A) Exercises that Keep Your Brain Sharp
Children, Young Adults, or Old people, doesn’t matter what your age is, Research has proved on numerous occasions that brain exercises can help you to boost your focus, memory, and concentration. They keep your brain sharp and delay your brain atrophy as you age.
Some evidence-based exercises that help in boosting your brain are:
1. Games like Cards, Checkers, Crosswords, or Jigsaw puzzles.
The published article ”Jigsaw Puzzling Taps Multiple Cognitive Abilities and Is a Potential Protective Factor for Cognitive Aging” has shown that doing jigsaw puzzles recruits multiple cognitive abilities and is a protective factor for visuospatial cognitive aging. This can be a great way to challenge and exercise your brain.
Another published study “Cognitively-stimulating activities are associated with brain structure and cognitive function in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease” has shown a positive association between frequent game playing like Cards, Checkers, Crosswords, or Jigsaw puzzles, and greater brain volume and cognitive function.
2. Vocabulary and the Brain
According to the published article “Vocabulary and the Brain: Evidence from Neuroimaging Studies” various regions of the brain are involved in vocabulary tasks, particularly in areas important for visual and auditory processing. In short, build your vocabulary to boost your brain.
3. Dance to Better Brain Health
According to an article published by “Centers for Disease Prevention and Control” Scientists have found that the areas of the brain that control memory and skills such as planning and organizing improve with exercise like dancing which involves rhythm, balance, music, and a social setting that enhances the benefits of simple movements. Dancing will lead to improvements in memory, attention, and focus.
4. Engage all your senses
The research article “A multisensory perspective of working memory” suggests that using all your senses may help strengthen the associations in your brain.
Learn and practice activities that simultaneously engage all five of your senses. Cooking is one of them.
5. Learn, practice and teach a new skill
Learning, practicing, and teaching a new skill helps in strengthening the connections in your brain.
The researched article “The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: The Synapse Project” shows that learning a new skill can help improve memory function in older people.
If you could not learn a skill in the past due to any reason, you have a reason to learn it now.
6. Music as a brain booster
According to a study named “Happy creativity: Listening to happy music facilitates divergent thinking”, listening to ‘happy music’ (i.e., classical music that elicits positive mood and is high on arousal), as compared to a silence control condition, is associated with an increase in divergent thinking. Music listening may be useful to promote creative thinking in inexpensive and efficient ways in various scientific, educational and organizational settings when creative thinking is needed.
So next time you face any trouble in getting new creative ideas, happy music might be able to help you.
7. Meditation and the Brain
It’s a well-known fact that Meditation can help in reducing stress and anxiety. But some research even suggests that meditation may physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors.
In a 2012 study, researchers compared brain images from 50 adults who meditate and 50 adults who don’t meditate. Results suggested that people who practiced meditation for many years have more folds in the outer layer of the brain. This process (called gyrification) may increase the brain’s ability to process information.
A 2013 review of three studies suggest that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.
Results from a 2012 NCCIH-funded study suggest that meditation can affect activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain involved in processing emotions), and that different types of meditation can affect the amygdala differently even when the person is not meditating.
Research about meditation’s ability to reduce pain has produced mixed results. However, in some studies, scientists suggest that meditation activates certain areas of the brain in response to pain.
8. Learning a new language
A Review article “The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual” has shown that bilingualism has been associated with improved metalinguistic awareness (the ability to recognize language as a system that can be manipulated and explored), as well as with better memory, visual-spatial skills, and even creativity.
Time to give your brain a boost by learning a new language. It might benefit your social life too.
9. Learn Tai Chi to increase your brain volume
A study “Can Taichi Reshape the Brain? A Brain Morphometry Study” found that long-term tai chi practice could induce structural changes in the brain, resulting in an increase in brain volume. Tai Chi practitioners had thicker cortical thickness in the left superior temporal gyrus, left medial occipito-temporal sulcus, and lingual sulcus, a right inferior segment of the circular sulcus of the insula, right precentral gyrus, and right middle frontal sulcus (part of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex-DLPFC) compared to the controls.
