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6 tips to keep your brain in shape

Author:  GetSmarter  (20 Feb 2012)


An active and healthy brain is a vital component of quality of life. Constantly stimulating your mind will lead to more happiness, boosted energy, career success and a passion for the world around you – not to mention that it can help stave off debilitating age-related conditions like memory loss, dementia and even Alzheimer’s Disease.

Just like you plan an exercise regimen and healthy diet, you should also come up with a system for keeping your brain active. By far the best way to achieve this is to adopt a policy of continued learning throughout your adult life. Learning a new skill or talent is one of the most fulfilling, rewarding and empowering activities you can do; it’s an investment in yourself. And learning isn’t just about academia, certificates, classrooms or tests – it can cover anything from card tricks to accounting to playing a new instrument.

Make ongoing education your brain health goal. Try to make learning something new a part of your everyday life, rather than a rare occurrence. Constantly seek out new information, read about new fields and topics, interact with people from different cultures. The internet is a fantastic resource for this – a virtually limitless depository where you can find practically every type of learning material you can imagine, either completely free, or for a small fee.

For example, hundreds of world-renowned universities like MIT, Harvard, and Oxford are making full courses and degree programs available for free to anyone in the world – so you can log on and study astrobiology, Shakespearean literature or web development with some of the greatest minds in the world. On top of that, the web is filled with learning communities of all sorts, many of which charge a small monthly fee ($5 to $10) for a wealth of resources, tools and support. If you ever wanted to learn Japanese, master the guitar or pick up a new craft, you don’t even need to leave the house.

Here are five more tips for keeping your brain in good shape.

  1. Read, read, read
    Read anything you can get your hands on – fiction books, magazines, blog articles, course material, whatever is lying around. Nothing opens you up to new information better than reading. And when you do read, be sure to do it with an active, engaged and questioning mind.
  2. Switch off autopilot
    When faced with new information, a problem or an opportunity, look at analysing it from several points of view and challenging the knowledge that you already have. By confronting existing assumptions, you not only waken those parts of the brain, but you also learn new ways of doing those things that you’ve been doing on autopilot.
  3. Leave your comfort zone
    Leave your comfort zone by learning something completely different and new to you. Sticking to a routine reinforces certain synapses, but lets many others fall by the wayside. Give the rest of your brain a jolt by picking up a new language, learning a new skill or taking a different way to work. Even something trivial like brushing your teeth with your other hand can liven up your brain.
  4. Keep moving
    Stay active and fit – you learn much more quickly and deeply when your whole body is in top form. To really maximise your brainpower, load a few ebooks or educational podcasts onto your iPod for when you go jogging or to the gym so you can learn while you exercise. A healthy balanced diet, lots of water and sufficient sleep are important for a healthy brain too.
  5. Learn to play
    Children seem to pick up new skills and abilities much quicker than adults. The main reason for this is because they learn through playing: exploring and developing in a fun, stress-free environment. When you learn, try to let go of your ego. Don’t worry about mispronouncing a foreign word or getting an equation wrong; instead, enjoy the process of making mistakes and solving problems by simply letting your inhibitions go and having fun.

Information provided by GetSmarter.  For more information visit www.GetSmarter.co.za.

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