The brain is amazingly dynamic. It is adaptable and can rewire, renew and heal itself. Most importantly, you can keep your brain in peak condition. People of all ages can rejuvenate, reshape and remodel their brains. However, it will not happen without your help. Experiments have proven that the neuroplasticity of the brain allows it to change and modify itself. Different experiences can alter its biochemistry and even increase or reduce its size.
As we get older, the fear of dementia is always in the back of our minds. Fortunately, we can develop habits and activities that might avoid deterioration of our brains. Let’s look at some science-backed activities that can help us keep our brains in peak condition.
Teach your brain something new each day
A Spanish saying advises people never to go to bed at night without learning at least one new thing. It is a valuable standard for all to follow. The Canadian psychiatrist and researcher, Norman Doidge, wrote that mastering new things that are not related to what we usually do is beneficial. He emphasizes that variety is crucial, and doing something that is a challenge and makes you feel uncomfortable is vital.
Furthermore, he writes that any activities that require genuine concentration will do. For example, reading more than novels, learning to play a musical instrument and even playing board games can be beneficial. It can help to lower dementia risks. Taking up dancing challenges you mentally and physically because it requires you to learn and remember new moves. Moreover, learning new dance moves requires a whole lot of concentration.
Increase the gray matter by learning a new language
Research has also shown that you can increase the gray matter by learning a new language. Studies have indicated the benefits of stimulating the brain’s areas that play a significant role in learning and memory. This was underscored by studying the brains of interpreters who acquired new skills by learning foreign languages.
Norman Doidge says focusing on learning at least one thing that you don’t usually do will improve your brain. It will also help you ignore irrelevant information.
Learn juggling to improve brain function
Recent studies at the University of Oxford have linked better brain function and juggling. Reportedly, this simple act causes growth in specific areas of the brain. Volunteers learned to juggle and improved the white matter in the brain areas that involve motor and visual activity. White matter is nerve bundles that connect different brain areas, and new connections followed learning to juggle.
Most importantly, the studies show that learning new skills can cause the brain to adjust its own wiring. This increases efficiency in doing the newly learned tasks. Interestingly, they tested the white matter in the volunteers’ brains four weeks after completing the test. They determined that the white matter remained higher than before the test, and the gray matter had also increased.
Any form of exercise is beneficial
Exercise can rewire your brain and improve your health. Physical activity increases the volume of the hippocampal, which plays a significant role in learning and memory. The researchers say that even 30 minutes per day, pedaling a stationary exercise bike can be invaluable.
The increased heart rate during exercise increases the oxygen supply to the brain. Additionally, it optimizes brain cell growth because the release of body hormones bring about a nourishing environment. Furthermore, exercise reduces anxiety and stress, improves mood and sleep. Getting started with aerobic exercises is good. Even without going to the gym, you can exercise by walking daily. Also, climbing stairs, swimming, dancing and playing tennis are all excellent forms of exercise.
Poor sleep reduces brain volume
Did you know that? Getting enough sleep is crucial for brain health. A team of researchers studied the relationship between the volume of the hippocampus and the cortical and sleep quality. They learned that those who have problems falling asleep, or the lack of sleep cause rapid brain volume reduction. Studies are ongoing, but so far, they have determined that protein builds up due to a lack of sleep. The protein attacks and destroys brain cells. The decline can compromise areas in the brain responsible for balance, touch, language, decision-making, and mathematical calculations. Most importantly, getting seven to eight hours of good sleep per night can restore and repair the brain. It also causes brain growth by stimulating new connections.
Without even being aware of it, our brains are mostly in auto-pilot mode. Noticing the world around us can awaken the senses that have been inactive before. Better habits can upgrade the brain by producing more gray matter. It will undoubtedly slow down cognitive decline, improve mental health and speed up memory recall.