No matter what your profession or age is, your brain health matters. But how often do we think about exercising our brains? We hit the gym, walk a mile here and there, try to cut down on sugars, and think about ways to make our bodies stronger. So why don’t we engage in practices that are good for our brains? It’s time we start talking about brain fitness.
Today, we’ll be looking at 3 researched-backed ways to exercise your brain. These tips come from the neuroscientists at BrainHQ. BrainHQ isn’t a game app, it’s a brain-training program that is based in scientific research. While they have a longer list of brain-boosting activities on their site, we’ve chosen to focus on 3 that you can practice daily.
Imagine you are a baseball player who is struggling with hitting. You would probably spend time in a batting cage practicing your stance and your swing, building up your skills and strength. For those of us who are public speakers, word games are the batting cage of our profession. An important part of our job is to recall words. Neurologist Gayatri Devi, MD says word games improve language retrieval by forcing “those parts of the brain to work.” So people who play word games have better brain health, especially when it comes to linguistics.
If you don’t have crossword puzzles nearby or a word app game you like, BrainHQ says you can play this simple game. Think of a longer word, and then give yourself 2-3 minutes to use the letters in that word to make as many words as you can. They say, “generating as many words as you can in a limited time period challenges the brain to practice the word finding skill you need in that pause when you search for a word.” And that’s a skill that all public speakers need.
Another easy practice for building your brain is switching hands. This creates an interesting challenge for your brain. But it won’t just provide neurological benefits, it might also improve your willpower, increase your self-control, and boost your creativity.
To take advantage of this brain health practice, use your non-dominant hand to do daily tasks. Try brushing your teeth, opening a door, scrolling on your phone or computer, or even eating with your non-dominant hand. You’ll have to slow down, focus, and concentrate which are all important skills for public speaking.
This last tip of exercising your peripheral vision might seem a little strange. According to ophthalmologist Dr. William Goldstein, “Peripheral vision is the part of our vision that is outside the center of our gaze, and it is the largest portion of our visual field. A normal visual field is approximately 170 degrees around, with 100 degrees comprising the peripheral vision.” But how do you tap into that 100 degrees of peripheral vision and build your brain health?
BrainHQ suggests sitting still, staring ahead, and concentrating on what you can see with your peripheral vision. See if you can make out shapes and colors. It will take mental energy to figure out what you see outside of your central vision. But “stretching your ability to focus is good for the brain. Paying close attention like that encourages the brain to pump more acetylcholine, an important brain chemical that tends to decline with age.” Another benefit of strengthening your brain and peripheral vision is that you’ll be able to pick up on feedback from more audience members while you are speaking.
Try incorporating these 3 simple practices into your daily routine. But remember, beginning a brain fitness routine is like any another fitness routine, it takes intentionality and consistency. You have to stick with it. But if you do, you’ll be flexing and showing off that big, beautiful brain of yours when you stand up to speak.
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