The 8 Best Ways to Exercise Your Brain
From Chapter 8 of “How God Changes Your Brain” (sorted from least to most beneficial):
8. Smile: Even if you don’t feel like it, the mere act of smiling repetitively helps interrupt mood disorders and strengthen the brain’s natural ability to maintain a positive outlook on life. … To my knowledge, the only religion to incorporate smiling into a spiritual practice is Buddhism. For example, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests we do “smiling meditation” whenever we have a spare moment during the day. … 7. Stay intellectually active: … When it comes to the dendrites and axons that connect one neuron to thousands of others, if you don’t use it, you will lose it. … Memory and mnemonic exercises, strategy-based games like chess or mahjong, and other forms of visual/spatial exercises or games can significantly improve cognitive functioning , especially in older adults. … Try to spend as many hours a day engaged in the most intellectually challenging activities you can dream up … Read books … Take a class, attend a lecture, go to a museum, … write in your diary. … However, doing math exercises and crosswords apparently doesn’t help, and performance pressure can even interfere with memory functioning. So be sure to make your intellectual pursuits enjoyable. 6. Consciously relax: … I’m talking about deliberately scanning each part of your body to reduce muscle tension and physical fatigue. … Simple repetitive activities that are pleasurable and meaningful can also take you into a deep state of relaxation. In one of my most recent studies, we found that the ritual practice of counting rosaries lowers tension, stress, and anxiety. Many other religious and spiritual practices calm the mind and allow the brain to rejuvenate, and even activities like knitting will have a similar relaxing effect. 5. Yawn: … Several recent brain-scan studies have shown that yawning evokes a unique neural activity in the areas of the brain that are directly involved in generating social awareness and creating feelings of empathy. One of those areas is the precuneus … The precuneus is also stimulated by yogic breathing, which helps explain why different forms of meditation contribute to an increased sense of self-awareness. … Our advice is simple. Yawn as many times a day as possible. … Conscious yawning take a little practice and discipline to get over the unconscious social inhibitions … All you have to do to trigger a deep yawn is to fake it six or seven times. …
12 essential reasons to yawn:
1. Stimulates alertness and concentration.
2. Optimizes brain activity and metabolism.
3. Improves cognitive function.
4. Increases memory recall.
5. Enhances consciousness and introspection.
6. Lowers stress.
7. Relaxes every part of your body.
8. Improves voluntary muscle control.
9. Enhances athletic skills.
10. Fine-tunes your sense of time.
11. Increases empathy and social awareness.
12. Enhances pleasure and sensuality.
4. Meditate: … Even ten to fifteen minutes of meditation appears to have significantly positive effects on cognition, relaxation, and psychological health, and it has been shown to reduce smoking and binge-drinking behavior. … 3. Aerobic exercise: … In general, the more intense the better. For example, running is better than walking, and walking is better than stretching, but it is important to find the “right” amount of exercise that feels best for you. … Vigorous stretching, such as yoga, also does wonders for both your body and your brain. Yoga has similar cognitive benefits to other forms of contemplative meditation, and in a recent meta-analysis of 813 meditation studies, the researchers stated that yoga was as beneficial as exercise. It can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, help control the symptoms of diabetes, lessen the severity of menopausal symptoms, reduce chronic back pain, and prevent the onslaught of migraine headaches. … 2. Dialogue with others: … if we don’t exercise our language skills, large portions of the brain will not effectively interconnect with other neural structures. Dialogue requires social interaction, and the more social ties we have, the less our cognitive abilities will decline. In fact, any form of social isolation will damage improtant mechanisms in the brain leading to aggression, depression, and various neuropsychiatric disorders. … 1. Faith: … Faith is equivalent with hope, optimism, and the belief that a positive future awaits us. … Recently, a team of National Institutes of Health researchers concluded that “a moderate optimistic illusion” appears neurologically essential for maintaining motivation and good mental health. They also found that highly optimistic people had greater activation in the same parts of the anterior cingulate that are stimulated by meditation. …Advertisements