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Beacon Senior News

11 tips for staying sharp at any age

Jun 03, 2020 09:43AM ● By Hilary Thompson

There’s truly nothing worse than the thought of losing your memory—any of your cognitive function, for that matter. Your body may change throughout the course of your life, but that doesn’t mean your brain power has to. Here are some ways to build your brain and stay sharp.

Catch some Zzzs

The list of connections between getting a good night’s sleep and brain health goes on and on. By now, you’ve probably figured out that a bad night’s sleep will seriously throw off your day. It will impact your concentration, affect your mood and leave you feeling fuzzy in general. 

Sleep isn’t just important for your day-to-day abilities. Your brain also needs this time to keep things running smoothly on the back end. For starters, your brain uses its downtime to lock in memories you’ve made throughout the day. The brain also takes this time to restore and clean itself. Hit the sack, and give your brain the peace and quiet it needs to keep working hard for you.

Watch documentaries

Documentaries are a fun and fascinating way to spend your time. They also keep your mind sharp. Instead of zoning out to your tried-and-true television classics, kill some time with some educational content. Not only will you learn a thing or two, but you’ll also have the opportunity to share new ideas with others. In fact, forty percent of Americans use documentaries to share something they’ve learned. It’s also resourceful when it comes to backing up your opinion on any given topic. In a time where the state of the news and words of popular media is in question, documentaries are there to help us learn about the world around us in an authentic, and somethings even more accurate, way.

Jam out

Music is great for your brain. It has been shown to help with stress management, memory, and increased cognitive performance. Better yet, learn to play! The act of playing an instrument utilizes both your cognitive and motor processing skills and these two components are the keys of a well-working mind.

Healthy body, healthy mind

Your physical health plays a direct role in the workings of your mind. You know the drill: exercise, eat right and definitely don’t smoke. You don’t have to turn into a fitness warrior overnight, but incorporating some healthier habits into your schedule on a piece-by-piece basis is a great start to a healthier you.

Read

Reading is the ultimate mental stimulation, and there are endless possibilities to what you can learn from it. Encounter new words, fresh ideas and different ideas or takes on topics you may think you already know about. Whether you are an old-school paper book lover or a tech-savvy eReader, you’re sure to feel the brain juice pumping next time you pick up the pages.

Embrace your inner author

Journaling has a surprising benefit on the brain; it utilizes both the analytical left side and the creative right side of your brain. Plus, Journaling can be a great way to vent. You can work through your thoughts and feelings, or even word-doodle your way into solving a problem that you’ve been having. It’s also a great way to relieve stress and productively pass the time.

Relax

When we’re stressed out, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. High cortisol levels have been linked to things like high blood pressure, weight gain and even changes in our mood and energy levels, and these are all things that can keep our minds feeling foggy. Take a breather and do what you can to both proactively minimize and manage your stress. Consider de-stressing methods such as meditation, cooking or going for a walk to clear your mind.

Learn a language

Learning a language is a challenging way to work your brain. Not only do you have the opportunity to learn more about the world and its people through language and culture, but you also develop important cognitive functions. Additionally, learning a second language has been linked with improved memory and intelligence

With today’s technological advances, learning a new language is easier than ever. There are programs with individualized plans to teach around your skill level or even free apps that teach you bit by bit. You don’t have to learn enough to have a deep conversation with someone, but a few key phrases and fun new words will greatly benefit the growth of your brain.

Socialize

Socializing has been shown to slow down mental decline and boost our overall brain function. It can also fend off depression and reduce your stress levels. And no, Facebook doesn’t count. Take the time to call an old friend. Make plans to go for a walk around the park. Join an exercise or craft group to turn your socializing into a fun event. 

Feeling generous? Consider volunteering. Volunteering can be a unique way to make friends while helping others.

Puzzles

Puzzles aren’t just relaxing—they also improve your brain’s function by increasing your overall neuroplasticity. An increase in your brain’s neuroplasticity has been linked to better problem solving and concentration. Puzzles also help train your brain to think quickly on its feet. They utilize your recall skills to help improve your short-term memory and focus. An added bonus? They make you happier! Every time you complete a portion of a puzzle, your brain recognizes this as a success and releases the feel-good hormone, dopamine. Whether it be jigsaw, crossword or sudoku, puzzles are unbelievably helpful for the brain and a fun way to kill time to boot.

Make staying sharp a priority

At the end of the day, just ask yourself: How bad do you want it? Like all great things in life, you have to be willing to work a little before you can claim your reward. Practice a brain exercise first thing in the morning, make healthier choices when it comes to food and exercise, and go out of your way to interact with the world around you. Put in the effort when it comes to keeping your brain sharp, and make it a priority to take care of your mind so you can continue to enjoy—and remember—every second.