by: Erin Matlock
Neurogenesis is a word being tossed around a lot lately. It means that your brain is growing new neurons – and not just while you’re young. Scientists used to believe that you were born with a certain set of neurons, and mental decline was an inevitable part of aging.
Thankfully, they now know this isn’t true. Your brain continues to produce new neurons throughout your entire life. So, why do you have trouble remembering and why don’t you feel as “sharp” as you used to? These new neurons must be put to work in order for them to survive and strengthen. You literally have to use them or you’re going to lose them.
You probably know that challenging your brain can combat age-related decline. That’s why crossword puzzles and Sudoku are so popular. You diligently work the daily puzzle in hopes that it will keep your brain in shape. Research shows it’s a great start, but you need more. Your brain needs variety and novelty.
Think of it like this – you go to the gym every day in hopes of getting and keeping a fit, strong body. You pick up the dumbbell and do three sets of right bicep curls. You put the dumbbell away, towel off, and go home. Sure, you’re getting exercise – your right arm looks amazing. Now, look at the rest of your body. Not so great. Same thing happens when you exercise just one part of your brain.
The key to a great brain exercise is to throw yourself a curve ball. Do something completely out of the ordinary, something that breaks your routine, and you’ll strengthen the connections in your brain.
Try these five easy ways to exercise and increase your brain power.
1) Are you right handed? Try using your left hand to operate the computer mouse.
2) Recite the alphabet backwards. Try this, and you’ll feel your brain stretching as you move your way from Z to A.
3) Take a different route to work, school, or the grocery store. Your brain is on autopilot most of the time, so wake it up by learning a new way.
4) Enjoy your favorite T.V. show with your eyes closed. Try it for just ten minutes if you can’t get all the way through. Visualizing the characters and recreating the scenes in your mind forces your brain to focus on the show and what’s really happening.
5) Get in the shower and start singing. A study published in “The Psychology of Music” showed that singing familiar tunes helps to improve spatial intelligence – the reasoning your brain uses to judge distance.