Everyone knows that sleeping well, exercise and playing sudoku can keep your brain in shape. But there are lots of ways you can flex your cerebral cortex, and these ten are pretty easy.
1. Chase the rainbow. Eating foods with naturally high color intensity (an indication of high antioxidant content) can inhibit the progression of age-related cognitive disorders in addition to lowering blood sugar, which also improves brain function. Common recommendations include blueberries, cranberries, red wine, and foods containing turmeric, like curry dishes.
2. Go hungry—at least for a day. Research has shown that routine fasting (one day a month) activates a unique form of glucose that helps the brain efficiently transmit information.
3. Read mental_floss. Gathering facts on a regular basis keeps your brain in shape by building new circuits and strengthening neural pathways. See, you did it just then. Don't you just love the _floss?
4. Ask Jeeves. Language, reading, and visual interpretation control centers show increased function during simple web searches in Internet-users aged 55-76. In those with more online experience, decision-making and complex-reasoning activity also experienced a boost.
5. Play along. Whether it's Cash Cab, Jeopardy!, or Don't Forget the Lyrics, recalling information you don't normally use improves long-term memory, recall and reasoning skills, so shout the answers out if you know them. (I do this; everyone hates it, but I rock at Trivial Pursuit.)
6. Brush the wrong way. Doing any routine activity with the non-dominant hand triggers parts of the brain responsible for learning, memorization, and motor control. You can make your brain smarter by switching up your tooth-brushing technique or practicing your penmanship with the wrong hand.
7. Turn up the Top 40. It isn't just classical music that can relieve stress hormones and ramp up production of feel-good serotonin (both of which improve your brain's ability to process and store information), so listen to whatever you like and know that your brain is benefiting.
8. Ooooohhhmm. Studies of meditating monks' brains show massive gamma wave activity (the signature of brain circuit connections being created); the study also showed increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, the area associated with compassion, altruism and generosity.
9. Put some clothes on"¦ in the dark; use your hands to choose your clothes without looking. Using a different sense (touch instead of sight) as your primary source of information amps up your synaptic activity, which helps you think faster. (Dress via FredFlare)
10. Get jiggy with it. Sensory integration is paramount to brain development, and no activity uses all the senses quite like sex does. As an added bonus, you'll get a boost in serotonin, which relieves stress, increases feelings of happiness and well-being, and confidence—all of which increase brain efficiency.