There’s an elusive hunt for the Holy Grail of mental maintenance: how can we preserve — and improve — our memory and cognition skills throughout our lives and as we get older?
Well the good news is that the solution to keeping your brain power in check could be free!
Over the years, everything from chocolate to red wine to different font styles have been touted as ways to improve your memory. The latest trend — video games and virtual brain exercises — aligns with our ever-changing digital world.
We’ve all seen the endearing images of grey-haired gamers picking up a controller for the first time as they battle to “one-up” their cognition levels. Research completed at the University of California in 2013 shows that video games can have a positive impact on cognitive control skills such as multi-tasking.
But the digital environment doesn’t come without detriment. We are constantly being bombarded with new information and ways to stimulate our minds. While more data than ever before is available at our fingertips, the question remains: are we truly digesting it?
A study from Microsoft Corp. earlier this year shows the impact the digital age can have on our cognitive health. The research demonstrated that the average adult attention span has fallen to eight seconds — a four second drop since 2000 when the world dove head first into the online world.
With this in mind, researchers say the best thing you can do for your brain is to put down the virtual games and close the cover on your mind puzzles book. It turns out the answer to cognitive health could be found in the ways you go about your daily life.
Here’s What Researchers Say Works Best:
Aerobic exercise impacts more than just your physical health. Adult development experts say daily cardio exercise boosts blood circulation, refreshing your brain with the nutrients and oxygen it needs to function to its full capacity. This will improve the quality of your everyday life and will spare the loss of brain tissue as your age.
If you don’t want to move your body, make an effort to exercise your mind. Learning can happen far beyond the walls of the classroom, and discovering new places and skills is like a workout for your brain. Cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman told NPR that while brain games can improve aspects of short-term memory, being challenged by the task of learning new skills can strengthen your brain as a whole. Not only that, but by learning new things, you’re less likely to slip into a state of autopilot. If you don’t have the time to pick up a new skill, visiting a learning institution like museum or art gallery can provide a quick learning fix.
This goes back to our brain’s modern inability to absorb all the information we’re presented. It can be difficult to extract meaning from everything we read, see, and hear on a daily basis. By pausing and reflecting on what you’re being presented — this blog post, for instance — you can help your mind re-engage and process the information critically. Think of it as a mental book report — by dwelling on an article’s key themes and implications, you’ll remember key facts more effectively and better process the true meaning of a piece.
Ultimately there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to maintaining and improving brain power. But with trends emerging as to the importance of disconnecting, thinking critically, and making your body active, cognitive health could be closer than ever before.