Hopefully, you are interested in taking care of your brain since it has a major responsibility in your functioning and keeping you well.
For as long as I can remember, I have had an interest in the brain and how it works. So, it isn't too surprising that back in December when I saw a course about brain fitness listed on the internet that I wanted to take it. The course started this week, and I'm already learning a lot! It lasts the month of March with group discussions during April. I'm hoping to pass on to you information that I think you might find helpful over the next several months.
In today's post, I'm giving you 8 different ways to improve your brain. Some of these ideas come from different books about the brain that I have read, such as The Winner's Brain by Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske and some are from the class.
Here is how you can make your brain stronger:
- Self-awareness: Think of this skill as your foundation. It means knowing your strengths and working on developing them to reach your goals. Choose the goals that intrinsically motivate you because of your unique passions and drive. This helps you choose what makes your life meaningful and fulfilling. This can be as unique as your finger print. This is also the foundation of Emotional Intelligence.
- Emotional regulation: Your thoughts and beliefs affect your feelings and subsequent behaviors. What you believe and/or think about yourself and your world directly affects what you feel and how you act. If your belief and thoughts are negative, it is very difficult to have positive feelings and take positive action. Likewise, if your belief and thoughts are realistically positive, it is difficult to feel and behave negatively. The next time you are feeling negative, stop and see if you can determine what you were believing and/or telling yourself. It is possible to tell yourself things that are not true but may feel true. Feelings can be very convincing and lead you off course if they are not based on reality.
- Cognitive reframing: Repeatedly engaging in negative thoughts and actions results in undesirable brain alterations. Parts of the brain actually change in ways that are not helpful to you. However, actively engaging in positive thoughts and actions leads to beneficial thoughts and actions. You won't always achieve your goals, but you can benefit from failure. Putting a positive spin on things changes the brain and primes it to be resilient and motivated which helps you move in a positive direction.
- Deliberate practice: London taxi drivers train very hard to memorize city street addresses and in doing so actually enlarge certain areas of their brains. Musicians experience that same brain growth in other areas. We all do. The key is to keep practicing in spite of setbacks.
- Meditation: Research discovered that practicing even small doses of daily meditation can improve focus and attentional control. You don't have to be a Zen master; sitting calmly for several minutes is a start. Longer sessions benefit the brain more than short ones.
- Physical exercise: A regular exercise program increases attentional focus, improves learning and memory, reduces impulsivity, enhances mood, and lowers stress. More blood to the brain helps provide oxygen and glucose to fuel its functioning. As little as 20 minutes of cardio exercise releases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic facts) which support the growth of new neurons. Exercise often doesn't get the attention it deserves given all of the benefits it provides.
- Nutrition: What is good for the heart is good for the brain. Fruits and vegetables, low fat sources of protein, berries, apples, fish and omega oils all provide elements for a healthy brain.
- Sleep: Lots of research has been done in this area in the past few years. It's now believed seven to eight hours of sleep are vital for optimal brain function. Sleep helps restore the balance of communication between reasoning and emotional centers and improves memory.
What do we know about brain training games?
There is a budding industry already worth more than a million a year dedicated to selling brain training games and programs. However, there is little scientific evidence to show that they do what they are suppose to do: improve memory and strengthen brain power. This may be changing soon. Some online computer games are beginning to show benefits to the brain because of their use of non-linear strategies and attentional focus.
There's a lot of supporting research that the above ways improve your brain and well being. Even if you only practice a few of them, you'll be taking steps toward improving your success in life and work.
What do you think about these ideas? Can you think of ways others strengthen their brain to achieve a successful and meaningful life?
Which of the above ways help you to strengthen your brain?
Until next time,