Neurobics: improve your memory with these brain training tips

Play your own mind games with these 10 ‘neurobic’ exercises to stretch the grey matter. Recommended by neuroscientist Dr Lynda Shaw

Like any doctor, I’ll tell you that you should stay healthy and have an active physical regime to get the most out of life. But as a qualified cognitive neuroscientist, I’d also add that you need to apply the same principle to your mind.

God knows, at this time of year, there’s so much to think about that we need brains that are in tip-top condition. So here are some neurobic exercises to help your brains keep fit. Post me a comment (below) to let me know what difference you notice. Now, concentrate…

1 Write, don’t type. Typing can be easier and it is tempting to type information directly from the internet but you’ll learn more effectively if you write things out by hand as it will force the brain to physically engage with what you are doing.

2 Beat the clock. As we get older, our ability to stay focused and think quickly can deteriorate. Timed activities force the brain to pay attention, work fast and work carefully. Try to complete a Sodoku or wordsearch in a certain amount of time, if you can do it gradually decrease that time.

3 Meditate. Meditation has the power to change the structure of the brain for the better. Studies have shown that those who use meditation to clear their minds and focus their thoughts have bigger brains, experience fewer neuron losses and have a reduced rate of white-matter tissue decline than others of their age.

4 Laugh a lot. Laughing activates the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and other regions where dopamine is released. Dopamine plays an important role in cognition, learning, memory and attention.

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5 Remember board games? Board games help you remember!  So get them out of the cupboard and have some fun while exercising the brain.

6 If you can’t sleep, try making a gratitude list.  Gratitude puts the brain in a far more restful place than anxiety over not sleeping.  It works; try it!

7 If you’re feeling sad, angry or frustrated, write down your feelings. Then ask yourself if this is as bad as you thought. Getting things down on paper and questioning ourselves puts things into perspective. Don’t keep the notes, though. Destroy them once the job is done.

8 Teach others. Explaining something to another person will boost your understanding and better your recall. Going over the fundamental details of complex information will cement it in your mind, and interacting with others is thought to boost brain activity in itself.

9 Utilise the Mozart effect. Classical music stimulates brain activity more than other types of music, with Mozart specifically (Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major and Piano Concerto No. 23) activating the left and right brain at the same time, which is thought to maximize your ability to retain new learned information.

10 Relax! Stress can seriously inhibit the function of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory formation. So while it is important to challenge the brain daily, don’t go overboard.

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