Being healthy is not just about the foods we eat and exercises we do to get our bodies physically fit. You can be at your ideal weight and have rock-solid abs and muscles, yet still be severely unhealthy if you don’t take the time to train your brain.
Your brain is the most important organ in your body. It sends signals to the muscles and tissues and controls all your bodily functions, as well as all the organs in your body, such as the heart and liver.
Most people easily can recognize the benefit of training the heart through aerobic activities like walking, running or cycling. It helps increase blood flow throughout the body and aids in building overall endurance while helping to decrease blockages, and reduces the risk of cardiac disease and heart attacks.
It is just as important to the brain.
Signs of an unhealthy brain can manifest in the form of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and cognitive disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A healthy brain will reduce the risk of strokes, help prevent memory loss, maintain the body’s motor functions and improve your overall mood.
But how do you train your brain?
There are several easy ways to give your brain a healthy boost. Here are three easy ways you can train your brain.
According to Harvard Health Publications, if you currently exercise, you are already on the right path.
Exercise — especially aerobic activities — stimulates the release of growth factors, which are chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells. Exercise also increases the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and ensures the survival of new brain cells.
The increased blood flow helps repair damaged nerve tissue in the brain. It also increases the production of certain hormones such as serotonin.
Serotonin is a chemical that helps regulate mood. Having deficient levels of serotonin is linked to elevated levels of depression and anxiety.
Medical News Today reports that serotonin is manufactured in the brain and intestines. The serotonin that is used within the brain must be produced in the brain.
Research shows that at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity three times a week is sufficient to increase blood flow to the brain.
Harvard adds that the indirect benefit of exercise is improved sleep and mood and reduced stress and anxiety.
Play some games
Train your brain with fun activities like quizzes, puzzles and video games. If you ever needed the perfect excuse to say playing “Super Mario Brothers” or “Grand Theft Auto” was an absolutely necessary great way to spend your time, here it is.
The Guardian reports that a study done by the University of California found that older people who played specially designed video games improved their multitasking abilities, memory and attention.
The study found that 60 year-olds who played the custom-designed game for 12 hours over a one-month period improved their multitasking abilities to levels better than those achieved by 20-year-olds playing the game for the first time.
Experts suggest brain training that involves real-world activities. The brain works through association. Staying within a specific routine limits brain activity. Simple things such as brushing your teeth with the opposite hand, taking a different route to work on certain days, or playing simple word games like Sudoku or crossword puzzles help keep the brain’s neurons engaged, according to David Eagleman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
The simple task of learning something new — such as a foreign language, new sport, drawing, painting, putting together a puzzle or doing math in your head — helps to train the brain and increase memory recall.
Quiet the mind
Controlling stress is a major factor in creating a healthy brain.
Certain stressors cause the brain to release chemicals that activate the adrenal system in what is normally called the “flight or fight syndrome.” Those chemicals increase the heart rate, elevate blood pressure and increase the release of adrenaline, which prepares the body to deal with the stress or risk at hand.
Everyone is faced with stress daily. Money issues, health issues, job pressures and peer pressures all can cause undue stress to the brain and body.
Being in a constant state of stress can lead to an increase in anxiety, severe mood swings, inability to sleep properly and a decrease in memory function. It also inhibits the body’s ability to fight disease and muscle discomfort.
Reduce stress by taking a few minutes of your day to meditate and disconnect from the stressors around you. Turn off the computer, shut off the cellphone, unplug the TV, find a quiet place and just sit and be still. Don’t fight all the thoughts running through your head. Just let them flow.
Research done by Harvard in 2014 showed that meditation helps to rebuild brain matter in just eight weeks. The study participants meditated for 30 minutes each day during the research.
Meditation doesn’t require any fancy equipment. There are several courses on meditation, but you don’t have to get too complicated.
Reconnect with nature by taking a calming walk in a park. Take a moment to take off your shoes and socks and feel the cool grass underneath your feet. Set up a warm, soothing bubble bath and soak away the stress. Take a yoga class to release the stress while exercising the body for double the bonus.
Sit quietly just before going to bed each night and just focus on listening to your breath. Soon, these meditation habits will become second nature, and you will find it easier and easier to quiet the mind, focus inward and temporarily shut out external noises and influences.
Your brain works overtime everyday. Trying these quick and easy techniques can help you stay alert way into your golden years.