You’ve probably heard the phrase, “objects in motion tend to remain in motion.”
Newton was talking about the laws of motion, but his words can also be applied to the human brain.
The brain, like the body, responds to mental stimuli and can be “worked out,” just like a muscle at the gym.
But while most people already know at least the basic tenets of working out their bodies, they might not know how to pump up their minds.
Wondering how to work out your brain? Luckily, we have the perfect routine for you.
Let’s Talk About How the Brain Learns
Brain training works around the principle of neuroplasticity.
Let’s take a look at the basic concepts behind the functioning of the brain.
Neurons are critical to brain function.
Without them, you wouldn’t be able to think.
A neuron, or nerve cell, is a cell that uses chemical and electrical signals to transmit and process pieces of information.
In a recent study, Brazilian researcher Dr. Suzana Herculano-Houzel found that the average human brain has about 86 billion of them.
Plastic is prized for its versatility:
it can be rigid, but it can also be soft and flexible.
In the context of the brain, think of plasticity in that soft, flexible state.
When we learn or memorize new information (or when we have a severe head injury), changes occur among the neural pathways of the brain – kind of like plastic.
Your Daily Brain Workout Routine
So how can you put your brain to work?
Here are 5 Brain Exercises You Can Do Every Morning to Prepare Yourself for Improved Learning
1. Do the Crossword Every Morning
Do mental puzzles.
No matter how big an athlete gets, if they cap off their training period with a month lying around on the couch, some of that muscle is going to hit the road.
Maintenance is half the game, and when it comes to the brain, an excellent method is doing mental puzzles, or “brain aerobics.”
Activities like crossword puzzles and sudoku force your brain to retrieve information and figure out solutions, which can help strengthen neural connections.
This is called retrieval and helps evolve short-term memories to long term memories.
By frequently activating the same neurons, the neural pathways become stronger and enhance memory.
So, a couple of minutes in the morning doing the daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper or online not only serves to entertain but enhances your memory and brain functioning.
2. Spend Some Time Clearing Your Mind
Stress is hard on your body, including your brain.
When you’re stressed out, everything becomes more work than it needs to be.
A quick meditation session in the morning can help clear your mind for the rest of the day.
In fact, meditation actually helps enhance the physiological state of the brain.
The left hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps us learn, rationalize and memorize, can grow through meditation, strengthening these functions.
Other parts of the brain (like the pons, which produce the neurotransmitters that conduct brain activity) have also been found to develop through meditation.
Meanwhile, the amygdala, which might go into overdrive with feelings of stress and anxiety, shrinks with meditation.
Consequently, you not only enhance the brain’s functioning through meditation but also improve your emotional well-being and mental health.
3. Pick the Right Brain Fuel – Eat Right
We all know food can affect the heart, but what about the brain?
B vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be able to boost mood and memory function.
To give you some perspective into how much difference your diet can make, let’s take a look at 3 high memory-enhancing superfoods.
You might know that relying on fish for protein helps with your cardiovascular health. It also helps your brain and can help to improve your memory.
It is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help brains develop and function. Research shows that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids lowers your risk of dementia and overall mental decline.
Much of the gray matter in the brain is made of an Omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. So, eating a diet rich in DHA protects the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other and can improve your memory.
Low levels of DHA have been linked to a higher risk of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions.
Fish also have iodine, which boosts mental clarity. Eat two to three servings of fish every week to improve your memory. Look for fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines.
Like other berries, blueberries are rich in anthocyanin, an antioxidant flavonoid that helps reduce the breakdown of brain cells and maintains healthy brain function. This, in turn, helps improve your memory.
Flavonoids protect brain cells from inflammation and oxidation.
Studies of rats showed that eating a diet rich in blueberries boosted learning ability as the animals got older. This made them able to perform mental tasks as well as younger rats.
Researchers have also found that anthocyanin reversed mental problems in the animals.
Scientists have been exploring whether blueberries can help ease Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as well.
Eat a cup of blueberries every morning. Not only are they delicious, but they also help to improve your memory.
Spinach is another food rich in antioxidants.
It also contains folic acid, which has been shown to improve your memory in many studies by protecting nerves in the brain.
Spinach is one of the best sources of this vital B vitamin.
Scientists found that rats fed a spinach-rich diet for seven weeks did much better on learning and memory tests than rats without the spinach diet.
Folic acid also helps make red blood cells, which carry nutrients such as oxygen to your brain.
It also helps protect the DNA in neurons and keeps neurotransmitters functioning correctly.
One study found that eating plenty of spinach and other green leafy vegetables reduced cognitive decline by 40 percent.
Another found that eating a diet rich in folic acid helped patients process information more quickly and improve memory.
Eat at least a cup of spinach or other leafy vegetables a day.
4. Get Some Sunshine
Sunlight is double-hitter.
Not only does it improve mood, but it also helps you to synthesize vitamin D.
When vitamin D receptors are activated, it can stimulate nerve growth in the brain.
Recent research finds that a shortage of vitamin D in the body affects a part of the brain that supports our neurons.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been connected to more reduced cognitive performance and the likelihood of developing brain damage.
So, make sure you soak in the sunshine to start off your day bright and healthy.
5. Work Out Your Body to Work Out Your Brain
Exercise gets the blood pumping to the brain, and blood carries oxygen.
Enriching the supply of oxygen to your brain can help stave off neuron death and keep neurons healthy.
Our brains, like every other major tissue, are virtual oxygen addicts.
That is why holding your breath for too long will cause you to pass out.
It is well known that cardiovascular and aerobic exercise increases blood flow, heart strength, and blood-oxygen fixation.
Hence, exercise feeds your brain oxygen-rich blood and teaches it to process the oxygen it receives more efficiently.
The effects of this biological activity over long periods involve increased mental clarity, sustained energy, and general brain health.
You’ve got the tools now – get to it! Your brain will thank you.
Now that we have told you about our optimum brain workout routine, we want to hear from you.
Which of these 5 brain exercises are you going to be starting your morning with?
And if you have tried them, did you notice the difference in improved learning?
Let us know!
Jeremy Murray is the Marketing Manager for a group of Psychologists in Philadelphia. He is a frequent author on wide range of behavioral topics.
[ Updated : June 9, 2020 ]