By Dr. Sandi Chapman
Author of Make Your Brain Smarter
Feeling stressed out this holiday season? Does your brain feel like Grand Central Station during rush hour? Are you on overload and overdrive? Follow these tips for keeping your brain fit during the holiday season and maximizing your cognitive performance.
1. Rest during the holidays. Even a quick nap invites mind renewal and innovation, so schedule periods of brain downtime to seek “a-ha” moments.
2. Practice sorting the essential from the trivial. Make a list of your top 10 tasks and goals that you want to complete each day. Identify the two items that are most pivotal to your success and sense of major accomplishment each day.
3. Avoid brain drain. Limit multitasking; it diminishes mental productivity, elevates brain fatigue, increases stress, impairs sleep patterns and reduces overall health by altering immune system.
4. Give your brain a workout. Write down high-level take-home messages to share with others from articles, conversations, books, and movies to strengthen your frontal lobe function and capacity to recall information.
5. Practice strategic attention by restricting information download and overload. Instead, expand your ability to synthesize big ideas from select, trusted information sources and discuss deeper thoughts with others.
6. Propel your mental prowess to new heights by mentally “zooming out” to a 20,000-foot perspective. Use it to review your goals and directions for the New Year and to redirect your actions as well as your team and family.
7. Getting a new smartphone or computer this holiday season? Research shows that learning new technology builds and strengthens brain connections as you go from being a novice to an expert in using a device.
8. Energize your brain this holiday season—avoid excessive sugar and alcohol. Eat a heart-healthy diet, because what’s good for your heart is good for your brain.
9. Enhance the social brain: Interact with others beyond social media by joining a club or a hobby group. Socializing with others about something you are passionate builds stronger neural connections and provides rich experiences to more adroitly negotiate complex social encounters.
10. The holidays are a busy time. Our brain functions best when our environment is organized. Clear the clutter and stow your three key items in the same place every time you use them.
11. Research shows that memory improves with exercise. Take a brisk walk after a holiday meal to increase blood flow to the region of the brain that controls memory.
12. Our brain becomes less fit with age because we accept mental slippage. Make a New Year’s resolution to put your brain up front and center focus. You are never too young or too old to adopt brain health habits that challenge and enhance your brain to think and act smarter.
Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, is committed to maximizing cognitive potential across the entire lifespan. As a cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Chapman’s scientific study elucidates and applies novel approaches to advance creative and critical thinking, strengthen healthy brain development, and insight innovation throughout life. Dedicated to improving lives today and changing how the public thinks and acts about the brain and its health, Dr. Chapman is committed to promoting brain health fitness, developing futuristic thinkers, and helping individuals, young or old, think smarter. Learn more by following her on Twitter or liking her Facebook page. You can also visit her personal website or visit centerforbrainhealth.org.
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