You already know that the human brain is similar to a muscle in one respect – the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. To take this analogy forward, we do not exercise or intentionally use the brain just as we often do not exercise or intentionally use the muscle – it just happens as part and parcel of our every day life.
Our brain is capable of some amazing feats if you can work out parts of your brain making it grow physically, which means you form new neural pathways and strengthen existing ones. Neurogenesis is the process of creating new neurons. Whereas existing neurons are strengthened through experience or through connections from its neighbouring neurons which are strengthened; new neurons are created by developing ore connections through dendritic sprouting. A single neuron can have upto thirty thousand such connections.
Almost all degenerative brain disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.) are characterised by the decline and death of neurons. So there are two important reasons to exercise your brain intentionally and deliberately, viz., to prevent it from degenerating and to make it stronger. Here is the kicker – physical exercise boosts the rate of neurogenesis throughout your life and mental exercise increases the survival rate and connectivity of your brain cells.
So to mindfully boost your brain, you need a combination of both which can yet be accomplished on a regular basis without impunging your routine. So here are 10 brain boosting activities you can indulge in every day -
1. At least do one puzzle each day or play a game that challenges and stimulates your brain. Sudoku is the most convenient, also Kakuro, picture puzzles, strategy games, crosswords, deduction games, lateral thinking puzzles, optical illustions, etc.
2. Reading stimulates the brain as it activates your imagination. Reading also helps with memory retention and problem solving. Also, self-help books stimulate your brain by helping you to think for yourself, as well as find solutions in your mind. You dont need to read a book a day, but make sure you dedicate some time to reading. If you have read my earlier article, you may wish to substitute that activity with reading.
3. Exercising helps circulate blood that carries oxygen to your brain. Over the long-term, exercise is proven to increase brainpower and even create new neurons. If you cannot fit in regular exercise, the minimum you can do is walk for 30 minutes each day. Walking allows you to clear your mind and thoughts in addition to the benefits of basic exercise.
4. Meditation has been shown to increase your IQ, relieve stress, and promote a higher level of brain functioning. Meditation also stimulates the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area of the brain responsible for advanced thinking, ability and performance. It is a much misunderstood term and some people find it very difficult to reach a stage of relaxation. Meditation as an escape mechanism or when you are feeling low can be counter-productive (stay alert for a future article on this), at all other times it is extremely beneficial.
5. Studies have proven that listening to music strengthens the right hemisphere of the brain and actually changes the structure of it. Also, people who listen to music are shown to be more emotionally intelligent than those who don't.
6. Writing improves memory and thought expression. Writing articles, blogs, or journal entries stimulates thought processes, which also enhances brain function. Writing also makes you read more on a subject and often do some research.
7. Painting is shown to be an effective brain booster in that it sparks the creativity within you. Even if you've never tried painting before, give it a shot. You'll find that you feel more creative and may actually enjoy it. If you cannot paint, draw a picture. Like painting, drawing stimulates the creative side of your brain.
8. Ensure that you have at least one serving of pure fruit juice every day. Fruit juice contains nutrients that revitalize and refresh the brain. Pomegranates and berry juices are considered to be the best. Do read the label to make sure there is no added sugar if you are drinking packaged fruit juices.
9. Students who drink some caffeine before an exam typically have higher scores than those who don't. This is because caffeine stimulates activity in the brain, which produces better focus and thinking ability. Don't overdo it though, as too much caffeine can be harmful too.
10. Make sure you do not deprive yourself of adequate sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours although there are some who claim to do well with 6 hours per day.
Not all 10 need to be done each day, quite the contrary. Choose one or the other, keep combining and alternating them. Mix them all up and do it on different days and different times, where possible.
The author, Rajesh Seshadri, is an internationally recognized Certified Leadership Coach, Certified Success Coach and Certified Life Coach. He is also a NLP Master Practitioner, facilitator and therapist. The basket of therapies is holistic and integrative adopting techniques from Psychotherapy, NLP, Silva, Gestalt, Hypnosis and Silva UltraMind. Additionally, he is a seasoned corporate professional who continues to serve as a whole-time Director and Board Member. You can contact him here.