Most people are looking to improve their cognitive function for the immediate brain-boosting benefits of greater focus, enhanced memory, and increased endurance. Long-term benefits are just as important. This includes improved brain plasticity and protection from cognitive decline, a natural part of the aging process.
8 Ways to Improve Cognitive Function
In the following article, we have found the most effective ways to improve cognitive function backed by cutting edge research in the field of neuroscience. Read on to learn more about the habits and lifestyle choices that can improve brain structure, enhance connectivity, and generally improve cognitive performance.
Physical Exercise for Brain Plasticity
Getting regular exercise is one of the best ways to improve your brain’s energy levels and the conditions of cells and brain pathways.
Believe it or not, your brain has changed remarkably from its impressionable state in childhood to the mature brain you developed as a young adult. The capacity for your brain to change and adapt its process to best meet regular demands is called brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity. When plasticity is optimal the brain is able to grow and develop better and have an easier time recovering from injury.
Regular exercise is essential for a functioning mind and improved cognitive performance. Exercise stimulates the brain’s energy systems and neurotrophic factors. These proteins play an important role in the growth and regulation of brain cells.1
We all know the saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” If the brain is not being stimulated and challenged through regular cognitive performance, it will be far more susceptible to degeneration.
However, you can avoid becoming an “old dog” by constantly learning new tricks. Studies have found that keeping the mind active and engaged increases processing speed, memory recollection, reasoning, and crystallized knowledge, which is the sum of acquired learning.
Keep your mind positively engaged by providing it with new and fascinating input. Take a visit to some museums and art galleries to ponder the concepts you find. Additionally, learning a new language will provide the mind with a completely new way of thinking and analyzing information.2
Mindfulness, which is nothing more than the complete awareness of the moment, is a simple function of the brain and something we all practice at some time or other. When several moments of undisturbed mindfulness are strung together, we see the practice of meditation being cultivated.
As a discipline and mental tonic, meditation works to upgrade the functions of the mind. After only a few days of practice, focus and concentration levels will improve significantly. Other immediate benefits include greatly reduced stress and depression.3
In the long term, cultivated mindfulness can protect the brain from degenerative conditions and can actually restructure certain areas of the brain for optimal performance.4
Participate in Brain Healthy Activities
Choosing brain healthy leisure activities has also been found to increase resilience to dementia and degenerative diseases. It also plays an important role in a versatile and fast-acting brain. It will come as no surprise that one of humanity’s oldest pastimes is one of the best for maintaining a healthy brain and really keeps you on your toes.
Dancing not only elevates heart and breathing rates but fully engages the awareness and is lots of fun. In addition to learning the Tango, consider increasing your prowess at checkers, chess, and other mentally engaging leisure activities. This will boost your memory and significantly reduce your risk of dementia.5
Herbal pharmacology is discovering more and more organic substances that can be applied to greatly increase cognitive performance. Before looking through nootropics and supplementation to improve brain power, it is essential to examine the diet.
Most of the vital nutrients that the brain needs to perform optimally are found in your regular foods. In truth, the worst aspects of cognitive deficiency and decline come about through a lack of magnesium, vitamin D, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and many other essential nutrients.
In short, take a closer look at the foods you are eating. Try to minimize sugary, refined, or high sodium foods which place unnecessary strain on blood vessels and can hamper cognitive function. Eat raw veggies, whole grains, and foods that keep the brain nourished. Finally, don’t forget to drink plenty of water that helps the blood rid the body of toxins.
Improve Sleep Habits
Getting plenty of rest each night is also an integral part of a brain-healthy lifestyle. During the sleep cycles, the synapses of the brain are relaxed which counterbalances the strength required for cognitive function while awake.6 In other words, sleep allows the brain to recover and reset from the mental exhaustion experienced during the day.
Furthermore, a lack of sleep has been found to be one of the most mentally destructive practices. Studies performed on war veterans showed that disrupted sleep cycles caused by traumas and anxieties can lead to a reduction of grey matter. This is the brain matter containing mostly neurons and serves the purpose to process information.7
Take Nootropics and Supplements
After you have successfully balanced your exercise and dietary habits you will already notice a huge increase in cognitive performance, energy levels, and even mood balance. But, there is even more that can be done to fine-tune mental output. Nootropics and supplements have been developed to increase the fluidity of thought, vastly improve focus, and effectively fight fatigue even after long hours of work.
There are many options of nootropics available and some of these have very potent effects on brain health and cognitive function. Beginning with an enlightened perspective on these options as well as a clear idea of what you hope to accomplish through nootropics and supplementation will ultimately provide the best results.
Fight Stress and Depression
Stress and depression can adversely affect brain health and cognitive performance in the short- and long-term. Taking direct action to address the underlying causes of these conditions is perhaps the best way to protect the brain from further damage.
Looking for ways to build the body’s resistance and resilience to the stress response is one of the best ways to counter this problem. Exercise is a terrific mood lifter. Some types of exercise provide greater stress relief than others. Yoga is one of the best ways to ground the mind and body and offers great support to controlling stress and fighting depression.8
Lavender, clary sage, and bergamot have been used for clarifying the mind and improving mood throughout history.9 These plants and their essential oils contain organic compounds that deeply affect the mood and physiology through a special interaction with the limbic system.
Final Notes on Cognitive Function
The big secret to improving brain function through any of these effective means lies in consistency. By taking the time to establish healthier habits and brain-boosting lifestyle changes you will consolidate the improvements you are searching for. In the end, the actions you take today will guarantee a strong mind with formidable functions well into your golden years.
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