How to Cross-Train Your Brain

Do you ever feel like your brain is mush and with each passing year you keep getting dumber?  Sometimes I’ll walk into a room full of purpose and then have no reason why I’m there.  So I’ll go back to the kitchen only to realize I need my car keys, which are in the office (where I was in the first place.)  So then I’ll try some awesome ninja trick like saying aloud, “car keys, car keys, car keys” until I pick them up, but that only works if I’m alone, otherwise people will think I’m a crazy person who lives with 100 cats. (Don’t worry – I don’t have any cats; just children.)  Anyway….

That’s why I was really interested to read, “The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness” by Alvaro Fernandez and Ekhonon Goldberg PhD.  The most important thing I learned?  There is hope for me and my brain!SharpBrainsGuide_3D_lowre1

Your brain has approximately 100 billion neurons.  They communicate with each other through connections known as synapses.  Every experience you have, new synapses are created, and this happens throughout your entire lifetime.  This means that genetics don’t determine the fate of your brain; you do.  Your lifestyle choices (diet, exercise) and actions (stress management, stimulating mental activities) help your brain evolve for the better (or worse, depending upon your choices).

The authors separate the media hype from the scientific research on increasing brain fitness while offering practical tips for improving things like memory, emotional control, and decision-making functions.  Each chapter ends with interviews with leading scientists, university researchers and CEO’s of brain technology, discussing their area of brain expertise.   Here are some things I found interesting:

5 Ways to Cross-Train Your Brain

  • Incorporate activities that have novelty, variety and challenge, even (especially) if you are not good at them.  For example, I’m a person who reads a lot, does office work, and deals with small children, which is why bodybuilding was, and is, so good for my brain.  It forces me to be physical by learning how to effectively activate my muscles, and the whole show-prep process offers a ton of novelty, variety and challenge for me because it is so different from my normal routine.  Likewise, if you are a very physical person, try something completely different from your comfort zone, like joining a book club or learning how to play chess.  Other good things to learn for anyone are a foreign language and how to play a musical instrument.  This kind of mental stimulation has shown to reduce the risks of developing Alzheimer’s symptoms.

    Running through Austin

    Running through Austin

  • Exercise improves learning and other brain functions.  They are not just talking about walking from the office to your car though.  Most research shows that aerobic exercise (running, swimming, biking, etc.) for 30-60 minutes per day, 3 times per week, increases brain volume, blood supply and growth hormone levels.
  • Some surprising food news… Some information is what you’d expect: eat your vegetables and avoid foods that lead you towards diabetes.  But, did you know that light alcohol consumption lowers the risk of dementia?  That alone makes me like this book.

    Wine is good for your brain?

    Wine is good for your brain?

  • Social engagement is important.  Having a larger and more complex social network with makes your amygdala bigger (which helps with emotional responses,) and engagement via volunteering helps lower mortality and depression rates.
  • Reduce stress.  Memory and general mental flexibility are impaired by chronic stress, but can be improved with meditation, exercise and humor.  Meditation is especially good for memory because it teaches you to be in a state of mindfulness, so you are more focused in your setting.

    Mediation may help your memory

    Mediation may help your memory

This is a really good resource book if you are looking to get your brain in shape.  The cost is $15.95.  Here is a link to their site:

Let’s hope after reading this book and taking some mediation classes I’ll be able to find my car keys again.  How about you?  Are there any of these brain boosters you’d like to try?

Lisa ;)

Please note all opinions are my own.  No compensation was given for this review, other than a copy of the book. (c) 2013 Lisa Traugott.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this blog, including any text, photographs, and artwork, may be reproduced or copied without written permission.


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