Scientists used to think neural networks were hardwired early in life, and that we couldn’t change the way our brains worked. With the help of improved technology in brain scanning, this theory was thrown out. Researchers now see our brains as being more akin to the muscles in our body — we can build and improve them, or we can ignore and weaken them.
Actively using the brain keeps it strong and healthy. But when you aren’t in the mood for intense and challenging thinking exercises, here are five fun — and less demanding — ways to aid in the building process. Click through for a chance to win two books that will help boost your brainpower.
Norwegian researchers found that women who drank a moderate amount of wine –at least four times during the week– scored better on cognitive tests than women who drank less wine. The study included over 5,000 participants who were questioned over the course of seven years.
Wine may not have been the only factor that contributed to the higher scores. The researchers noted “A positive effect of wine…could also be due to cofounders such as socio-economic status and more favorable dietary and other lifestyle habits.” However, the initial finding is worthy of further exploration–especially considering the health benefits that have been associated with moderate alcohol consumption in previous studies.
As Natural News reports, “most of the 68 studies conducted over the past decade that relate to alcohol’s potential health benefits show some relationship between light-to-moderate alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of brain abnormalities like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.” In addition, red wine is filled with antioxidants that can fight free-radical damage that accompanies aging.
Of course, the key is moderation, and there are plenty of reasons to avoid alcohol, if you already do so. However, if drinking a little wine helps you wind down, you may not need to feel guilty about it.
Next: 4 more fun ways to help your brain
In addition to boosting endorphins and making you happier, working out may make you smarter. Physical exercise promotes neurogenesis — a process that builds networks in your brain. Exercise can strengthen “executive” cognition — or help the brain to plan, reason and perform other higher-order functions. There is also evidence that exercising may protect against Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and spinal cord injury.
If going to the gym or hiking outside doesn’t get you excited, fear not. Staying in bed and having sex can produce some of the same effects. According to a study by Leuner, Glasper, and Gould, published on PLoS ONE, sexual activity also promotes neurogenesis — and, as an added benefit reduces stress and anxiety!
Eat Guacamole! (or other Healthy Fats)
Our brains are made up of 60 percent fat, so it makes sense that nourishing the body with essential fatty acids supports brain health. This Natural Solutions article on IQ-Boosting foods explains that Omega-3s help neurons in the brain communicate with one another, which may positively affect our ability to learn and memorize. Good sources of brain-boosting Omega 3s include cold-water fish, avocados, walnuts, flax seeds, and olive oil.
Playing games, such as Sudoku, exercises a part of the brain associated with memory. Sudoku, a number-placement puzzle, relies on logic, guesswork, and our ability to remember patterns. “To crack Sudoku our brains use a unique set of neural pathways known as associative memory– which enables us to discover a pattern from a partial clue,” says ABC Science reporter Judy Skatssoon, referencing research done by Professor John Hopfield of Princeton University.
Exercise your brain with the help of two books by the Puzzle Society: The Green Book of Word Search and The Green Book of Sudoku 2. With both books made from 60 percent certified fiber sourcing and 40 percent post-consumer recycled, you will not only be supporting your brain but also sustainable practices.
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Mary Ann D.
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