Our ability to learn and remember is dependent on more than just the hours we spend studying a subject. Our daily activities can limit the cognitive declines associated with aging and can improve the parts of our brain that are responsible for learning and memory. Here are 4 easy ways you can boost your brain power.
Increase exercise intensity.
All exercise helps boost mood and brain activity, but intense exercise may be more beneficial for learning. A study published in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory found that vocabulary learning was 20% faster after high intensity exercise (sprinting) when compared to lower intensity exercise and rest.
Tip: Add 30 to 60 second bouts of jogging to your walking routine, or incorporate short sprints into your run. Both will increase the intensity of your workouts.
Eat apples and onions.
These foods contain the flavonoid quercetin. This antioxidant has been found to protect brain cells from the free radical damage that leads to cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Tip: Add thinly sliced apples and onions to your green salads, or make a Waldorf salad using chopped apples, diced onion, dried cranberries, Greek yogurt, and honey.
Start strength training.
Strength training is an important component of an effective exercise regimen. It builds muscle to make daily activities easier, tones the body to change the way you look, and it can help you better maintain your weight loss. If these benefits haven’t convinced you to strengthen your muscles, research now suggests that it will also help your brain. A recent study found that resistance exercise improved learning and memory as much as aerobic exercise.
Tip: Pumping iron at the gym isn’t a requirement. Add equipment-free moves to your workouts 2-3 days per week with push-ups, dips, squats, lunges, and abdominal exercises.
Taking time to clear your mind and meditate can have a significant influence on your mental wellbeing. One study shows it will boost your brain power as well. In the study, people who meditated for 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks showed positive changes in the density of gray matter in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with learning and memory.
Tip: Start by setting aside 5 minutes per day to be silent and focus on your breathing. Gradually add more time to your meditation sessions each week.
Replacing high-sugar soft drinks with low-calorie beverages is an easy dietary change that can impact your health in a big way. A 12-ounce soda contains 9 to 12 teaspoons of sugar. Extra-large drinks with nearly 48 ounces of soda contain 36 to 48 teaspoons of sugar. They also have 600 or more calories! It is easy to consume one-third to one-half of the calories your body needs on a daily basis through soft drinks alone. Choosing a lower calorie option will help you maintain a healthy weight.
One characteristic of soda that many people enjoy are the bubbles and fizz that come from carbonation. You don't have to give this up. There are many drinks that will satisfy your craving without the excess calories and sugar, or artificial sweeteners.
Carbonated waters come plain or lightly flavored with fruit essence, such as citrus or raspberry. Be sure to read labels and check for added sugar, artificial flavors, and sweeteners.
Reduce your use of plastic bottles, and purchase a home carbonator unit that allows you to carbonate water from your tap. This is an economical and environmentally friendly way to enjoy carbonated drinks. Add a slice of citrus fruit, or fruit essence flavors that can be purchased with the unit.
Spritzers are a great way to add variety. Mix one half carbonated water with one half fruit juice. Experiment with orange, grape, pineapple, grapefruit, and cranberry juices until you find a satisfying combination. Spritzers contain vitamins and half the calories compared to soda.
Juice mixed with shaved ice is another delicious option. There are many different snow cone makers and ice shavers available. Food processors and blenders can also pulverize ice cubes.
Tea is a good option if you are after a drink to quench your thirst, and do not want the carbonation. There are many varieties ranging from caffeine-free herbal teas to green and black teas. Enhance the flavor with a twist of lemon and mint leaves.
Creating a more exciting drink will make breaking the habit easier. Throw out the paper cups and treat yourself to a new set of brightly colored tumblers or elegant drinking glasses to celebrate your healthier drinks. You'll find it is much more satisfying to indulge in a nicely prepared drink than it is to pop open a sugary drink from a can.
The phrase "diets don't work" means that diets don't work in the long run. You may temporarily lose weight, but traditional approaches to dieting are not usually effective. If you simply go on a diet and don't permanently change your lifestyle, you will eventually gain back the weight.
Approximately 90 to 95% of dieters fail to keep the weight off permanently. This means that traditional dieting has a dismal success rate of only 5 to 10%.
It is estimated that about half of American women are on a diet at any given time. Despite this large number of dieting individuals, one-third of Americans obese.
So, what is the answer? We must revamp our lifestyles and permanently incorporate self-loving behaviors that include consuming healthy foods and performing daily enjoyable activities.
Crash diets are punishing, ineffective, and are often motivated by self-loathing and body dissatisfaction. Few people can sustain such a negative way of life. Instead, focus on the positive. Don't force yourself to live on grapefruit, bacon, or cabbage soup. Instead, find healthy foods that you enjoy. If you don't like to run, don't. Find a form of exercise that is enjoyable to you. You will find that making positive, healthy changes to your lifestyle can be very rewarding and reinforcing. The end result is a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle that is permanent.
