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Neuroplasticity – the hot trend stirring up the science and psychology world.
It`s like yoga for your brain but can you really stretch it till you are doing the splits?
You can`t teach an old dog new tricks... or can you?
It is a popular belief that the best age for the brain to learn anything new is in childhood and adolescence. This explains why adults quite rarely turn to learn new but challenging skills like foreign languages or kiteboarding.
You can compare it with a physical condition. In high school, everyone was able to jump high, run fast and stretch like a plasticine toy, but when growing older and spending more and more years sitting by your office desk and only getting up to fetch your coffee or a croissant, the abilities and endurance of your body start to fade. This happens until the moment you get back on track again and push your body at full speed so it slowly starts to regain the lost power. The same can happen with your brain.
Meet neuroplasticity – the ability of your brain to improve during your lifetime by flexing, stretching and rewiring itself. Some researchers even say that you can train your brain to heal itself and eliminate depression, eating disorders and other major problems. You may also chart new emotional pathways to old triggers and even change your habits.
Neuroplasticity is the brain`s ability to form new neural connections. It occurs in the brain primarily due to three reasons – first, at a very young age when the brain is organising itself, second, when some kind of brain injury occurs, and third – through adulthood, whenever something new is learnt or perceived. Brains are constantly improving by experience.
How do you broaden the borders of your mind? Get in cognitive shape with these brain workouts.
This is the most obvious step of mind fitness – your mind has to be in constant movement in order to work better. Learning new skills improves the speed at which the brain processes information. Therefore, find new ways of how to challenge and surprise yourself every day. Learn a new language, write with the opposite hand you are used to, have a glass of wine on a Monday evening (hey, you have to make it fun for yourself!) and do everything in the opposite way to how you are used to doing it. Do something outside of your comfort zone that will challenge the brain to rewire itself. By following this for some time, you will awaken the brain and make it more aware of everything.
It is not just about deep inhaling, exhaling and getting your stress levels under control. During meditation you reach a completely different mental state – and to be able to do that, you must be in charge of your brain. Experiencing ZEN engages you in new and interesting ways. It is long known that meditation creates positive effects on psychological well-being, improves concentration and attention, and lessens the symptoms of various disorders. And there`s more – as it was found in a study conducted in 2011 at Harvard University, mindfulness practice leads to an increase in regional brain grey matter density, therefore boosting learning, memory and emotion regulation.
TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
When watching movies or reading books, you are used to automatically choosing something that suits your taste. In order to make your brain work a little harder than usual, try something new. If you love reading romantic novels, reach for a biography next time; or if you love watching sci-fi movies, give your mind a break by watching one of those housewife reality TV shows. Even if you won`t enjoy it as much as your usual choices, you will form an opinion and find new topics for small talk situations.
Now this is a fun way to get smarter – and have loads of great memories. This is an obvious step as you will not only broaden your horizons and gain new knowledge about the foreign country, you will also challenge your brain – big time. Everything from getting from the airport to your hotel or finding the best local pizzeria with the cheesiest Margheritas will be a new task for your mind. But you don`t have to buy plane tickets in order to perceive this unique cognitive experience – you can do it daily, just by choosing a new route back home from work and paying close attention to details surrounding you that you might not have noticed before. Creating a mental map of your city will be an amazing brain workout.
BE KIND TO YOUR BODY
Your body is a smart system where one function is connected to another. So when thinking of a cognitive workout, you must also consider doing some physical exercise for your body. Brain health can be maintained by a well-balanced diet that is low in fat, low in cholesterol and full of antioxidants. Regular exercise promotes vascular health that protects the brain tissue.