Believe it or not, our brain needs as much exercise as our body to stay healthy and in top shape. Just like living in an unfit body relates to how our overall appearance looks, an unstimulated brain can cause a drop in cognitive functions. However, analyzing the brain function is not easy to a casual observer.
A decrease in the level of cognitive abilities and mental stimulation doesn’t express themselves in outward signs. The adverse effects are prolonged in nature and is most often noticed later in life in the form of senile dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and much more.
If you are looking for ways to stimulate your mind for better overall health, look no further because you’ve come to the right place.
The usefulness of meditation
Often referred to as the ultimate form of brain workout by spiritual gurus, meditation can happen in many forms. Even though the roots of this practice go far back to the early days of Hinduism and Buddhism, meditation itself does not hold a religious affiliation. But what does meditation actually consists of that makes it so attractive?
Well, the practice of sitting in a quiet place and observing your thoughts have been scientifically proven to improve brain functions. Sarah Lazar, a researcher at Harvard, conducted many studies on mindfulness meditation and its correlation to physical changes in the brain.
By the end of the research, it was found that a group of people who meditated for eight weeks experienced an increase in cortical thickness in certain parts of the brain. The research also concluded that meditation also activated portions of the brain that is associated with empathy and kindness.
Recent evidence also suggests that this ancient practice can also alter perceptions of pain and help ADHD symptoms better than many medications. Utilizing top-notch neurofeedback technology, the famous biohacker, Dave Asprey has created a Zen program that makes it easier for people to meditate and obtain visible results.
However, don’t worry if you do not have much money to spend because you can meditate by yourself, pretty much anywhere. For beginners, the habit of closing the eyes and focusing on attention for five long breaths can work wonders. To get the more advanced levels, consider meditating daily for 5 to 20-minute intervals or go for a free meditation course.
Food for the brain
Meditation can only take one so far in stimulating the mind because the brain also needs the right food for growth and development in the long term. An interesting fact is that much of our brain’s needs coincide with what is also good for our body. This means, by eating healthy you not only improve the overall physical health but also facilitate most of the brain functions.
The best types of food to feed your brain are whole foods, foods that do not contain too much sugar, and plenty of water daily. Vitamin D and magnesium are two other natural nutrients that people need very much but cannot get in Western countries.
However, it’s not difficult to make up for the lack of nutrients because supplements are readily available.
For deficiency in magnesium, you may consider taking magnesium glycinate instead of citrate as it is better absorbed in our body. For vitamin D, you can either take supplements based on fish oil or spend 15 minutes under direct sunlight. It is as simple as that, and all you have to do is take the initiative of practicing the methods daily.
Brain games for a quicker mind
Nothing has got more popular in the recent years than playing brain games. Not only are these games fun but they also provide a healthy level of mental stimulation to help you stay sharp. Sudoku is a board game that became highly popular in the last decade because it’s highly engaging and requires quick thinking to perform well.
You can even find brain games for smartphones as hundreds of companies are coming out with innovative and challenging titles to arouse your curiosity. Among many companies, Luminosity has become a name that has grown about 150% since it was founded in 2005.
There are also other free tools you can make use of such as Cognifit and Cambridge Brain Sciences to stay at the top of your mental game. Regardless of how fun and popular these games might be, there are still doubts about their efficacy for protecting of what might be our most valued asset long into old age.
Regardless of the effectiveness of brain games, science has proven time and again that chess, Sudoku, Bridge, and other games do indeed have benefits for the long term. There is also ample evidence available that would suggest having more years of education can also mean a lesser risk of having Alzheimer’s disease.
Other non-traditional ways to improve brain health
Creatine monohydrate: While this supplement may be highly suggested to bodybuilders, researchers concluded it could benefit improving brain health as well. Creating is a naturally occurring substance in our body that enhances our brain’s ability to produce ATP (energy) that is responsible for protecting neurological connections as well as increasing cognitive abilities.
Fish oil: Since our brain consists of around 60% fat, of which most of it is DHA, including fish oil in diet can provide a lot of omega-3 fatty acids that are rich in EPA and DHA. Because not everyone likes to eat fish or fish rich in oil is not easily available, you can try supplementing it with omega-3 derived from fish oil to get the same benefits.
Physical training: It’s been well proven by now that nothing relaxes and refreshes our mind better than physical activity. This is why taking part in sports, working out at the gym, running, jumping, and other types of activities can help in better brain development. So, you can always get out there and do exercises to get long-term brain health benefits.
Technology has advanced that’s for sure, but unfortunately, people’s willingness to provide stimulating substance to mind has remained largely the same. While some of the methods we discussed here are excellent in fuelling the brain, nothing good will come if you do not take action. So go out there and be active; you’d be surprised how fast the results become noticeable.