Over the past three decades, a paradigm shift has reshaped the field of neuroscience that changed the way we view the potential of our brain and the way the brain ages. Our mental capacity, including memory and cognition, are designed to improve throughout the life span. The brain is designed to improve with use. Although some brain cells die as we age, neurogenesis never stops. Our neuronal endowment is so vast that even if a thousand brain cells gets lost in a day for the rest of the life span, it would still be only less than 1% of the total. The brain is a highly adaptable and dynamic organ capable of generating new neurons and improving as we age. The brain has an almost unlimited capacity for reshaping itself over the years for adapting and improving while accumulating knowledge and recording experiences. Aging brain can be turned into a learning organ whose limits for enhancement are still unexplored. The book by Michael J. Gelb and Kelly Howell (the creator of Brain Sync® program) illustrated eight scientifically proven techniques to improve mind that will unleash the potential of brain for a synergy of improvement.
1. Think counterclockwise
Think counterclockwise is the technique of holding a positive mind set (attitude) on promoting both physical and mental health. Research has proved that people or elders who frequently revive those memory in earlier years and maintain a youthful mind set generally have higher IQ score, better memory, dexterity, hearing, vision and general well-being. Simply have a positive mind set makes far more difference than any to be gained from exercise and healthy diet. Emphasis of the positive mind set implied the influence of expectation can exert. Studies discovered that people with more positive and optimistic expectation about aging and longevity had outlived the group with more pessimistic expectation. Thoughts (mind sets) and habitual patterns can be rewired in the brain because neurons (brain cells) are so plastic and adaptable that neuron connections can be rewired for resilience and brilliance.
2. Be a Lifelong Learner
The brain gets sharper the more it is used. Learning is one of the simple secrets to revitalize and improve mind. Perhaps how to learn is more important than what is learned. Effective learning require development of curiosity, interests and getting out of the comfort zone. The process of learning something new is more important than the result. There are seven essential rules for strengthening memory as part of the healthy aging strategies – positive mind set, full attention, use preferred learning style, relate new information to existing memory, review notes and use repetitive recitation, teach what is to be remembered, use mnemonics. See this post for how to use mnemonics to enhance memory “Types of Mnemonics – a memory improvement strategy”. Mental sports such as bridge and chess are beneficial activities for cognition maintenance. This post has a more thorough discussion of memory enhancement principles “How To Improve Memory – General Principles”.
3. Exercise for More Brain Power
Physical fitness is crucial to overall health and mental acuity. It is one of the most effective way to ensure that brain is getting enough oxygen and nutrients. Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of the fitness program – exercise the activities that are the most fun; overcome inertia, gradually increase the level of challenge. Make it as a routine and not over do it to prevent injury. Different type of exercise complement each other. Cardiovascular exercises, strength and resistance training and flexibility/balance/poise exercises are different areas of fitness program. Cardio aerobic exercise focuses on strengthening endurance of cardiovascular system. Strength and resistance training increases muscle strength and muscle tones. Some of the flexibility and balance exercise activities are: balance training devices, the Alexander technique, and Tai chi.
4. Diet For Nourishing the Brain
There are several essential elements for healthy diet – maintain hydration, multiple moderate meals, eat antioxidant rich meal, avoid or minimize harmful foods, use nutritional supplements, enjoy dining. This post “Dietary Habits That Accelerate Aging” detailed the dietary habits and foods that accelerate aging. Some of the brain boosting foods are: Ginkgo biloba, turmeric, acetyl-L-carnitine, to name a few. Some antioxidant foods with high ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity which is a rating scale used to measure the antioxidant level of various foods) are able to improve mind: fruits and veg, garlic, beans, nuts, spices and herbs, whole grain and cereals.
5. Create A Brain Enhancing Environment
Every aspect of environment stimulates brain for better or worse. The sights, sounds, textures, aromas, and other sensation affects brain. “Environment modifies life but does not govern life”. One of the simplest things to do for improving mind is to create a brain-enhancing environment. The brain’s cognitive wiring and synaptic organization can be altered by the external environment. The sounds from everyday life affect brain and body. Noise can cause a range of stress-related ailments. To reduce the brain-polluting effects of noise, apply “Mozart effect” in practice. The notion of “Mozart effect” derives from a study published on nature showing that students who listened to Mozart’s sonata improved their scores on a spatial-reasoning test, while those sat in silence showed no improvement. Light has a profound effect on body and mind. Natural sunlight is healthy. Full-spectrum lighting is healthier than incandescent or fluorescent light. A balanced combination of brightness and contrast makes it easier to read and focus. The vital importance and healing benefits of nature have long been documented. It is shown that simple and brief interactions with nature can produce marked increase in cognitive control. Air and aroma can have strong effect on mood and memory. Aromatherapy have been practiced for millennia. Aromatherapists recommend jasmine, lavender to help overcome stress and lemon, peppermint to boost concentration and memory. Arts and aesthetics nurtures soul. Display artworks at residence, studio.
6. Cultivate Healthy Relationships
Many studies proved the importance of vibrant social interaction for healthy aging. Socially engaged people have reduced risk of cognitive diseases. Studies also shown that strong social integration and social networks can help people recover from a wide range of ailments. One study showed that social isolation affects people of all ages and that it is more prevalent now than ever before. The emerging discipline of social neuroscience argue that our brain are wired to thrive through social interaction and that stress is associated with isolation.
7. Rest Peacefully to Delay Resting in Peace
Insomnia is as worse as lack of nutrients and oxygen. Besides the obvious benefit of providing time for cell regeneration and energy restoration, regular sound sleep sets up for optimal functioning of mind and body. It strengthens immune system, improves mood, sharpens alertness and attention, facilitates memory consolidation and creative thinking, reduces risk of a range of diseases. In addition, there are multiple dimensions of rest other than sleep. Physical rest (breathe outdoor), mental rest (relaxation exercises), social rest (apply social connection to relax and rejuvenate), spiritual rest (daily meditation, prayer, contemplation). Meditation practice is found to correlate with the thickness of the prefrontal cortex and the cortical plasticity. One research reported that individuals who had been practicing transcendental meditation for years had a biological age averaging twelve years younger than their chronological age.
8. Liberate The Mind by Synchronizing The Brain
From years of research on neurobiofeedback, brain wave training or brain wave entrainment has been shown to have many of the benefits of meditation (reduce stress, enhance cognition) and optimize all aspects of cerebral function. Long term use of brain wave synchronization technology may delay deterioration of the brain traditionally associated with aging. Brain wave entrainment may also be helpful in improving intelligence throughout life. Here is a series of posts that explains what are brain wave patterns, and what is brain synchronization, and the types of brain wave entrainments to improve mind.
- Brain Waves, Brain Chemical Systems and Memory
- What Is Gamma Brain Waves The Role In Cognition
- Neurobiofeedback and Cognition Improvement
- Types of Brain Wave Entrainment – Brain Wave Synchronization