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Build Your Brain Reserve

From Boost Your Brain by Majid Fotuhi, M.D., Ph.D.

Build brain reserve one thought at a time! With these cognitive stimulation tips, you’ll increase blood flow to the brain and promote new synapses, helping to aid long-term memory and healthy brain-wave activity. By adding synapses, bolstering the brain’s highways, breathing new life into blood vessels, and even growing new neurons, we literally reshape the brain and build a bigger “brain reserve,” which enhances brain performance—at any age.

Cognitive Stimulation Tips
CONSIDER YOUR CHOICES Spend some time thinking about your likes and dislikes. Then make a list of five activities you really enjoy and consider how well each will stimulate your brain. Choose the ones that are highest in appeal and brain-building potential.

MAKE IT A HIGH-PRIORITY HABIT It’s important to train your “memory muscle,” so take advantage of every opportunity to memorize new information and learn new things.

KEEP IT FRESH Once you’ve mastered a skill or task, move on or find a way to introduce a new challenge. If you’ve played golf every week for a decade, continue to enjoy it, but also try bowling or another new activity. Have you gotten pretty good at playing the piano? Try tackling a new piece that’s above your skill level. As a general rule, if you’re slightly out of your comfort zone when you tackle a new task, you’re challenging your brain—in a good way—and making the new synapses that will add to your brain reserve.

LIMIT DISTRACTIONS Living in the wired world means we’re constantly interrupted by our devices. Often we make things worse by initiating our own interruptions—checking e-mail or logging into Facebook obsessively, for example. Schedule set times—once an hour, perhaps—to check e-mail, respond to your electronic devices, or enjoy online social networking. Resist the temptation to return to your old, obsessive ways.

EXPLORE YOUR WORLD When you bring a child into a new room, she’ll set to work immediately, picking up items, examining them, putting them down. She’ll peek and poke and prod at everything in sight. As adults, experience tells us there’s nothing of interest behind the curtains, but while we don’t need to peer in every corner, maintaining curiosity about the world can help us keep our brains engaged and growing. So, explore your world. If you can’t travel, get online and take a virtual tour of a city half a world away. Read National Geographic magazine. Download a new app and figure out how it works. Be curious.

BECOME A BETTER SOCIALIZER If you find it difficult to make conversation or uncomfortable to be in social situations, give yourself tools that make it easier. I have a shy friend who comes to every party with a new joke to tell. He always gets a laugh, which makes him feel good. If you’re not a jokester, try boning up on a favorite topic so you can comfortably add to the conversation.

For more tips on enhancing your brain performance, pick up Boost Your Brain!

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