We all want to retain as much of our youth as possible. Though genetics have a large part to play in how well we age, they are not the only predictor. In fact, there are many steps we can take to make the most of the cards nature has dealt us. Diet and exercise are probably the first that come to mind and are relatively straightforward solutions for physical health. But what about mental abilities? Do we have as much control over our brain’s fitness as our body’s fitness? Though it was once thought that cognitive decline was unavoidable, scientists are discovering that we have more control than was previously thought. Let’s look at a few ways in which you can actively maintain mental agility.
As is well-known, eating right and exercising regularly help keep the body healthy. But what is not as well-known is that these healthy habits are also good for the brain. Communities around the world with the highest numbers of centenarians (people aged 100 years or older) are also communities with the lowest rates of dementia. Just as your body needs nutrient dense food, so does your brain. Foods high in healthy fats, such as avocados, olive oil, and salmon, are especially beneficial for healthy brain function and can also have positive effects on mood. The other side of this coin is that sugary foods can have the opposite effect.
Sleep and physical activity are also important factors in brain function. Getting enough of both helps keep the mind in peak condition.
The mind is like a muscle—when used regularly, it stays fit. Just because you may have left school decades ago doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. It’s never too late to try something new, and creative pursuits are especially good at preventing cognitive decline. Is there a new hobby you’ve always wanted to start? Maybe you’ve always wanted to try your hand at painting, pottery, or poetry. Give it a shot! Check your local senior center for arts and crafts classes for the extra benefit of staying social. You could learn a new skill and make new friends at the same time.
Staying healthy and engaged are great on their own, but when the element of community is added, they give your brain an even bigger boost. That’s because spending time with friends and family stimulates cognitive processes, with the result of greater clarity of thought. Why exercise on your own when you can call a friend to join you for a walk? Cooking a healthy meal is more enjoyable when it is shared. Trying a new hobby is more fun and rewarding when done with people you enjoy spending time with.
A Final Thought
As we look at these tips for staying sharp mentally, it is easy to notice a common thread: joy. Whether making healthier food choices, finding a new and interesting hobby, or intentionally spending more quality time with loved ones, finding joy is at the center. Is it possible that joy is the answer to maintaining mental agility as we age? Whether science proves it to be or not, it helps give meaning to our days. We hope you enjoy these tips for staying your sharpest!