BY KAYLA BEIRNE
Keep your gray matter in tip-top shape as the years go on by trying new things and staying active. A healthy brain is a happy and functional one!
Simply put, neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to form new connections between synapses—to “rewire” itself. It’s important to form new synaptic connections by picking up new hobbies, learning new languages, and playing new games. Just like doing yoga increases your body’s flexibility, you can keep your brain loose and flexible by introducing it to new experiences every so often. Keeping your brain limber now can ward off dementia in the future, so learn how to maintain neuroplasticity as you age!
Regular physical exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which gives it more oxygen. You don’t have to do a full cardio workout, but a brisk half-hour walk in the morning will bring much-needed oxygen to all of your vital organs. Your brain needs oxygen to function in the first place, so make sure it’s got plenty.
Learn a New Language
If you’ve been accustomed to speaking a single language your entire life, your brain grows complacent. New languages may seem especially difficult to pick up once you hit your mid-twenties and your brain finishes developing. Start off by studying a language close to your own. English is a Germanic language, so German itself may be a great starting point. If you’re accustomed to speaking Spanish, look at other Romance languages like French and Italian.
Spruce Up Old Habits
Trying something new doesn’t have to mean flinging yourself out of your comfort zone right away. Take stock of your current hobbies and pinpoint where you’ve gotten into a rut. Do you love to cook, but end up making the same few dishes every week? Shake things up by varying cooking techniques you’ve never tried before. And if you love to paint with acrylics but have grown bored, pick up a watercolor pan and try your hand.
One of the biggest threats to neuroplasticity is your brain’s “autopilot.” Do you feel yourself zoning out as you take the same bike path every day? Shake things up. Find new things in your life to pay close attention to, whether it’s a new biking route or a free course online. You can even try your hand at video games! They’re fully immersive and offer you opportunities to solve puzzles and cooperate with other characters or players. After you’re done immersing yourself in a new hobby for the day, take some time to relax and unfocus. Your brain needs rest just as much as it needs engagement.
Your brain is a precious resource, and one that you’ll need to keep in shape as the years go by. Give your brain a workout and learn how to maintain neuroplasticity as you age to keep it flexible.