Your brain has the ability to learn and grow as you age — a process called brain plasticity — but for it to do so, you have to train it on a regular basis.
“Eventually, your cognitive skills will wane and thinking and memory will be more challenging, so you need to build up your reserve,” says Dr. John N. Morris, director of social and health policy research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging Research. “Embracing a new activity that also forces you to think and learn and requires ongoing practice can be one of the best ways to keep the brain healthy.”
Physical and mental game
Research has shown that regular physical exercise is one way to improve cognitive functions like memory recall, problem solving, concentration, and attention to detail. However, it is not clear if the physical aspect alone boosts your brain or if a combination of other factors — like the mental challenge of the activity, the frequency you do it, and the desire to improve — also contribute.
Take swimming, for example. It has obvious cardiovascular and muscle-building benefits, but also involves constant thinking, processing, and learning. You have to be mindful of your breathing rhythm and how to properly execute strokes and kicks. You also can measure your expertise in terms of endurance and speed, which motivates you to practice your skills to be a better swimmer.
A brain training activity doesn’t always have to be exercise-related. Much research has found that creative outlets like painting and other art forms, learning an instrument, doing expressive or autobiographical writing, and learning a language also can improve cognitive function. A 2014 study in Gerontologist reviewed 31 studies that focused on how these specific endeavors affected older adults’ mental skills and found that all of them improved several aspects of memory like recalling instructions and processing speed.
|Prep your brainThese tips can support your new brain training endeavor:Pick one new activity. Devote your time and attention to only one additional activity, so you won’t be tempted by other interests.Sign up for a class. Classes are a good way to learn the basics of any new activity, especially one that requires specific skills, like painting or music.Schedule practice time. Don’t focus on the amount of time you practice at first, but rather aim for consistency. Devote what time you can, but be firm with your commitment. Schedule it and do it.|
Do the right activity
No matter which new activity you choose, make sure it follows three guidelines in order to maximize brain training, according to Dr. Morris.
Challenging. You have to always challenge your brain in order for it to grow. This is why choosing a new activity is so beneficial. It engages your brain to learn something new and offers the chance to improve.
Not up for a new endeavor? Raise the bar for an existing activity. For instance, if you are a casual golfer, commit to increasing your ability and aim to lower your handicap or shoot a specific score. “You don’t have the challenge of learning something new, but rather the challenge of increasing your skill set and knowledge,” says Dr. Morris.
Complexity. A complex activity not only strikes a match of excitement, but forces your brain to work on specific thought processes like problem solving and creative thinking. A 2013 study in Psychological Science found that older adults ages 60 to 90 who did new and complex activities, such as digital photography or quilting, for an average of 16 hours per week for three months scored better on working and long-term memory tests than those who did more familiar activities like reading and doing crossword puzzles.
Practice. Practice makes permanent, and that goes for brain function, too. “You can’t improve memory if you don’t work at it,” says Dr. Morris. “The more time you devote to engaging your brain, the more it benefits.”
Your activity should require some level of constant practice, but the goal is not to strive for vast improvements. “It is the constant repetition of working to improve, and not the quest for mastery, that can have the greatest impact,” says Dr. Morris.
Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Do everything in love.1 Corinthians 16:14
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
We love because He first loved us.1 John 4:19
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9 NIV
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1Corinthians 13:2 NIV
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:15-16 NIV
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