Keeping your brain active has many benefits, not the least of which is in helping to combat the cognitive decline that often comes with old age. Memory lapses and lack of concentration are quite common in older people, but they are by no means unavoidable consequences of aging. Our minds, like our bodies, become less flexible and are slower to repair themselves as we get older. However, like any other muscle, the brain responds to exercise. If you don’t use it, you lose it – but if you keep it in shape and give it a regular workout, it will remain your best friend for life.
Lifelong learning is the key to staying mentally healthy. Studies show that continuing to study and learn new things keeps the mind alert. Evening classes are obviously a great idea, and they also provide an opportunity for social interaction with new people, which is healthy in its own right. However, you can also continue to learn during the day in many different ways. Look into on-the-job training, and keep volunteering for roles that you haven’t tried before. Read a book on your lunch break, or set yourself a learning project that you can research online. You could also take up a new hobby at the weekends that involves learning new skills.
The right start
For those who are really dedicated to using their brain’s full potential, it’s recommended to rise early and do at least 15 minutes of meditation. This will still your thoughts and put you in the best frame of mind for the day ahead. Then do physical exercise, which will get the blood flowing to your brain as well as throughout your body.
A healthy breakfast can be combined with reading either a good book or a quality daily newspaper. While you’re at it, give the crossword a go. Games and puzzles are proven ways to keep the mind agile and active. You can find free puzzle games online to suit every degree of difficulty and every timeframe, so give it a go!
Memory and coordination
Playing a musical instrument is another way to keep your mind active. Spending an amount of time practicing the guitar or piano is proven to improve the cognitive processes, as well as reaction times and mind-body coordination. See how many pieces you can play from memory.
The mind similarly benefits from memorizing poetry, and from there it’s a short step to acting in a play. Learning your lines, getting into a different character, interacting with other people and performing physically are all benefits to joining your local amateur dramatic society, not to mention the boost in self-worth and confidence that comes from getting up on stage.
Challenge your ideas
Civilized conversation on intellectual topics is also valuable. It’s important to be able to frame and communicate your ideas and opinions and to have them challenged in a reasonable way by others. Debating and taking the time to think through our opinions and feelings, while holding them up to vigorous scrutiny, helps us to avoid getting stuck in a rut and stagnant in our thinking.
If you’re working all day in a repetitive job, then it’s easy to get tired and distracted, which results in the mind wandering. Different people have different ways to remedy this. For instance, having background music helps some to concentrate, while others find it distracting.
Healthy snacks can help. A handful of fruit and nuts is excellent brain food. For many of us, coffee is our go-to pick-me-up during the day, but green tea may be healthier and more effective in the long term. To get the brain ticking over properly, a short walk in the fresh air can work wonders.
If you really feel that you need it, don’t be afraid to take a short nap during the day. Finally, a change can be as good as a rest, and switching to a different task for a while can keep your brain engaged. Leave your current problem, do something else and come back to it. It’s got to be better than staring blankly at your screen for an hour.
As you can see, there’s no reason why your brain should stay idle just because your job is dull and repetitive. There are many ways to keep it active and so stave off the cognitive decline that hits many of us in later life. Boredom can lead to sluggish thoughts and depression, so keep pushing yourself and stay mindful and alert throughout the day.