My good friend Bobby Villareal sent these 15 tips a few days ago. They’re a must-read…
1. Just stop. Take 20-30 minutes out of your day to think about nothing. But don’t sleep – you’ve got to meditate. Sit still, reduce sensory input, and try to focus your mind on something like a calm scene or a color (to begin with thinking about something rather than trying to think of ‘nothing’ is easier). A study at the University of Kentucky revealed that subjects who took a late-afternoon test after meditating for 30 minutes had better scores than those who napped for the same time.
2. Hit the streets. Lace up your running shoes and get moving. A study from the University of Illinois, US, revealed that aerobic exercise actually increases brain volume. They put two groups through different regimens – one did aerobic training three times weekly for one hour; the other group did just stretching and toning exercise. The aerobics group had increased their brain volume and white matter, which forms the connections between neurons.
3. Mix it up. Exercise has long been hailed as an aid to brain-power longevity. But to ensure you’re not leaving the gas on in your eighties, vary your workout routines now. Try changing things up on a regular basis and you’ll stimulate your brain more because you’re not using the same pathway over and over again.
4. Read a book. Choose from classic literature, science fiction or personal development books and give your brain a boost. Pick up a novel before your next flight or vacation. On top of the cerebral benefits, the escapism that comes from reading can be very relaxing. Reading helps you exercise your cognitive skills and increase your vocabulary. Do it regularly and you’ll be amazed at the information you absorb, which will make you a more interesting conversationalist.
5. One-cup-manship. Swilling coffee could be the perfect accompaniment to the cryptic crossword. Austrian researchers measuring brain activity found short-term memory and concentration improved after consuming 100mg of caffeine – equal to an Americano. But after 40 minutes those guinea pigs were back to the dumbness levels of a twice-a-day Deal Or No Deal viewer.
6. Engage in a debate. A lively discussion can be invigorating. As long as you avoid letting it digress into an argument, you can have a lot of fun debating the pros and cons of an issue with a friend or colleague. Playing with your brain stimulates blood flow and strengthens the connections (synapses) between nerve cells in the brain. You’ll practice your quick thinking skills, logic and creativity. And developing convincing theories on the spot will help you in your career and in your personal relationships.
7. Grab the Brainbox 360 controller. Believe it or not, playing certain video games can actually be good for your health. You’ll develop stronger visual skills and make decisions 85% faster than non-gamers, say experts from the University of Rochester, New York. Gamers can read the newspaper, recognize a scene or pick out facial features faster in between fragging killer aliens.
8. Subscribe to a daily newsletter. Make the most out of your web surfing. Whether it’s a “word of the day,” “quote of the day” or “this day in history” newsletter, receiving new information each day will add data to the hard drive in your head. The mental stimulation will increase your comprehension skills. The additional knowledge will also make you sound more worldly and intelligent.
9. Curry favours. Tuck into a Ruby Murray tonight to clear the mental cobwebs. Scientists from University of California discovered that curcumin – a yellow-coloured compound found in the curry spice turmeric can slow the onset of memory loss. Small doses of curry could also help protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease – at least that’s the effect in rats. Curries with a yellow tinge will have the highest curcumin count.
10. Grab a cue and play pool. Rack ‘em up, grab a cue and concentrate on your strategy. Billiard players must focus on the immediate, blocking out distractions as they plan their next moves. Strategic planning increases mental clarity. Concentrating on the immediate helps keep your mind sharp. Furthermore, this game of angles demands that players think in terms of physics, something most of us rarely do in our everyday lives. And it’s a brilliant way to pass the time.
11. Learn an instrument. A Stanford University research has found for the first time that musical training improves how the brain processes the spoken word. So pull out your old guitar, sign up for piano lessons, or rent a trumpet or a clarinet. Learning how to make music will stimulate your creativity. Reading music provides mental stimulation. Playing an instrument requires powers of recall as well as concentration to maintain tune and tempo.
12. Being boron. Fat-busting snacks have the added benefit of enhancing your little grey cells. British Nutrition Foundation reports show low-fat dried fruits such as dates are a good source of brain-boosting boron. Get 200g of the fruit down you a day and you’re likely to score higher in motor skills than your raisin-less colleagues.
3. Fresh air golf playing. Escape to the links and spend a few hours in the fresh air counting birdies, bogeys and mulligans. Just play! It is good for your spirit and good for your brain. Golf is a social sport and a great way to network and relax at the same time. Golfers get mental stimulation using their decision-making skills as they plan stroke strategies. As the sport involves the control of repetitive movements, it instills mind-body discipline.
14. Less stressed with yoga. Yoga is more than an exercise and you might be surprised at how strenuous it can be. Beyond the physical demands that give your entire body a workout, yoga has great calming and relaxation qualities. Yoga forces you to focus on controlling all your muscles and your breathing. You’ll let your worries slide away, giving your mind a rest from stress.
15. Build a miniature model. Remember the fun you had as a kid making model airplanes and cars? Recreate that by building a miniature model, it is a great way to activate your brain and keep it in good working condition. Following all those written instructions sharpens your powers of concentration. Focusing on the task at hand will also be very relaxing.
Remember to keep your mental faculties in tip-top shape by giving yourself plenty of opportunities for mental stimulation; by keeping your mind active you’ll reap great brain-boosting benefits .