Meditate Your Way to a Happier Brain with Less Anxiety!

girl doing yoga pose on beach during sunset

December.  It’s a month of family get-togethers, gifts, shopping, and let’s face it, that usually comes with a heightened feeling of anxiety.  It’s a wonderful time of the year, but it’s hardly a month that we associate with rest and relaxation.  During this busy month it’s important to remember that your brain needs balance and inner peace to keep it functioning at it’s best.  While it’s good to actively “exercise” your brain, just like your body, your brain also needs periods of rest in order to recharge.  This is because chronic stress is bad for the health of your brain, and peace and quiet helps reduce stress and anxiety.      

Neuroscientists are now exploring both religious and non-religious forms of spirituality and how they affect the brain.  Practicing meditation can help reduce depression, anxiety and stress, and researchers at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia found that meditation can even specifically improve memory and concentration (Blumberg, 2014).

In addition to spiritual practices such as meditation, here are some other top tips to ease anxiety and find that inner peace and balance that your brain needs.

  • Engage in daily prayer and/or practice complete forgiveness
  • Engage in deep breathing (5 min. 3 times daily)
  • Focus on and repeat positive ideas
  • Practice yoga
  • Engage in progressive muscle relaxation daily for 10 minutes (it’s pretty simple. First you deliberately tense your muscles and then simply relax them)
  • Muscle relaxation is even more effective if you pair it with visualization and imagery techniques! (create a mental image of a peaceful or attractive environment)
  • Give yourself 30 minutes a day to just stop and be at rest
  • Play Fit Brains Emotional Intelligence games that are designed to help you assess your mood and put you in a positive state of mind.

What are your favorite techniques for reducing stress and anxiety during this busy time of the year?  Share your comments with us!

Fit Brains. Brain Training Success.

Give Thanks for a Healthy, Happy Brain!

Man with Thanksgiving turkey
Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s that time of year again…Thanksgiving!  Turkey, pumpkin pie, family, friends, more turkey, more pumpkin pie, football and falling asleep on the couch (probably after yet another helping of turkey and pumpkin pie!)   But Thanksgiving is also so much more than that.  It is first and foremost a day of thanks and it is important to consider all that we have and the many blessings in our lives.

Sure, no one’s life is perfect, but we can still take time at Thanksgiving to give thanks for what is going well in our lives.

What’s more, being thankful and thinking positively is also good for your brain!  Some research indicates activity in the left front region of the brain when we have positive or happy thoughts.  On the other hand, there is a similar type of activity generated in the right front region when we are nervous, stressed, or thinking negatively.  So, this Thanksgiving,  focus on the positive in order to activate the left front region of your brain, and enjoy the positive feelings as a result!

Health, both our own health and the health of loved ones, is always one of the most important things we should be thankful for if we are healthy.  For instance, a strong, healthy brain is something to be especially grateful for!  Also, if you are able to be together with friends and family, that is something else to be thankful for.  Praying for those less fortunate is another way you can build up good feelings.

We urge you on this Thanksgiving to enjoy the company of those around you, while leaving any anxiety behind.  And, try to carry these practices through into your daily life even when the holiday is behind you.  It will have a positive impact on the health of your brain and you’ll be happier and healthier for it!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Fit Brains!

Fit Brains.

“Brain Training Success”

Preserve your brain health and preserve your life story!

Caucasian couple looking at photographs with grandchildren
Your life story

Your life story: it’s one of the most important assets you have.  It’s your identity, what makes you, you.  What’s more, it’s your family’s story that helps shape your personal life story.  Do you have fond memories of hearing stories about your family history shared with you by grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles?  Have those stories and collective wisdom helped shape who you are today?  We all want to be able to play a part in keeping our family story and our personal story alive and we do this by sharing our stories with the next generation.  But, none of this would be possible if we do not maintain a healthy brain as we age.  

