If you’ve recently put your slippers in the fridge and are worried that your grey matter isn’t getting enough stimulation, then keep reading.
“The brain, just like the body, needs exercise as well as periods of rest,” says Deborah Stone, MD of My Ageing Parent.
“And just as you wouldn’t do just one exercise to keep physically trim and fit, the same is true with keeping mentally alert and on top of your game.”
“Variety is key,” says Stone. “Always remember: use it or lose it!”
A recent study found that getting older does not necessarily mean losing brain power.
In fact, the research by Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Human Genetic Research found we all peak at different times, with many of us reaching the height of our powers in our 60s, 70s and beyond.
Stone tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle that the brain is a muscle and with regular “exercise”, it will become “fitter” while also improving memory function.
She adds: “It could prevent dementia, but there is no guarantee. Using your brain as a muscle is the same as using any other muscle in the body. If you work it, you stimulate it and make it perform better.”
So without further ado, here are 10 ways you can do just that.
1. Challenge YourselfVstock LLC/Sarah M. Golonka via Getty ImagesIt’s all too easy to remain in your comfort zone, but learning a new skill, language or musical instrument will not only stimulate the little grey cells but enrich your life too.
2. Do Something DifferentLynn Koenig via Getty ImagesEveryday routines drain our brains, so change things about.
From the routes you take to the shops or work, to what you cook for dinner, the changes you make can be big or small, but encourage yourself to step away from the norm.
3. Learn To RelaxTom Merton via Getty ImagesAlthough it is important to challenge yourself, you must also take time to refresh and unwind.
Our brains require time to process information deeply in order to learn from our daily experiences.
It may sound obvious, but relaxing reduces stress and the over-production of brain chemicals and hormones, such as cortisol, which in large quantities can negatively affect parts of the brain.
4. Turn On And Turn It Up!Jose Luis Pelaez Inc via Getty ImagesWatching too much TV can dull brain programming.
Instead, put on your favourite music playlist, turn the volume up and really listen to it rather than just have it as background sound.
Research shows that music can lower stress hormones which impede memory and increase feelings of well-being.
5. Reorganise Your Environmentbopav via Getty ImagesMore mess leads to more stress! Revamp your home or workplace by de-cluttering and provide mental space for creativity and renewal.
6. Enjoy A Lie-InTroels Graugaard via Getty ImagesResearch shows that when you’re persistently sleep-deprived, your body doesn’t have the time to build proteins, which can damage your brain.
So go to bed early and, once a week, give yourself a treat and stay in bed for an extra hour or so.
7. Use Your Weaker HandFogStock/Alin Dragulin via Getty ImagesWhen was the last time you tried to write, draw or even stir your tea with your weaker hand?
Doing day-to-day activities with your “other” hand can drive your brain to make positive changes, as it requires the brain to pay close attention to a normally unconscious behaviour.
8. Keep ActiveAssembly via Getty ImagesExercise can improve our energy levels and immune system, as well as our sense of wellbeing, sleep, and brain health.
Again, variety can be key, and taking up a new activity – be it yoga, swimming, Nordic walking or kick boxing – is invigorating and pushes us to learn new disciplines.
Nervous about something new? Take a friend along to encourage you and so you can both make changes in your life.
9. Ditch The Caffeine, Switch To WaterIndeed via Getty ImagesAlthough coffee or tea will give you an immediate boost, too many cups can be harmful for your brain.
Sipping water can be remarkably helpful when your energy levels are ebbing or your concentration is starting to dip.
10. Have Funkristian sekulic via Getty ImagesFinally, just in case this has all sounded a bit serious so far, the tenth tip is to simply: “have fun”.
Socialising and spending happy time with friends and family enables the sharing of experiences, challenges, emotions, trust, and understanding.
Research shows that people with five or more regular social ties halved their risk of cognitive decline compared to those with no social ties.