Our cognitive abilities slow down as we age. Even though this progression is natural, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. There are, however, ways that you can keep your mind sharp at any age. These brain stimulating activities will allow you to stave off the effects of aging and enjoy an agile brain well into your Golden Years.
While most people think of physical fitness as good for the body, it’s also an amazing brain boost. Exercising as little as 15 minutes a day has been shown to lead to increased health benefits for people of all ages. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, giving you better sharpness throughout your lifetime. Exercises like walking, running, swimming and gardening all have amazing benefits for brain health.
A well-balanced diet of proteins, fiber, whole grains, fruits and vegetables provides excellent nourishment for the brain. People who eat healthy have a slower rate of cognitive decline, and are better able to function in their daily lives. Omega 3 fatty acids, like those found in salmon as also known to be building blocks for the brain. Include foods like broccoli, avocados and nuts for maximum effect.
Work Your Brain
The brain is a muscle. And like any other muscle, it will atrophy if not used regularly. Whether you like to read mystery novels or do crossword puzzles, daily cognitive activities that stimulate the brain are essential to keeping sharp. For some it’s managing household expenses, and for others, it’s keeping up with the day’s sports scores. As long as the activity is challenging and requires mental stamina, it’s great for keeping you on top of your game for life.
Engage Your Senses
Using all of your senses helps you to retain information, perform complex tasks and improve memory. This means not only seeing information but writing it down. You can listen to music, spend time in the garden where you can smell flowers and taste new and interesting foods. Studies have shown a link between smell and memory retention, so it pays to include smell in your daily routine.
Learn Something New
When you engage in learning a new skill or task, it is taxing on the brain. This in turn makes the brain work harder, which makes it stronger. This can mean anything from taking a course in anthropology at the local college to learning to do basic home repairs. Perhaps you want to learn to paint or draw or study a foreign language. The key here is to learn something that is challenging so that it stretches your mental muscle.
Routines take up little brain energy. We often get dressed, cook breakfast and drive to the supermarket on auto pilot. They make the brain sluggish, leading to rapid mental decline. If you have done the same thing every day for 20 years, do something different. Try taking a new route to the supermarket. Visit a friend you haven’t seen in a while and use an online or paper map to find your way. Varying your routine forces your brain to learn and retain new information. This keeps it active and sharp throughout the years.
Do Things the Old Fashioned Way
Remember when we had to do things like memorize phone numbers and do mental math in our heads? Your brain loved those activities because they kept it working. Now we have smart phones, GPS and applications that do practically everything for us. From now on, start doing things the old fashioned way again. Use a paper map. Memorize birthdays, telephone numbers and addresses. Repeat your times tables. Add and subtract in your head. These small actions will keep your brain running at full speed, keeping it stimulated.
Get a New Hobby
Learning new things is especially helpful for the brain. Hobbies can not only help focus the mind but lower your stress level as well. Knitting is a popular hobby that helps the brain stay agile. Take up singing, playing the piano, drawing, painting, cake decorating, or scrapbooking. Anything that will keep you busy and focused and allow you to enjoy novel experiences.
Meet New People
Whenever you meet a new person, your brain develops a new neural pathway. You have to learn their name, for starters. Over time you will learn their spouse’s name, their cat’s name, how many grandchildren they have, where they live and what dry cleaner they use. Interacting with new people exposes you to a host of new information, and your brain has to work overtime to process and re-deliver this information to you on a regular basis. Not only will you be exercising your brain, but you will be building lasting social connections that ward off brain killing diseases like depression.
Surround Yourself With Positivity
Negativity kills not only the spirit, but brain cells. Stressful situations can overload the brain, leading to rapid decline. Toxic people sap so much of your energy that you may find yourself forgetting even the most basic of things. Replace negative thoughts with happy memories and rid yourself of situations that cause you pain or sorrow. Many people will lose their cognitive function for life simply by being around people and situations that cause them mental turmoil. Avoid stress if possible and repeat happy thoughts and mantras to get you through the day.
Get Adequate Rest
Lack of sleep can lead to a host of health problems, not the least of which is decline in brain function. Your brain needs its daily recharge, so make sure you get adequate sleep each night. Avoid oversleeping as this can have the opposite effect. Doctors recommend between 7-10 hours of sleep per night, but this largely depends on your sleep cycle. Taking short naps throughout the day can also give you a much-needed recharge that will boost your brain power.
When it comes to retaining your brain’s sharpness over the years, exercising your mental muscle on a regular basis is key. From changing routines to learning continually and getting adequate rest, you can find the right formula for a lifetime of cognitive fitness.