The brain has a marvelous capacity to remember, and an intrinsic ability to renew itself, to maintain much of its youthful vigor. This enables us the possibility to have good cognitive performance well into the advanced years of our lives. But we must we must take proactive steps now to protect this prodigious capacity by providing it with a variety of novelty activities. These activities will make a positive and significant impact on the neurons (brain cells) and influence how well we remember.
One neuroscientist said; “brains improve with use and for those wishing to keep them in top-notch shape- the best advice is; a varied intellectual diet and plenty of mental exercise”. But why does it need a variety of exercises?
Because of the way the brain is structured: We learned from biology that the brain is divided into three main sections: Forebrain, Midbrain, and Hindbrain. Each of these sections is further divided into a number of structures. The forebrain, for example, is divided into the cerebrum, thalamus, and hypothalamus, to name just a few of these structures. The cerebrum, which is responsible for our mental activity is split into two hemispheres: (1) the right cerebral hemisphere, (2) the left cerebral hemisphere. Each hemisphere controls a different aspect of thinking and memory. Since our memories are stored in different parts of the brain, then to improve memory, we must exercise not only one side of it; but the whole brain itself. A good way to exercise the whole brain is to give it a variety of novelty activities. This way we will optimize our mental workouts, and get the neurons to perform at their maximum level. The following fifteen activities have proven to be some of the best ways to stimulate these brain cells; rejuvenate the neurons; boost memory and have fun at the same time.
1. Solving Crossword Puzzles:They provide the brain with a good mental workout and help to deter dementia. Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that working out crossword puzzles 4 times per week lowers the risk of dementia by almost fifty percent.
2. Playing Computer Games: Several studies have revealed that playing computer games enhances memory. In one particular 15year study done at Emory University in Georgia, researchers found that On-screen exercises deter cognitive deterioration in older adults, and replenish the cognitive performance in younger adults.
3. Play Solitary Card Games: This activity is another focus builder. It is also one of the best ways to relieve the brain cells of the stress and the general anxieties of everyday life. Health researchers found that minimizing stress can prevent immune-system damage. A healthy immune system supports the growth of new brain cells (neurogenesis) and thereby strengthens your memory.
4. Complete word search puzzles They strengthen spatial thinking abilities, which will lead to better mental performance. Researches have shown that when word searches are done on a regular basis, thesubjects showed significant improvement in their spatial thinking skills
5. Solving Sudoku Puzzles: Sudokus help to strengthen the synaptic connections between the neurons. The study of neurons shows that when they receive an impulse, they carry it along their axons (a long stem like projection) until they reach the synapse. Neurotransmitters, released at these synapses take the message across the bridge, through the use of a complex system of keys and locks. Thus, they open up the way for the message to be relayed from neuron to neuron. Solving puzzles like sudoku helps to speed up neuronal response, i.e. the time it takes each neuron to relay the message (impulse) to its neighbors. This speedy delivery of the impulse from neuron to neuron bolsters your memory, and prevents mental deterioration.
6. Playing Checkers: Playing checkers will unleash thinking skills and promote better cognitive performance. Numerous studies have shown that they also defy the deterioration of the brain cells for both young and older adults alike.
7. Playing Bridge: The finding of a 15year study done by the University of California, Berkley, is: playing bridge stimulates the dorso-lateral cortex. This is the area of the brain, which regulates the immune system. An enhanced immune system accelerates the disposal of irretrievable neurons. This paves the way for the development of new and healthy brain cells (neurogenesis: the birth of brain cells).
8. Playing Chess:Playing chess makes a huge impact on concentration, and promotes creativity and an expansion of your imagination. In one extensive twenty -year old study, researchers of the University of California, Irvine, found that the playing of chess boosts up memory by forty percent and it strengthens spatial and analytical thinking skills.
9. Reading Novels: Reading a novel nourishes the brain just like food nourishes the body. It provides one with the wonderful experience of seeing – visiting distant lands and culture through the lives of the characters. Reading fiction such as “THE STORM AND THE SUN” by Uma Shankari allows one to be an active part of the story: One yearns to see justice served to the leading character “ASHOK” for his extremely unscrupulous behavior in this story. Such active participation of the brain cells helps the mental process to maintain focus and flexibility.