As we age, we need to keep our memories and our minds sharp so that we can preserve our stories and share them.  One important thing you can do is maximize the health of your brain and strengthen your memory, in order to share your life story, keeping it alive.  Eating a well-balanced diet, getting exercise, getting plenty of sleep, and keeping your brain mentally stimulated by engaging in specific activities such as playing brain training games will all have a positive impact on your memory and the overall health of your brain.

Here are some of our other favorite ideas for preserving and sharing your family story:

    1. Begin a family newsletter or a family blog so that you can stay better connected with family members near and far.
    2. Start a scrapbook or photo album about your family.
    3. Put together a family cookbook.
    4. Research your family history (there are a myriad of free and paid online genealogy resources).
    5. Keep a journal and encourage your family members to do the same!
    6. Organize a family reunion.
  • Challenge your brain by playing Fit Brains so that you can stimulate your memory and share your story!

Take some time this month to connect with family members, reflect on your story, and take some steps to focus on your brain health, especially focusing on training your brain for a stronger memory.

It’s National Family Stories Month. What are your favorite ways to preserve and share your family’s story?  Share with us and other readers in the comments section!

Be sure to follow our blog for more lifestyle & health tips.  And, you can always challenge your brain when you play Fit Brains fun brain games!

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Fit Brains.  “Brain Training Success”.

Train Your Brain On National Dunce Day!

nerdblog2

In honor of National Dunce day we bring you a bit of history about the term “dunce,” and we implore you not to be one.  Dunce day is named for Duns Scotus, a medieval scholar from Scotland, who believed that wearing a cone shaped hat increased one’s learning potential.  The idea was that knowledge would flow from the tip of the hat down into the brain.  Not surprisingly, the idea didn’t really catch on (though it would be pretty great if it actually was this easy to learn new things), and anyone wearing the “dunce cap” was in turn called a “dunce” (and it wasn’t anymore positive then than it is now).

Now, you can choose to either celebrate Dunce day by celebrating stupidity, or you can honor it as a day of improving your brain through brain training.  (We’d offer up a list of stupid things you can do if you choose the former, but we’re afraid that will land us in a heap of trouble so you’re on your own if you go that route.)  

Instead, on this day we want to motivate you to hearken back to the original intentions of Duns Scotus and set aside some time to try and better yourself and train your brain for better health and wellness.  Read a book, train your brain with Fit Brains fun brain games, play some chess, find something that speaks to you today, which can also boost your intellect and your brain health!

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Fit Brains. Brain Training Success.

 

Brain Tips that you (and your brain) will find stimulating!

Older couple playing chess
Playing chess is one great way to stimulate your brain!

Most of us think about mental exercises when we think of brain training.  And of course this is a very important component of brain training!  Did you know that your brain wants to be stimulated and exercised?  When you do something new or somewhat complex your brain will react favorably and will become more resilient!  On the other hand, your brain will suffer if it is too passive or routine.

Mental exercises or mental stimulation can take many different forms, so here are some tips for different ways your can stimulate your brain!

Mental Stimulation

  • Learn something new, such as a new language
  • Travel to new places or use new routes in otherwise familiar setting
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Get crafty and creative (like arts and crafts, not witchcraft)
  • Do focused brain training activities (like Fit Brains)
  • Play board games
  • Read and write

What type of mental activity gives your brain the biggest boost?  Tell us in the comments!  Be sure to follow our blog for more lifestyle, health & brain tips.  And, you can always benefit your brain when you play Fit Brains fun brain games!  Try Fit Brains for FREE now!

Fit Brains.  Brain Training Success

Brain Health: Physical Activity & Your Brain

Physical Activity
Get Moving for a Healthier, Happier Brain!

Now, more than ever before, people are taking the time to learn about the human brain and the many ways they can improve their brain health.  Brain health is about more than disease prevention (though that’s obviously important too); it’s about leading a lifestyle, supported by science, which promotes and facilitates cognitive, emotional, physical ability, spiritual health, and relational health (read: relationships).  Basically when you focus on brain health you can live your life to the fullest.

