Written by Dr. Richard Restak and Neuroscientist. Like any other part of your body, your brain needs daily exercise.
Neglecting the well-being of your brain leaves you susceptible to degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and other forms of Dementia. Having devoted years as a neuroscientist, I've guided countless individuals grappling with memory issues, sharing brain-boosting habits and exercises — many of which I adopt myself. Now, I shall unveil seven steadfast principles that I abide by, aiming to keep my brain and memory razor-sharp at the remarkable age of 81.
1. Choose fiction when you can.
Non-fiction works offer a wealth of knowledge that can broaden your perspective. With their flexible structure, you can delve into topics of personal interest or ones you're already familiar with.
On the other hand, fiction exercises your memory as you journey through captivating tales, retaining intricate details, memorable characters, and engaging plots. Interestingly, during my time as a neuropsychiatrist, I've observed that individuals in the early stages of dementia often forgo reading novels, which serves as an early sign of this encroaching illness.
Let us embrace the power of literature to foster intellectual growth, motivate our minds, and even provide care for our cognitive well-being.
2. Never leave an art museum without testing your memory
To begin, diligently observe the intricacies until they form a vivid picture in the canvas of your mind. Subsequently, articulate the essence of the artwork, diverting your gaze from it. Employing this technique with any masterpiece can elevate your memory prowess, fostering a profound connection with art. Embrace this practice, for it presents an opportunity to nurture your intellect, motivation, and improve your memory.
3. Keep naps under 90 minutes
Naps ranging from 30 minutes to 90 minutes, taken between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., have been scientifically proven to enhance later recall of information encoded prior to the nap. Multiple studies have also indicated that naps can effectively compensate for insufficient night-time sleep. For individuals struggling with insomnia, a mid-afternoon nap can significantly elevate memory performance.
Over the years, I've personally cultivated the habit of napping for precisely 30 minutes. I've come across individuals who have mastered the art of napping for just 15 minutes, awakening refreshed and revitalized. Let's embrace the power of strategic napping to unlock our cognitive potential and embrace optimal well-being.
4. No party is complete without brain games
Engaging in the exhilarating game of "20 Questions" is a personal favorite of mine. Here's how it works: one person, known as the questioner, temporarily leaves the room while the remaining participants collectively choose a person, place, or thing. Armed with up to 20 questions, the questioner strives to unveil the mystery.
To achieve success in this game, the questioner must possess the unique ability to retain all answers in a clear mental map. This allows them to systematically eliminate potential choices based on the answers received. It is through this strategic approach that victory is attained.
Additionally, activities such as bridge and chess offer remarkable opportunities to exercise and sharpen one's memory. These pursuits demand not only the evaluation of past games but also keen consideration of the future consequences resulting from one's past and present decisions.
Embrace these thought-provoking endeavors, knowing that they empower your intellectual capacity while nurturing a genuine sense of care for mental agility and growth.
5. Eat brain foods
Dr. Uma Naidoo, a distinguished nutritional psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, introduces us to the BRAIN FOODS acronym, a remarkable guide to nourishing our minds:
● B: Berries and beans
● R: Rainbow colors of fruits and vegetables
● A: Antioxidants
● I: Incorporate lean proteins and plant-based proteins
● N: Nuts
● F: Fiber-rich and fermented foods
● O: Oils
● O: Omega-rich foods
● D: Dairy
● S: Spices
And here's fantastic news for chocoholics (like myself): A groundbreaking 2020 study reveals that cocoa flavonoids, the components found in dark chocolate, can enhance episodic memory in healthy young adults. Embrace the power of BRAIN FOODS and nurture your mind and memory!
6. Use images for hard-to-remember things
In order to effortlessly respond to inquiries about Leah, my wife's Schipperke (pronounced "SKIP-er-kee"), at the dog park, I developed a memory technique. Visualizing a charming image of a small sailboat, symbolizing the petite size of the dog, with a sturdy skipper grasping an enormous key, I ensured that the breed's name remained easily accessible. Embrace the habit of transforming challenging-to-recall information into captivating, unconventional mental images—a remarkable approach to enhance memory retention and facilitate meaningful connections.
7. Don’t sit on the couch all day
A recent study encompassing 82,872 volunteers revealed fascinating results. Those aged 80 years and beyond, who actively pursued moderate to high levels of physical activity, demonstrated a lesser susceptibility to dementia compared to inactive adults aged 50 to 69 years.
Remarkably, even a transition from sedentary non-activity, encompassing prolonged sitting and an inclination towards convenience over effort, to embracing active movement, such as standing, climbing stairs, and walking a mile daily, produced a noticeable impact.
It is also worth noting that engaging in routine housework has been correlated with higher attention and memory scores along with improved sensory and motor function in older adults.
Let us elevate our dedication to physical activity to nurture our cognitive well-being and lead a fulfilling, vibrant life. Together, we can continue to uncover the intricacies of the mind-body connection!