From a scientific point of view, there is no denying that every facet of human life is anchored on the extraordinary capacity of our white and gray matter from emotions, thought patterns, all the way to our productivity. But how and why does this enigmatic 3-pound organ known as the brain hold such an imploring sway over the matters of life, efficiency, death, sleep, perception and so much more? And is it true that it operates at an optimal state for some time, then begins to fail little by little as the clock ticks?
Well, that is medically accurate. As Sandra Chapman Ph.D. (1), chief director and founder of Center for Brain Health (2) notes in her book “Make Your Brain Smarter”, allowing your brain to lose its mental edge and neglecting its cognitive health by sticking to repetitive activities as opposed to spontaneous and innovative thinking can result in deleterious ramifications on your memory and focus.
Nonetheless, she is quick to point out that there is still hope for us who want to improve our mind and focus. However, this is only possible if we are ready to pursue passionate hobbies, develop new interests, and perform brain exercises that can improve the brain’s ability to expand and become more efficient.
She also notes that it is never too late to incorporate brain boosting daily activities into your regular schedule. And this is the path you have decided to follow, I’ve got you covered. In this post, I have discussed into details five medically proven techniques that can help improve your brain and focus.
1. Get a Good Night's Sleep
A study conducted by DR Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen, a researcher from Harvard University, concluded that 33% of people are likely to infer connections between distantly related ideas after having enough sleep (3).
From this study, sleep has been proven to be the most critical factor when it comes to productivity, boosting your memory and improving your focus. It has also been found to increase memory and improve performance in challenging tasks. However, in these hard-economic times, it is not unusual for people to deprive themselves of sleep in a bid to make ends meet. Though this might sound like the noblest thing to do, it is not. Facts are facts and let no one lie to you. Sleeping for 4 to 6 hours on a single night can significantly erode your capacity to think straight the following day. But why?
Well, considering that the memory consolidation process happens when you are asleep, (4) it is correct to imply that if you don’t get enough sleep, it will be hard for you to remember things that you have learned or even focus on what you are doing. Taking even a short nap will go a long way to boost your recalling ability to recall. Like I noted earlier, neuroplasticity or rather the process by which the brain grows underlies the strength of your brain to control concentration, information, learning, and memory.
Nonetheless, sleep deprivation can modify the nature of certain genes and gene products that facilitate brain growth negatively impacting focus and memory.
2. Challenge Yourself with Brain Games
According to a study conducted by researchers from Harvard University and published by the American Academy of Neurology, (5) people who participate in regular mental stimulating activities are less likely to develop some forms of dementia later in life. Believe it or not, spending even 10 minutes on brain games as you queue on lines at your doctor’s office can give you a significant brain boost.
The kicker is, participating in focus-oriented games such as solving puzzles and dart games will come a long way in training your brain. If you are the practical type that is comfortable around real things, a dart game will go a long way in training your brain how to focus. And even if you are into electronics, there is no excuse as to why you should not leverage on such activities since virtual versions of these games can be played over the internet, on your smartphone or even a laptop.
Even better, you can play them anywhere at any time since most of these electronic devices are portable. And also, if the effectiveness of these brain training games (6) is a contentious topic among the scientific community, one thing is sure. Regular mentally stimulation comes with potential cognitive benefits.
3. Expand Your Horizons Beyond Games
Research has proven that persistently doing new things has a significant positive impact on the neural plasticity of your brain or instead of the connections between neurons (7). And the more these neurons are aroused, the greater the period these positive effects lasts.
Another study published by NCBI established that Fueling your brain and presenting it with regular challenges can improve its efficiency and consequently minimize the likelihood of cognitive decline. From this, it is evident that every time you commit yourself to a new activity, new connections are created and the more connections you have, the easier it is to improve focus and retain information for future reference.
Therefore, as you pursue the art of training your mind, expand your horizons beyond games and expose your physical and mental being to whole new experiences and exploits.
To achieve this, why not learn a new language, take up a new hobby, travel to a new place or experience nature first hand by going out tent camping. The golden rule here is sticking to daily habits that boost your brain and prioritizing mental exercises to ensure that you are not only creating new mental pathways but also strengthening existing ones.
4. Treat Your Body Right
Who amongst us can deny the power of a healthy body? Unquestionably, no one! Though most of us are fully aware of this fact, we keep neglecting our physical bodies and still expect the brain to perform optimally. Even so, nothing can be far from the truth. A healthy brain requires a robust and healthy body nurtured by simple yet very effective daily habits such as:
- Watching your diet. Research has proven that adopting a balanced diet reduces the risk of plaques forming within the small blood vessels in your brain thereby facilitating seamless blood circulation (8). To achieve this, minimize or avoid the intake of excess salt, added sugars, and saturated fats and emphasize consuming whole and fresh food such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
- Doing regular physical and mental exercises. Studies indicate that physical activities boost the production of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor which is a brain protein that stimulates the development of new neurons while preserving existing ones (9).
Engaging in such activities keeps your brain sharp by minimizing mental fatigue, which consequently increases blood flow and circulates nutrients to the brain.
5. Make Time for Friends
A report published in psychology today indicates that developing healthy and meaningful relationships not only improves our emotional health but also empowers the brain (10).
So far, we have been dealing with “serious” activities such as playing dart games, going out tent camping and wrestling with the New York Times crossword puzzle as ways of improving memory and focus. Forget that for now. It is time for a more light-hearted technique – making time for your friends! It might sound sarcastic and ironic studies show that healthy relationships are the ultimate brain booster. In other words, a life full of friends comes with several cognitive benefits. The argument being, we of the human race are social beings. In other words, our evolutionary path has not designed us to survive in isolation.
Luckily enough, there are several ways you can leverage socializing to reap the cognitive benefits it has to offer. For instance, you can join a club, call your buddies over the phone or make an effort to visit them in person. If you have the time, why not play some dart games or go out tent camping together. And if a fellow human isn't available for whatever reasons, do not overlook the value a pet can offer more so a highly social dog.
Melanie Campbell, the outdoor and camping enthusiast behind Ardent Footsteps, has been enjoying this wonderful world since 2010. She shares expert advice when it comes to camping and trekking. With the main focus on making the most out of camping and outdoor adventures, Melanie will make you want to go out today!
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