5 Simple Ways To Boost Your Brain Power
The importance of cognitive flexibility is that it can help adapt our behaviors and thought processes. The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, a time that has come with much uncertainty and change. When people face obstacles, cognitive flexibility can help them adapt to new situations. Through practice and education, people can improve their cognitive flexibility to help them adjust to shifts in their environment. By working on these skills, people are able to grow cognitively, psychologically, and socially in an ever changing world.
To understand cognitive flexibility, one needs to look inside the nervous system. This is where you will find that when we are exposed to a new situation, our nervous system identifies a pattern and attaches meaning to it. When we think of a past experience again, the same neural pathways light up. When these connections increase and become stronger, they allow us to retrieve information about the experience and use it much more effectively. Working on building these connections allows us to deconstruct complex patterns and tasks as well as develop better reasoning skills. Here are some steps that you can take to improve your cognitive flexibility.
1. Make A Change
Creating new changes in our lives creates new channels in our brains that were not previously there. Changing simple things in your life helps your brain to strengthen its old pathways, while simultaneously creating new ones. Try changing your weekly dinner recipes, finding a new route to work, or take a new workout class. One way to change things up is by spending some time in nature, which exposes you to new smells, sounds, and sights. Small changes, like spending more time outside, can force your brain to create new connections, which is important for growth.
2. Take the Off-Beaten Path
Many of us are not required to challenge ourselves or our brain due to the fact that modern life simply offers many shortcuts. Without challenging ourselves, we are not growing our brain or cognitive skills. Try reading a book instead of listening to an audio tape, reading a map on a hike, or putting your phone GPS away. Doing so forces your brain to create a concrete connection with where you are and what you are learning instead of waiting for instructions. This uses different pathways in your brain, creating stronger connections.
3. Try Something New
Trying something new seems like an obvious task, but it does create new connections in your brain. These connections come from a pathway of neurotransmitters. Lighting up these pathways also lights up your dopamine system, which helps not only improve your mood but to improve concentration as well as motivation. Try picking up a new hobby, such as going to a dance class or taking an hour to do artwork each day. These new hobbies will boost your mood and your cognitive abilities, it is the best of both worlds.
4. Be Open To Change
Change may be difficult, but do not get discouraged to develop new habits, as they will help you overall. Our brains have the ability to change and grow everyday, no matter our age. Even parts of the brain damaged due to physical or psychological trauma, can make a steady recovery with cognitive practice. In order to commit to change, we need to look at it from a positive perspective. Habits such as eating well, exercising, and spending time with friends can help lead to positive changes. By changing our perspective on making changes in our lives, we get to see things in a different light that may make change easier for us.
5. Welcome to Diversity
From step four, we learn to change our perspective and flip how we see things for ourselves for the better. Engaging in free thinking allows us to create different ideas within matters of seconds. When we think in unconventional ways, it not only increases our cognitive flexibility, but reduces our mental rigidity. It gives us a chance to see from different perspectives and appreciate other cultures from what we are used to. To put it simply: “pathways form the foundation of your habits, thoughts, feelings and actions”. There is no loss of mental flexibility when we are open to using our brains in different ways.
Cognitive flexibility takes practice. By making small changes, trying new things, taking a road less traveled, welcoming diversity, and being open-minded, we can take steps to improve our cognitive flexibility. This can help us take a new look at life, and may help us become better problem solvers in an ever changing world. Small changes, such as eating healthier, will help us develop new habits which can in turn help us live better lives. By working on cognitive flexibility, we not only adapt better to change and experience new things, but open many doors in life full of opportunities.