5 Ways To Sharpen Your Brain

From Dr. Mike Dow, psychotherapist and Author of Healing the Broken Brain.

You walk into a room and think: “What was I just going to do?” You waste time on social media because you can’t seem to focus on this project for work. If there’s one lesson I learned from writing The Brain Fog Fix and Healing the Broken Brain, it was this: everything we do in our everyday lives has the power to enhance our brains or muddle them. Here are 5 simple ways to sharpen your brain today.

1. Single-task. You would think that people who are multitasking would become so good at doing many things at once, their brains would be sharper. Actually, the reverse is true. Heavy media multitaskers aren’t able to filter our distractions, and this can muddle and dull the brain. Use a mindful, single-tasking strategy through your work day and do one thing – and only thing – at a time. Turn off your phone’s ringer or laptop’s wifi in 30 minute increments to help you focus on the task at hand.

2. Do the n-back with a deck of cards. The n-back is an amazing and clinically proven memory game. The n-back targets your working memory which tends to decline as you get older. This part of your brain allows you to hold information for a short amount of time while also being able to manipulate that information if necessary. Research shows that people improved their memory by using the n-back for 25 minutes a day. The childhood card game Concentration is a version of the n-back, and you can play it today with a simple deck of cards. Use two cards of every number and face card in the deck. Place them face down and look for pairs.

3. Snack on organic berries as you play. The neuroprotective antioxidants make their way to your brain and preserve your brain cell’s activity. Eating them regularly has been shown to slow the progression of cognitive decline by up to 2 ½ years. It can help people overcome genetic predispositions for Alzheimer’s disease and may have the power to reverse age-related decline. However, this is one fruit you want to buy organic. When conventionally raised, berries have high levels of pesticides.

4. Do the kirtan kriya. This meditation is one of the most potent for brain sharpening. This meditation can actually preserve memory and can even reverse memory loss. Sit in a comfortable seating position. Now, sing the four sounds sa, ta, na, ma to the tune of the first four notes of Mary Had a Little Lamb. When you sing sa, touch your thumbs to your index fingers. When you sing ta, touch your thumbs to your middle fingers. When you sing na, touch your thumbs to your ring finger. When you sing ma, touch your thumbs to your pinky fingers. Take a deep breath and repeat. For the first two minutes, sing this in a normal singing voice. For the next two minutes, sing in a whisper. For the next four minutes, mouth the words silently to yourself. Then sing in a whisper for two minutes and then a normal singing voice for the last two minutes.

5. Do a 10-minute workout. Exercise is one of the most potent brain sharpeners, but many people struggle with finding the time to do so. When you don’t have time for a full hour-long class, sprint interval training has been shown to be an effective alternative. Surprisingly, subjects in one study who did this 10-minute workout reaped the same benefits in cardiovascular health as the subjects who did the same number of 50-minute workouts. Anything that helps improve cardiovascular health can help keep the blood pumping and sharpen the brain. Warm up with 2 minutes of light activity like a walk or light jog. Then, sprint for 20 seconds. Walk or jog for 2 minutes. Sprint for 20 seconds again. Walk or jog for 2 minutes. Sprint for 20 seconds, and then end with a 3 minute walk or light jog.

Make these simple tasks staples of your daily life, and watch your brain become sharp as a tack.

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