For the same reasons, it’s important to keep the rest of your body healthy, it’s important to pay the same due diligence for strengthening your brain.
From the time you’re born to the time you pass; your brain is constantly changing in positive and negative ways. From infancy to your mid-20’s your brain adapts, learns, retains information, and eventually peaks.
This doesn’t mean that you will notice an incredible decline in your cognitive functions once you hit a golden year, but the subtle hints of forgetfulness begin to emerge. From your 20’s through your 60’s your brain steadily loses neurons, which are what your brain and nervous system consist of.
Unfortunately, the brain literally begins to shrink in old age, leading to the decline in cognitive functions typically found in the elderly.
No matter what, you can’t hide from this reality. The body goes through a natural cycle of maturing and then falling apart, as some like to say.
It’s inevitable that you’ll misplace your keys and spend a good part of the morning looking for them or forget the name of the person that has worked down the hall from you for the past year.
What you can do however is take some steps to strengthen your brain function and push back the mental deterioration and lighten the severity of the process altogether.
Consequently, you're most likely already practicing increasing your brain function without even purposely doing so. Napping, drawing, laughing, eating well, exploring new places, and playing an instrument are all activities that help brain function by forcing you to think, process, concentrate, and exercise the brain as you would a muscle.
Just like you must continuously run a mile to keep your mile time or hit the gym for leg day to squat the same amount, you must work your brain to maintain a steady level of cognitive function.
Note that exercising doesn’t only make you feel good, it has proven positive effects on your post-exercise brain function. Increasing your heart rate makes your body pump more oxygen to the brain.
Exercise also releases hormones with properties that aid in producing and replacing healthy brain cells. On the opposite side of things, working out makes you feel accomplished. It’s known for helping with depression, forming and recalling memories, along with retaining new information.
Even though the brain starts it’s decline early on in life, the best trait the brain has within those middle years is its plasticity. The brains plasticity is its ability to modify itself and adapt to changes in the body or the environment around it.
Basically, the brain can acclimate itself to changes in your world whether it be a new job, moving cities, having children, or even learning about a new subject. These changes stimulate parts of our brain. In fact, positive new experiences release dopamine through the brain, a chemical closely related to motivation seeking.
These new experiences can be anything from buying a new car, walking down a new street, seeing a play, or eating at a new restaurant. Breaking routine allows your mind to wander and take in information from a new perspective.
In an entry-level anatomy class, you’re probably taught that one side of your brain controls your creative thoughts and the other focuses more on analytical concepts.
Recent studies show that this isn’t the whole truth. Instead, being creative involves your entire brain. The brain regions have to work together to form thoughts, think outside the box, solve problems, and think critically.
Creativity also doesn’t need to be solely painting, drawing, or photography. It can involve choreographing a dance, writing music, designing a line of clothing, or planning a trip on a budget.
Socializing, meaning relationships with important and consistent interaction. Studies have shown that social support, meaning a close family, spouse, or group of friends play a significant role in the brains health.
Healthy socialization can fight depression and simple sadness. It sounds like there is a correlation between those with a good social life and those with higher brain function.
However, a study cited on BrainHQ talks about a social experiment where one group sat together to solve puzzles and the other group watched a TV show without interaction. The group who solved puzzles together scored higher on a brain function test.
Sleep impacts the brain in a few different ways.
According to one Forbes articles, sleep helps you maintain a good memory, clear toxins that cloud your brain, enhance cognition, makes you more creative, fight depression, and maintain a healthy physical body. Each of these goes hand in hand with healthy brain function.
Cooper, Belle Beth. “Novelty and the Brain: Why New Things Make Us Feel So Good.”Lifehacker, Lifehacker.com, 21 May 2013, lifehacker.com/novelty-and-the-brain-why-new-things-make-us-feel-so-g-508983802.
“How Your Brain Changes With Age.” Canyon Ranch, 29 Mar. 2017, www.canyonranch.com/blog/health/how-your-brain-changes-with-age/
Kaufman, Scott Barry. “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity.” Scientific American Blog Network, 19 Aug. 2013, blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-real-neuroscience-of-creativity/
“Social Life and Brain Fitness.” BrainHQ from Posit Science, 17 Nov. 2016, www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/everyday-brain-fitness/social-life-brain-fitness.
Walton, Alice G. “7 Ways Sleep Affects The Brain (And What Happens If It Doesn't Get Enough).” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 15 Dec. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2016/12/09/7-ways-sleep-affects-the-brain-and-what-happens-if-it-doesnt-get-enough/.
“47 Ways to Boost Brainpower Now.” Greatist, 3 Nov. 2017, greatist.com/happiness/47-ways-boost-brainpower-now#.