Six Unrivalled Ways to Keep Your Brain Young and Sharp

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There is a widespread notion that you cannot teach old dog new tricks. That meaning, a grow-up fully developed human has very limited learning capability, which is decreasing still. This is quite discouraging. This is also not true!

Yes, adults have less learning opportunities compared to children. Their time is divided between work, commuting, menial home chores and other stuff that composes our life. Whereas children have no other obligations but to learn.

Adult lifestyle does not encourage learning and leaves next to nothing time for it, but it does not mean that adult brain is incapable of learning. Quite the opposite – adults have the same ability to create new connections between the neurons. On top of that, they have all the necessary skills and enough self-discipline to learn more efficiently.

A workplace can provide some challenges encouraging us to learn, but as a rule, we are rewarded the most for doing things in which we are already proficient, so why bother. Because learning is good for our brain! It is just like the exercises for our body. Learning makes our brain young and fit regardless of the birth year.

So, how can we keep our brain young with full-time hours and a tight schedule? Here are the simple hacks.

Keeping your brain fit may conjure a vision of a devoted scholar in a dusty library or a recluse solving crossword puzzles in all available newspapers. However, the picture is not accurate because all these activities imply solitude. Which can be delicious at times, but may be detrimental to your cognitive abilities. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, loneliness increases the risk of developing dementia by 65%.

Staying connected with your friends, family, and people with whom you share hobbies is not only good for your emotional health but also rejuvenates your brain. There is nothing wrong with solving puzzles as well. Only make sure they are diverse and provide you with a certain level of challenge.

Develop music taste
Recognizing patterns is one of the human brain’s abilities that was crucial to our survival as a species. That is why our brain loves it. This fact accounts for the humongous success of simple puzzle games. Listening to music is also recognizing patterns, only audial instead of visual. It is actually like a workout for your brain.

This is especially true if you listen to something new. Therefore, broadening your horizons and trying new music styles is important at any age, not only between fourteen and twenty-four when music taste usually develops.

The more complicated the patterns, the more beneficial it will be for your brain. If you never were much into jazz or classical music, try listening to it a bit longer. Your brain will train itself to recognize unfamiliar patterns and you will start enjoying it!

Become a student
You don’t have to enroll anywhere, but you will have to learn something new. Being a novice gives a huge boost to your cognitive abilities. It is also difficult emotionally because we are accustomed to being good at things. Being bad at something frustrates us and we want to quit. That is why children considered better learners – they are enthusiastic and tenacious, no matter what. Kids cannot be discouraged by one failure. Be like a kid. Carry on, even if you do not succeed immediately.

“Trying something completely unfamiliar is basically venturing out of our comfort zone”, says Caitlin Hines from Paper Help writing service. “It’s intimidating, but it is crucial to our growth”. It also helps to find a mentor. This will feel more like a commitment and will keep you motivated when your initial interest begins to fade away.

Learn more than one thing
We tend to focus on something we want to be good at, so we devote our time to it entirely. This is an effective way to master a skill as soon as possible. However, it would not be as beneficial to your brain in the long ran as diverse activities would.

“If you try new things in different domains – one related to physical activity, one related to music, and another one artistic, for example – you might be stretching your brain more effectively than if you were learning how to paint, sculpt, and draw,”says Rachel Wu, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside.

This does not mean, of course, that you should start five completely new things in one week. This will be too overwhelming. Instead, better add activities gradually when you feel ready to take in more information.

Do not multitask
This can feel rather contradictory to the statement above. However, learning more than one thing does not mean that you have to disperse your attention. Change between the subjects consistently. While you are on a subject, give it your undivided attention. If you multitask, your brain has to deal with multiple channels of information and sift through them. That makes it harder for you to focus and manage your memory resources.

Remember, an organized and developed brain may have more capacity for multitasking but the process of multitasking itself does not contribute to your sharpness, quite the reverse.

Physical exercises are not only good for your body but also can improve your cognitive abilities. Researchers have found that regular exercises appear to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.

Physical activity helps our brains both directly and indirectly. Directly it ramps up the blood flow in your brain and stimulates the release of growth factors – chemicals that help grow new cells and blood vessels in your brain. Indirectly, exercises reduce anxiety and stress improving sleep and mood.
Does it mean that you have to spend hours sweating in the gym? Not necessarily.

Everything that gets your heart pumping and leaves you out of breath will yield its benefits. Climbing the stairs or going for a brisk walk will do as well. Make sure you do it at least for 30 minutes most days of the week. The sweet spot would be between 120 and 150 minutes a week.

If you reread all of the above, you will find that to keep your brain flexible as one of a child, you should be more like a child – curious, open-minded, active and not afraid of failure. This in itself is great, don’t you think?

Author bio:
Linda Cartwright is an educator, a freelance writer, and a strong believer in a life-long learning.

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