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5 Ways to Improve Brain Fitness

  • 24-Sep-2014

Brain fitness not only impacts our mental health but our overall health, ability to cope with stress and whatever life throws at us. 5 ways to improve brain fitness is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are real and tangible things that any person can do during the day or from home. This list is devised based on scientific research on methods used to increase brain health and brain fitness. Using these methods will help us all to see that we can maintain our positivity and optimism while giving our brain a workout.

1. Keep setting high standards.
There is a well-known effect in the psychology referred to as the “Pygmalion effect” (after the Greek myth Pygmalion) whereby teachers, often unknowingly, expect more of particular children, who then in turn strive to meet those expectations. This effect is so well known that is referred to by psychologists as the Rosenthal-Jacobsen 1968 finding after the two psychologists who first discovered it. What this research suggests is that when we set high standards for ourselves and are helped to believe that achieving them is possible, they become possible. On the flip side, people who are made to feel that there is little point in them trying to reach high standards give up easily and do not reach their potential.
In one study, by social psychologist Arronson and colleagues in 2001, members of an educationally disadvantaged community were taught to believe that it was possible to become more intelligent. The children from that group showed improved mathematical ability compared to a matched control group of children who were not encouraged to raise their expectations of what is possible. So believing in yourself is not idealism. It actually works!

2. Try meditation.
Meditation and mindfulness contribute to healthy brain functions. Psychologists have become more interested in some ancient wisdom around mindfulness and meditation. Some impressive evidence is mounting that these practices improve our physical and mental health. Meditation techniques vary widely, but they all have in common some form of stillness, focus on breathing, and achieving calm. . Research is showing that meditation improves concentration and memory. Studies have also tracked the growth in important brain areas associated with intelligent thinking over time as research participants practiced meditation. In one study published in the Journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Professor Eileen Luders of UCLA reported that long-term meditators were found to have larger amounts of gyrification or “folding” of the brain cortex. Stress prevents good learning and it is designed to do so. The stress response prioritizes immediate information and actually shortens attention span. However, in order to think intelligently we need to think more broadly, and in a considered way. This is not possible when we are stressed. So meditation can help us to calm the mind, and so increase our ability to attend to each learning experience fully. Some studies also appear to show that extended practice can even raise our general intelligence.

3. Stay physical active.
The brain loves a healthy body. It has been noted by psychologists over the past decades that physical exercise is a sort of miracle cure or “panacea” for a wide range of physical, emotional and now intellectual problems. Exercise is free and there are no side effects. Physical exercise increases your blood flow, which in turn increases the amount of oxygen and glucose your brain is receiving. Exercise also generally involves physical coordination, and so your brain also gets a workout as it coordinates all of that complicated physical activity. Exercise helps with the growth of new brain cells (neurons) and the connections between brain cells (neurogenesis) by promoting the production of three essential “growth factors”, called brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), insulin-like growth factors (IGF-1), and endothelial growth factor (VEGF). These factors also minimize inflammation, grow new blood vessels, and slow down cell self-destruction. A good workout can also awaken dormant stem cells in the hippocampus, a part of the mid brain that controls our memory system. Some research seems to suggest that there may be genuine intellectual benefits to exercise in terms of IQ gains.

4. Keep learning and educating!
Never stop learning and challenging the brain to learn new things, continue educating yourself by absorbing information,have a hobby, do a night class. We can all actively embracing problem-solving and learning every day. Learn that second language or read that heavy book you have been avoiding. Even older people show IQ gains if their environment becomes more stimulating and challenging. Studies have shown that the longer people stay learning the happier they are in life and achieve more.

5. Train the brain.
Just like the body becomes more physically fit by engaging in physical exercise, so too can the brain become more fit by being stimulated. Brain training usually is delivered in the form of entertaining games designed to stimulate important areas of the brain associated with basic cognitive activity. Practice at these tasks lead to real changes in the cell density of those areas (neurogenesis). The idea is that we can literally boost our brains with the correct types of mental exercises. Because psychologists now know quite a bit (although not enough) about what brain areas are involved in what types of skills, they can devise exercises to target those precise areas so that, at least in theory, we can all become more agile thinkers, have more creative insights and reason more logically. Decades of evidence from different laboratories, involving research with animals and humans all suggest that brains can be trained and developed by mental exercise. It also appears that the benefits of brain training at this point in time appear to surpass those of any other method for enhancing intellectual ability.
So there you have my 5 ways to improve brain fitness. I hope they may be of some help to improving your brain's health. Regards Doctor Sarah. Co-Founder - RaiseYourIQ

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