Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Mental Muscle: Training Your Brain
It used to be believed that the brain was fixed and unchanging. Scientific research eventually revealed the complexities of the brain and its ability to be molded, shaped and form new neural pathways through learning and experiences. This discovery was termed Neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is working the mind and body together, as one, as they are meant to be. It is driven by physical exercise and mental stimulation in addition to a balanced diet, stress management, and positive social interactions. We are all lifelong learners and learning is a physical process that modifies and changes the brain with each individual experience.
Having a fit brain is not strictly about increasing your IQ and decreasing your risk of dementia related disease. Brain fitness is about feeling mentally alert, retaining memory, processing information appropriately and problem solving. As we age, typical declines include processing speed, attention span, memory, and recall. But, there is good news! Just like we know there are benefits to physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices on the body, we now know brain growth continues and can be improved as we age. By properly training and challenging the brain we can increase its development and performance. Brain exercise and mental stimulation changes the anatomy of the brain forming new connections and pathways for information to travel.
Tips for Developing Mental Muscle
- Join a club or community center
- Invite friends and family over for a meal
- Meet your neighbors
- Volunteer at a local school or church
- Take a class at a local college
- Teach a class and share your skills with the local community
- Host a book club
Eat a Balanced Diet
- Follow myplate.gov
- Follow diet recommendations from your doctor
- Control your diabetes or related disease
- Join a health club
- Create a neighborhood walking group
- Exercise with a friend
- Take a fall prevention or balance class
- Try something new, ex: yoga, tai chi, water aerobics
Know Your Numbers
- Keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar controlled
Manage Your Stress
- Take a deep breath
- Do what makes you happy
- Surround yourself with positive people and experiences
- Ask for help
- Talk about your worries
Simple Brain Games
Try these while marching around a room, marching in place or seated stepping. Another challenge is to try the exercises while making a figure 8 pattern crossing the midline of the body with hands together.
- Pick a number, ex: 30, now increase it by 3’s. Now increase it by 7’s. Do the same math exercise backwards by 3’s and 7’s starting at 100.
- Recite your phone number aloud, Repeat the last 4 digits. Repeat the last 4 digits backwards. Try with the whole number.
- State your favorite color, now spell it, and then spell it backwards.
- Memory: list the ages of your children in chronological order and then reverse the process including reversing the years, ex: 1970 becomes 0791. Try this with your grandchildren.
- Spatial skills: use the fingers of your right hand to touch your nose and the fingers of your left hand to touch your right ear. Now switch so that your left hand touches your nose and right hand touches your left ear. Repeat several times. Then try it with your eyes closed.
- Try brushing your teeth or using a fork with your non-dominant hand. Then try writing some simple words with your non-dominant hand.
- Rub your belly and pat your head.