The thickness of the medial occipito-temporal sulcus and lingual sulcus was detected to have a trend toward positive correlation with the intensity of TCC practice, providing evidence that long-term TCC practitioners have structural alterations in grey matter, which is possibly related to regular exercise.
10. Physical Exercises
Physical exercises help your brain stay sharp by increasing blood flow and oxygen supply to your brain. It reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Exercise plays an important role in neuroplasticity by boosting growth factors and stimulating new neuronal connections.
Physical activities that require hand-eye coordination or complex motor skills are particularly beneficial for boosting brain functioning.
B) Foods that can Boost Your Brain and Memory
1. Fatty fish
Fatty fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are the major building blocks of the brain. They play an important role in learning, sharpening memory, and improving mood. It also protects your brain against cognitive decline.
They may slow down the age-related mental decline and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Omega-3s fatty acids are also linked to learning impairments, as well as depression.
Some research also suggests that people who eat fish regularly tend to have more gray matter in their brains.
List of few common Indian fish and it’s omega 3 & omega 6 content
Caffeine and antioxidants present in your coffee can help support brain health.
Caffeine has many positive effects on your brain which include improved concentration, mood elevation, and increased alertness. Drinking coffee over the long term is also linked to a reduced risk of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease. The largest risk reduction was seen in those adults who consume 3-4 cups daily.
Oxidative stress and inflammation can contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Blueberries contain anthocyanins which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Some of the antioxidants in blueberries have been found to accumulate in the brain and help improve communication between brain cells that helps in improving memory and certain cognitive processes in children and older adults.
Curcumin is the active compound present in turmeric. It can directly enter the brain by crossing the blood-brain barrier.
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that helps in clearing the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. It boosts serotonin and dopamine, both of which improve mood. When used alongside standard treatments, It improves symptoms of depression and anxiety in people diagnosed with depression. Curcumin also boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor that helps brain cells grow. It may help delay age-related mental decline.
Most studies use highly concentrated curcumin supplements in doses ranging from 500–2,000 mg per day. It is much more than most people typically consume when turmeric is used as a spice. Turmeric only contains 3–6% curcumin. Therefore to achieve results as shown in these studies, you may need Curcumin supplementation under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner in addition to using turmeric as a spice.
Broccoli is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds and it’s also rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K is essential for forming sphingolipids, fat that’s densely packed into brain cells.
Higher vitamin K intake is linked with better memory and cognitive status according to some studies. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of broccoli may help protect the brain against damage.
Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants that protect the body and brain from free-radical damage. They are a rich source of magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper.
Each of these nutrients is important for brain health:
- Zinc. It is crucial for nerve signaling. Zinc deficiency has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and Parkinson’s disease.
- Magnesium. It is essential for learning and memory. Low magnesium levels are linked to migraine, depression, and epilepsy.
- Copper. Low copper levels are linked with higher risk of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s.
- Iron. It’s deficiency can lead to impaired brain function.
You should add pumpkin seed to your diet to get these micronutrients.
Dark chocolate has a 70% or greater cocoa content and also contains flavonoids, caffeine, and antioxidants.
The flavonoids in chocolate gather in the areas of the brain that deal with learning and memory and are also helpful in slowing down an age-related mental decline.
According to one study in over 900 people, those who ate chocolate more frequently performed better in a series of mental tasks, including some involving memory, compared with those who rarely ate it.
Chocolate is also a legitimate mood booster. One study found that participants who ate chocolate experienced increased positive feelings compared to those who ate crackers.
Eating nuts can improve heart-health markers, and having a healthy heart is linked to having a healthy brain.
Regular consumption of nuts is linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline in older adults.
Women who eat nuts regularly over the course of several years have a sharper memory compared with those who don’t eat nuts.
Nuts contain healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E which have beneficial effects on brain health.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cells against free-radical damage to help slow mental decline.
Walnuts also deliver anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
You can get almost all the vitamin C you need in a day by eating one medium orange.
