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Can I Enhance My Brain and My Memory by Dr. Rick Holmes, Ph.D.

February 15, 2020

A strong memory depends on the health and vitality of your brain. Whether you’re a student studying for final exams, a working professional interested in doing all you can to stay mentally sharp, or a senior looking to preserve level of cognitive functioning as you age, there are steps you can take to improve your memory and mental performance.

They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but when it comes to the brain, scientists have discovered that this old adage simply isn’t true. The human brain has an astonishing ability to adapt and change even into old age.  Here are a few action steps you can take:

Work your brain

Memory, like muscular strength, requires you to “use it or lose it.” The more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information. But not all activities are equal. The best brain exercises break your routine and challenge you to use and develop new brain pathways. Look for activities that allow you to start at an easy level and work your way up as your skills improve.

Engage in physical exercise

While mental exercise is important for brain health, physical exercise is just as important for helping your brain to stay sharp. It increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Exercise also enhances the effects of helpful brain chemicals and reduces stress hormones. Aerobic exercise is particularly good for the brain, so choose activities that keep your brain pumping.

Prioritize sleep

Memory, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking skills are all compromised by sleep deprivation. Sleep is critical to learning and memory. Research shows that sleep is necessary for memory consolidation, with the key memory-enhancing activity occurring during the deepest stages of sleep.

Spend time with friends

Humans are highly social animals. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Relationships stimulate our brains. Interacting with others may provide the best kind of brain exercise. In one study from the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline.

Manage your stress

Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies. Over time, chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and retrieval of old ones.  People who regularly engage in meditation, prayer, or progressive muscle relaxation can actually change their brain.

If you are stuck in a rut and looking to get your life back or improve your quality of life, reach out to a mental health professional. We are here at Pike Creek Psychological Center to assist you in your journey and perhaps even help you change your brain.

 

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