reverse that process.
I’m a firm believer in use it or lose it.

What can help improve our brain function?

  • Do regular exercise. This has been shown to improve memory and analytical skills. Going back to getting older, we have an increased likelihood of suffering from various brain disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Exercise has been shown to reduce the effects or chances of suffering from these. Exercise nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors. These help improve neural health. There is also more blood flow, improved energy production, which all help improve brain function. Exercise can be anything from regular cardio, strength training, dancing, a sport or any physical activity that requires some effort.
  • Eat a healthy diet. This is a long term health benefit. Eating healthy foods can help protect the brain from cognitive degeneration. Processed foods were found to reduce a person’s IQ level. If you didn’t know it the brain is over 50% fat, so healthy omega 3 is essential for brain health. The brain also uses carbohydrates for energy, but sugar can cause mood and energy spikes, so stick to complex healthy sources, protein is needed to build neurotransmitters and for rebuilding/replacing dead cells.
  • Get creative. This is one of the best ways to improve your brain power. Concentrating on something challenging can help improve brain function, such as learning to play an instrument, painting, drawing, writing, reading or learning a new language. The stimulus from these activities helps cognitive ability. One note about this however is get quality creative time by focusing on what you are doing, but do however take regular breaks to rest the mind. Taking part in more than one experience/activity can also help to become more dynamic and flexible, helping create new ideas and gets the different brain networks and separate areas of the brain working together. This is call divergent thinking.
  • Do brain exercises. Try brain training, such as thinking games, puzzles and memory games.
  • Get out and about. Being social, visiting places and getting cultural and experiencing different stimulus all help develop the brain.
  • Get quality sleep. This helps rest and resets the brain. Also sleep time is the time when your body can rebuild itself, replacing dead cells with new. The rest your brain gets helps you reassess and think more clearly from previous thoughts (once you are fully awake!).
  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps the transportation of oxygen to the brain.
  • Try meditation. This can help improve concentration and memory and reduce stress.
  • Be positive. Positive thinking helps you work harder and achieve more.
  • Stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol slows the brain down and reduces memory and brain function.
  • Stop smoking. Apart from the physical health benefits of not smoking, smoking has been linked to an increased chance of suffering from dementia.
  • Laugh more. Laughing uses multiple areas of the brain, unlike many other activities that use smaller or even single regions. It also releases feel good hormones.

Benefits from doing the above

Much of the above can help reduce depression, anxiety and stress, make you happy and improve mood, improve nerve connections, neurotransmitters, increase blood flow to the brain, give us dopamine (a feel good hormone) and improve our emotional state. It can also improve attention, visual awareness and processing, memory, promote faster thinking and improve your learning and understanding abilities.

All these have the ability to improve motor function, cognitive function and overall brain function and can also reduce the chances of suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Further advice

Do one thing at a time and reduce cases of multi-tasking. Stay focused on what you are doing one thing at a time. Interruptions take their toll on your concentration and distract you and can take you many more minutes to get back to where you were. Get focused on a single task and try not to do too much at one time, but do try to mix the types of stimulus by trying several types of activities.