With so many articles touting ways to boost your brain to performance, keeping your brain at peak performance starts to sound a lot like work. The trick is to keep things fun, so you don’t lose momentum and can easily build your brain health into part of your daily routine.
Where should you begin?
1. Do Things with Your Opposite Hand
If you’ve ever had your dominant arm in a sling, then you know how complicated life can be when it comes to doing even the most basic of things. Opening a door or brushing your teeth becomes an entirely new adventure. Your brain thinks of it that way as well. By doing something different, you are forming new neural connections in your brain and stimulating areas you don’t usually use while doing the mundane.
Some people say using your opposite hand doesn’t translate to anything else than using your opposite hand.
The real goal is to increase gray matter in the brain. When the brain is not learning new things, gray matter atrophies as people age. Using your opposite hand is learning something new. And there is benefit to that when we are looking at warding off dementia.
Just don’t get too upset if, with all your practice if you non-dominate hand doesn’t start to function as well as your dominate hand.
Brain imbalance is a feature, not a bug …the idea of a “weak” hand is flawed to begin with, because both hands have their own strengths. While your dominant hand excels at precision movements, your non-dominant hand has better stability.BrainFacts.org
Interesting though to note for all those who wished they were born ambidextrous: “The data support the earlier finding that ambidextrous individuals perform more poorly than left- or right-handers, especially on subscales measuring arithmetic, memory, and reasoning, and extend that finding to adults.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article
2. Create Variations
You can probably move through your house blindfolded. While that’s great when you’re up in the middle of the night and don’t want to turn on the light, it doesn’t challenge your brain much if everything is on automatic mode.
Moving around the furniture in a room, changing the order of things in your kitchen cupboards, or even setting random objects upside down or sideways will all compel your brain to work a little harder.
Rearranging a room can also boost your mood, provide motivation and increase productivity.
This is a long read, but very interesting look at the Psychology of Home Environments.
3. Trying Showering Blind
While a little caution might be prudent, so you don’t slip and hurt yourself, showering with your eyes closed is an entirely new sensation well worth trying. By using different senses to usual, you stimulate new parts of your brain that you may have neglected for a while.
If showering blind sounds to dangerous, just try walking around the house for a bit or for a bit more danger, jump on the treadmill. Be sure to always have the safety clip on when using a treadmill.
This is an interesting study on effects of treadmill training with the eyes closed on gait and balance ability of chronic stroke patients.
4. Change the Order of Things
Doing your daily routine doesn’t add many stimulations to your brain cortex. Get things moving again by switching the order of things.
Instead of brushing your teeth first and then showering, how about showering first and then brushing your teeth? Make little changes in your daily routine throughout the day to keep things interesting.
5. Open a Window
The hippocampus needs smell and sounds to be activated. The problem is, our environment gets so well-protected from outside influences that typically there isn’t a lot there to stimulate things.
By opening a window in your office or a car, you’ll hear things you don’t usually and expose yourself to new odors. These are the building blocks of memory, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself remembering things you haven’t in a while when you do so.
6. Play 3D Video Games
If you ever needed an excuse to sit down and play video games with your kids, with friends or just by yourself, now you have one. Some video games are good for older adults’ brains.
A 2017 study suggests that playing 3D video games on regular basis may improve cognitive functions and increase grey matter in your hippocampus.
According to the MRI test results, only the participants in the video-game cohort saw increases in gray matter volume in the hippocampus and cerebellum. Their short-term memory also improved.ScienceDaily
7. Pick Up An Instrument
Music has always been a significant part of human development and human society. It’s a part of being human. So it’s not surprising that music would have such profound effects on the brain.
Now at a time where we have so many people offer free music lesson online and Yousician, that will teach you guitar, piano, ukulele, bass and singing all in one app, we truly have no excuse to not spend a little bit of time each week embracing our musical side.
A major finding in this research area is that musical practice is associated with structural and functional plasticity of the brain. In this brief review, I will give an overview of the most recent findings of this research area.Music drives brain plasticity – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
8. Increase Your Cardiovascular System
We all know exercise is good for us and exercise is good for our brain. Most of us tend to say we don’t have time.
You’ve probably heard this from others or know this first hand, that once you make time for exercise you actually become more productive throughout the day. Your brain performance is better and your energy is improved. This increase of productivity actually creates more time.
And you’ve probably noticed that when you stop exercising brain performance goes down. Maintenance of cardiovascular fitness is necessary for long-term effects on cognition .That means you need be consistent with your fitness.
Try to get some cardio or HIIT in everyday. It doesn’t have to be huge. 15-20 minutes is great. I like to do two sessions each day. HIIT in the morning, and something more gentle in the evening like a walk or hike.
9. Don’t Forget to Meditate
Meditation can sharpen attention, strengthen memory and improve other mental abilities. Scientific American editor Ferris Jabr examines the changes in brain structure behind some of these benefits.
Meditating for as little as 12 to 20 minutes a day is all you need to boost your brain performance.
By doing little things, you push your brain to work. Peak performance comes from repeating these exercises daily. Make these small things a habit for the best benefit and find out just how much more your brain is capable of achieving.