7 Ways to Maximize Your Brain’s Plasticity and Slow the Aging Process
Babies assimilate information much faster than adults, thanks to brains that are incredibly moldable. But even as you age, that moldability -- called neuroplasticity -- can be strengthened in small ways to fight off mental decay, slow the aging process, lower your risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and help you recover from a stroke,
Plasticity comes from the Greek word “plastikos,” which means molding or modeling. In this case, neuroplasticity refers to neurons, the cells that make up our brains, that change and adapt. You can basically rewire your brain by learning something new.
Here are seven ways to increase your brain’s plasticity:
Move Your Body
Stay glued to your phone or TV, and you miss out on making your brain actively learn. Instead, task yourself with learning something new that requires you to move your body.
- Take lessons in playing an instrument, even by watching YouTube
- Learn a new dance
- Practice a new soccer trick
- Try a new sport or activity, such as Frisbee, surfing, hula-hooping or slacklining
Read a Book
Read a book, ideally a physical book. This is a better choice for entertainment, compared to watching TV or a movie, because it makes you actively think. Books require you to imagine each scenario as you read about it. By supplying all the images, TV is too passive.
You learn subconsciously the entire time you travel. Being in a new place, especially a foreign country, upsets your autopilot settings and forces you to actively make decisions, such as:
- Figuring out how to get to a destination via subway, other public transit or car
- Remembering your hotel room number and navigating throughout the hotel
- Making the choice of where to have breakfast
Say Yes to the New Role at Your Job
Whether it is a promotion or just taking on a new project, learning new skills, processes and workflows is a great way to build neuroplasticity.
Meal planning takes cognitive skill. You’re deciding how much time you have to meal prep, which foods to buy and which foods you want to eat. If you’re making a new recipe, that tasks the brain further. Or, if you’re measuring your meals against goals such as a target number of calories or eating the rainbow of fruits and vegetables, that adds another level. If you’re entirely new to meal prep, even learning how to use apps to meal plan tasks your brain appropriately.
Have a Game Night
Set up a board game night with your kids or your friends, and play Monopoly, Taboo, Catan or something similar. This type of play also adds social interaction, which stimulates the brain in a different way and helps ward off depression.
Debate Coworkers or Friends
Engage in a meaningful interaction with your friends. This doesn’t mean chatting just to chat, but rather, explaining a new concept to a group or debating an issue. This kind of conversation is especially beneficial if it involves teaching, as this kind of thinking strengthens cognitive plasticity for both the teacher and the student.
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