10 Easy Ways to Keep Your Brain and Mind Young Starting Today
"Have You Seen My Keys?"...
We all have those moments where we’ve forgotten where we put the keys or can’t seem to find our phone. It’s even common during times of stress or major changes to feel as though your memory isn’t as sharp as it once was.
However, mental or cognitive decline doesn’t have to be a given as we age. In fact, cognitive decline and aging don’t have to go hand in hand at all, especially if you take steps to keep your brain young and sharp as a tack.
Your Mind Doesn't Have to Age as You Age
There’s a misconception that cognitive decline comes naturally with aging, but in most cases, this isn’t true. Science tells us that we have a lot more control over how our mind ages than we think we have.
What we’re learning is that cognitive decline doesn’t have to be a natural occurrence of aging. Instead, it’s caused by any number of factors that just also happen to occur more frequently as we age. While there are some genetic factors at play that can’t always be overwritten, cognitive and mental decline is something that many of us have the ability to prevent or at least slowdown.
There are times in a person's life when memory problems seem to be more noticeable. During times of stress, or when you're going through a major change, whether that change is good or bad, it often makes you feel as though your memory isn't as sharp as it once was.
Fortunately, these periods are usually short-lived, and with the right approach, you can easily recover from them.
Women also go through major hormonal shifts as they approach menopause, which can cause some temporary changes in mental clarity and focus. The same is also true during puberty and pregnancy. In this case, it’s the hormones to blame, but there are steps that can be taken to bring about balance, along with more focus and clarity.
What isn't normal is a noticeable decline in cognitive health that doesn't seem to be related to obvious factors or doesn’t improve within a few weeks.
If you’re noticing a mental decline in yourself or someone you care for, it’s important to discuss symptoms with your doctor.
Your Brain Shrinks as You Get Older?
There are some actual physical changes that occur in the brain as we age, just like with every other part of our bodies. Think of how you might have a few more aches and pains in the morning when you're sixty compared to in your twenties.
As we age, our brains actually do lose a bit of volume, most noticeably in the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for things like motor function, language, problem-solving, and working memory. This is why you may feel as though your memory and focus aren’t as sharp as they once were, even though there aren’t those outward signs of cognitive decline.
While our brains shrinking as we age might sound a bit dire, we’re able to make up ground and regain what has been lost. Just like exercise and healthy habits can help slow the aging of your body, exercising your brain and adopting brain-healthy lifestyle habits can make a huge difference in keeping your mind young and sharp.
It’s also never too soon or too late to start. Here are ten ways to keep your brain young, no matter what your age.
- Make Sleep a Priority: We put this one at the top of the list because it’s so important. A lack of sleep can cause symptoms such as a clouded memory, lack of concentration, and agitation. A good night’s sleep also allows time for your body to rest and recover on a cellular level, which is vital for your brain.
- Be Physically Active: Even moderate exercise can help increase the size of the frontal cortex, which in turn helps to increase memory function and mental clarity. You don’t even have to go out there and run marathons. One study showed positive results by walking briskly for just 40 minutes, three days a week.
- Stimulate Your Brain:Are you familiar with the saying “Use it or lose it”? This saying is 100% true when it comes to keeping your brain young. Doing mental puzzles, learning a new skill or language, exploring new types of art or music, and engaging in thought-provoking conversations on a regular basis can all help to keep your brain young.
- Have a Sense of Humor:The ability to laugh at yourself and the little things in life can help keep your mind young. Being tense or stressed releases a hormone called cortisol, which too much over time can have an effect on cognitive function. Being able to laugh off some things and having a good sense of humor helps to mitigate those effects.
- Make Time for Friends:There has been so much research on the importance of social interactions as we age, but just interacting with friends can also improve your memory and cognitive health. When we engage in conversations, laugh, hear new perspectives, and learn something new about the people in our lives, we’re lighting up the same area of the brain that’s hard at work when we do brain teaser challenges.
- Learn Something New: The simple act of learning something new is enough to engage and stimulate the section of our brain that is responsible for memory and focus. But, there’s a catch. Learning how to do something once doesn’t seem to have as much of an impact if you never repeat the act. Instead, it’s important to relearn the task several times, to not only solidify the information but also to give yourself (and your mind) time to improve and adapt.
- Focus On One Thing: When we multitask, it might feel like more is getting done, but this approach actually hinders performance and makes it really difficult for your brain to focus. If you feel like your mind isn't quite as sharp as it was, multitasking won’t fix the problem. Instead, focus on one thing at a time, and focus on doing it well. Maybe even learn a new approach while you’re at it.
- Enjoy a Healthy Diet: You might be surprised to know that your brain consumes as much as 20% of the calories you take into your body each day. The brain is an organ that requires a lot of nutrients and has a high metabolic demand. What you eat matters, and it's especially important to stay away from inflammation-triggering foods, such as sugars and trans fats.
- Pay Attention To Your Gut Health: Your gut is home to trillions and trillions of bacteria that play an important role in keeping your body and mind healthy. Most of the bacteria are good, while some are less than friendly. The goal is to vastly outnumber the bad bacteria with the good guys. Eating a diet that's low in processed sugar and high in fiber, along with taking a daily probiotic, are ways to help keep all in balance.
- Stop Smoking:There is no shortage of research on all the many ways that smoking is terrible for your health. To add to the list, studies have recently found that those who smoke cigarettes are more likely to experience a rapid decline in mental health in their senior years. Give up the habit and add years to your health and mental clarity.
Keep Your Brain Young for Years to Come
It only takes little steps every day to keep your brain young. Try adopting one new healthy habit each week and keep it up to enjoy a strong memory and great cognitive health for years to come.