Improving cognitive function is a new, booming industry. Advertisements across media platforms are touting the use of neuroplasticity for the sake of selling games and programs that are intended to keep your mental faculties sharp and high functioning. How well do these programs actually work, and what other steps can be taken to keep the brain running as well as it can?
Some scientists suggest that these brain games might actually be more harmful than helpful, especially those apps and online programs that have become so popular. While these games do help with general recall, the claim that they actually encourage the brain to grow or that they engage the whole brain are vastly overstated and in some cases outright false.
The best ways to help the whole brain improve are much more basic. Just like you help to improve the health of any other organ in the body, it’s important to take some basic steps that will improve the health and function of your entire brain and the rest of your body as well!
Increase Physical Activity
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have conducted studies that lead them to conclude there is even more evidence for the connection between increased physical activity and overall improvement in cognitive function. The researchers found that specific hormone levels rise in the body during physical activity. These hormones helped to increase cognitive function in the long term, benefiting participants beyond just their exercise time.
How can you apply this study? Go for a walk! You don’t have to pour all of your time and money into becoming a gym rat. Increase your physical activity from what you do now. Skip the escalator and take the stairs. Park a little farther away from the store. Spend the end of your lunch break going for a walk.
Individuals with high levels of stress suffer from decreased cognitive function. The easy answer to this problem is to reduce stress–but how? Some stressors are simply unavoidable. Learning to manage stress as it comes will help you improve your cognitive function and improve your overall enjoyment of life as well.
One method of stress reduction and mitigation is mindful meditation. Studies have suggested that those who participate in meditation not only reduce stress and improve their cognitive function, but also improve the physical health of their brains.
Meditation can be simple to practice, though it seems intimidating to many. You don’t have to be the Dalai Lama to practice it. You don’t even have to know who he is! Simply carve out a few minutes of your day to sit in peace and quiet. For beginners, repeating a simple, positive phrase or mantra is an easy way to clear the mind.
Get Enough Sleep
Everyone knows that you need to get enough sleep to function at decently useful levels, but why? Sleep itself has some mysterious aspects to it, but the connection to cognitive function has never been one of them. Why does the brain need sleep to keep up?
Learning is hard! Thinking is hard! The brain might not work the same way your muscles do, but it needs rest after working hard just like muscles need recovery time. As long as you keep your brain engaged in vigorous work, you need to make sure you’re giving it more than adequate rest and recovery time.
Following these smart and simple steps will help you improve your cognitive function, and you’ll boost your physical health as well. It’s easy to implement these basic activities into everyday life, and doing so will benefit you beyond measure.