Integrated Brain Fitness for October

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Give yourself a gold star for each of these brain-healthy activities you do this month.

Challenge Your Brain: Juggling Act
Learn to juggle – or if you already know how, work to improve your skills! Juggling a great hand-mind-eye coordination activity that studies have shown can actually increase gray matter in your brain. Even just 7 days of juggling training showed a difference.

Here's a step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Find three balls (or beanbags, or oranges, or whatever). Watch a video on how to juggle, like this one. Start with one ball and practice until you can throw it perfectly every time.
Step 2: Add a second ball, then a third.
Step 3-4: Practice, practice, practice until you can juggle three balls for longer and longer times.

If you already knew how to juggle, step it up a notch. Here are some ideas:

  1. Teach yourself how to joggle – juggle and jog at the same time.
  2. Add a fourth or fifth ball to your juggling.
  3. Find a juggling friend and practice two-person juggling.
  4. Use flames or knives instead of balls. (Just kidding. Don’t do that.)

Nourish Your Brain: Olive Oil
Make four meals with a decent dollop of olive oil, such as the ones below. Make sure the olive oil is at its most nutritious, though. That means it should be extra virgin, relatively fresh, and used raw or cooked only to low temperatures; otherwise, you may be missing out on some of the nutritional punch.

Recipe 1: Heirloom tomato gazpacho
Recipe 2: Pistachio parsley pesto
Recipe 3: Goat cheese toasts with arugula
Recipe 4: Lentil and squash salad

Why olive oil?
There’s a fair amount of scientific evidence that olive oil is good for the brain. For starters, it’s rich in polyphenols and vitamin E, both of which have been shown to protect against cognitive problems. What’s more, it’s a key part of the Mediterranean diet, which multiple studies suggest is good for cognitive function. Martha Clare Morris, PhD, includes olive oil as one of the 10 essential brain-healthy food groups in her MIND diet (designed specifically for cognitive health) which has been shown to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53%.

Energize Your Brain: Hiking
Multiple studies have suggested that regular walking can bring cognitive benefits, including an increase in the size of the hippocampus--an important memory center in the brain. Others studies have suggested that being in nature can be a boon to your brain by reducing stress and improving mood. So this month, combine the two and take some hikes!
Idea 1: For your first hike of the month, try going somewhere you haven't been before. It could be a nearby national or state park, or even a city park.
Idea 2: Invite a friend or two on a hike to add a social element.
Idea 3: Spend your hike practicing your visual focus. Try to notice as much visual detail you can around you. After the hike, try to remember what you saw in as much detail as you can.
Idea 4: Spend your hike practicing your auditory focus. Try to notice as much sound as you can around you. After the hike, try to remember what you heard in as much detail as you can.
Recharge Your Brain: Sleep Schedule
More and more evidence is emerging on the importance of good sleep to healthy cognitive function. Poor sleep is associated with foggy thinking, slower reaction times, memory lapses, flagging attention, and more.

One of the best ways to ensure that you get enough sleep is to keep a consistent sleep schedule. Here are some ideas for establishing a schedule this month.

Step 1: Decide on your preferred wake-up time. It's best if it's the same time every day, including weekends. Once you pick your wake-up time, think about your bedtime. Most people need at least 7 hours of sleep a night, though some need much more than others. What amount of sleep works best for you? Count backward from your wake-up time to set your daily bedtime.

Step 2: Put your new schedule into practice. At you bedtime, turn off all the lights and get your room as dark as possible. At wake-up time, turn on all the lights. Light level helps your body know whether you should be asleep or awake.

Note: If your new chosen sleep schedule is dramatically different from what you're already doing, adjust in stages. For instance, if you currently go to bed at midnight but would like to go to bed at 10:30, move your bedtime back 15 minutes each night until you get to you preferred schedule.

Step 3: Check in with yourself on how your new sleep schedule is going. Is it going well? If not, try to figure out why not and adjust your schedule accordingly. Don't forget that weekends count, too!

Step 4: Keep going with your sleep schedule. Hopefully by now it's becoming a habit!

Sharpen Your Brain: Use Training Reminders on BrainHQ
Set up your BrainHQ training reminders for the rest of the month. Just go to your profile, then click “Add a reminder” to set them up to come via email or text message. Set up at least three reminders a week to get the brain training you need.