Power Up with Brain ExercisesPower Up with Brain Exercises

By Dr. Mao, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D, Dipl. C.H., ABAAP

Just like your muscles, your brain becomes stronger with exercise that boosts your brainpower and clears away mental "fog." Your everyday mental tasks are akin to taking a daily walk, they help keep your brain functioning, but how about giving your brain a real workout?

Use Your Non-dominant Hand
Performing everyday activities with your non-dominant hand can power-up your brain. If you're right-handed, switch hands and try using your left hand to eat, drink, comb your hair, and brush your teeth. Try writing your name with your non-dominant hand, or put your mouse pad on the other side of the keyboard. Switch hands in sports like tennis and hold the racquet in your non-dominant hand. It won't be easy, but that is exactly the point.

Why does this work? The human brain begins to decline in mid-life. Using the non-dominant hand stimulates the opposite side of your brain, activates blood flow, slows down the aging process, and improves mental capacity. Evidence from functional brain imaging shows that neuroplasticity - the brain's natural ability to form new connections - can be enhanced by learning new things, particularly when they involve eye-hand coordination.

A map of the brain shows that the nerve endings on your fingertips correspond to more areas of the brain than any other body part, except perhaps the tongue and lips. Finger exercises like playing a musical instrument, doing puzzles, or crafting are an important part of the process of increasing the number of neural pathways in the brain.

Movement Arts
Stimulating communication between the two halves or hemispheres of the brain helps us develop physical balance. Body-mind exercises such as tai chi, qi gong, or yoga are especially helpful because they encourage us to use the right and left sides of the body equally.

Studies show that mindfulness meditation can help engage new neural pathways, improve self-observation, and increase mental flexibility as well as increase the capacity of working memory which will allow you to work with information more easily without losing track of what you are doing.

Mental Workouts
You can work out your mind just like you work out your body. Mental exercises that will keep your brain fit include working crossword puzzles, playing chess, or memorizing names, shopping lists, and phone numbers. Memorize a song, a poem, or do math with a pencil and paper rather than using a calculator. When I was a young boy, my father had me memorize Tang Dynasty poetry in order to stretch my brain capacity, so every day I was assigned a new poem to learn and recite from memory.

May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!

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