10. Drawing and Painting: Drawing and painting can be done by anyone. Because they basically, require one to make a connection between the inner world of imagination and the external, physical world; they are the perfect media for exercising the neurons, especially when they are covered with the growth of newly formed dendrites. Numerous studies have shown that exercise saves the newly formed dendrites from trimming themselves off because of the lack of use.
11. Learning To Play A Musical Instrument:Music study is another vital exercise for the brain cells. Numerous studies done by the University of California, Berkley; and the University of New York, show that the study of music minimizes the deterioration of memory by keeping the brain neurological network and connections in tact. Strong neurological connections support faster communication between the neurons; and this deters sluggishness. When the neurological networks are wide and vast, they allow the brain a greater capacity for clear and logical thinking: and a better support for memory.
12. Exercise:The health experts agree that 30 minutes of exercise done three times per week can be beneficial. But 30 minutes of exercise done every day is extremely beneficial. Exercise increases healthy circulation that allows nutrients from the blood to reach the brain and help the neurotransmitters (neurotransmitters allow neurons to talk to each other, and, strengthen their links, to allow a better capacity for memory). There is also another important benefit to be derived from physical exercise. A study done in 2007 shows that physical exercise behaves like the nutrient “omega 3”. It releases from the brain into the blood stream, a protein called “blood derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein is a neuron builder. It builds new neurons and repairs worn out ones.
13. Join a social Club: The fellowship with friends can be a delightful experience that emanates a positive aura, leaving one with a greater sense of well-being, greater self-awareness and self confidence. All of these factors lead to better “mental performance”.
14. Taking A Mid-day/ early afternoon Nap: Many studies have shown that sleep allows the body the best relaxation ever by lowering the heart rate and blood pressure, thus providing vital rest for the entire circulatory system. It also allows the pituitary gland (the master gland) in the brain to produce the proper amount of growth hormone. The hormone and the neurotransmitters blend themselves to provide a nourishing bath for the brain cells. This bath stimulates the growth of new dendrites (additional tentacles or fingerlike projections that are sprouted on the neurons). Neuroscientists have found that the dendrites provide the neurons with a better capacity to communicate with each other, and this strengthens memory.
15. Nourish the body with the proper nutrition: Proper nutrition supports brain health and helps it to sprout new dendrites (the finger-like projections on the neurons). A diet that is considered to have the proper nutrition has been defined by health experts to consist of moderate amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, moderate to low amounts of poultry, fish, and dairy, high fiber, a moderate amount of complex carbohydrates, and limiting the use of red meat and eggs.
Omega-3 can be found in walnuts, pine-nuts, almonds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, kiwi fruit, salmon, sardines, and extra virgin olive oil.
The following is a good recipe for obtaining sufficient amount of omega-3
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup of dried goji or lycium berries
- 1/2 cup dried apricots
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1 cup walnuts
Paint the plate with colorful fruits: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, mangoes, red apples, plums, black grapes, oranges, pineapples. These contain the essential vitamins and antioxidants that protect the brain against free radical damage.
A Glass of Red wine is an excellent source of antioxidant: This was discovered by the KRDB Research Center of the University of Bozen-Bolzano; Italy. Their findings revealed that red wine has several positive health-benefits as listed below.
- It contains Resveratrol: This is an antioxidant that mitigates the bad effects of sticky blood platelets, preventing them from clogging the tube of the blood vessels. They also found that resveratrol serves as a blocker of the enzyme that causes the growth of cancer cells.
- It contains Polyphenols: This lowers cholesterol, blood pressure and stimulates the immune system.
- It is a stress inhibitor: It relaxes the body by immersing it with an inner calm, leading the mind to a better state of relaxation.
Paint the plate with colorful vegetables: carrots, broccoli, egg-plant, cauliflower, red peppers, cucumber, etc. Health experts recommend that we eat at least five servings of these fruits and vegetables per day.
Additional nutrients for the brain
These are just a few of the myriads of activities that can help our brain to maintain its prodigious capacity. Choosing to perform six to seven of them on a regular basis, increasing the level of difficulty when one level has been mastered, is a step in the right direction to deter mental deterioration, cognitive decline, lowering the risk of dementia and Alzeheimer; and perhaps the best of all is they help the brain to perform at its optimal level whetheryou are young, middle-age, or approachingthe advanced years of life.