And there are surprising ways that you could be hurting how your brain operates: “What you do as an adult or what you do on a regular basis, has huge impact on how you feel and how you act — and your behavior boosts, or minimizes brain function, too,” says Dr. Daniel Amen, MD, a psychiatrist and founder of Amen Clinics in California and author of Unleash the Power of the Female Brain. “One of the most important things to know is that if you are unhealthy from a physical standpoint —say, if you are overweight or you have hypertension, diabetes, or consume too much alcohol or do drugs — all these things can drain your brain and atrophy it in a negative way, which then impairs how it functions.”
The upside? While how your brain works is somewhat genetically coded, it also has a lot to do with how you use it. “The child-brain is less precise and more fluid than the adult brain, which is able to bring a lot of fire-power to problem solving quickly,” says Dr. Louann Brizendine, MD, a neuropsychiatrist and author of The Female Brain. “Adult brains have strengthened certain connections over many years — and deleted other connections that are still present in child brain.” What’s your missing link? Try these easy tricks to boost your brainpower.
Put. Down. The. iPhone.
Scrolling through Instagram, emailing your boss, talking your BFF off a breakup ledge and reading this article. Whoa. “Always being engaged is bad for your brain because just like your body, it needs time to rest,” says Amen. “You can overdo it.” One study from the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London found that 1,100 British employees who multi-tasked with electronic media showed a greater decrease in IQ than from smoking pot or losing a good night’s sleep. (Most likely because they aren’t really multi-tasking — simply doing several tasks subpar.)
But then pick it up again.
“Because you can use it wisely to play some brain-enhancing games (like Words With Friends) which may increase your vocabulary — which you can then use in everyday speech — as opposed to, for example, getting hooked on Angry Birds,” says Brizendine.
“Playing mind games on smartphones could help you get better a certain task — but this may, or may not, transfer to increased brain power at other tasks.” So, don’t think a few apps are enough to make you Einstein: “Just doing word games is not nearly as powerful as more engaging practices like making prettier spaces or learning new dance moves,” says Amen. And so….
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