This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Andreia Horta, ND and Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND, founders of Infusion Health! You can check out their website here!
My grandmother always said that doing puzzles kept her sharp. She definitely could have been on to something. New research is looking into the types of activities that actually keep your brain and memory in good shape and challenging your mind with puzzles could be of benefit. The key point is that in order for the activity to be beneficial for the brain it has to be new and novel. If grandma was doing the same puzzle over and over again, there would have been no benefit to her brain.
We are going to outline some of the activities that help keep your brain sharp, but one of the most important concepts to take away from this article is: REPETITION IS BAD FOR THE BRAIN.
Humans are creatures of habit, but when it comes to the mind, routine just doesn’t provide enough stimulus for your noggin. This is because, over time, monotonous tasks are run by our subconscious and requires very little brain energy.
Making a point to challenge your brain with brain exercises has reported benefits of improved memory, quicker reaction time and increased focus. Just as too much sitting is not good for the physical body, too little cognitive challenge is also not great for the brain.
The good news is that practicing brain exercises may improve your intelligence (as defined as your capacity to learn new information, retain it, then use that new knowledge as a foundation to solve the next problem)
In 2008, a study suggested that for the first time, research is pointing to the possibility of increasing your intelligence to a significant degree through training.
Several important findings resulted from this study:
- Intelligence can be increased with the right stimulus.
- The benefits of intelligence are related to the amount of training. The more you train, the more you gain
- Anyone can increase their cognitive abilities!
5 Ways to Give Your Brain a Workout
Five important elements were revealed that are reported to benefit the brain and are explained below.
1. Seek Novelty
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Remember, repetition is not good for the brain. Do things you have never done before; take a new route to work, change up your exercise routine or seek out a new restaurant.
2. Challenge Yourself
Learning new skills helps to challenge the brain. It also forces us to get out of our comfort zone and therefore can help to boost confidence. Is there something that you have always been wanting to learn but never done it? Or is there something that you especially avoid doing because it is difficult or doesn’t come naturally to you? Now is the time to do it! Your brain will thank you.
3. Think Creatively
Thinking outside of the box is good for the brain. If creative thinking doesn’t come naturally to you, DO SOMETHING creative to help the creative juice flow. Dance, go to an art gallery or take out the paints. Creativity is not just good for the brain but it is also great for the soul and may actually help to decrease stress.
4. Do Things the Hard Way (or just use your brain instead of technology)
Technology has made everything easier for us- from remembering telephone numbers, to helping us spell with word check. Most of us blindly follow our GPS or map application on the smartphone when we are driving.
Turn off spell check every so often, or try to recall people’s phone numbers just by memory. Next time you are traveling to a new destination check the map before leaving, then try to find our way via landmarks and signage.
5. Be Social and Maintain a Network
When we interact with others it exposes us to new ideas and new situations that can help lead to cognitive growth. Not to mention, being around other people that we enjoy makes us feel good and can boost our mood!
What about computerized brain training programs?
The jury is still out in regards to how much these programs help improve our IQ. If you enjoy these puzzles and exercises, it still may be of benefit as it is challenging the way you think AND helping you learn a new skill. However, we still believe getting away from technology and back to the good old-fashioned basics of human interaction has an enormous benefit not only for your brain but also for your mood.
Want an easy way to incorporate all 5 important elements to improve memory?
Try going to a creative social event that you typically wouldn’t go to – perhaps an art gallery opening, a small concert, maybe an art class. Leave yourself a little extra time and try to get there without the help of a GPS. Challenge yourself by introducing yourself to others that you may not normally talk to and see if you can learn something new from them. If you happen to get someone’s phone number, add it to your phone or write it down but try and recall it purely from memory when you contact them next.
If you are interested in learning more about what foods can improve your mood and are beneficial for your brain download our e-book here.
Robert J. Sternberg
Increasing fluid intelligence is possible after allPNAS 2008 105 (19) 6791-6792; published ahead of print May 12, 2008,doi:10.1073/pnas.0803396105
Susanne M. Jaeggi,, Martin Buschkuehl, , John Jonides, and Walter J. Perrig
Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memoryPNAS 2008 105 (19) 6829-6833; published ahead of print April 28, 2008,
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