Let’s review some good lifestyle options we can all follow to maintain, and improve, our vibrant brains.
1. Learn more about the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic understanding will serve you well to appreciate your brain’s beauty as a living and constantly-developing dense forest with billions of neurons and synapses.
2. Take care of your nutrition. Did you know that the brain only weighs 2% of body mass but consumes over 20% of the oxygen and nutrients we intake? As a general rule, you don’t need expensive ultra-sophisticated nutritional supplements, just make sure you don’t stuff yourself with the “bad stuff.”
3. Remember that the brain is part of the body. Things that exercise your body can also help sharpen your brain: physical exercise enhances neurogenesis, at any age!
4. Practice positive, action-oriented thoughts until they become your default mindset and you look forward to creating something beautiful every new day. Too much stress and anxiety–either induced by external events or by your own thoughts–actually kills neurons and prevent the creation of new ones.
5. Thrive on Learning and Mental Challenges. The point of having a brain is precisely to learn and to adapt to challenging new environments. Once new neurons appear in your brain, where they migrate and how long they survive depends on how you use them. “Use It or Lose It” does not mean “do crossword puzzle number 1,234,567”. It means, “challenge your brain, and often, with novel activities”.
6. We are (as far as we know) the only self-directed organisms in this planet. Aim high. Once you graduate from college, keep learning. Once you become too comfortable in one job, find a new one. The brain keeps developing ALWAYS, reflecting what you do with it.
7. Explore, travel. Adapting to new locations forces you to pay more attention to your environment. Make new decisions, use your brain.
8. Don’t Outsource Your Brain. Not to media personalities, not to politicians, not to your smart neighbour… Make your own decisions, and mistakes. That way, you are training your brain, not your neighbour’s.
9. Develop and maintain stimulating friendships. We are social animals, and need social interaction. Which, by the way, is why ‘Baby Einstein’ or all those educational apps have been shown not to be the panacea for children development.
10. Laugh. Often. Especially to cognitively complex humor, full of twists and surprises. Better, try to become the next Jon Stewart.
Now, remember that what counts is not reading this article –or any other– but practicing a bit every day until small steps snowball into unstoppable, internalized habits. “Cells that fire together wire together”… so, start working on one of these 10 habits today. Revisit the habit above that really grabbed your attention, and make a decision to try something different right away.
–> To learn more about what you can do, check out The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age.