Whether you want to keep up with your kids' homework or ward off memory loss, it's worth taking the time to exercise your brain. Just like the body, with your mind you have to use it or lose it. These tips and tricks will help you keep your smarts at every age.
We doubt you need another reason to lace up those running shoes, but we'll give you one anyway: Exercising stimulates the brain cells which can keep your mind sharper for longer. To reap the benefits, aim to do some form of moderate to high-intensity exercise at least three times a week — and make sure you get your heart rate up. That's the key.
If you want to keep your mind in tip-top condition, set yourself a goal to learn another language. Studies have proven that people who are fluent in two or more languages can delay the onset of Alzheimer's and dementia symptoms by up to five years. Incredible, isn't it? The brainpower it takes to learn something as complex as a new language boosts memory capacity and encourages brain cells to stay healthier for longer. Start conjugating those verbs!
Easier said than done, we know. But keeping your stress levels in check is one of the kindest things you can do for your brain. Basically, stress interferes with your neurotransmitters and floods your brain with nasty hormones. There are a few tried-and-tested ways to counteract stress. Along with better time management, try spending more time with your family and friends, engaging in deep breathing exercises and heading outside in the sunshine for at least 20 minutes a day. It's also important to have a work/life balance and give yourself a little bit of "me time" every day.
Just like your body needs fuel to perform, so does your brain. To boost your brainpower, you need to eat a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Omega-3 is a superfood for brain health and has been proven to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's, so load up on oily fish like salmon as well as walnuts and flaxseed. To load up on antioxidants (which protect your brain cells), drink green tea and eat colourful fruits and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, berries and watermelon. What you don't eat is just as important as what you do. Limit saturated fats (like the ones found in butter and sour cream) and sugary foods.
When it comes to stress release and memory retention, meditation is a very powerful tool for your mind. Meditation works its magic by developing connections between brain cells. That is why people who regularly meditate say they see things more clearly: All those "ohms" are actually improving their mental sharpness. Meditation also counteracts memory loss by boosting melatonin (an antioxidant hormone) by a whopping 300 per cent. Have you laid out your mat yet?
It may tickle your tastebuds, but sugar doesn't do your brain any favours. Artificial sweeteners (or "fake" sugar) are even worse. Consuming too much not only messes with your blood sugar levels (leading to highs and "crashes" throughout the day), but it can also affect your long-term memory. If you have a sweet tooth you can't get rid of, choose natural sweeteners like stevia over sugar.
When you're sleep deprived your brain can't function at its full potential. We've all been there. There's a reason why good sleep is connected to a good memory. Memory consolidation — the time when you lock in everything you've learnt during the day — happens during the deepest stages of sleep. So if you're constantly tossing and turning or waking up throughout the night, your brain doesn't have time to process information fully. To sleep better, try meditation, switching off all electronics and sipping on a calming tea before bed.
Have you ever felt like you were losing IQ points while watching a trashy reality show? Well you might not be far off the mark. TV was nicknamed the "idiot box" for a reason: It requires no effort on your brain's part and therefore slows it down. To give your brain a workout, turn off your screens and read a book instead. Reading gets your brain firing because it's harder for your mind to conjure up pictures from words on the page.
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