Vitamin C is a key factor in preventing mental decline.
Higher levels of vitamin C in the blood are associated with improvements in tasks involving focus, memory, attention, and decision speed.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off the free radicals that can damage brain cells. Plus, vitamin C supports brain health as you age and may protect against conditions like major depressive disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin C is also present in foods like bell peppers, guava, kiwi, tomatoes, and strawberries.
Eggs are a good source of vitamins B6 and B12, folate, and choline.
Choline is an important micronutrient that your body uses to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory.
Higher intakes of choline were linked to better memory and mental function in a couple of studies.
Egg yolks are among the most concentrated sources of choline.
Adequate intake of choline is 425 mg per day for most women and 550 mg per day for men, with just a single egg yolk containing 112 mg.
Furthermore, the B vitamins found in eggs help in slowing the progression of mental decline in older adults by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Folate and B12 deficiency have been linked to depression.
Folate deficiency is common in older people with dementia, and studies show that folic acid supplements can help minimize age-related mental decline.
Vitamin B12 is also involved in synthesizing brain chemicals and regulating sugar levels in the brain.
Caffeine in green tea boosts brain function.
In fact, it has been found to improve alertness, performance, memory, and focus.
Other components are also present in green tea that can boost your brain.
One of them is L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps reduce anxiety and makes you feel more relaxed.
L-theanine also increases the frequency of alpha waves in the brain, which helps you relax without making you feel tired.
One review found that the L-theanine in green tea can help you relax by counteracting the stimulating effects of caffeine.
It’s also rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that could protect the brain from mental decline and reduce the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Some studies have shown green tea helps improve memory.
12) Sage: Herb that Boosts Your Memory
It was believed in ancient times that Sage has the ability to quicken nerves and memory. According to recent studies, sage may possess memory-enhancing properties, and a research review published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information identified sage as one of the herbs that may be beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients.
13) Avocados for Good Brain Health
A diet rich in healthy unsaturated fat supports the brain and combats cognitive decline. Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fats that promote healthy blood flow and support information-carrying nerves in the brain. They are also rich in folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, and copper.
A 2018 study out of Tufts University linked avocados with better brain functioning in older adults. The research monitored 40 healthy adults over the age of 50 who ate one fresh avocado per day for six months. Researchers found that they experienced a significant improvement in their problem-solving skills and working memory. The study also found that a control group in the same age bracket who did not eat an avocado each day did not experience the same cognitive health benefits during the study period.
Avocados have become a superfood that helps in boosting your brainpower.
14) Beans: Stabilizes Brain-Dependent Blood Sugar (Glucose) Levels
Beans are a source of slowly digested nutrient-dense starch that provides the brain with its preferred fuel i.e. glucose.
Beans are also rich in magnesium, zinc, fiber, antioxidants, and folate. Folate in particular is essential for brain function; a deficiency can lead to neurological disorders, such as depression and cognitive impairment. According to North Dakota State University beans provide more folate than any other food.
C) Get your Sleep
Over 95% of adults need between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep every night in order to avoid sleep deprivation. Memory, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking skills are compromised due to a lack of proper sleep.
Research shows that sleep is necessary for memory consolidation, with the key memory-enhancing activity occurring during the deepest stages of sleep.
- Get on a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning. Don’t break your routine, even on weekends and holidays.
- Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed. The blue light emitted by TVs, tablets, phones, and computers trigger wakefulness and suppresses hormones such as melatonin that make you sleepy.
- Cut back your caffeine intake. Some people are highly sensitive, and even morning coffee may interfere with sleep at night. If you are one of them then try to reduce your intake or cut it out entirely.
- Healthy napping can have positive effects on physical and mental well-being.
Benefits of Napping
Napping has several health benefits, such as
- Strengthening the immune system
- reducing cardiovascular disease risk
- enhancing psychomotor skills
- boosting work performance
- provides positive mental effects like reducing stress, decreasing the risk of cognitive dysfunction
- increasing memory retention
- helpful in preserving episodic memories, the ability to recall past events.
