All your life, you’ve heard that you should exercise regularly to stay healthy, but you don’t hear much about staying mentally fit.
When we’re younger, such a task isn’t so hard. But as you age, that starts to change. None of our bodies are where they were when we were in our twenties. Just as your body goes through changes as you age, so does your mind.
Preventing memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s might seem like a fruitless endeavor. Most assume that Alzheimer’s is genetic; as it turns out, less than 5% of cases of Alzheimer’s are genetic. That means that 95% of cases are caused by other factors, and many can actually be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
It’s never too late to start living a healthier life. These tips are designed to help you stay mentally fit as you age.
1. Read More
Look, you’re doing that right now. Reading keeps the mind sharp. In fact, the scientific journal Neurology reported that reading and writing more in your later years resulted in a 32% decrease in the likelihood of memory loss and cognitive decline.
Write letters, start a journal, reread your favorite books, find a new genre you’re interested in!
We suggest being careful with your screen time though. The strain on your eyes from a screen can do more harm than good. Pick up a paperback and let your imagination sharpen your mind.
2. Feed Your Brain
A healthy diet is one of the most pivotal factors in staying mentally fit.
The most recommended diet for seniors and aging adults is the Mediterranean Diet. This diet is rich in leafy vegetables and fish. Fish provides your brain with loads of Omega-3 fatty acids which are the building blocks of the brain.
Reducing dairy and red meat consumption has been shown to improve your overall health and your brain health. Eat a diet filled with whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, vegetables, and fruit. Don’t skimp on the blueberries either. Blueberries, in particular, reduce short term memory loss and are rich in antioxidants, so your heart will thank you too.
3. Get Moving
You knew this was coming. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean exercise goes out the window. In fact, it’s more important than ever.
Want to know an interesting fact? The simple act of walking sends shockwaves up from the foot, stimulating your arteries. This gets more blood to your brain and therefore more oxygen. This results in a healthier brain.
Try Geocaching for a fun walking adventure. It’s like a massive, crowd-sourced scavenger hunt. Go for a hike on your local trail or go explore your neighborhood.
4. Touch Your Toes
Just like walking helps with increased cerebral circulation (that’s the flow of blood to your brain), so does stretching. Why? Because as we age, our circulation isn’t what it used to be. With all that walking you’re about to do, you should make sure you’re in the best shape to do that.
Look into yoga. There are several free online resources for yoga for seniors.
5. Get Social
Loneliness can truly hamper someone’s brain health. Cambridge conducted an interesting study where they followed seniors for over a decade and found that those with a busy social life had a 70% lower cognitive decline.
With that in mind, volunteer in your community, build up a social network, participate in activities. We humans are social creatures by nature. We’re built to interact. So make it a habit to put yourself out there and make new friends.
6. Listen to Music
Music has been shown to improve the mind. You hear a song and it can transport you back in time, bring about a memory you had forgotten all about. There is a strong tie between our relationship to music and our memory.
Build a playlist of songs throughout your life. Reconnect with your memories through that music. In the end, anything you do to stimulate your memory will keep it healthy.
7. Learn to Play an Instrument
While we’re on the topic of music, did you know that you can enhance your memory by learning to read music and play an instrument? Learning anything new has been shown to keep people mentally fit.
Like a muscle, the brain gets stronger the more you use it. Learning to play an instrument, or picking up one you used to play, will help keep you sharp.
8. Learn a New Language
You might be questioning this one. Why learn a new language if you might never get to visit the country of origin for language?
Learning a new language trains the brain to think more quickly, fine-tuning your processing skills.
It also increases our multi-tasking abilities and strengthens our ability to focus.
9. Find A New Hobby
If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. It’s true. We have to constantly exercise our minds. One way to do that is to start a new hobby. Our hobbies tend to shift as we get older. We find ourselves having to branch out and do things we might not have done when we were younger.
Try a new hobby like gardening, sewing, hiking, fishing, cooking, or golfing. Stimulating your mind and shaking up your daily routine, giving yourself something to look forward to, will keep your mind sharp.
Ask yourself this: what have you always wanted to do but have never had time to do? Got an answer? Good. Now go do it. You’re never too old for fun and adventure.
10. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is simply the practice of being in this moment at this very time without judgment. While stimulation is pivotal to keeping clarity in an aging mind, so is stillness.
Practicing mindfulness can lower heart rate, improve circulation, increase focus, and help you sleep. It melts stress away, and meditation has even been proven to enhance long-term and short-term memory.
Just be here, right now. Let your thoughts come and let them go. Feel the breeze, breathe deeply, listen to the cars passing on the road nearby.
Enjoy this very moment.