7 Ways To Boost Your Brain Power
7 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power
Stay Sharp Despite Depression
It can happen to anyone with major depression (also called major depressive disorder): As your mood sinks, your cognitive skills can also take a hit. As a result, staying focused, making decisions, and thinking quickly can become challenging. "Depression puts you in a fight-or-flight response," says Julia Samton, MD, director of Manhattan Neuropsychiatric in New York City. "It's subtle — you won't feel your heart racing, but it gives you more of a primitive brain, making complicated tasks harder."
Depression can change your brain chemistry so you become more forgetful and struggle with other cognitive skills. Your first move should always be to treat your mood as directed by your doctor, Dr. Samton says. As you do that, you can also try these steps to better manage cognition-related symptoms of major depression.
Correct Distorted Thinking
With major depression, your default view tends to be the worst-case scenario. For instance, you might think that feeling ignored at a party means you can't make friends, or that getting a poor grade on a test signals you don't have what it takes in your chosen field. Part of depression treatment, Samton says, is working with a therapist to correct negative thinking, reframing events and realizing that some things are out of your control. A type of psychotherapy that can help you with this is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Keep practicing the techniques you learn in your CBT sessions, and you'll likely see a change in distorted thinking and experience better mood.
Tackle Attention Problems
Paying attention can be a struggle when your brain is muddled because of major depression. Rather than beating yourself up about it, be patient with yourself and take steps to compensate for this symptom of depression. For instance, Samton suggests taping your classes, lectures, or business meetings to help you remember things later by being able to refer back to them. You can also record important phone calls and take notes when talking with your doctor.
Just as your attention may suffer when you have major depression, so can your ability to concentrate. Try using tricks to help you concentrate and focus on the problem or task at hand. For example, ask people to slow down when talking so you can better focus on what they're saying. Then repeat what people say in your mind — or even back to them to confirm what they said — and take a minute to think about what it means.
Write Everything Down
Dealing with depression can impact short-term memory just as much as it can affect concentration and attention. You have to be attentive to remember things, but that can be difficult with depression. Keep a memory notebook and write everything down, from grocery lists and daily appointments, to client names and questions you plan to ask during a meeting.
The speed at which you think and process information may slow down when you're dealing with depression, and it's important to be compassionate with yourself during this time, Samton says. Understand that it's not your fault this is happening, and you may need more time to sort out your thoughts and finish tasks. Make adjustments to your schedule accordingly to allow yourself plenty of time.
Train Your Brain With Games
Depression can affect learning, memory, and reasoning to the point that it impacts everyday problem-solving, according to a study of nearly 3,000 older adults published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. In the study, cognitive training sessions actually improved participants' thinking skills for years after the training ended. Take a break from your daily tasks with online brain-training games that can boost your memory, attention, and other cognitive skills.
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