Remember in the olden days (like when I was 10) how we were told that once you started losing brain cells (beer bongs, head bonks, old age) you were out of luck? It was thought, by the people who think of these things, that brain power was fixed, finite.
But now we know that brains can grow, adapt change, no matter your age. They have what neurologists call, plasticity.
Our brains are always adapting and responding to new experiences and that kind of interaction generates new neural pathways – circuits for impulses to travel in our brain.
To learn a new skill you’ve got to create the wiring – neural pathway — in the brain that supports the behavior required by the skill. This process leads to brain growth, better overall health and it’s even linked to improved memory and cognition.
Considering I couldn’t remember where I put the car keys – yet again this morning – I’m taking this stuff seriously and working to boost my neurons and keep my brain growing.
How to Boost Your Brain Power
One way to do that is to mix things up a bit. When we do the same thing day after day, those mental circuits become well-established. Impulses easily fly along them. But, when we add something new and unfamiliar, our brains need to develop new circuits. This feels uncomfortable to us, but exciting to the brain.
Even driving a new route home from work, trying a new recipe or taking on a new workout routine can fire up our brain. The brain then gets busy creating new neural pathways to help us adapt to our new environment or task.
Plugging into all of your five senses is another way to boost your brain power, according to The Franklin Institute Resources for Science Learning. The institute suggests that you get dressed with your eyes closed (I did it this morning – put my shirt on backwards) or listen to music while smelling the roses. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand. Wash your hair with your eyes closed.
About a year ago, I switched my computer mouse from my right hand side, which is my dominant hand, to my left hand side. For a week I spent a lot of time flopping around trying to control the cursor across the screen. It was hard. I hated it. But, even with this small task, I did feel my brain whirring into overdrive trying to accommodate the switch. It was very uncomfortable in the beginning, but in remarkably short period of time, the new neural pathways took shape and I can now easily and comfortably use my mouse with my left hand.
In the beginning any change is going to be uncomfortable, because our brains can’t read the terrain. They haven’t formed a map to guide the impulses down the new path. This is when we feel like our brains will explode. But in time, the new route is constructed and the unfamiliar, difficult skill becomes easy. We think in terms of becoming more skilled, but part of that skill is a result of our brains growing and changing to make it happen.
There are lots of fun ways to keep your brain agile and growing. Work on crossword puzzles, read books, get physical exercise (there is a direct link between brain healthy and physical activity). Do something to challenge your old way of thinking.
On Wednesday, I’ll offer up some other unexpected ways you can also use to boost your brain power.
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