Change Your Choices

Change Your Life…Tips for a healthier you

Train Your Brain!

on July 12, 2011

While we spend alot of time getting our body in shape…what about your  brain? We take for granted all the things our brain does until it stops doing those things.  Your brain has 5 cognitvie functions and each needs to be challenged and stimulated on a daily basis.  Here are some easy ways to train your brain!

1- Memory

Memory plays a crucial role in all cognitive activities, including reading, reasoning and mental calculation. There are several types of memory at work in the brain and loss of these skills are what we notice most when they begin to fail. To maintain a good memory, you need to train for it, which can be easier than you think. Listening to a song you don’t know and memorizing the lyrics will boost the level of acetylcholine, the chemical that helps build your brain and improve your memory skills. Here’s a fun challenge:  Use your opposite hand to brush your teeth. Or- try getting dressed or showering in the dark.  These exercise help build new associations between the neurons in your brain.

2- Attention

Attention is necessary in nearly all daily tasks. Good attention enables you to maintain concentration despite noise and distractions and to focus on several activities at once. You can improve our attention by simply changing your routines. Drive a different route to work or reorganize your desk, I moved my phone to the the other side and reach for it with the opposite hand, this was actually quite difficult!   Doing these things will force your brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again. As we age, our attention span  decreases, making us easily distracted and  less efficient at multitasking. Another challenge: combine activities like listening to abook with jogging or doing math in your head while you drive. This forces your brain to work at doing more in the same amount of time. 

3- Language

Language activities will challenge our ability to recognize, remember and understand words.  Your Language Challenge: Read a section of the paper that you don’t usually read.  You’ll be exposed to new words, which are easier to understand when read in context or easier to look up on a dictionary site if you are reading the news online. Take time to understand the word in its context, which will help you build your language skills and retrieve the word more readily.  It’s amazing how many words we skip over because we don’t know the  meaning, take a moment to look it up.   Need a more difficult challenge?  Try learing a new language!

4- Visual-Spatial

We live in a 3D World. You need to analyze visual information to act within your environment. Your Challenge: Walk into an unfamiliar space and pick out five items and their locations. When you exit the space, try to recall all five items and where they were located.  If this is too easy-wait two hours and try to remember those items and their locations. Actually, try this in a familiar room, you’ll be surprised at how many things you see every day and can’t remember or place them. 

5- Executive Function

Without even realizing it, you use your logic and reasoning skills on a daily basis to make decisions.  We are constantly
 working on strategies to reach our desired goal or calcualting to find solutions to everyday problems. Your challenge?  Video games. Yes, I said video games.  They  require strategy and problem -solving to reach a desired outcome — like making it to the final level.  A few mintues a day with the Playstation or XBox can be good for your brain, but too much stimulation is not!  I’m a little old-fashioned with this, I prefer a good crossword puzzle. 

As we age, it’s important to flex our mental muscles as well as our body.  Now that you’re aware of the five main cognitive functions and how to exercise them, it will be easy to find daily activities that will help you break a mental sweat and keep your brain in shape!

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