Memory slowing down? Get a brain workout

Dr Thamil Pavai, neurologist, Apollo Clinic offers simple tips to keep your brain as healthy and fit as your body

The brain has the size and appearance of a small cauliflower, but thanks to its 100 billion nerve cells, it enables you to think, plan, talk, imagine, and so do much more. In our day-to-day life, we meet many people, we come across new things and we have opportunities to learn, but we do not always benefit from it because we underutilise our brain.
Difficulty in memorising a person’s name or recalling recent events are signs that the grasping capacity of the brain has slowed down. Often genetics, diet during infancy, vaccination, childhood illnesses, exam stress etc, affect the development of our brain. The only solution to overcome this situation is to exercise the brain. Similar to a gym workout and dieting to overcome obesity, we can also train our brain to exceed its initial intellectual capacity. You can enhance your thinking capacity through activities like learning new words, playing games that stimulate the brain, challenging your IQ and following a healthy diet.
Here are a few tips that will help you exercise your brain:
* Yoga & meditation: These are good sources of exercise for the brain, as they involve contraction and relaxation of different muscle groups and regulate breathing that help in keeping the mind and the body active and focused.
* Active reading: This provides mental stimulation, keeping your brain active and engaged. It keeps you focused in the present, takes your mind away from everyday stress and allows you to relax.
* Creative writing: This requires steady thinking and is an excellent source of brain workout. Writing one page a day about anything under the sun can also be fun. This is a real stress buster, as clears the mental blocks, helping you explore your creative side.
* Use your less dominant hands: Keep your left hand busy if you are right-handed and vice versa. This stimulates the part of your brain that controls your muscles. Use your less dominant hand for activities like writing, drawing or playing games like badminton, carom etc. When you use the non-dominant hand, both hemispheres of your brain get activated, triggering improved memory functioning.
* Walking backward: Walking in reverse will tease the sphere of the brain, and set a “red alert”. This activity will increase your problem-solving skills, also involve one or more of your senses at a time. This is a fine example of a neurotic activity. Neurotic activities help the growth of new neural connections to your brain. You can try it for five minutes in between your daily walks.
* Physical workout: A healthier mind is a result of healthier body. Exercise at home, go to the gym or practice yoga. Choose any fun fitness routine that can keep your brain happy.
* Learn and memorise new things: Learning new words, trying out crosswords and puzzles for at least 15 minutes each day will prove beneficial. This will increase your learning capacity and improve your memory.
* Give your brain a break: Like every other part of your body, the brain also needs rest. It never really shuts down, but focusing on a single point or meditating can actually help you relax the muscles in your brain. It will up your concentration, make you calm and focused. Listening to soft instrumental music with your eyes closed for at least 10-15 minutes is enough to rejuvenate your brain.
* Increase your listening capacity: As you listen more you will be able to think and talk more with improved language. Listen to the news, speeches, and songs at least once a day.
* Eat healthy: Consume healthy meals to sharpen your brain. Ensure you have a wholesome breakfast, as this will provide a lot of energy to your body and mind. Fruits, vegetables, and cereals that are rich sources of vitamins and minerals help by protecting your brain cells from damage. Walnuts, avocados, berries, olive oil, green leafy vegetables are excellent brain tonics.
The key to successful management of brain is to keep it relaxed and calm. Each of us has our own mental capacity, so you should experiment with techniques that can help you maintain a balance, and learn what works best for you.