The brain changes when you learn something new
About a million nerve cells make up the brain. These cells are in constant contact with each other via electrical signals. Strengthening existing connections and forming new ones lead up to the formation of new brain cells – a process called neurogenesis. The growing of new brain cells is important for our mental wellbeing and cognitive flexibility and can be encouraged by incorporating certain behaviors or activities into our everyday lives. These include aspects as a healthy diet, a good amount of sleep, regular physical exercise, constant learning and the acquisition of new skills.
In an interview with the Huffington Post Associate Professor from Sydney University’s School of Psychology and Brain and Mind Centre Muireann Irish points out the significance of constantly challenging ourselves by learning new things and acquiring new sets of skills:
“We need to mentally exert ourselves in order to see the benefits.”
"Recent research has shown that engaging in an activity that is unfamiliar and mentally challenging may provide the necessary stimulation to bring about improvements in a number of high-level cognitive processes such as attention and working memory.”
**What you can do ** Now you are probably thinking ”train your brain, easier said than done”, having in mind your already busy schedule? The exact opposite is true, we just need to focus on the right kind of brain exercise.
Here are some activities to boost your grey cells:
• Learn a new language Getting to know a new language introduces you to new vocabulary, new cultural concepts, gives you the opportunity to interact with strangers and according to a study, makes your brain actually grow. It benefits our decision making skills, improves memory, attention span, ability to multitask and also provides us with better skills in our first language. Anyone? Deutsch? Espanol? Français?
• Learn to play an instrument Always wanted to learn to play the piano? You should definitely do your brain a favor and give it a try. Numerous studies show the positive influence of music on memory, brain plasticity and the ability to store audio information.
**• Produce art ** Creating art such as photography, painting, writing, sculpting or drawing does not only reduce stress, but it also stimulates the frontal lobe processing through pattern design, balance and fine motor coordination. So, get out your scrapbook, buy a canvas or just brush up on your photo skills.
**• Brain games ** Everyone loves games, so this should get us excited, because all kinds of games benefit the strength of our brain, may it be board games, riddles, video games puzzles or mind games. Get inspired and dust off your chess board or dig out that old magic cube and give it a go! Also, Red Bull Mind Gamers will release a new themed challenge monthly to help you improve your mind skills in one of six core competencies: memory, creativity, musicality, strategy, visual intelligence, and logic.
• Read whatever makes you happy Plan to read at least a few pages a day. The consumption of any text material (you can pic whatever you want from the daily newspaper to the guilty pleasure vampire novel) increases your emotional intelligence, vocabulary and language skills. Many smart people identify as ferocious readers, get inspired and start to be one of them.
• Socialize Hanging out with your friends - or actually people in general - decreases the risk of dementia, strengthens your memory functions and therefor helps to keep your brain healthy. So, sign up for that new class, make time for family activities, have the well-deserved chat over coffee with your friend and say yes to that birthday party you were going to skip.
• Meditate Sitting in silence, long associated with yogis up in some Tibetan mountain area, has recently also arrived in our modern digital society. These often very simple methods such as breathing exercises or mindfulness practices enhance our brain functions increase memory, empathy and resilience, and, as shown in a recent study, might even affect or genes in a positive manor . There are many apps that can introduce your to training your mind, why not download one immediately and ooooom…
So many things to do to make our brain even smarter than it already is ? Also, there is no age limit to training your brain to increase its functions, so, no excuse to pick one or more of these healthy brain-rewiring habits!