Back in the 90’s, it was mind-benders and brain-twisters. Then in the noughties, it was all about the Nintendo DS Brain Training Game, selling 19 million copies worldwide, and promising to make users up to three times better in tests of memory. Now, there are hundreds of games, apps, activities and books on how to improve your memory and improve your brain function.
These games are fun, and not only are you supposed to improve as your practice them, but they claim to improve your overall brain function.
Does brain training improve your brain function?
Your brain is amazing as it gets better at most things with practice. If you want to learn a new language, you start with the basics and slowly with practice build up conversation. The more you practice, the more fluent you become. But just because your language skills improve, doesn’t mean that you will simultaneously get better at remembering historical dates. Likewise with brain training games; just because you are getting better at problem-solving doesn’t mean you are improving other aspects of your brain. Studies have concluded that while playing these games does effectively improve performance in certain areas, this does not actually translate to an improvement in overall brain function.
What can you do to improve brain function?
While it certainly doesn’t hurt to continue using brain-training apps and games, it won’t deliver a miracle brain improvement. There are some simple and highly effective ways to improve your overall brain function, which can lead to better memory, enhanced concentration and focus, and improve your ability to learn and retain new information.
· Keep your gut happy: the most effective way to improve your mental health is through your gut. Your gut sends information to your brain through their own nervous systems – this is the reason why perhaps your stomach plays up if you feel nervous or stressed. What you feed your gut can impact the functioning of the brain. Stock up on plenty of fatty fish, lean protein, leafy greens and whole grains. Leafy greens, like spinach and broccoli, are high in folic acid and vitamin B which help improve brain function. You can also take supplements to positively impact your brain function and improve memory, concentration and productivity.
· Exercise: You are well aware of the positive effect exercise has on the body, and the same is true for the mind. Exercise impacts the brain in multiple ways. By increasing heart rate, more oxygen is pumped to the brain. Exercise also encourages the body in releasing a surplus of hormones which participate in providing a welcome environment for the growth of new brain cells.
· Sleep Well: When you sleep, your brain is still pretty active. It uses the time to process all the information it has received over the course of the day, so sleep is highly important in helping to retain useful information. If you don’t get enough sleep, it is much more difficult to concentrate and pay attention, and can even affect your logical thinking. A good night’s sleep will improve your memory, alertness and help you to keep better focus.
Even though there isn’t a one-stop-shop to improve your overall brain function, there are lots of activities and actions you can take that will help to make a difference. And you can have a lot of fun in the process.