How To Keep Your Mind Sharp Into Your 60's and Beyond
To Improve Your Quality of Life
We've all probably heard the jokes about aging... I know I came into this room for a reason... what the heck did I come in here for? And even at young ages these kinds of memory lapses can happen. When they do, we often think they are humorous. But as we age, our mind can begin to become foggy due to less use than when we were younger. Just think back to when you were young, in school, even out of school, constantly learning new things - whether it was a new job, new hobby, or just learning from life experiences.
In order to maintain your brain power into old age, we'll look at some ways to help increase your mental agility. Some of the most important things you can do to improve your memory and improve your quality of life are to engage yourself in activities that are intellectually stimulating, try to keep a positive outlook and stay socially active! Exercise is important, too, not only for your intellectual health, but to help stave off diseases like osteoporosis. A simple act like walking about 4 miles per week can decrease your later chances of developing dementia by fifty percent! That fact alone has been very motivating for me.
Tips for Keeping Your Brain Healthy Into Your Later Years
1. Improve your memory by doing activities such as spelling exercises, spelling forces you to mentally "see" words, and something as simple as learning a new word every day can help you to be stronger cognitively and improve memory.
2. Make good use of the internet to keep your brain active - read world news, learn new things, read blogs - just make sure you're doing NEW things on the internet. This helps to keep you engaged, involved in issues, and just the simple process of searching on the internet has been found to stimulate decision making and reasoning in the brain.
3. Listen to music and learn lyrics to songs, this helps not only to improve your mood, but helps memory as well.
4. Learn one new thing every day! Ok, so there is an old wives tale that if you learn something NEW on a Friday, you will get another wrinkle. So, to be on the safe side, learn something new every day except Friday... I don't want a bunch of wrinkles named after me!
5. Stay socially active, find something you love to do and join a class or other type of group that is doing the activity you enjoy. Take a class if you can afford to do so, otherwise, join a social group (churches can be a good source of activities). Taking classes at community centers can be a cheaper alternative to college classes. Finding others who share the same interests you do can help you to build friendships. Being socially active keeps you involved and healthier.
6. Take a 20 minute nap in the afternoon - finally! An easy one! Studies have shown that just a short nap in the afternoon (especially if you have taken a class or been socially active in the morning) can produce nearly as much skill-memory enhancement as an entire night of sleep.
7. Be sure that you are reading for pleasure as well as for learning. I seem to always be in the middle of a book. If you are on a fixed income, libraries can be a wonderful source of reading materials, even the new bestsellers are available there. Most libraries will have waiting lists for new books, but I've found that they make it so easy to get these materials. Many times, you can put your name on a waiting list from home on your computer, then pick the book up when it becomes available.
7.5 I recently finished reading "The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven" by Kevin and Alex Malarkey. I was able to get this book through a waiting list at the library. Another GREAT way to get books is through your local Goodwill store! I haven't checked the price of books here in Nevada, but in Wisconsin, book were only $1.79 for a Hardcover book! I read practically the entire series by Sue Grafton (the alphabet mystery series - "A Is For Alibi," etc) just by borrowing books from the library, and through finding them at Goodwill.
8. Exercise! We all need to do it, but sometimes it can be hard to get motivated. Just a simple walk of about four miles per week greatly decreases your chance of developing dementia. If you want to, you could combine taking a class and exercise. There are lots of great yoga classes and exercise classes (even for beginners) available through community centers. I recently looked into a group here in Nevada called "The Nevada State Troupers" (Dancing Grannies type group)... anything that will interest you, be fun to do and keep you active is a GOOD thing! And you will find yourself feeling less stress as well from the exercise, another good benefit!
9. Solve puzzles - my favorite puzzles lately are "word search" puzzles, they keep me interested and challenged. A great place to look for puzzles is at www.kappapuzzles.com. There are other free puzzle sites as well. Another great thing to stimulate your mind are the "magic-eye" puzzles available in books and on the internet. The puzzle looks like a bunch of bright colors and patterns repeated, but when you "relax" your eyes (some people even claim that looking at them cross-eyed works)... you will see a "secret" picture in 3-D simply by staring at the puzzle. There are some people who say they cannot "see" these no matter what they try, my husband is one of those! I will be thrilled going through picture after picture "seeing" the "secret" pictures and he cannot figure out what is so exciting!
10. Working - for some people, staying active in a part time job is the answer. Even doing volunteer work can have a great impact on your social and cognitive health. Look into part time and volunteer opportunities, you may find a whole new world out there! My Father In Law recently turned 80, and a great thing for him has been working very part time in a job he loves! He pretty much works whenever he wants to, can accept or turn down jobs as they come in... he is an usher at sports events, graduations and other events. Being a big sports fan, this is the "perfect" job for him! Not only for a little extra money, but for the social aspects and knowing that you are helping others.
11. Laugh as often as possible, and think positive! You know that "self talk" that goes through your head, when it becomes negative (and at times it will)... try to think of something new. Try to distract your mind from the negative to something positive. Laughing will boost your immune system as well as releasing endorphins, the "feel good" chemicals in your body.
12. Think "outside the box" and do something outrageous! Something you never thought you would do, for me it was "zip lining" down the middle of Fremont Street here in Las Vegas. I thought for sure I would never do something like that, and found it to be fun! Things that are stimulating and keep your mind involved go a long way towards your happiness in your older years!