Shape up your brain with these strategies:
- Doodle. Participants who doodled while listening to a humdrum conversation scored 29 percent better in a memory test of the information they had heard than those who didn't draw, a study in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology reports. What gives? Rather than the distraction you may have thought it was, sketching keeps you from daydreaming, so you soak up more data.
- Go fish. Eating baked or broiled fish as little as once a week may reduce your risk of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease later in life, according to a recent study out of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Researchers found that fish (as long as it's not fried!) helps protect gray matter, especially in areas related to memory and cognition.
- Find a one-word mantra. During a super-tough workout, concentrate on a single word that encapsulates the action you're going for, such as "strong" or "smooth," instead of the mechanics like "head" or "knees." How this helps: "Focusing on the outcome of your actions helps the brain organize the processes you need in order to produce the end result," says Sian Beilock, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Chicago and author of Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.