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Surprising ways to keep your brain and memory sharp

Memory enhancement has become a hot topic in modern society. A quick Internet search reveals long lists of specially designed memory-enhancing games created by psychiatrists and dozens of pills and supplements the manufacturers guarantee will improve memory. Experts on talk show after talk show recommend intellectual stimulation: difficult crossword puzzles, logic puzzles, or strategy games like chess.

However, while research shows that cerebral activities do have plenty of benefits to memory and cognition, many other studies reveal that a strong social life and a sense of fun give a person’s memory definite advantages.

Humans are and have always been social animals. Even the most curmudgeonly of us generally want someone to socialize with on occasion. It has long been accepted that a satisfying social life helps a person stay emotionally healthy, but new research is showing that social activity also benefits a person’s cognitive health. A recent study done by the Harvard School of Public Health discovered that the most socially active subjects had the slowest rates of memory decline, and that’s just one study among many suggesting the same conclusion.

Increasing social interaction is not as difficult as you might think. Try joining a club that relates to your interests or finding a volunteer association. The Internet has made it a simple matter to reconnect with friends and find times to meet up. Even people who find making and keeping friends difficult can get plenty of cognitive value from having a pet, especially very social ones like dogs.

Having a good laugh conveys benefits to the memory as well. A standard emotional response will cause neurons to fire in only a specific section of the brain, but laughter actually causes many areas throughout the brain to activate. Listening to jokes and trying to figure out punch lines uses areas of the brain important to creativity and learning, much like solving puzzles.

Try increasing laughter in your life by finding fun people to spend time with, whether adults or children. Their playful attitude towards life will lighten your heart as well. Learn to laugh at yourself and take yourself less seriously. Surround yourself with fun items, such as small toys, pictures of yourself and your friends having a good time, or amusing posters. Seek out laughter whenever you can; most often the cheerful people will be more than happy to let you in on the joke.

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