- helps to reduce symptoms in some people who suffer from hypersomnia, insomnia, and other sleep disorders.
Types of Napping
Many people feel rejuvenated after a power nap, which is a short sleeping episode. Power naps can boost energy and are a beneficial nap length if they last between 15 and 30 minutes.
Prophylactic napping can be an effective practice for people who work long shifts, night shifts, and others who anticipate a period of sleep deprivation. Prophylactic napping involves taking a nap prior to a night of sleep loss in order to reduce fatigue while awake. Taking a 10-minute nap during a night shift has been shown to help maintain performance while minimizing sleep inertia.
People often rely on restorative or replacement napping to make up for sleep loss due to poor sleep. Sometimes individuals can make up for a lost night by sleeping longer the next day. However, restorative sleep becomes less useful when a person has a string of sleep-deprived nights. Missing just one hour of sleep can require many more nights of restorative sleep.
People with sleep disorders or chronic conditions can include regular napping as part of their treatment. For example, patients with narcolepsy may nap to alleviate daytime sleepiness.
People who enjoy napping sometimes make it a habit. This is sometimes referred to as appetitive napping. People who take appetitive naps have been shown to experience less sleep inertia after short naps.
Correct Way To Nap
Most naps lasting less than 30 minutes can provide physical and cognitive benefits. Limiting nap length can prevent a person from entering deeper sleep phases, which can be more difficult to wake up from. Setting an alarm can help prevent oversleeping.
In addition to duration, regularity and timing are essential to healthy napping. People who want to incorporate napping into their routine might try to schedule it at about the same time each day. People who work traditional day shifts should try to avoid napping past 3 p.m. Night shift workers can benefit from napping early in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the middle of the night.
Make sure your sleeping environment is conducive to restful napping. A quiet, cool, and comfortable setting may help you relax and fall asleep more quickly. If your employer allows daytime napping, bring something from home to make you more comfortable, such as a favorite pillow, sleeping mat, earplugs, or an eye mask.
Napping can be a beneficial habit and enhance the quality of nighttime sleep. Finding the right time and method for napping can involve trial and error. However, with some experimentation, you can make napping work to your advantage.
D) Build social networks
Spending time with friends or enjoying a funny movie with them has many cognitive benefits.
Humans are highly social animals. We’re not meant to survive or thrive in isolation. Healthy Relationships stimulate and boost our brain.
A strong support system and good friendship are vital to brain health. In one recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers have found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline.
If you are not a human person, then get a highly social pet like a dog.
E) Keep Stress in Check
Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies. Chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones. Studies have also linked stress to memory loss.
F) Laughter is the Best Medicine, Time to Believe It
We have heard this for ages. Laughter is indeed the best medicine for the brain and memory. Laughter engages multiple regions across the whole brain.
Listening to and making jokes activates areas of the brain that are important for learning and creativity. You can try:
- Laughing at your embarrassing moments.
- Spending time with fun, playful people.
- Surrounding yourself with reminders to lighten up like keeping a toy on your desk or in your car, funny poster in your office, computer screensaver that makes you laugh, keeping framed photos of you and your loved ones having fun.
- Spending time with children and enjoy their giggles.
G) Identify and Treat Health Problems Early
Declining or Poor memory can be an indication of underlying health or lifestyle problems.
Many diseases, mental health disorders, and medications can interfere with memory. These may include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Heart disease and its risk factors– Cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure, have been linked to mild cognitive impairment.
- Diabetes– People suffering from diabetes experience greater cognitive decline than normal people.
- Hormone imbalance– Many women experience memory problems when their estrogen level drops like in Menopause. Similarly Low testosterone levels can cause memory issues. Thyroid imbalances can also cause forgetfulness, confusion and sluggish thinking.
- Medications. Many medications can impair memory and clear thinking. These may include cold and allergy medications, sleep aids, and antidepressants. Consult your physician before taking any medications.
- Depression – Common symptoms of depression include mental sluggishness, difficulty concentrating, and forgetfulness. Your memory can improve after taking therapy for depression.