This is a guest post by Caroline Bird, a writer currently writing for SiamMandalay, a Thai handicrafts business that developes wooden puzzles and traditional games.
You’ve probably heard that as you age, your brain becomes a kind of a fossilized machine, incapable of retaining new information, let alone improving its way of functioning. But guess what, this simply isn’t true!
The human brain has been scientifically proven to adapt well to change and new information, processing well into old age. An ability otherwise known as neuroplasticity.
Given the right stimulation, the brain can forge new neural pathways and adjust previously existing patterns. And while it’s true that by the time you reach adulthood your brain has developed its own system for absorbing and recalling information, solving problems, and completing tasks with minimal mental strain, you can absolutely enhance your cognitive abilities, sharpen your memory, and improve your overall learning capacity through a few simple, sensible methods.
Here are 6 neuro-nourishing necessities for shaping up your brain and boosting your thinking skills:
6 Steps to Better Thinking Skills
1. Don’t skimp on sleep.
95% of adults require between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night in order to skirt sleep deprivation. A few hours can make or break your brain’s performance levels for the day, compromising critical thinking skills and overall stamina.
Additionally, sleep plays a key part in memory consolidation, and your quality of sleep greatly influences your memory-enhancing abilities.
For starters, get on a regular sleep schedule and stick to it. This means going to bed around the same time every night and getting up at the same time each morning, with minimal disruption.
Try to avoid using computers, televisions, tablets, or mobile phones at least an hour before going to sleep. These can inhibit melatonin levels and actually induce wakefulness. Cut back on your caffeine intake, particularly by late afternoon, to further prevent any nighttime jitters.
2. Get moving.
These days a great deal of emphasis is put on exercise to keep the body in shape and looking fab, but we often forget that it does those very same things for the brain!
An active lifestyle keeps your brain sharp, increasing oxygen flow and reducing the risk of stress and potential medical disorders. Furthermore, exercise boosts the brain’s growth capacity, stimulating new neural connections.
So get walking, take up a pleasurable sport or activity, or hit the gym a few times a week to keep your brain feeling and functioning as good as you look.
3. Manage your stress.
Stress is a normal, if unpleasant, fact of life. However, there are ways to keep stress under wraps to avoid harming your health, thinking skills and well-being.
Chronic stress can destroy brain cells and damage the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for the formation of new memories, as well as the retrieval of old ones. Unmanaged stress can lead to memory loss, bad thinking skills, and a multitude of further ailments, so it’s important to find a healthy median in your life.
Make sure you set aside time each day to decompress and relax, whether it’s through meditation, a good book, or a stroll through the park. Set realistic expectations for yourself where tasks and commitments are concerned, and be wary of stretching yourself too thin by multi-tasking.
4. Maintain a healthy diet.
‘You are what you eat’ as the saying goes, but it could also be said that you think the way you eat.
The body and brain need fuel, and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats like olive and coconut oils, Omega 3-rich fish, and lean proteins, are ideal for optimizing both. Try to keep your sugar, saturated fat, and simple carbohydrate intake low, and avoid fast foods and pre-packaged items that contain all number of harmful (and virtually unpronounceable) ingredients and additives.
5. Challenge your brain through creative thinking.
Your brain needs a little shaking up every now and then, whether it’s tackling a new musical instrument, language, or puzzle.
There are many activities to develop thinking skills, each emphasizing the question: what is creative thinking? Creative thinking is exploring the unfamiliar and challenging your brain to acquire and adapt to new ways of problem solving.
Look for skill-building activities that allow you to start slow and gradually build up as your capabilities improve. The activities themselves can be as ambitious or casual as you want.
For example, puzzle serpent games are a fun and creative way to flex your brain and think outside of your usual mental perimeters.
Remember, our brains thrive on rewarding activities that are as enjoyable as they are challenging, so find something that keeps you on your toes without feeling like a punishment.
6. Never stop learning.
Learning is like a puzzle, with each newly acquired piece of information forming a much greater picture.
It’s important to keep your brain consistently stimulated for better thinking skills. You can do that with new and interesting sources of knowledge and culture, from music to literature to scientific studies.
We all tend to stick with what we know and like in life, but repetition is the death knell for healthy brain growth and evolving thought patterns.
What about you? How can you improve your thinking skills today?
Full-time freelance writer. Lifestyle designer.
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