When we picture a brain, that lumpy, oddly-shaped mass inside our skulls, usually the last thing that comes to mind is that this is a muscle we need to keep fit. But we need to! In fact, training and keeping our brains fit when we are still young helps us postpone cognitive decline as we grow old.
Studies on Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases point out that the better we treat our brain during our youth, the better our chances of steering away from cognitive decline. Apparently, the stronger you make your brain, the less likely it is for it to age. That means it’s time to take advantage of the energy and strength of our younger years, and prepare for when we’ll be older and less able.
But how do you keep your brain fit and active when you’re surrounded by all of the brainless activities of today’s youth, with all its pinning and liking and tweeting in an endless obsession with social media?
The answer is simple: we convince (read: scare) ourselves of the importance of having healthy, fit brains:
1. When we are young are brains are more receptive and flexible. A 2011 study by the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta revealed that the human brain continues developing until our mid 20s. This means that from the time we are old enough to realize the importance of a healthy brain, we have plenty of time to make brain-health promoting decisions.
2. It slows down the aging process. When we feed and exercise our brains when we are young we increase our chances for postponing brain slow-down. Brain agility when acquired at a young age makes it less likely that there will be an abrupt deterioration in brain processes.
3. It’s fun, really. It is part of being young and curious and restless. Learning is a need, and we need knowledge to survive, to socialize, to earn money. But most importantly, learning and keeping our brains fit at the same time is fun. We get wiser, smarter, and feel great about it too.
How to get a healthy brain
- Refuse to let it rust. Be curious, seek new knowledge and acquire new skills. You can’t possibly learn everything, but there’s no harm trying.
- Protect and strengthen your memory. Get rid of your growing reliance on technology and learn to remember things on your own.
- Play brain games. Your brain is your creative, critical-thinking, language-learning, problem-solving, decision-making, concentrating, processing, thinking machine. There’s a fun game for every single brain function.
- Meditation is as good for your brain as it is for your mood. It only takes ten minutes of mindful breathing to bring your brain into a relaxation mode. Remember, your brain loves breaks as much as you do!
- Learn or perfect your speed reading skills. Speed reading is a great keep-fit exercise for your brain.
- Form new habits. A fun and intriguing way to train your brain is by readjusting, or even completely turning upside down, your daily habits. It sounds awfully distressing but it is a great training as you get your brain off auto-pilot and into a more conscious navigating mode.
- Learn another language. Learning a new language is a very demanding brain process as it requires a lot of effort and concentration to actually learn to speak a language. Because it uses so many different areas of the brain, it might as well be the ultimate brain training technique.