Mental Fitness: Daily Habits
To Keep Your Mind Sharp
The mind is certainly a terrible thing to waste, but for most of us, a wasted mind is not for lack of trying. Mental acuity starts to decrease naturally as we age. It gets harder to retain memories, to think quickly, and scientists have yet to figure out exactly what causes Alzheimer's and dementia, or how they can be prevented, let alone cured. But a healthy mind is like a healthy body. It needs the proper fuel and plenty of exercise to stay in tip-top shape. There are many ways to keep our minds sharp as we age. Here are a few easy ideas to maintain that mental fitness on a daily basis.
The most direct and immediate way to give your brain a boost is to make sure you're getting the right amount of sleep each night. The impact a good night's sleep has on the brain is huge. Our brain isn't just shutting off when we're asleep. It's working throughout the night in ways we don't even notice. From organizing memories and sorting information to clearing out toxins, the brain uses that precious time when our eyes are closed to help us function at our best when we wake up. Studies have also linked certain foods to long-term brain health, including blueberries, fish, nuts and avocados. Adding some of these superfoods to your diet can help your brain stay fit.
Disconnect The Tech
Perhaps in generations to come, complete immersion in the digital world will be totally natural. But for most of us who grew up reading from actual books and writing letters instead of sending emails and text messages, the recent technological shift may be having a negative effect on our brains, distancing ourselves from many of the connections we made when technology wasn't as widespread. If you're interested in stimulating your brain, leave your smartphone on your cell phone charging station and find a book, pick up a journal to write, or just get back to basics from time to time.
Don't Take Shortcuts
Just like it's easier to take the escalator instead of the stairs, it's easier to use a calculator instead of our own brains. There are many calculations most of us don't really need that calculator for, even if it takes us a few extra seconds to figure things out. This happens more throughout the day than we imagine, from ordinary counting to simple multiplication to trying to figure out the tip at a restaurant. We don't just take the easy way out with numbers. We do it with our memory as well. Instead of querying Google to answer questions we can't remember immediately, take a moment and wrack your brain to dig through your memory for that buried nugget of information.
Break Your Routine
Human beings really are creatures of habit. We work hard to find routines that we like. Our brains help us accomplish this over time, weeding out things that are too difficult, creating shortcuts, finding new ways to get things done and eventually making our lives easier. Strangely, though it is the brain's job to help us simplify our daily life, this simplification also has a negative impact on our brains. Routines require less thinking. Making changes to our routine can be stressful at first, but opening your mind up to change and actively altering your routine is one of the best ways to keep your mind on its toes. An easy way to change your routine is to kick bad habits and add new, healthier lifestyle changes. It's harder than it sounds, and will keep your mind busy for a while.
In the last decade, a variety of studies have demonstrated the benefits of art therapy. The adult coloring books and dot-to-dot activity books are only growing in popularity because they can help brains relax, make creative connections and reach a state of mind that's similar to meditation. It isn't yet proven that puzzles like crossword puzzles and Sudoku have positive, lasting effects on brain function, but logic dictates that engaging the brain in puzzles and games is much better for our brains than other activities like watching TV. If you're looking for an activity that's proven to improve brain function, you can always pick up a book. Engaging with a good novel nourishes the brain in many interesting ways.