In celebration of World Brain Day 2016 on July 22, we’ve been thinking about some easy ways to keep your brain in tip-top shape so you can get the most from your brainpower.
This year’s theme is “Brain Health and the Aging Population,” so we’re paying special attention to tips for maintaining a sharp and healthy mind.
Here are 15 ideas to get you started:
1. Get moving.
By channeling more blood to the brain and triggering the release of mood-altering chemicals, physical activity will increase your creativity and energy, lessen depression and improve retention—just for starters.
2. Embrace your inner introvert.
Meditation changes the brain’s default mode network. Give yourself permission to be quiet and think, and write down any thoughts that nag at you so that they no longer tug at your attention.
3. Take a shower.
A boost of cardio followed by a long shower can help you reach a more relaxed brain state and tap into deeper thinking. Capture your ideas on a waterproof pad so you don’t lose them!
4. Daydream to free up your brain.
When you daydream, your mind is relaxed, free to wander and able to make surprising connections. Because your internal censor—the part that criticizes and rejects “weird” ideas—is inactive, it’s an optimum state for generating new ideas.
5. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Harness the power of context by looking at a problem through someone else’s lens. How would Einstein respond? Mother Theresa? Look outside your scope to see new perspectives.
6. Feed your brain.
Maintain a high-performing brain by fueling it with the right foods. One recent study found that eating seafood or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids once a week may protect against age-related thinking problems.
7. Take in some art.
De-stress with a visit to an art gallery. For even more improvements in psychological resilience and brain activity, try your hand at creating some art.
8. Use your “social brain energy” wisely.
Online interactions can constantly feed our brains with social connections, and it takes a lot of brainpower to keep up. Pay attention to how you use your social brain energy so you can make it work for you rather than distract and drain you.
9. Set up your own mental Olympics.
Try something new, challenge yourself to read a book or listen to music you wouldn’t normally pick, or participate in a sport you’ve never tried before. Choose behaviors that open you up to new sights, sounds, and ideas.
10. Look through the photographer’s lens.
Activate your brain’s metaphoric, visual mode by taking photos of the familiar, not just the unusual, to see ordinary things in a new light. Or tap into the vast visual world on Instagram as stimulus for new thinking.
11. Create brain-friendly playlists.
If you’re craving something calming, listen to instrumental music (perhaps with a beat that mimics a heartbeat). If you need an energy spike, have a high-tempo playlist ready to go.
Feeling stuck? Step away from the computer. Make a cup of coffee or tea, get a pen and paper out, and start doodling, sketching or just drawing a mindmap to try and figure out the next step.
13. Lighten up.
Hit the pause button on habitual negative thinking. Laughter is an energizing “pattern interrupt” that helps you shift your mindset. Humor also works as a memory device, since we’re more likely to remember things we find funny.
14. Get some fresh air.
A walk in nature can improve attention and lift the spirits. While the exact brain mechanisms are still being studied, it’s hard to find any downsides in taking a moment out to take in the natural world.
15. Get some sleep!
Studies have shown that memories are restructured in the first four hours of the sleep cycle, enhancing memory and creativity—and proving that the old adage to “sleep on it” is good advice.
What are your favorites? What would you add to the list? Tweet us @