How to Trick Your Brain Into Working Better
The formula for maintaining a healthy brain looks a lot like the keys to a healthy body—-good diet and exercise.
While neuroscientists have been talking for years about why a Mediterranean diet is good for brain health, the science behind “brain exercises” is arguably not as well known. Regardless of your age, there are some simple techniques you can use to grow new brain cells, build more neural pathways, and help maintain a positive outlook, Quartz reports.
Here are three of the simple tricks Quartz cites for how to keep your mind sharp.
1. Celebrate the small things.
Believe it or not, your brain can’t tell the difference between real progress and perceived progress. And the frequency of celebratory events matters more for your emotional state than the size of each event. For these reasons, B.J. Fogg, director of Stanford’s Persuasive Tech Lab, recommends congratulating yourself for small moments of productivity every day, and as early in the day as possible. For example, if you have a routine where you make your bed immediately upon waking up, give yourself a metaphorical high-five for completing the task. You’ll feel more motivated and encouraged for the rest of the day.
2. Stretch out the brain’s muscles.
Stretching is important–for the body and the brain. So how do you “stretch” your brain muscles? Tara Swart, a senior lecturer at MIT, recommends using areas of your brain that you don’t frequently use. This can involve learning just a little bit of a new language or taking a lesson or two with a new instrument. Even practicing juggling is a cerebral exercise that can help improve cognition. They key, according to Shelley Carson, author of Your Creative Brain, is to keep mixing it up by trying new things.
3. Don’t sleep near your gadgets.
Though scientists have yet to prove all the ways in which our brain health is negatively impacted by looking at devices for hours each day, studies have demonstrated that there is a correlation between exposure to blue light from tiny screens and sleep disruption. If you look at your smartphone directly before going to sleep every night, you could be making it harder for your brain to flush out a harmful neurotoxin called beta-amyloid, which is found in concentrated clusters in the brains of people who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s.
While it’s still early days for drawing connections between certain activities and brain health, there’s evidence that practicing these simple techniques is a smart move for maintaining a good head space.