How to flex your cognitive muscles

You know you can flex your muscles to make a difference in your body’s fitness, but did you know that you can exercise your brain to achieve intellectual powers and gain a better memory and increase your mental ability to improve your overall mental health.

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When you flex your mental muscles, the brain creates neuro-pathways to the brain. Some exercises and activities can effectively work the brain in five main cognitive areas that function autonomously.

If you can perform these exercises daily, you can train your mind to become fit and active, and your memory recall will increase.

Even though the mention of any form of exercise to increase brain compacity is not fully understood. But the argument, still stands that physical activity can positively affect cognitive functioning and mood, is a powerful one. Unfortunately, more intense forms of exercise may lead to displeasure.

The most widely studied area of physical activity and mental health is that concerning depression. Undoubtedly, “lifestyle factors” was traditionally associated with physical health may now also relate to mental health and well‐being. Nevertheless, your heart will thank you.

This article will review the common forms of cognitive function, which enhances or prevents cognitive decline in the elderly.

There is no need to throw away the leotard or break into a sweat at this time, we do endorse any form of exercise. Only, under medical supervision and approval.

But please give the following, tips within this article a full mental workout, but take care and enjoy.

Just as you would exercise all your body muscle to gain overall fitness – so you need to stimulate the following areas of the brain to remain mentally sharp and active as you age.

Most of all -- be mindful rather than mindless. 

Get off the couch and try something new.

The brain contains the following areas of cognitive recognition:

1. Language – This part of our brains is devoted to remembering, understanding and being able to identify words.

You can challenge this area of your brain by practising new languages, increasing your grammatical skills and increasing your vocabulary.

2. Attention Span – It’s difficult to focus on something if you’re a multi-tasker. Noises and other distractions can also inhibit your ability to focus your attention.

You can help your attention span part of your brain by changing the way you do things. Changing your route to work or any routine can awaken your brain and help it pay attention when needed.

3. Memories – As we age, the memory area of your brain can deteriorate. Sometimes, that’s because of dementia or Alzheimer’s, but most often, we need to increase our cognitive activities.

That includes mental calculations, reasoning powers and reading to remember. Games you play such as crossword puzzles can boost a chemical in your brain called “acetylcholine” which stimulates your brain memory skills.

4. Executive Function – The part of your brain known as the executive function performs the tasks of helping your logic and reasoning powers.

Executive functioning helps you develop strategies to reach goals and other significant decisions in your life.

Video games are great stimulation for this area of your brain, and social interaction can also help.

5. Visual-Spatial Skills – Since we live in a three-dimensional world, filled with colour and visuals, we must be able to analyze them to function without our various environments.

Visual-spatial skills are developed by observing what you see in front of your eyes and within your peripheral vision.

To create these skills, look at a picture, turn it over and then write down every object you saw in the picture. It’s an excellent exercise to help you focus on what’s around you.

Five more superlative brain exercises for you to Flex

Remember to regularly exercise your brain to keep the neural pathways open and your memory sharp.

The neural pathways are the parts of your brain which help you recall information, solve problems and perform tasks that you’ve experienced in the past.

To accomplish the exercises your brain needs, you need to change your routine once in a while and learn and develop new skills.

Mnemonic devices are some of the best ways to keep your brain stimulated and active. Here are five of the best mnemonic exercise for your brain:

Acrostics – Acrostics involve making up a sentence where the first or last letter of each word represents the items you want to remember.

One famous acrostic is, “E, G, B, D, F” – for “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” to reflect on the lines of the treble clef in music.

Visual – Like taking a picture with your mind. Make them colourful and three-dimensional to make the recall easier.

For example, to remember who was president when the first Atomic bomb was detonated, you could picture Harry Truman in front of a giant mushroom cloud.

Chunking – This method is excellent for breaking up a long string of numbers into chunks that are more easily remembered.

For example, telephone numbers are better placed than a driver’s license number because they’re broken down into three pieces.

Acronyms – These are words formed by taking the first letters of the items you want to remember and creating a new name from them.

For example, to place a grocery list containing “Laundry detergent, Olives, Diapers and Eggs,” you’d form the word “L-O-D-E.”

 Mnemonics in education

Medical student resorts to the use of mnemonics, often salacious and occasionally humorous, to aid him in retaining the vast number of facts for which he is accountable at time of examination.



Acronyms & Abbreviations

The funniest abbreviations are those that become acronyms in which the pronunciation resembles a word that has nothing to do with the abbrevia­tion's meaning. We call this group the mind-blowing abbreviations.

A cabbage in English is that a lovely vegetable known for its gasogenic properties. However, when an English-speaking surgeon says "This patient is a clear candidate for cabbage, they are not talking about what the patient should have for lunch, but rather the type of surgery he/she is suggesting should be performed.

Thus, cabbage is a simple way of referring to CABG (coronary artery bypass grafting).

If you happen to be eavesdropping in a corridor and you hear an oncol­ogist saying "I think your patient needs a chop", you walk on down the hall, wondering whether this new alternative therapy will consist of pork or a lamb chop.

But then you quickly realise that the specialist you were eavesdropping on was referring to a CHOP (a regimen of Cy­clophosphamide, Hydroxydaunomycin, Oncovin and Prednisone, used in cancer chemotherapy).

cited: Acronyms & Abbreviations Chapter 10 PDF link

Rhymes – Use rhymes you remember from school days or make them up yourself.

You may have recognised the verse, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen-hundred, ninety-two,” to remember when the explorer began his fateful trip to the New World.

All of the above methods are great ways to keep your brain in shape and to ward off such memory problems as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Keep in mind that the more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and recall information.

Challenge yourself in different ways.

Learn a new skill, language or sport.

And, any exercise which requires you to use your hands can also exercise your brain. Take up a musical instrument or some needlework to work out the hand-eye coordination area of your brain.

References

Physical activity and mental health: evidence is growing

Stuart Biddle (2016) Wold of Psychiatry  Pages: 176-177

Successful cognitive and emotional aging

DILIP V. et al. (2010) Wold of Psychiatry  issue 2, pp.78 – 84

A meta‐review of “lifestyle psychiatry”: the role of exercise, smoking, diet and sleep in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders. Joseph Firth et.al (2020) Wold of Psychiatry  Volume19, Issue3 October (2020) Pages 360-380



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