As we get older, it becomes more and more important to pay attention to our brain health. With time often comes cognitive decline, but with a few simple interventions, you can hang on to those precious brain cells a while longer, and improve the quality of your whole life! Check out our brain-boosting strategies that will sharpen your memory, focus, and concentration — naturally!
Banish brain fog with tunes.
When fall busyness brings on foggy thinking, listening to your favorite soothing music (ideally, for at least 10 minutes while you tackle other tasks) will sharpen your focus and concentration faster and more effectively than caffeine. That’s the word from researchers at Michigan State University, who say listening to familiar, calming music — even if it’s just playing in the background — heightens electrical activity in the corpus callosum, a key focus-enhancing area of the brain that connects the right and left hemispheres.
Make tough decisions by letting in a breeze.
It’s hard to think clearly when comparing lots of facts (like different cellphone plans or car repair shops online). What can help? Opening a window so you can feel the sunlight and cool breeze on your skin. According to research in the journal Cell, the combination of UV light and cool air prompts your brain to release an energizing neurotransmitter (glutamine) that sharpens reasoning skills in 60 seconds, so you can make tough decisions 50 percent faster and easier!
Halt brain aging with cat naps.
Getting just two quick snoozes over a weekend can cut your risk of brain aging and memory lapses by as much as 44 percent, say Cornell University researchers. Bonus: If you’re also socializing on the weekends, you’re five times more likely to remember details from those gatherings — like faces, names, conversations, and facts — when you add in catnaps. Explains neurologist David Perlmutter, MD, while you’re sleeping, your brain is busy consolidating new memories, plus repairing and replacing worn cells.
Heighten recall with a 10-minute chat.
You can halve the risk of age-related memory loss — plus boost focus by 50 percent — just by chatting with a friend or loved one for 10 minutes daily, British researchers say. Socializing energizes the brain’s memory and language centers, and doing it daily fuels the growth of healthy new brain cells. Bonus: Pleasant chats turn on your brain’s production of BDNF, a compound that heightens your ability to multitask.
Clear mental clutter by closing your eyes.
When your to-do list grows so long that you start feeling scattered and unfocused, closing your eyes for 60 seconds can quickly calm your frazzled brain, improving your focus and recall by 25 percent for one hour straight. The reason? According to a Canadian research team, giving yourself even a brief break from visual distractions calms the basal ganglia — an area of the brain that controls your anxiety level and your ability to truly focus on one task at a time.
Enhance focus by having some fun online.
Playing on your smartphone, computer, or another device for 30 minutes daily, whether you’re scrolling through Facebook posts, looking at decorating ideas on Pinterest or playing Tetris, can cut the risk of foggy thinking and memory lapses by 42 percent, say Mayo Clinic scientists. A little extra screen time — as long as your focus is fun — triggers the release of a brain-energizing neurotransmitter (acetylcholine).
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.