Although there is no sure-fire way to protect yourself from any disease, one of the leading charities in the field have come up with ‘the six pillars of Alzheimer’s prevention:’ regular exercise, healthy diet, quality sleep, stress management, an active life and mental stimulation. This article focuses on the latter three pillars in an attempt to teach you the practice of Neurobics.
But before we look into neurobics we have to wonder why are dementia rates on such a steep rise?
Technology Numbs Our Brains
The simple answer people often use is that, with an aging population the statistical likelihood of suffering from a degenerative brain condition is increased. This is undeniably a factor however, it gives the illusion that there is very little you can do to prevent the condition, this way of thinking is ultimately flawed.
One of the major issues that each of us can do something about is our use of technology. Technology is used for everything and is, in the main, a fantastic commodity, decreasing the limitations of the human experience. I wrote this article using technology and as a result, you’re reading it! However, an over-reliance and overuse of technology causes a condition that has been aptly named ‘digital dementia.’
‘Digital dementia’ is a phrase coined by German neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer who attributed it to our modern day inability to concentrate for long periods of time due to the over accessibility to information on our phones and computers. We are unable to focus for long, or even sit quietly and focus on one thing. We often try and pass this off as just a side effect of our busy lives but findings have shown that our ‘normal’ concentration levels – when over-exposed to technology – are in line with someone who has suffered a head injury.
What Are Neurobics?
These findings are frightening given how married we are to our smartphones, and in an ideal world, we would all agree to use our phones for no more than an hour a day. However, that’s a promise that would be difficult to stick to. Instead, it is more reasonable to understand and follow the concept of neurobics laid out in Keep Your Brain Alive by Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin.
Neurobics are a series of brain exercises that break up the monotony of your thoughts and challenge your brain on a daily basis. By regularly practicing different neurobics you challenge each area of your brain to keep it active and engaged. By doing this you limit the damage done by neglecting your brain and it allows you monitor its activity levels.
These exercises work the neurons in your brain and the more you use the neurons the stronger they get. Therefore, the harder you work them, the better ‘shape’ they will be in and as a result less susceptible to disease.
Neurobics are designed to involve a series of different exercises that act as an unexpected stimulus to your brain so that it ceases to settle into an unstimulating pattern. These simple exercises can reduce the effects of aging.
Top 20 Neurobic Exercises
- Use your non-dominant hand: try basic activities with your non-dominant hand such as brushing your teeth – this challenges your brain in an otherwise mundane task.
- Look at various colors: surrounding yourself with numerous different colors stimulates the vision center of the brain more than dull colors.
- Learn a new instrument: the act of learning is a huge stimulant from the brain and listening to the music will improve your auditory function.
- Try crossword puzzles: puzzles teach you to think in an abstract way to solve problems which are a sure fire way to work your neurons.
- Walk barefoot: walking around outside in shoes is a sensation your brain is accustomed to. So surprise your brain by taking off your shoes and really taking the time to appreciate the different sensations.
- Write a journal: take stock of the world around you, the sights, the sounds and how they make you feel – starting a journal about them wakes your brain up to the intricacies of life and strengthens it.
- Recite a speech: write down a speech you need for a presentation and recite it aloud. This will work both your short-term and long-term memory neurons.
- Try new food: tasting new food takes a great deal of cognitive function, your brain needs to engage with a texture and taste.
- Write don’t type: writing by hand engages more of your brain than typing does. Although it isn’t practical to write everything (especially at work), try writing when you make notes or lists rather than using your phone.
- Meditation: people who meditate are proven to show fewer signs of mental decay than those who don’t.
- Laugh: watch more comedy, joke with friends and take time each day to do something that makes you laugh. The release of dopamine is a key component in memory, focus, and attention.
- Write a gratitude list: stress is a major factor in brain decay, writing a gratitude list switches off some of the stress in your brain as you can take stock of the wonderful things you have in your life.
- Teach: teaching challenges you to learn new things and the act of passing on that information boosts yours brain’s energy and activity.
- Listen to music: classical music is shown scientifically to me the best form of music to get the neurons firing in your head.
- Close your eyes: try do simple activities such as eating or dressing with your eyes shut. You will be challenging your brain to focus on its other senses to guide you which boosts brain power.
- Take up a new hobby: new hobbies are the ultimate form of neurobics! They challenge you to learn new things, talk to new people and test your mental faculties to the max.
- Rearrange your house: moving around furniture not only freshens up your living space, it also forces your brain to readjust its spatial expectations.
- Explore somewhere new: exploring a new place takes your mind out of its comfort zone and stimulates each part of your brain as you try to make sense of new sights, sounds and sensations.
- Learn another language: adding another language to your repertoire enhances your long and short term memory exponentially.
- Play sports: sport challenges your brain to communicate with others, releases endorphins and improves your problem-solving skills. So throw on a jersey and get out there!
Protecting your brain as you get older is an absolute necessity and your neurobic workout should begin now! Neurobics are a proven way of improving your mental faculties in the short and long term. Taking the time now to understand and improve your brain could be the key to preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia in the future.