How to power up your brain
So much is written about keeping our bodies and skin ship-shape and the healthiest they can possibly be. Just as important? Your brain. Your brain is a muscle that you can work out and tone up. You can maximize your abilities to concentrate and focus and work on your memory and overall mental and learning skills. Everyone knows that smart is sexy—people with interesting things to say, fun facts to share, and cool knowledge can always grab and keep our attention. Looks might fade, but your brain is your forever friend. Plus, struggling with memory is a common complaint that only increases with age—as we get older, major frustrations arise as our memories start to falter. The good news is it’s definitely possible to enhance and sharpen your recall. Here are some easy ways to promote better focus, heightened memory, and sharper intelligence. A better brain, better you.
1. Boost your memory to the max
The older we get, the accumulated store of information we have to keep track of can pile up and create something of a bottleneck in our brains. Think of it like a computer hard drive that’s full— creating a lag time when it comes to accessing facts or details we’re searching for. It’s less about forgetting than having to sift through tons of stored information to find what we’re after. That’s why reinforcement is key. The fastest way to bolster your memory is to catch things you want to remember in the air and capture them quickly—either digitally or on paper. Translation? Write it down. It might sound crazy simple, but it’s a small habit that will teach your brain to lock in information and recall it later. It’s not just about having the information stored in a place you can access it later, when we write something down, we reinforce it. Don’t want to carry a notebook around? Your notes app in your phone is your buddy. Anytime important information is being conveyed, just drop it straight into your notes app. You can pin things to the top, like key passwords (hello, your mom’s Netflix login), to-do lists, and project details. But don’t stop there—capture key dates and info, that great advice your friend gave you, or the thing your boss said offhandedly that you suspect might come up later. You can also start a Google doc with important lists, like one for birthdays, another for addresses, and so on. Basically, anytime your brain sends up a flag saying, “This is important!” don’t hesitate to jot it down. Your memory will get stronger and more reliable every time you reinforce it.
2. Feed your brain something good
Your brain craves nutrition beyond TikTok and Love Island, sorry to tell you. Boost the benefits to your brain and challenge your mental facilities with a puzzle, podcast, game or book to work your most important muscle. Simple tasks like word games aren’t just a distraction or a way to pass the time on the subway—they work out our brains like cardio. Consider it a powerful form of mental gymnastics. Many scientists believe these boredom killers can strengthen existing neural pathways and build new ones. The long term effects can’t be understated, as we all want to stave off and prevent debilitating conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Crossword puzzles, popular games like Wordle or Words with Friends—even a quick game of Sudoku can give your brain something to chew on and solve. Apps like Kindle make it easy to have a book stashed on your person when you’re on the go—in an airport, on public transportation, or waiting in line at the DMV. Since scrolling social media is like consuming empty calories, it’s important to feed your brain something substantial to keep it firing on all cylinders.
3. Learn something, anything
Try a new language, learn a card game, take a flower arranging class, or pick up the piano or the drums. Follow your curiosity into new territory, and your brain will thank you. It’s never been easier to learn a new skill, thanks to language apps and platforms like YouTube. Online subscriptions like MasterClass can help you mentally download incredible amounts of information from the pros themselves by distilling a complex topic and making it palatable so you feel like you have a good grasp on the tenets of a subject. It can also inspire you if you seek a new career path or interest. Bonus? It will make you more interesting, period. You’ll have an arsenal of dinner party topics, and you’ll be intriguing to new people and employers—because people who play instruments, speak other languages (even a handful of phrases), and do interesting things outside of work are attractive and engaging. People are impressed and drawn to others who are multi-faceted, have cool hobbies and chase their interests. Whether you want to keep amateur status or become a master, it’s never too soon to flex your brain muscle and start learning something new.
4. Concentrate on your concentration
We live in a distracted world. Our phones are always clamoring for our attention, between texts, push notifications, and social media apps just begging for our eyeballs. There’s never been a better time to harness your focus—and it’s easier than you think. Working on something big at the office? Writing a speech for your bestie’s wedding? If you’re trying to get in the zone and stay in the zone, music might be the key. Studies have proven that by choosing a specific song and repeating it as you work, you’ll lay down a solid foundation for your brain to build upon and create. For writing, something instrumental or classical can ensure lyrics don’t distract your neurons as they fire out words. For other tasks, any looping song that’s familiar to you becomes an inspiring and motivating form of white noise. Put the focus feature on your phone to good use and switch it to Do Not Disturb while you’re on a roll and trying to finish a task. The key is to keep pulling yourself back, no matter how often your attention gets hijacked; that’s why meditation’s biggest benefit isn’t zoning out but teaching your brain to come back every time you stray.
Got self-improvement on the brain?
Scientists consider it very good news that our brains are so elastic and malleable. It means we have the power and ability to get stronger and healthier mentally every single day. With some simple tricks and even the smallest bit of effort, you can dial up your brain power and enrich your life while you’re at it.
Elle Kensington is a lifestyle writer based in NYC.