Mindless eating and drinking as you mingle at a party can send your caloric intake through the roof. When you are the host, lead by example. Follow these tips to throw a party that is healthy without sacrificing the fun.
Serve a meal.
Offering a variety of finger foods encourages people to try a little of everything, which can lead to overeating. By having guests sit down to a full meal, you can help them avoid the temptation. A meal around the table will encourage conversation, and define a beginning and end to eating for the event.
Offer smaller portions, and more courses.
A meal spread over four courses feels elegant, and allows you to serve smaller portions. Try cucumber cups filled with shrimp salad for an appetizer, a chilled gazpacho soup, an entrée of fish or chicken with fruit salsa and roasted vegetables, and a small portion of a decadent cake for dessert.
Have guests make their meal.
Take some of the pressure off yourself and let your guests assemble their own meal. Create a fun taco, pasta or salad bar with grilled meats, vegetables, and fresh toppings. This approach encourages creativity and mingling, and provides the benefit of having a meal instead of snacks. With lots of healthy toppings, your guests will have the option to make nutritious choices.
Offer a variety of drinks and mixers.
Fancy, signature cocktails are fun, but all of those juices and mixers are high in calories. You don’t have to cut out the alcohol, but provide a variety of light beers and use club sodas and flavored waters as mixers.
Don’t get overwhelmed.
Keep each course simple, and choose foods you can prepare ahead of time. Stressing out over the event could lead to overeating.
Make health a side note.
While your goal is to keep your party as healthy as possible, don’t make that the focus for your guests. The goal is to make fun parties with healthy foods the norm, and not the exception. After a party like this, guests will realize they aren’t missing out on anything, except for the calories.
Harboring a poor body image can do more than just hinder your weight loss efforts. It can make you downright miserable. Your journey to becoming a healthier person will benefit greatly if it is preceded by self-love and self-respect.
Start by recognizing that the only opinion that matters is your opinion. Self-respect originates from the self – not from others.
Break the vicious cycle of dieting. In order to do this, you need to first recognize the cycle, which typically follows this pattern:
You have feelings of inadequacy and discontentment with your body.
You start a crash diet in an attempt to lose weight.
You are not able to maintain the unrealistic requirements of your crash diet.
You regain the weight that you lost (and oftentimes surpass your original body weight).
Your feelings of inadequacy and discontentment with your body are worse than when you started.
There is one simple secret to avoiding this trap: Do not crash diet. Crash diets are not sustainable and they do nothing to teach you healthy habits. Instead, try to convert your existing lifestyle into a healthy one. Luckily, you are already on the right path by using MyFoodDiary.com.
Chronic dieters who have experienced repeated failure commonly bash themselves with negative self-talk. Re-wiring those negative self-talk tapes is the first step in learning self-love.
A good place to start is with positive affirmations, which are statements that affirm positive characteristics about you. This can provide a gateway to achieving self-love. We don't fully understand how positive affirmations work, but we know that they do.
Take a few minutes at the beginning of each day and repeat the saying out loud to yourself -- preferably while looking in the mirror. Affirmations should use words and phrases such as respect, cherish, care for, love, dignity, beautiful, treasure, worth it, whole, complete, esteem, confidence, health, acceptance, and responsibility. Create your own uplifting affirmations that have meaning for you. An example may read something like this:
"I am beautiful, complete, and whole. I respect and cherish my body and its amazing and miraculous functions. I love and care for myself at all times."
Repeat them throughout the day, especially when you recognize negative self-talk replaying in your mind. Affirmations gently remind you of your focus, and help you dismiss destructive thoughts.
Start journaling your thoughts and feelings. This is another powerful tool for identifying negative self-talk, and challenging it. Each day, commit to writing something in the Personal Notes section of your account. You do not need to write about anything specific -- just write at least 3 paragraphs a day. Sooner or later, ideas and feelings will start to surface and you can confront them in writing. Always end your journal entry with a positive affirmation.
Be patient and gentle with yourself. Take special time out on a daily basis, and allow yourself to decompress. Remind yourself that you are more than what is on the outside and that people come in different shapes and sizes. Refuse to succumb to the shallow criteria often put forth by society. Explore your interests and talents, and focus your energies on experiencing life through those channels. Instead of concentrating on how you look, direct your energy and thoughts to how you feel when you eat well and move your body. Always view your dietary intake and exercise as ways in which you are caring for and nurturing your body -- not as a way to simply lose weight.
If you continue to struggle, consider finding a counselor or a therapist to help you work through some of these issues. Oftentimes, having an objective party to challenge your self-defeating beliefs can be helpful. Know that each of us has a purpose and a reason for being here, and rarely does it have anything to do with how we look.