May 26, 2024

F1000 Scientist

Health to Life

Brain Training 101 – How to Maintain Overall Brain Health

A healthy mind equates to a healthy body and that is not an understatement. There are many ways of promoting overall health, but somehow, people tend to disregard brain training exercises. One plausible reason for this is that we tend to associate cognitive powers with school type learning. We tend to think that once we leave school premises, all learning processes cease. Fortunately, our brain cells do not function that way. The human mind tends to use valuable memory and actually learn before and beyond our school learning days. It does not matter what our current age is or overall health; our brains still continue to learn, relearn and unlearn new information on a daily basis.

The question is: how do we maintain overall brain health? There are many simple brain training exercises we could incorporate in our daily routine that can help us improve our memories and overall cognitive fitness. Some of these are:

1. Keeping your mind active, even when you relax. This may sound ironic but there are many ways of keeping your mind alert while your body relaxes. Reading, painting or even surfing for news article in the World Wide Web are fine examples of this kind of brain exercise. Your mind is constantly shifting its focus, and making small decisions as you go along your way. These small decisions include: do you continue with the next chapter, what kind of paint should you use for the foreground, and what news article seems worth reading over.

The complete opposite of this exercise are watching TV, watching movies on marathon, and playing video games. All three have very little mental stimulation, since everything else is presented already – the visuals, the sounds, the effects. Playing video games may entail decision making processes, but only with sheer repetition can you actually achieve success. In other words, the computer game is training your brain to function according to its design.

2. Interact with people or with animals. Interaction on any level is good for the cognitive process. Even a passing greeting to a friend can spark brain activity, especially when you start noticing differences between your last encounter; or recall memories as to what transpired between the two of you. Pets are wonderful companions, and can help maintain creativity, compassion and playfulness in your personality. All three elements can boost thinking, which in turn can help your brain remain young and pliant.

3. If having bad recall is your problem, then this can be easily solved by simply paying more attention to the things around you. Develop some an eye for details and then play the association game. For example, you have just been introduced to someone named Jack B. Look at the person’s physical attributes and find one distinct marker that makes him stand out from everyone else. This Jack B. happens to be extremely tall. You can associate his height with the story Jack and the Beanstalk for easier recall. Or if Jack B. happens to have piercing blue eyes, you can label him (mentally, of course) as Jack Blue Eyes. If Jack B. has a beard, you can label him as Jack Bushy Beard. The more outlandish the association, the better your recall will be.