5 Ways to Train Your Brain

Friday, October 16, 2015

You eat well, rarely veg out in front of the television, and never shy away from a mental challenge. (Six-letter word for a group of performers? Chorus!). So why do you find yourself staring into the fridge, unable to remember why you opened the door in the first place? Why do you sometimes mangle sentences and blank at a pivotal moment in a big work presentation?

Brain blips can be unnerving, but here’s the good news: They’re rarely the sign of a declining mind. Although your child-prodigy days are long gone, your brain is most likely to be at its best during midlife. That’s when your life experiences combine with decades’ worth of neural connections, resulting in peak intelligence and ability. “We may not learn or recall information quite as quickly as we did in our teens and 20s,” says Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., the founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. “But during our 30s, 40s, and 50s, we get better at what matters most: making decisions, synthesizing information, and coming up with big ideas.”

While your neurons can fire more slowly with age, more often than not stress and anxiety cause you to pathologize perfectly normal experiences, like forgetting an acquaintance’s name (again). “You probably pay attention to the few things that go wrong but don’t give your brain credit for the thousands of things it did right,” says Chapman.

Instead of focusing on the occasional lapse, concentrate on your daily habits, which play a major role in whether you operate optimally today—and whether you develop more serious problems, like dementia, later in life. When it comes to brain function, everyday behavior matters as much as—if not more than—your DNA. Here’s how to gain a mental edge.

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