3 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp at Any Age
by Shaun D'Mello
Your brain defines who you are, storing all of your precious memories, shaping your thoughts, driving your creativity, and guiding your every activity – from solving complex puzzles to driving your car. We tend to take all of this for granted, only recognizing the importance of brain function when cognitive functions start to decline. Very often these warning signs only come late in life, making it important to adopt lifestyle habits and practices that promote and strengthen brain function no matter your age. The benefits of such practices are cumulative, lowering the risk of degenerative brain conditions that are associated with aging.
While there are many techniques that are proven to improve brain health, such as positive thinking, socializing, practicing gratefulness, spending more time outdoors, there are 3 strategies or practices that are vital to preserving brain function and keeping your mind sharp.
3 Essential Strategies to Boost & Preserve Brain Function
Exercise Exercise Exercise
We tend to regard exercise as essential for physical fitness, but research shows that it’s also vital for healthy brain function or mental health. These benefits begin at an early age. Studies show
that children who are physically active develop more gray matter in regions of the brain that play a role in learning and other cognitive functions. The benefits of exercise for brain function in older adults are also well-established. Research shows that aerobic exercise can increase brain volume in regions of the brain that support cognitive function, as well as short term memory. Aerobic activity doesn’t have to be structured, it can even include yoga sessions at home, walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. It’s also worth noting that even short bouts of physical activity at a higher intensity can promote healthy brain function, making the lack of time for long workouts a poor excuse to avoid exercising.
Of course, it isn’t just physical exercise that is vital to keeping your mind sharp at any age. It’s a good idea to stimulate your brain and stay mentally active by engaging in brain activities like solving crossword puzzles or playing brain training games. Although there is a need for more evidence to support brain training benefits, experts believe that mentally stimulating activities can strengthen brain cell connections and improve their density – a process called neurogenesis.
Rest Relax Meditate
Although mentally stimulating activity will help to keep your mind sharp, your brain does need a break from time to time. This is why rest and relaxation, and using stress-relief techniques
are so important throughout the day. Sporadic breaks for a few minutes can help to lower stress levels that can otherwise increase the risk of mental disorders including chronic stress and anxiety. Prolonged exposure to stress that is associated with the lack of downtime is also linked to declines in cognitive function. Similarly, sleep is one of the most basic requirements for mental health and brain function, as evidence shows that sleep disorders can significantly increase the risk of mental illness and cognitive decline.
When talking about rest, relaxation, and sleep, it’s impossible not to mention meditation. This ancient holistic health practice is associated with a wide range of health benefits
, with stress reduction, improved sleep, and enhanced brain function being most notable. While all forms of meditation can yield mental health benefits, mindfulness-based programs are regarded as most effective for boosting memory, concentration, and treating stress disorders, anxiety, and depression. According to studies,
mindfulness practices can actually promote structural changes in the brain that improve learning, memory, and emotion regulation.
Clean Eating & Balanced Nutrition
Clean eating, which emphasizes natural and whole foods instead of processed foods, is central to any holistic lifestyle, but it’s also important for healthy brain function. Clean eating must include every food group to ensure balanced nutrition, but it lowers your intake of sugar, trans fats, and other additives that are linked to a wide range of lifestyle disorders, from heart disease to cancer. This has a direct impact on brain health as chronic diseases are known to impair cognitive function. High intake of sodium from processed foods can also lead to hypertension, which increases the risk of stroke.
Clean eating choices can also directly promote brain health as antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries can enhance protection against oxidative stress and cellular degeneration. Omega-3 fats from nuts and fatty fish are also essential for healthy brain function, with studies showing that they can improve the brain’s adaptability to stressors. If you’re looking for a healthy diet to keep your mind sharp, the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet would be excellent choices. Additionally, you could use anti-inflammatory herbs and spices
to season your foods as they can protect against chronic and inflammatory diseases, which can increase the risk of degenerative brain disease.
You can call these the three pillars of brain health that are essential to keep your mind sharp at any age. However, there are other activities and lifestyle practices that can support and strengthen brain function such as learning new skills, reading, learning a new language, disconnecting from technology to make real connections, practicing mindfulness, taking up a hobby, and so on. Just keep in mind that if you notice any sudden decline in memory or cognitive function, you should seek medical attention promptly as this could be indicative of an undiagnosed health condition.
Bonus tip: Learn Something and Have New Experiences
Every time you learn something or experience something out of the ordinary, your brain develops new neuro-pathways and connections. Whether you add words to your vocabulary, figure out a puzzle, explore new concepts, taste different foods, or go on an adventure, your brain responds by building neural networks. Keep your mind sharp at any age by keeping it stimulated and engaged with novel experiences.Author Bio:
Shaun D'Mello is a prolific writer who has worked with a wide range of health and wellness brands for over a decade. His main areas of expertise are nutrition, fitness, natural medicine, public health, and health care technology, but he is most passionate about mental health as he has struggled with overcoming anxiety disorders.
When he’s not writing, you can find him reading a good book, curled up on a recliner, jostling for space with his four cats. Read more on Mental and Emotional Wellness