Neuroplasticity describes lasting changes made to the brain throughout a person’s life. It is the brain’s ability to form new neural connections and reorganize itself as a response to both positive and negative events. From birth through advanced ages, research studies are showing that it is possible to improve brain function after as little as 12 hours of mental training exercises, resulting in an 8% improvement in blood flow through the brain. Follow-up studies are showing that benefits of mental training exercises can still be seen as much as a year after the initial study. These studies are changing senior care and even guiding younger people to participate in mental training exercises, such as these six activities.
- Learn something new such as a hobby, language, or musical instrument. Even reading can stimulate the brain. The greatest benefits come from the activities with the most novelty or challenge involved.
- Memorize something. Start with something short, like a favorite poem, and progress to something more involved, such as the 50 U.S. state capitals in alphabetical order. Creating rhymes and patterns also strengthens memory connections.
- Play strategy games or spend time solving puzzles or riddles. Cognitive associations, such as those made while solving a crossword puzzle or completing word and number games like Scrabble or Sudoku, are formed and retained with use. Any brain teaser or strategy game can provide a mental workout.
- Learn and use the five W’s. Keep a journal with a “who, what, where, when, and why” list of daily experiences. Recording visual details as written words helps keep neurons firing.
- Take the road less traveled. Becoming too habitual is bad for the brain. Vary habits regularly to encourage the creation of new neural connections. Try taking a new route home from an errand or eating with your non-dominant hand.
- Gardening is the most mysterious activity because there is no scientific evidence to explain why it helps improve mood and brain function, only that people feel and do better when they garden. It is suspected that the combination of touching the earth with bare feet and body helps to balance the body’s natural charge, soil probiotics enter the skin to help prevent illness and disease, the exposure to natural light to help the body produce Vitamin D, and the satisfaction of watching something grow and thrive work together to improve overall health.
These six activities are easy to try either at home and have proven brain benefits that far outlast the length of the activity. In addition to their brain benefits, they also could have physical benefits such as increased agility or flexibility, particularly if the road less traveled is taken frequently. If you or a loved one would benefit from Orlando senior care, call BrightStar Care at 1-866-618-7827 for a complimentary in-home assessment.