Neurological breakthroughs have established that the brain is much like a muscle; it must be exercised and challenged to avert decline. Fortunately, it’s possible to cultivate better brain health by simply doing more of the things you probably already do every day.
1. Stay physically active
There’s a demonstrated link between physical exercise and brain health. Exercise delivers oxygen to the brain, and it can support better reaction time, reasoning, memory, and other vital brain faculties. Physical exercise releases more endorphins into your body, which is associated with a sense of pleasure.
With October being the Commonwealth Bank’s Mental Health Month, it’s worthwhile noting that there’s a strong link between physical exercise and better mental health, and a lower risk of depression. October could be a good time to get active and start paying more attention to your mental health.
The National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults of all ages get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day, or at least most days of the week. For best results, combine aerobic training, resistance or weight training, and flexibility exercises.
Read regularly and on a broad range of topics to keep your brain stimulated. Reading helps you develop the ability to concentrate, and cultivates your analytical and reasoning skills. Reading on different topics also keeps your mind exposed to new ideas, perspectives, and vocabularies, all of which can promote good brain health.
3. Play games or puzzles
Playing games and puzzles – even video games – can improve your analytical skills and concentration. Whether it’s a game of chess or a Sudoku puzzle, you can use these fun activities to keep your brain engaged and active.
4. Watch your diet
A healthy diet low in fat and cholesterol, and rich in vegetables and fruits is associated with better brain health. Vitamin B, in particular, is linked with strong brain function. Vitamin B is found in whole grains, leafy vegetables, and dairy products.
As with good physical health, a healthy diet can promote better brain health, partly by reducing the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, which can impact brain health.
5. Challenge your brain every day
Avoid a set mental routine by doing something different to challenge your mind every day. Whether it’s trying to read in a different language you’re learning, doing a crossword during your commute time, or testing yourself to remember different facts, make sure you engage your brain deeply every single day.
6. Learn something new
Try enrolling in a course or a subject that you’ve always wanted to learn more about. Do something completely different, such as cooking, martial arts, gardening, or wine tasting. This will challenge your brain and force you to understand new concepts.
7. Find a new hobby
A new hobby in an area that you’re unfamiliar with can challenge your intellect and memory, which promotes good brain health. A new hobby can also be good for your social life and help you stay socially active. Whether it’s playing golf, learning pool, or taking up yoga, choose something you can stay interested in.
8. Master a new language or musical instrument
Mastering a new language or musical instrument helps you develop new neural pathways. It can challenge your brain to expand, and will promote better brain health. To challenge your mind, choose an instrument that you’re completely unfamiliar with, or a language that’s vastly different from your native language. Music and languages both challenge your concentration, memory, and focus.
9. Take up crafts and woodwork
You can also challenge your brain by doing something manual with your hands, as this challenges your spatial reasoning skills. Manual hobbies such as sewing, woodwork, and other arts and crafts force you to use faculties such as spatial perception reactions. Other ideas for manual hobbies include model building, knitting, and pottery.
10. Stay socially active
Staying socially active is a critical component of ongoing brain and general health. A social group gives you a sense of purpose and emotional support in your day-to-day life. Stay connected and socialise with people from all backgrounds, and have stimulating conversations about different topics and interests. This will keep your brain challenged, and keep you aware of new fields and areas of enquiry.
11. Relax deeply
Take time out to relax deeply and tune out every day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes each time. Too many stress hormones such as cortisol can be harmful to the brain. So a few times a day, sit down, close your eyes, and tune out. If you find it hard to relax, use special techniques such as meditation to relax deeply.