Struggling to solve a problem, memory feeling a little hazy or just need to feel more focused and alert? Check out these 9 surprising things that can give your brain a boost.

1. Your Friends

Regardless of how intellectually stimulating your conversations with your friends may be, they could still be good for your brain.

According to US government research, social isolation is a predictor of declining mental function in older age. Experts believe this may be down to not using a wide variety of communication skills. Research shows that the wider the range of relationships (family, friends, work and so on) a person has, the less cognitive decline they will experience with aging, so give your brain a further boost by widening your social circle.

2. Music

If you are looking to take up a new hobby, why not consider giving music lessons a go? Research results published in the journal Neuropsychology showed that musicians performed significantly better on several cognitive tests, perhaps as learning and performing music serves as a challenging exercise for the brain. Scientists also found that being a musician helped to prevent age-related decline in a certain part of the brain known as Broca’s area.

3. Physical Fitness

We all know about the physical benefits of exercise; however, research has found that being physically fit could also benefit your brain. A review published in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review found that many cognitive functions such as task switching, selective attention and working memory all appeared to benefit from aerobic exercise.

4. Smelling Rosemary

Rosemary is not only a delicious flavoring for many foods, the herb is also good for boosting your brainpower. Researchers from Northumbria University found that a chemical found in rosemary oil (1,8-cineolecan) can boost brain power and improve mood. The study discovered that participants who smelt rosemary oil performed better in cognitive tests measuring speed, accuracy and mood.

5. Chocolate

If you’re looking for an excuse to chow down on your favourite treat, look no further. Dark chocolate is rich in brain-boosting chemicals, called flavonoids, which can enhance your cognitive skills by inducing the creation of new neurons in the brain and improving their ability to form new memories, as well as improving blood flow to the brain. One study of adult women found that when given flavonoid-rich chocolate drinks, the blood flow to participants’ brains increased within two hours and they performed better on a complex mental task.


6. Cute Animals

Many of us know that owning pets is good for our physical and emotional wellbeing, but did you know that just looking at pictures of cute animals could boost your productivity in work? Research led by a cognitive psychologist at Hiroshima University found that looking at pictures of cute animals helped participants to focus their attention more effectively on tasks.

7. Chewing Gum

If you have a big meeting or exam approaching and instantly need to feel more alert, try chewing on some mint-flavoured gum. Researchers at Coventry University found that chewing mint-flavored gum can dramatically decrease feelings of tiredness, while separate research has shown that chewing gum can improve test scores and improve memory by 35 per cent.

8. Being Disconnected

If you’re dwelling on a problem but just can’t find the right solution, spending some time in the outdoors disconnected from your laptop and mobile phone could give your brain the boost it needs. Research results published in the journal PLOS ONE showed that adults performed nearly 50 per cent better in a creativity test after participating in a four to six day hike, during which no electronic devices were allowed, perhaps due to the combination of exposure to nature and a decrease in digital stress.

9. Daydreaming

Next time you are feeling guilty for daydreaming instead of getting on with a project in hand, reassure yourself with the thought that letting your mind wander can actually boost your problem-solving abilities. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that when participants’ minds wandered, the parts of their brains associated with problem-solving became more active than when focused on routine tasks, allowing them to work through difficult dilemmas.

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