Until the middle of the 20th century, it was widely believed that our brains became “fixed” once we got to adulthood, so we were stuck with whatever we had going on inside our skulls. Of course, modern science has known for decades that is not the case. Due to a process called neuroplasticity (pronounced:noor-oh-pla-stis-i-tee), the human brain can continue to develop throughout our lives.
I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful I didn’t get stuck with the brain I had at 25!
When I say our brains continue to develop, what I’m talking about is that each time we learn something new, we create new connections between brain cells. And, the more connections we have, the better fortified the brain is against degenerative diseases like dementia. So, it’s like a win-win for us and the health of our brain.
10 Enjoyable Ways to Keep Improving Your Brain
There are so many things we can do to help our brains be stronger, and they can be challenging, satisfying—and fun! Here are 10 great ways to do this:
- Play table tennis (a.k.a. ping-pong). This is my husband’s favorite sport because it involves coordination, strategy, and focus—and you can even work up a sweat!
- Do jigsaw puzzles. Putting one together activates multiple areas of the brain, so it’s a great mental exercise.
- Learn a new word every day. Just open the dictionary and randomly select a word you don’t already know, memorize its definition, and practice using it while talking.
- Memorize the alphabet backwards. Start with a few letters (z, y, x) and keep adding to the string once you’ve got those locked in. This is an easy thing to practice while you’re waiting in line
- Learn to play a musical instrument. Not only can this improve your memory, but it also activates both hemispheres and multiple brain regions.
- Play intellectually stimulating games. Sudoku, chess, backgammon, and checkers are some of the best.
- Pick up a new hobby. Whether it’s painting, knitting, carving wood, gardening—or whatever interests you—learning a hobby builds new networks in your brain.
- Take a dance class. Practicing new steps and the rhythm, while listening to music and being in a social setting is such a fun way to boost cognitive function!
- Play online brain games. I love these because with repeated practice of a game, you can see your score improve, which means your brain is getting better at the task. Mybrainfitlife.com has a great selection of entertaining games, along with many other strategies for optimizing your brain growth.
- Meditate regularly. Not only does meditation help you feel calmer and more mentally clear, but research has also found that it can improve your memory and help you process information better.
Keep Your Brain in a Healthy Environment
I must emphasize that neuroplasticity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Like a beautiful plant, our brains need to be in a healthy environment to grow. For example, if I were taking a class to learn a foreign language (another excellent way to stimulate brain growth) but go out for a few drinks and pizza every night after class, I wouldn’t be nurturing the new connections in my brain—it’s more like I’d be spraying pesticides on them.
I think you probably get my drift, but what this means is that we must make good choices to support the ongoing brain development we want, so it’s important to:
- Get regular exercise
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Take your supplements
- Do what is necessary to take care of your mental health
And of course, avoid harmful things like nicotine, recreational drugs, and excessive alcohol because they can sabotage your effort to improve your brain.
PS: Your new word of the day is neuroplasticity, defined in the dictionary as: The capacity of the nervous system to develop new neuronal connections.
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If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.