Developing your brain power

Daisy Black and Amy Gentles-McKie

Daisy Black and Amy Gentles-McKie

By the time you reach adulthood, your brain has around 100 billion neurons, and each communicates with thousands of others. In fact, there are as many neural pathways in your brain as there are connections in the world’s telephone system!

Research shows that the people with the highest level of cognitive function have a better memory, can process information more effectively, can make better decisions, stay focused for longer and, in fact, have an increased life expectancy.

Is it really true that the more we use our brains, the better they work, or as we more frequently hear ‘use it or lose it’? Studies show that the simple answer is yes! The more you work out your brain, the better you get in all these areas. So, here’s how you can do it:

  • Drink more water: We have known for some time that hydration is important to success. In fact, a 2% loss of water can result in a whopping 80% loss of concentration. The European Food Safety Authority recommends a daily intake of 2.5 litres of water for men, and 2 litres for women, with 70-80% of this coming from drink. Be careful with coffee, tea and other caffeine based drinks though: they are diuretics and contribute to dehydration. Just remember… hydration is concentration!
  • Practise mindfulness: Mindfulness – a meditation technique aimed at focusing the mind on the present moment – is associated with improvements in memory and effective decision making. The technique builds resilience and reduces stress which is what you need if you want to make sure your brain is as powerful as it can be.
  • Headspace: ‘a gym membership for your mind’ – is a brilliant app which you can download for free and will guide you through meditation.
  • Take up a new hobby: The best brain exercises break your routine and challenge you to create and use new neurological pathways. If you always do the same thing, you aren’t giving your brain the stimulation it needs to keep growing and developing.  You have to shake things up from time to time!
  • Solve puzzles: Research shows the positive impact of mentally demanding work. Puzzles are basically the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) for your brain. Lumosity, one of the more famous brain apps, boasts that just one session a day can improve your mental skills. It doesn’t have to take long – just make it hard!
  • Get enough sleep: Sleeping gives your body (especially your brain) time to repair muscles, consolidate memories, and regulate growth and appetite. If sleep is cut short, the body naturally doesn’t have the time it needs to do this. Research studies conclude that sleep deprivation has a negative impact upon almost all brain functions. According to the UK’s National Sleep Foundation, an adult needs between 7 to 9 hours of good quality uninterrupted sleep in order to be in peak condition. So turn off your phone, make sure the room is dark, and ensure you get the sleep needed for your brain to be at its best.
  • Have a laugh: Laughter engages multiple regions across the whole brain, unlike emotional responses, which are limited to specific areas of the brain. Psychologist Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, says “laughter… seems to help people think more broadly and associate more freely.” Just goes to show, laughter really is the best medicine!

The brain is the most important organ in our body. It serves at the centre of our nervous system and controls our actions and our reactions, it allows us to think and feel, and enables us to have memories and feelings – all the things that make us human. Don’t let it waste away!

So how are you going to boost your brain power today?

Daisy Black is Head of Learning and Development and Amy Gentles-McKie is a Learning and Development Advisor for Mitie Client Services.

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