By Sue Ann Highland, PhDc
Your sister wants to lose weight. Your boss wants to quit smoking. Your cousin wants to get out of debt and repair his bad credit. Sound familiar? It should. They’re the same unmet goals from last year. And the year before.
What would happen if you broke away from the pack of standard “lose,” “quit” and “fix,” and instead opted to improve something you’re going to use for the rest of your life?
Here are seven concrete examples of things you can do to improve your brain over the course of the year. Plus, boosting your brain may positively impact your life in ways that would likely have been harder if you had set them as goals.
1. Start exercising.
Research now shows that even light to moderate aerobic exercise improves oxygen consumption, which helps the brain to function better. In the elderly, aerobic exercise—such as walking, bicycling or yoga—has actually been found to reduce brain cell loss. We have beautiful walking paths and trails in Northern Colorado, so take advantage of some great outdoor space. Hiking Devil’s Backbone is always a treat!
Bonus benefits: You’ll likely meet new people and lose weight.
2. Read more.
A 2016 study from Yale University School of Public Health has found that reading books may extend your lifespan by up to two years. In addition, a 2013 study by researchers from Rush University Medical Center found that reading and other mentally stimulating activities may slow dementia.
Bonus benefits: Reduced stress, improved sleep, enhanced social skills, greater IQ.
3. Enroll in personal brain training.
One-on-one brain training incorporates immediate feedback, intensity and loading, among other features, to work on brain skills. Effective brain training targets attention, auditory processing and memory, along with visual processing, logic and reasoning and/or processing speed to make thinking, learning, reading and remembering easier and faster. Because programs are customized, personal brain training works for all ages—children, teens, adults and seniors.
Bonus benefits: Stronger cognitive skills impact virtually every area of your life, including school, work tasks and managing life in general.
4. Get social.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, research shows that regular engagement in social activities helps maintain brain vitality. Social activities include emotional support, work, volunteering, travel and participation in clubs. Get out to one of the events such as the First Friday Gallery Walks, Fort Collins Game Day Experience, Fort Collins Foodie Walk, an open mic night in downtown Loveland, or take a walk with a friend in the Loveland Sculpture Park.
Bonus benefits: Fewer visits to the doctor, fewer falls, decreased depression and better overall health.
5. Change your diet.
In addition to ditching foods with ingredients that are bad for you—including sugar, food dye, high fructose corn syrup, MSG and artificial preservatives, among others—there are things you should be adding to your diet to help your brain function at peak performance. A few examples:
A recent study of mice found that poor learners improved their memory and learning ability after eating cinnamon. Eating healthy foods like salmon, sardines, walnuts and blueberries can boost brain function. Drinking more water to avoid dehydration can help your brain perform at its best. Try some of the great locally grown foods from one of our terrific farmers’ markets.
Bonus benefits: Most likely, you’ll have more energy, lose weight and sleep better.
6. Get more sleep.
Adequate sleep helps your brain “clean out” overnight and set memories. It’ll also keep you from living in a “brain fog” the next day.
Bonus benefits: You’ll have more energy to exercise, which is good for your brain and your body.
7. Learn something new.
There are lots of studies showing that learning a new skill, such as playing the piano or speaking French, can help form new connections in the brain. In one study from the National Endowment for the Arts, people who learned a second language had sharper memories and better listening skills, as well as greater cognitive flexibility, better problem solving and higher order thinking.
Bonus benefits: You’ll likely meet new people with similar interests.
Make this your time to begin a healthy new brain boost and get a fresh new you!
Sue Ann Highland, PhDc, is a professional trainer with LearningRx in Fort Collins. LearningRx, which has 80 centers in the United States and locations in over 40 countries around the globe, has helped more than 100,000 individuals and families sharpen their cognitive skills to help them think faster, learn easier and perform better. To learn more about LearningRx, visit www.learningrx.com. To comment on this article, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.