But what does it look like to actually put this into practice?  We’re devoting some upcoming posts to lay out specific suggestions for improving your brain health, based on research from Dr. Nussbaum’s Brain Health Lifestyle (see www.paulnussbaum.com).  Our first post in this series focuses on physical activity to improve your brain health.

When it comes to physical activity, studies conducted by the University of Adelaide, Australia, have shown that a single 30 minute session of physical activity benefits your brain (as reported in Medical Daily).  Researchers say physical activity makes your brain more “plastic”, which can help things like memory, motor skills and learning in general.  It also increases circulation, which helps for more efficient delivery of nutrients and the like.  That’s probably worth getting out the stationary bike for, right?  There are lots of different ways you can move to benefit your brain though!       

Here are some of our favorite suggestions for exercise to boost your brain health:

  •         Walk a mile daily
  •         Up the ante with aerobics 3 times a week (yeah, break out that old Jane Fonda video)
  •         Dance!
  •         Try some mild weight training
  •         Try Yoga, Pilates, Barre (or whatever they come out with next!)
  •         Basically, whatever you do, DON’T JUST SIT THERE!

What type of physical activity gives your brain the biggest boost?  Tell us in the comments!  Be sure to follow our blog for more lifestyle & health tips.  And, you can always benefit your brain when you play Fit Brains fun brain games!  Try Fit Brains for FREE now!

Fit Brains.  Brain Training Success.

Source: Caba, Justin. Your Brain On Exercise: 30 Minutes of Physical Activity Makes Your Brain More ‘Plastic’. Medical Daily. 2014.

Brain Train Your Way to Better Performance: The FINGER Study

According to a recent study published in the journal The Lancet (March 2015) brain training, exercise, healthy eating and management of risk factors seems to maintain or improve cognitive function and delay cognitive decline.  The Finnish Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) is the first of its’ kind, ground breaking trial to combat some of the key high risk factors for dementia (eg. Heart health, high BMI).

Method

1260 Finns aged 60-77 were randomly divided equally between the control group who were given general health tips and the intervention group.  The latter had regular meetings with healthcare professionals and were given comprehensive guidance on healthy eating, exercise programs, brain training and managing metabolic and vascular risk factors, for example, with regular blood exams.

Findings

After 2 years, the participants’ cognitive performance was assessed with a standard exam, the Neuropsychological Test Battery (NTB).  The overall scores for the intervention group were higher by 25%.  The remarkable results for certain sections of the exam, processing speed at 150% and executive functioning at 83% were even higher.  Executive function refers to the brain’s capacity to manage, plan and execute thought processes.

“Much previous research has shown that there are links between cognitive decline in older people and factors such as diet, heart health, and fitness. However, our study is the first large randomised controlled trial to show that an intensive program aimed at addressing these risk factors might be able to prevent cognitive decline in elderly people who are at risk of dementia.” Professor Kivipelto, lead Researcher – Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, and University of Eastern Finland

Train & Play with Fit Brains

Your brain is like a muscle, it can grow fitter and stronger with exercise. Train and play with Fit Brains. Fit Brains exercises help stimulate and entertain your mind. You can play Fit Brains on any web browser or train or train on-the-go with our IOS, Android or Amazon app!   

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Journal Reference

Tiia Ngandu, Jenni Lehtisalo, Alina Solomon, Esko Levälahti, Satu Ahtiluoto, Riitta Antikainen, Lars Bäckman, Tuomo Hänninen, Antti Jula, Tiina Laatikainen, Jaana Lindström, Francesca Mangialasche, Teemu Paajanen, Satu Pajala, Markku Peltonen, Rainer Rauramaa, Anna Stigsdotter-Neely, Timo Strandberg, Jaakko Tuomilehto, Hilkka Soininen, Miia Kivipelto. A 2 year multidomain intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training, and vascular risk monitoring versus control to prevent cognitive decline in at-risk elderly people (FINGER): a randomised controlled trialThe Lancet, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60461-5