By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
May 1, 2017
- Losing your mental edge? Try this.
- Boosting your brainpower is child’s play
- Play like you mean it!
As we age we often forget to flex our mental muscles. It becomes much easier to trust in experience than it is to investigate new possibilities and create new challenges. (After all, you know that if you keep doing things the way you always have, you’ll likely get the results you expect.)
However when you continue to do the same things over and over again… when you quit exploring, analyzing and absorbing the data around you… your brain starts to wither.
The problem here is pretty simple.
Without sufficient challenge your brain loses neurons and synapses. These are what form the communication pathways that allow your brain to learn, memorize and create new connections.
The good news is, it’s never too late to strengthen this communication network and boost your mental agility.
Want More Brainpower? Think like a Child
Do you remember what it felt like to be a kid?
Back then, there was no end to the puzzles, mysteries and curiosities you encountered on a daily basis. And you were ready to tackle each and every one of them that came your way. Your neurons and synapses were growing like weeds.
But once you start a career, have a family and get drawn into the day-to-day activity of adult living, it’s easy to forget to be inquisitive.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t refresh the natural ability to flex your mental muscles. Just think like a child!
Learn something new. Children are constantly learning new things while adults tend to stick with doing things they’re good at. The problem is, if you’re already good at it, it’s not stretching your brain.
Instead, you need to break out of your comfort zone and find a way to push the envelope. And it doesn’t take an Algebra class to do that.
One of the best ways to flex your brain is to take up a new language. In just the very early stages of learning your brain will start experiencing neural changes. And over time your brain’s structure and electrical activity will improve.
Learning to play a musical instrument, training yourself in photography, or simply gathering data on a topic that interests you can all improve the communication network in your brain.
Use games to improve your reasoning skills. Growing up, we always had plenty of board games at my house. Some of the most challenging required deductive and reasoning skills… like chess, Scrabble and even Clue. Well into her late 70’s, my mother could guess the word/phrase on Wheel of Fortune well before me. She watched the morning and evening versions everyday
Just because you’re an adult, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep enjoying the strategies behind these games. And when you don’t have a partner to join you in multi-player games, you can still have fun with brainteasers, puzzles and hidden object games on your own.
Discover a new adventure every day. One of the greatest things about being a child is going on an adventure. A journey through the woods can feel like an expedition to the Rainforest. Learning the walking route to a new school is akin to a trip to New York City.
Everything is new and exciting!
These days you probably drive the same route to work everyday. You go to the same grocery store every week. There’s even a good chance you walk the supermarket aisles in exactly the same order, week after week.
Push your way past these boundaries! Take a different route. Go to a different store. Do something you’ve never done before… anything to give your mind some new data to stimulate your brain cells, help them flourish and keep your mental acumen sharp.
Play Like You Mean It!
When is the last time you played tag, jumped rope or enjoyed a game of flag football… just because they’re fun?
Exercise shouldn’t be drudgery. And it’s something you should do every day.
Regular physical activity boosts production of brain-derived neurotophic factor (BDNF). This brain protein encourages the growth of new neurons, improves their function and enhances synaptic activity.
As a result, daily exercise improves your brain’s ability to make all of the right connections so you can think more quickly with fewer blunders.
If your doctor approves, take up golf, badminton, racquetball or another sport. Be the parent or grandparent that chases kids and pets around the yard. Dance because you feel like it and jump up and down very now and then just for fun. Your brain will thank you for it.
Osterhout L, et al. Second-language learning and changes in the brain. J Neurolinguistics. 2008 Nov; 21(6): 509–521.
Schlaug G. Musicians and music making as a model for the study of brain plasticity. Prog Brain Res. 2015;217:37-55.
Gomez-Pinilla F, et al. The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Compr Physiol. 2013 Jan; 3(1): 403–428.