Can We Grow Our Brain?

You jump in the car and find that you have left your keys behind, you see someone you have met occasionally and can't recall their name, you put something down and can't remember where you left it. "I am so forgetful these days" you tell yourself, "I wonder if I am getting dementia".

According to Gary Small, in his book 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain, memory peaks and declines with age. He asserts that brain aging begins at the age of 20 and declines to a point where at the age of 55, our visual memory is about equal to that of a 10-year-old. The good news is that another study of 70-year-olds playing video games increased their brain performance to that of 20-year-olds. Recent studies show that we can regress back in time. The decor of a rest home was transformed back to the 1950s, elderly residents became more active with their health and mind improving as a direct result.

There are three stages of brain aging; normal aging (begins around 40), mild cognitive impairment, and dementia. Surprisingly, recent research indicates lifestyle habits affect our brain more than genetics do. If we do nothing about the brain's natural aging process, chances are our brain will deteriorate faster than had we done something about it.

So, what can we do to stall the brain aging process? Here are a five common science-based things to help your brain stay healthy;

  1. Sex - (I bet that got your attention) a healthy sex life has been shown to reduce stress and stimulate the growth of new memory cells.
  2. Listen to music - listening to music the we enjoy improves mood and memory through the release of dopamine.
  3. Socialisation, Exercise, and Sleep - I cheated, these are actually three things, the three most important things that we can do to support our health and well-being.
  4. A healthy diet - our brains consume around 20% of all of the oxygen and nutrients in our entire body so eating healthy boosts our brain power. Eat well, hydrate well, be well.
  5. Train your brain - meditate, learn new things, do puzzles (Sudoku is best), watch interesting documentaries, pull something apart to see how it works, become curious about everything.

Here are five other techniques that are still science-based, just a little different;

  1. Become ambidextrous - do things, including writing, with the less dominant hand.
  2. Use different learning techniques - read, listen, watch and experiment.
  3. Memorise - by all means use lists but try remembering what is on the list before reading it. When you meet a group of people, try remembering everyone’s name.
  4. Break routines - doing the same thing every day leads us to a RUT so 'do the same thing differently'.
  5. Let your mind wander - mindfulness has its place yet may hold back your creativity. If you are contemplating a change, working on a problem, or just want to relax, letting your mind go to where it wants to may help find the solution or relax you.

The brain is like a muscle, use it or lose it, it's that simple. Behaving like your younger self is the best way to stay young. Just remember that your brain might think that you are young, but your body might not agree.

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