Just as a good diet and physical exercise are essential for keeping our bodies strong and healthy, keeping our brains active is essential to keeping our minds sharp as we age.
You don’t need a gym to give your mind a regular workout; by integrating a series of simple exercises and techniques into your daily life you can help keep your brain sharp through the years. Here’s a few to try:
Learn something new
Taking on a new hobby or skill is an excellent way to test your brain and keep it nimble. Look for something that you find challenging and that doesn’t come easily to you; a goal as simple as learning a new language or working through mathematical problems is enough. Anything that requires your full focus and can be at times difficult to figure out works best.
Try public speaking
Verbal fluency is an important skill to maintain as we grow older, but after retirement – and particularly if we live alone – there are fewer and fewer opportunities to practice. Consider joining a local public speaking class or debate club, or create your own. Challenge yourself to speak out loud for a minute at a time on any topic – even if just in front of a mirror.
Multitask with your senses
Look for activities that allow you to use two senses at once. Studies have shown that the more senses you use, the more of your brain that’s involved in retaining the memory. For example, when trying a new hobby, such as pottery, take note of how the materials you use feel or smell. Another simple exercise is with food; try and guess or identify the ingredients in a dish with smell and taste when you go to a new restaurant.
Access your memories
Remembering the past is a great way to keep your mind active. Challenge your short and long-term memory by trying to remember things that happened recently and in the distant past. This can also be a fun game to play with friends; choose a year and try to remember events that happened, both in your own life and around the world. Memory games are also a way to help your short term memory – there are hundreds of apps, websites and computer games where you can play short, interesting memory games online or from your smartphone or tablet.
Puzzles and games like sudoku, crosswords and jigsaws all require focus, concentration and skill. These are a great way to keep the mind active in quiet moments at home or during periods of travel that would otherwise be classed as downtime.
Do you have any tips for keeping your mind sharp as you age?