(re)Train Your Brain
If you want to remould your brain, here are a few steps to get you going.
The older we get the more set in our ways we become. And why not? We've figured it all out by now, haven't we?
The problem with this type of thinking is we allow ourselves and our minds to become lazy.
In the February 2012 FAIRLADY (page 82) we look at retraining our brains. Can it be done? How can we expand our boundaries and get our minds working curiously again?
If you want to remould your brain, here are a few steps to get you going:
1. Relish a challenge
Your brain would love to be ‘lazy’, so it’s up to you to, um, keep it on its toes. ‘The more you challenge your brain, the more refined its general functioning will be,’ says clinical psychologist Marlene Wells.
2. Keep learning
Some recommendations from our experts include trying a new physical skill or sport, picking up a new language or musical instrument, taking an art course, working hard to keep abreast of changes in communication technology.
3. Respect your stress threshold
Although mild stress can be a motivator, chronic stress (‘any stress that is persistent or an event that you keep revisiting’) leads to increased (or decreased) tonic firing in certain areas of your brain, creating an imbalance in the brain’s electrical and chemical synergy, explains Fleur Howells, a postdoctoral fellow at UCT’s Department of Psychiatry.
4. Join the pack
Get social! It's more complex than we realise, says US-based neuroscientist and co-author of Train Your Brain to Get Happy, Terese Aubele, , as it calls on a number of skills, such as ascertaining levels of intimacy between friends, family and acquaintances, understanding nuances of speech, and circumstantial decision making.
5. Get physical
According to studies by US neuroscientist Dr Fred Gage, a pioneer in the field of neurogenesis, exercise is one of the most effective ways to achieve growth of new brain cells. Regular challenging cardiovascular exercise, like walking and cycling, also strengthens blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygen.
6 Get some rest
Getting enough good quality sleep is essential to improving your mental functioning, says Dr Alison Bentley of the WITS Dial-a-Bed Sleep Research Laboratory. Although we may think we can skimp on sleep or ‘adapt’ to less of it, doing so can mean we miss out on the crucial stages of the sleep cycle in which certain neurons regenerate and in which new information or skills learned are ‘stored’.
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