10 Ways To Develop Your Brain: How to Stay Young and Agile Well into Your Senior Years
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Life Strategies & Stress Management Coach
We used to think intelligence and ability were fixed traits that you inherited. Now we understand the true elasticity and malleability of the human brain. Are you interested in developing your brain to increase its capacity, abilities, and focus? If so, there are many brain-training techniques that can help. Here are just a few of the many strategies you can practice that will help to develop your brain over time.
Learning to meditate influences your brain in many ways. Meditation calms your mind. It trains you to focus on one thing at a time. It releases you from distractions that control your brain’s ability to focus and perform. Learning to meditate can take a few months, but it is worth the effort and time. It pays off in other aspects of your life. Studies show, for example, that people who have meditated for some time have lower blood pressure and hypertension.
Remove Unnecessary Obstructions
Eliminate anything that interferes with your brain’s ability to function well. This includes not getting enough sleep. It means getting off the multitasking train. It means getting rid of interruptions to your work or personal time. It means getting rid of poor lifestyle choices like smoking. Even avoiding too much digital stimulus has a significant impact on your brain. Get rid of these to help your brain work at its best.
Get Your Blood Flowing
Exercise has proven benefits to memory, cognition, and brain health in general. Your brain needs a healthy blood supply, which means your heart must be fit to provide that. Getting enough exercise is not only good for your body, but it’s also good for your brain's health, as well.
When blood flow to the brain stops, you are in serious trouble.
This sets up the risk for a stroke or an aneurysm. With regular exercise and a healthy diet, you minimize the risk of these factors occurring and creating disruptions in your brain function and your life.
We all need sunlight and the Vitamin D that your body makes as the result of being exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is just one of the many vitamins that are essential for proper brain function. But Vitamin D is especially important. Getting outside and being in the sun slows the brain’s aging process and improves cognition. Vitamin D is also critical in regulating your sleep-wake cycle. Your sleep cycle has a significant impact on your cognitive abilities. So you want to do all you can to improve the quality and quantity of sleep you are getting every single night.
Stay Connected to Others
Having a healthy social support system keeps you learning from others. It slows cognitive decline as you age. Feeling lonely can impede your maximum brain potential. Maintain strong, healthy relationships with others throughout your life. Maintaining friendships in your life will help in developing your brain's real potential.
Eat for Brain Health
Your brain requires a great deal of energy for proper functioning. You need omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients. Without them, your brains’ functioning declines rapidly. Give your brain the fuel it needs with a healthy, whole-food diet. Your diet should include food that is rich in vitamins and minerals. You want to be sure to provide the energy needed to supply your brain.
Playing games develops new neural pathways in your brain. Games that make you solve puzzles and see relationships are great for this. Games are essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline. And they can teach you valuable skills you can apply to other areas of your life.
Learn a New Skill
Continue to learn throughout your life. That practice will keep your brain growing and developing as you age. Learning a new language, activity, hobby, or game will challenge your brain in new ways. You want to create new neural networks and enhance your cognitive abilities. You can do this by challenging yourself by learning something new.
Focus on All Your Senses
We often rely on one or two of our senses to help us understand the world. But when you engage all your senses, you activate more parts of your brain and improve learning. Instead of just focusing on what you see or hear, add in taste, touch, and smell. Doing this will help you remember better and for longer.
Being curious about the world is an excellent habit of mind to develop your brain. Ask questions and seek out different and new experiences. By doing this, you keep your brain elastic as it makes many, unique and diverse neural connections. Embracing curiosity and challenges will help keep your brain developing throughout your life.
Improving your brain power is about creating habits of mind that take time to build.
Focus on one or two of these strategies at a time, and practice until you feel you’ve mastered it. Then you will be ready to add another one.
Habits take a long time to become permanent, so don’t stop just because you think you’ve got it. Stick with your efforts and, over time, you will be making new pathways in your brain. Doing that is the best way to develop the power of your mind and keep your brain healthy and young.
Chronological age is only a number.
Your real age is summed up in how you approach your life. Be as curious as you were when you were a child. Be open to new learning and new points of view. Seek out new challenges. Play. Have fun.
Dr. Wayne Dyer once said: "I’ve always said that I will never let an old person into my body. That is, I don’t believe in ‘thinking’ old. Don’t program yourself to break down as you age with thoughts that decline is inevitable.”
We all know "old" young people, and we know "young" old people.
I know which one I want to be. The wonderful thing is we always get to choose which we want to be.
If staying young at heart and in mind is an idea that appeals to you, I invite you to use some of these strategies. Start today. There are puzzles to be solved. There are bridge games that need a fourth person. There are flowers to be smelled and wines to be tasted.
Open the world to yourself by stretching your mind as well as your body for a long, happy, and healthy life.
Until next time.
As mentioned above, one of the key ingredients to maintaining a healthy brain is getting the sleep you need every single night.
A lot of people struggle in this area. They are missing out on both the quantity and quality of sleep that they need to be as healthy, happy, and productive as they want to be.