9 Practices That Enhance Brain Function
While your intelligence is partly determined by genetic factors and by the type of environment you had when you were younger, there are still things you can do to boost your brain function. Some techniques help you enhance your memory, others hone your problem solving skills, and yet more simply keep your brain in great shape so that you stay sharp as you age. Here are nine of the best practices for enhancing brain function.
1. Staying Hydrated
If you want to be sharp and ready for the day ahead, make sure you drink a couple of glasses of water in the first 30-60 minutes after waking. After all, sleeping involves up to eight hours without any new liquid intake, so it stands to reason that your body will be a bit sluggish and dehydrated, and that this will have a negative impact on brain function. For example, research on cognition in young children has proven that those who drink more water are better at completing more complex intellectual tasks.
2. Using Brain Training Apps Or Audio Programs
Your smartphone can download hundreds of different apps that help you to hone some of your most significant mental skills. Many of these are available without charge, and others provide some features for free but ask for payment to unlock all of the activities. Regardless of the app you pick, you can easily set aside ten or fifteen minutes a day to working on your memory, math skills, vocabulary or pattern recognition.
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3. Stocking up On Rosemary
Rosemary is a common herbal remedy for poor memory, and just the scent of it can enhance prospective memory—the type associated with organizing future events and making plans. There is evidence that drinking rosemary tea can also help to give your memory a bit of extra power. You can make this tea by adding just a single teaspoon of rosemary to a cup of boiling water, and if you don’t like the taste then try adding a bit of sweet honey to improve the flavor.
4. Talking to Intelligent People
Fascinating new research on the socially contagious nature of habits indicates that you can become more reflective, logical and creative just by spending time with people who exemplify these virtues. Try to regularly push conversation past the superficial, too, and make the effort to keep your brain active by debating current affairs or other thought-provoking topics. When conversation stays on the surface, your brain isn’t challenged or excited in the ways that promote growth.
5. Playing Games
Although it might sound too good to be true, playing a favorite game on your smartphone or computer can be good for your mind—studies show that it improves neuroplasticity, provided you don’t devote all of your waking hours to gaming. When contrasted with other forms of recreation (such as mindlessly flicking through TV channels), games keep your mind engaged and encourage you to process more new information. To get the benefits of both gaming and brain training, look for brain training apps that help you learn new skills through games.
Far from being lazy, napping is scientifically proven to help improve concentration and boost productivity when you reach a brain power plateau. Studies on napping suggest that it increases reaction speed and helps with learning—provided naps are no longer than 20 minutes. Longer slumbers allow you to fall into deep sleep, so you’ll be disorientated and groggy when you wake up.
7. Reading Fiction
If you’ve ever felt like you’re actually experiencing the events described in a novel, there are solid neuroscientific explanations for this. Specifically, MRI scans of the brain show that when you become immersed in a fictional story, your brain reacts as though you were actually living through the events of the protagonist’s lives. As a consequence, reading is proven to enhance your ability to empathize with others, along with broadening your vocabulary and helping you to exercise the creative side of your brain.
8. Drinking Green Tea
If you rely on caffeine for a bit of a cognitive boost, consider switching to green tea instead of your usual coffee. As well as boosting your metabolic rate and potentially helping you to lose weight (if you need to), green tea provides you with a powerful amino acid called l-theanine. Neurological tests show that this amino acid increases alpha brain wave activity, helping you to concentrate without getting jittery or anxious.
Finally, if you spend any time on mindfulness activities or creative visualizations, you’ll be pleased to hear that these meditative practices help to make you a better thinker. They train you to concentrate for longer periods, block our irrelevant information, and exercise more control over your responses to stressful situations. If you’re not already making time for meditation, know that just 10-15 minutes per day can create measureable changes in your brain’s structure in just a few short weeks.
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