IN THIS BLOG POST …
- Cognitive flexibility (CF) is our ability to switch tasks.
- It has been shown to be better predictor of daily functioning ability than memory.
- CF declines as we age.
- We suggest 8 ways to improve your CF.
Recognize the important part CF plays in your daily functioning ability and take small steps daily towards improving your CF.
Most of the research on the brain has focused on memory loss; however, there has been a growing amount of research that suggests cognitive flexibility (CF) deserves attention. In fact, cognitive flexibility has been shown to be a better predictor of daily functioning ability than memory.
CF is our ability to effectively switch between tasks, a function our brain is doing all day long. The quicker we’re able to switch (or “shift”) our thinking from one dimension to another (for example, a color of an object to the shape of an object), the greater our level of cognitive flexibility. CF declines as we age, but the rate of decline varies from person to person. Decreased CF can hinder many of our higher-level cognitive processes, such as speech, reasoning, and decision-making.
How can we improve our cognitive flexibility?
Research suggests there are several ways we can Sleep.strengthen our CF:
- Read. Reading is a great way to keep your brain stimulated. In fact, it has been found that higher reading ability is associated with less CF decline.
- Exercise. Aerobic exercise has been found to be an effective way to increase CF. A study published in 2015 found that exercise protected cognitive performance against the negative effects of lower wellbeing.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Consuming DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids might improve mental flexibility by boosting the size of the anterior cingulate cortex. A study published earlier this year found that older adults at risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids did better than their peers on tests of CF.
- Play Games. Playing games can help train the brain to become more agile and improve strategic thinking. It has been found that playing games can improve CF.
- Reduce Stress. It’s important to find ways to reduce stress. One study found that the stress effects on cognitive functions were not present immediately after the stress experience but developed gradually over time. If you’re unable to reduce stress, try to rethink your view of stress by developing a “stress helps” mindset.
- L-tyrosine Supplementation. A study published in March of this year found that supplementation of L-tyrosine promoted CF. L-tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid used to produce noradrenaline and dopamine.
- Change Your Gut Microbial Through Diet Modification. A study published this year in Neuroscience suggests that our gut microbiome may influence our brain and behavior. The study found that a diet high in fat and sucrose (aka a typical Western diet) were related to poorer CF.
- Sleep. If you’re not getting adequate REM stage of sleep you may have less CF. One study found that awakening participants during REM resulted in a 32% increase in anagrams solved compared than awakening participants during non-REM sleep. Yet another reason to get enough shut-eye!
Taking steps to improve your CF can pay dividends in the future.
health iQ tip(s): Recognize the important part CF has on your daily functioning ability and take small steps daily towards improving your CF.
Sources for this blog post include: