6 smart ways to wake your brain

A regular routine is healthy for the mind and body.  However in efficient city life it can also be pretty mundane!  Some days I feel my brain might just be slowly dying if I didn’t shake it into action.

We know the human brain is capable of so much more than what we use it for sometimes, are we using it to the max?  As they say, if you don’t use it, you will lose it!

Photo by SIphotography/iStock / Getty Images

What can we do that will work?

1.  Go dancing!

A recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine looked at which leisure activities would best delay the onset of dementia, and found that regular dancing came up tops at a risk reduction of 76%, compared with doing crossword puzzles (47%) and reading (35%).

Bicycling, Swimming and Golf didn’t show any effect on cognition in this study, but we know physical activity helps us keep our body and heart in good shape, and our minds stress free.

2.  Meditate every morning

Mindfulness is increasingly used by therapists in treating depression and anxiety.  It has also been shown that people who meditate each day for at least 15 minutes enjoy increased energy, mental activity, calmness and alertness than those who don’t.

Since writing this article I’ve started incorporating it into my morning routine, not easy to start with but I’m sure like most good habits will get easier with time!

3.  Learn a new language  

Learning increases neuroplasticity, and takes us back to childhood states of the brain, the days where we absorbed information like a sponge.  In adult life we are no longer being formally educated, but learning really should be lifelong and we really need to make that effort.

Learning a new language in particular, stimulates the brain in more areas than the usual maths, history, chemistry, economics.   For example, in a 2011 study published in Neurology, it was shown that bilingualism had a role in delaying Alzheimers for 5 years.  And in another study those who spoke three languages were three times less likely to have memory problems compared to those who spoke two.

At the moment all of my language practice occurs when I’m reading wine labels, and reading mandarin to my son (with Hanyu Pinyin for the moment, but I have faith that the time will come when I can read fluently without them!)

4.  Shake up your surroundings

I find it essential to schedule a short break every 3months or so, and a bigger break every year.  Travel opens up the mind and shakes things up especially when things get a little too routine.  I enjoy being exposed to new cultures and people, and even though it might start off being out of my comfort zone, it always ends up being a great brain and happiness boost!

5.  Set Goals   

Simply having a monthly review of where you are going in life is a simple technique used my many executive coaches in motivating people.  There is a positive buzz from achieving a goal, and having some focus helps.

I enjoy doing this and find that looking back on my past achievements is also a great confidence booster.

There are many sources and apps online to help with this, but my view is, the simpler the better:

Every month, on a piece of paper, list up to 5 goals under the headings:

5 years                            6 months                      This month

6.  Drink Caffeine

Research has (thankfully!) shown that students that have had coffee before exams achieve higher scores.  As we know, a cup of coffee and tea can improve our focus and alertness, and may contribute to a more active brain in the long run.

Just remember to keep it to a minimum as coffee can trigger reflux disease in those who are prone (Sadly something I discovered in myself, of late, thus ending my potential plan B career in coffee reviewing! )

The other option is to drink tea instead, which has the magical balance of stimulating Caffeine with calming L-theanine :)

Curious about other ways to boost your focus, memory and overall brain function?  Book in and I'll tell you!