Just as your body needs exercise to stay healthy so does your brain. The repetitive nature of our often regimental lifestyles means the brain becomes over familiar and therefore stops developing in the way it should be.
Brain exercises are important as they ‘excite’ the brain, enhance activity and encourage development; therefore improving cognitive function in areas such as memory, language and spatial orientation.
The five main areas for stimulus are:
1. Memory There are several types of memory at work in the brain and this cognitive skill is the one which we notice first when things begin to fail. Training to maintain a good memory is much easier than you may think. Choose a song that you don’t know and memorise the lyrics then sing along to it; this will boost levels of acetylcholine, which is vital for brain development. Challenge yourself further by getting dressed in the dark. Also, instead of relying on the phonebook on your mobile phone, try memorizing a different friend’s number each day.
2. Attention Good attention enables you to block out noise and distractions in order to maintain concentration and even multitask. Improving attention is easy; simply change your route to work, reorganise your desk or even your kitchen. Doing this will force your brain to wake up from habits and start to pay attention, in order to remember the new places you have put things. Combining activities is also a good way to maintain attention capabilities – try working on those figures for work in your head whilst you are jogging.
3. Language Challenging your own ability to recognise, remember and understand words is an important area in brain maintenance and development. By reading challenging, in-depth articles and actually looking up the words you don’t understand instead of ignoring them, you will exercise fluency, grammatical skills and vocabulary. Regular practise at this will expand your knowledge of new words and allow you to retrieve words much more easily when put under pressure in board meetings etc.
4. Visual Spacial Being able to understand the visual information which is presented to us daily in our very colourful, 3-dimensional world is necessary for a productive environment. Try walking into a room and picking out 5 items and their locations. When you exit the room, try to recall all five items and where they were located. Too easy? Wait two hours and try to remember those items and their locations. This will force you to use your memory and train your brain to focus on your surroundings.
5. Executive Function Decision making utilises the brains logic and reasoning skills and the more you challenge these skills, the more you develop Executive Function. Activities in which you must define a strategy to reach a desired outcome and calculate the right moves to reach the solution in the shortest possible time are actually fun activities you do daily – for example social interaction and even the odd X-Box game! Engaging in a brief visit with a friend boosts your intellectual performance by requiring you to consider possible responses and desired outcomes. A Video game every once in a while will exercise Executive Function as you are required to form a strategy and solve problems to reach a desired outcome.