5 Daily Habits to Boost Your Brainpower and Maintain Mental Sharpness for a Lifetime


We all know that feeling of struggling to recall a specific word or piece of information. However, while many of us focus solely on memory improvement, brain health experts suggest that this is not the only important aspect of cognitive function.

People typically desire to remember everyday things such as their grocery lists and the names of those they know. But the act of recollection is more intricate than just plucking a name out of one's memory.

Factors like brain processing speed and focus also play a role in memory recall and can be improved with effort. The truth is, people often have unrealistic expectations around memory, regardless of age. Misinformation can make individuals feel discouraged about their brain's capacity.

Fortunately, our brains have the ability to modify their structure and function throughout life due to neuroplasticity, a reassuring scientific concept. Even as we age, new cells can be produced in the brain.

This means that with brain training, we can improve concentration, expand working memory, and other cognitive abilities. While it's not possible to boost IQ, it's entirely achievable to make our brains stronger.

What is brain training?

When it comes to improving cognitive skills, there are two types of strategies: compensatory and restorative. Compensatory strategies help you complete tasks using work-arounds, like singing a song to memorize information or visualizing an image to help remember something.

These strategies can be helpful for everyone, not just those with brain injuries or strokes. Restorative strategies are used to repair or improve brain function, like relearning to walk or speak after a stroke.

In addition to cognitive rehab strategies, you can also adopt brain-healthy behaviors like getting enough sleep and eating well to improve memory, recall, and comprehension. However, the effectiveness of brain training depends on how much effort you put into it, just like with diet and exercise.

While scientific studies offer insight into effective strategies, it's important to note that activities in a lab may not always be practical or applicable in real life. Nevertheless, experts recommend incorporating the following five mind-modifying habits into your daily routine as they have been shown to improve cognitive function.

1. Commit to exercising:

Experts agree that exercise is essential for both the body and the brain. According to Dr. All, exercise helps to increase the number of connections and pathways in your brain and create nerve growth factors, which are like Miracle-Gro for your brain cells.

There is no one specific type of workout that all experts recommend, but studies have shown that everything from biking to practicing yoga can have brain-building benefits.

For example, one study found that high-intensity interval training in older adults led to a 30% increase in memory performance, while regular yoga practice can increase the volume in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, both important areas for memory and planning.

The key is to choose a fitness routine that you enjoy and stick with it.

2. Challenge yourself to learn new things:

When it comes to brain training, it's not necessary to dive into completely new activities, like learning a new instrument or language. While those activities can be beneficial for the brain, it's important to find an entry point that's engaging and motivating for you.

This might mean introducing novelty and variety into your favorite activity, such as switching from a crossword to a sudoku puzzle a few days a week or trying a freehand drawing class if you enjoy painting.

By challenging yourself in this way, you can create new pathways in your brain and improve your cognitive abilities over time. The key is to commit to practicing regularly, as with any skill. As Dr. Small explains, "We all have the capacity to improve. It's a matter of practice."

3. Do something meditative and mindful:

Have you ever forgotten something important like the name of someone you just met or a list of items to buy from the store? It can be frustrating when we can't focus and remember important information.

However, a technique that has been around for 7,000 years, mindfulness meditation, can help improve your attention and focus in a short amount of time.

According to research, even a brief 10-minute session of guided mindfulness meditation can lead to immediate improvements in attention, accuracy, and reaction times in a task performed afterward, as compared to a control group.

The goal is to improve your brain's abilities through training, rather than overburdening or exhausting it.

In a study conducted by the University of California, Davis, Center for Mind and Brain, a group of 60 experienced meditation practitioners attended a three-month meditation retreat, and the impact of this retreat on their attention was examined.

Although the participants reduced their practice to about an hour a day after the retreat, some of the immediate gains they achieved in attention were still noticeable seven years later.

According to Dr. All, attention is the most flexible of all cognitive domains, and meditation is an excellent strategy for strengthening the brain.

When individuals meditate, their hippocampus grows, the volume of their prefrontal cortex increases, and their amygdala, which is their fear detector, likely shrinks. It is vital to reduce stress and anxiety to increase focus, and meditation can help individuals to relax and get out of fight-or-flight mode.

4. Get more social:

Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, believes that the most significant long-term effect of the pandemic will be on mental health. Isolation, a result of the pandemic, can have negative impacts on cognitive health, leading to cognitive decline.

He suggests staying connected with family and friends by using various technologies like Zoom, watching movies together online, or taking socially-distanced walks. Socializing can help learn new things and keep the brain active and working, leading to better cognitive function.

In fact, research has shown that even 10 minutes of conversation can enhance executive-functioning skills like working memory and the ability to suppress distractions.

5. Try playing games:

The pandemic has caused a surge in popularity of brain-training games as people turn to e-learning. However, not all of these games are created equal, and the benefits are still up for debate. Some games focus on enhancing your thinking skills, while others aim to improve your processing speed.

While there is not a lot of research to definitively prove their benefits, there is little evidence to suggest they will do any harm. Before purchasing a game, it's important to research their claims and understand the specific goals of the game.

Adopting new behaviors to enhance brain health may seem daunting, but it can be made easier by framing it as a fun activity. For instance, incorporating activities such as cycling, meditation, or even playing brain-training games into your routine can have a positive effect on your brain.


In conclusion, maintaining cognitive health and brainpower can be achieved through five daily habits that help in improving cognitive abilities. These habits include exercising, challenging the brain to learn new things, practicing meditation and mindfulness, and getting more social.

These strategies are useful in improving cognitive function, and incorporating them into daily routines can lead to a lifetime of mental sharpness and better brain health. Furthermore, neuroplasticity means that our brains can modify their structure and function throughout life, so it's never too late to start training the brain.

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