Aging may be inevitable, but we can still live life to the fullest, regardless of how old we are.
People who keep their minds sharp tend to incorporate a variety of little things into their daily routines.
As you’re about to see, they aren’t complicated, but they serve as the foundation for mental agility and cognitive resilience.
Let’s delve into these daily habits and look at why they’re so powerful.
1) Fun brain training games to improve memory
Aging certainly isn’t all bad. Here’s the good news:
As pointed out by Harvard Medical School, “Some cognitive functions become weaker with age, while others actually improve.”
Our brains get better at picking up on the links between varied sources of information, which is maybe why we seem to get wiser in many respects as we age.
On the flip side, one area that does tend to suffer is our memory. So the older you get the more forgetful you may find yourself becoming.
So-called brain training activities can help. They include a wide variety of things like:
- Crossword puzzles
- Playing cards
- Board games
- Word puzzles
- Video games
It’s all about creating mental stimulation that provides problem-solving opportunities for the brain to keep it sharp.
2) Keep on learning in as many ways as possible
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
We are never too old to learn, something proven by 90-year-old Italian Annunziata Murgia.
After missing out on her middle school diploma because of the outbreak of the war, she was determined to finally finish her education explaining, “I like studying, I’ve always liked it,”.
Of course, learning doesn’t have to be formal study.
Essentially it’s about staying curious about life and finding things that challenge you.
You might decide to take up a new hobby or pick up a new skill.
A study of older adults done in 2014 noted how learning a cognitively demanding skill, like quilting or photography, improved their memory.
Meanwhile, a review in 2019 highlights how learning another language strengthens the connectivity between different areas of the brain, helping to fend off dementia in the process.
3) Reject stereotypes about aging
Our perceptions about aging are thankfully changing. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some harmful stereotypes still floating about.
These perceptions and ideas we form can be harmful if we create negative expectations.
This was highlighted in a study that found middle-aged and older learners did worse on memory tasks after being exposed to negative stereotypes about aging and memory.
In contrast, they did better when they believed that they were not in control of their memory
When it comes to shaping our reality, our beliefs are powerful. That applies just as much as we age.
Cultivating a positive mental attitude is something that will serve you throughout your entire life.
4) Exercise the body as well as the mind
We all know the physical benefits of staying active, but you may not be aware of the role it plays in keeping your brain sharp too.
One study found that people in their 90s were more likely to be mentally fit if they had exercised regularly in their 60s.
As highlighted by professor of psychology Lisa Feldman Barrett in the Guardian:
“Studies show that vigorous physical effort…may have similar effects on your brain as hard mental effort. The mechanisms are not yet known, but demanding exercise appears to improve the thickness and connectivity of the same brain regions.”
Even though we don’t fully understand why, keeping physically fit plays a pivotal role. It not only keeps the body healthy but also stimulates brain activity.
5) Eat these foods to support brain health
I had a very potent reminder recently of just how closely your diet and your brain health are linked.
I became deficient in some important nutrients and my white blood cell count plummeted.
As it did, I suffered from severe mental exhaustion. I simply couldn’t concentrate on anything and felt like a fog had descended.
The foods we eat are fuel. Certain foods provide the right kind of fuel that your body needs to stay mentally sharp.
Foods that are known to boost your brain power include green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, berries, nuts, bone broth, eggs, olive oil, and turmeric.
But generally speaking, a so-called Mediterranean diet, rich in veg, fruits, fish, and healthy fats is best.
Therefore, incorporating these into daily meals can do wonders.
6) Get enough sleep
Sleep, much like diet, is another biological necessity if we are going to function properly — at any age.
The research shows how vital getting enough shut-eye is for a healthy memory.
During sleep, our brain processes and consolidates memories. Hence, sleep deprivation can affect cognitive functions in a bad way.
Scientists are still trying to grasp all the varied functions and processes that take place during our sleep cycles.
But it has been shown that one of the things that happens is your body removes certain waste products (called beta-amyloid plaques) from your brain which have been linked to dementia.
That’s why one of the simplest things to do to keep your brain working is to let your body rest.
7) Stay connected to family, friends, and community
In the longest research into happiness ever conducted, relationships came out as key.
Yet the connections we form not only keep us happy, but they also help to keep us healthy it would seem.
Social interaction is crucial.
Engaging in lively conversations or participating in social activities can stimulate the brain. After all, humans are social beings.
The science backs this up.
One recent study looked at social networks and starting leisure activities in later life.
It found that older people in Japan who had more social engagements had a lower risk of dementia than those who didn’t.
Meditation is one of those things that tends to pop up on pretty much every list of beneficial things you can do for your health and well-being.
But for good reason. Because the research on the long list of advantages of mediation is strong.
It not only decreases stress but also increases mental clarity.
Managing stress effectively is important. Chronic stress can cause cognitive decline.
This is why being able to calm yourself through mindfulness techniques like meditation practices can be helpful.
Other practices like deep breathing or yoga, can have a similar calming impact on the nervous system.
These sorts of activities not only relax the mind but also improve concentration.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there’s also research that shows how meditation can slow down aging in the brain and help you to better process information.
9) Listen to music
Keeping your brain in tip-top shape can be as simple as putting on your favorite tunes.
There is some evidence to suggest that listening to music can lead to improvements in our overall cognitive function and well-being.
So say the researchers of a 2018 study that noted how when someone listens to songs they enjoy it engages and connects different areas of the brain.
“In general, efficient connections and organization between brain regions, which are well-measurable even during rest, have proven to be important for cognitive functioning and intellectual performance.”
10) They use their imagination
…Or in other words, they visualize.
As pointed out by Dr. Alena Candova, the mental images we construct leave a lasting impression on our brains:
“Visualization practice is a powerful tool for the human mind that engages brain regions involved in perception, attention, memory, and motor planning and can effectively reprogram our subconscious mind. It can activate the same neural circuits as actual experiences, modulate neural plasticity, and improve performance, learning, and well-being.”
Vividly picturing things — like imagining your day and what you intend to do — can serve as exercise for the brain.
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