Do you feel as though your brain doesn’t work as well as it used to? Maybe you’re a little foggy, forgetful, or concentration is hard to come by? There can be several reasons for this, many reversable, which I work on with my clients. There are some brain “hacks” that can help, and studies that show an incredible increase in brain function with just a few simple tips. One person who has a wonderful grasp on this subject is John Medina. He is a molecular biologist, and the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University.
Recently I heard an interview with John and found his findings on brain health fascinating. Here are five of the ten from his book “Brain Rules for Aging Well: 10 Principles for Staying Vital, Happy, and Sharp.”
- The more social you are, the more likely you are to have a brain that functions well. One key Mr. Medina points out is rather interesting – Regular engagement with people who dis-agree with you, who you can having rousing discussions with and still maintain a strong friendship, can increase your “episodic memory scores” by 600%! That means your memory of things that have happened to you in your lifetime can be increased.
- The more fiction you read, the healthier your brain and cardio vascular system will be. You will also enjoy a 17% increase in your projected lifespan. Only 3.5 hours per week of reading will do it, but it must be high quality. You have to be able to virtually transport yourself into the story and visualize yourself there. This has been shown to buffer the negative affects of Alzheimer’s, and lower cortisol levels which also affects your overall health.
- Learn to play a new instrument. The music…the dexterity…the concentration involved…leads to increased executive function in the brain, which means you can control impulses that don’t serve you. Hmm, does this mean you can cut down on ice cream consumption by learning to play the piano? Something to look into!
- And then there is exercise. Yep, seems like every time you turn around you’re being told to get out there and move, right? Well Mr. Medina is saying that 30 minutes of moderate walking, five days a week, is all you need to increase brain health. You know I always tell my clients that morning walks are the best for hormone regulation and your circadian rhythm, so you’ll be hitting all these benefits by adding a walk each morning into your routine.
- Nostalgia effects your health. And then…this is where it got really interesting for me. Back in 1979, Ellen Langer conducted the Counterclockwise Study that is still referred to today. It turns out that by exposing ourselves to what was going on in the world between the ages of 15 and 29, we can improve our well being, our social scores, our vision, hearing, and manual dexterity. Sounds interesting doesn’t it? Nostalgia can also make you more tolerant of people…hmm. So permission is granted to blast those oldies and talk about “back when so and so was president…” to anyone who is willing to listen. Here are a couple links to her study in the New York Times and also Business Insider.
So there you go. Five brain tips to keep you young, and even reverse symptoms of aging. He also talked about three ways to perform better in everything we do.
- Live a lifestyle that includes exercise and the right amount of quality sleep.
- Start living for others.
- Get curious again about life and what used to excite you.
May God bless you all with healthy brains and the ability to care for them…all to His glory. Stay tuned for more posts down the road on brain health.