Have you noticed you’re moving slower, not quite as agile, stumbling more due to a loss of balance and coordination, finding it challenging to find names and words, is it harder to pay attention, and multi-task?
Just like other muscles in your body, if you neglect to challenge your brain, it gets lazy and atrophies. Your brain needs to be challenged and stimulated daily to continue to grow and develop as you age.
If you want to improve your brain and to keep it healthy as you age, start by being more present at the moment, focus on your task, and pay attention to the details.
And, when you can, use as many senses as possible (sight, smell, taste, touch, sound). Your senses communicate to the brain, and this rich connection supports cognitive growth, problem-solving, motor skills, and may improve memory.
Your brain is a powerful tool, and you have the power to change it every day, so let’s get started and shake things up.
Here are my five favorite brain secrets for healthy aging.
Choose an activity you enjoy. If you enjoy it, you will do it.
Exercise (especially aerobic exercise) brings blood and oxygen to the brain. When you bring blood and oxygen to the brain, you nurture and prepare your mind for learning and, best of all, stimulate the happy brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine and reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
If you can, mix in exercises that will challenge complex motor skills. These types of activities are excellent for brain building.
The motor skills you want to focus on are:
Balance, agility, coordination, reaction time, power, and speed.
A few examples might be:
Throw, catch, and juggle, jump, hop, and skip, ride a bike, walk on uneven surfaces, take aerobic and dance classes, etc.
By choosing activities that challenge your complex motor skills, you will start to improve brain plasticity. Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to adapt to a new stimulus, and to keep growing, learning, and changing throughout your lifetime.
Start your exercise program with 30 minutes each day and see how you feel.
Also, if you can, go outside. The fresh air and daylight do wonders for the brain. Being outside can reduce fatigue, depression, lower stress, and tension, and give you an overall feeling of wellness and vitality.
A good night’s sleep can help with memory retention, creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking and decision making, and supports your brain for optimal learning.
Best strategies for a good night’s sleep:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day (even on the weekends).
- Sleep in a dark room without distractions.
- Avoid all screen time for at least an hour before bedtime. Screen time can suppress melatonin and trigger wakefulness.
- Avoid stimulants like alcohol and caffeine before bedtime. Depending on your sensitivity, you may need to avoid these several hours before you head to bed.
3. JIGSAW PUZZLES
Jigsaw puzzles are an excellent workout for the brain. They improve problem-solving, memory, concentration, and cognitive skills. They also challenge fine motor skills and hand and eye coordination.
Think about all of the little tasks it takes to complete your puzzle. You layout the pieces as you simultaneously identify the straight edges to create the border. Then, as you organize the puzzle pieces by the different colors or design, you’re constantly rotating the pieces in your mind (and in your hands), thinking about how these pieces fit together to create the bigger picture.
Start with a 500 piece puzzle. As you develop your skill in solving puzzles, and it starts to get more comfortable, go to the next puzzle size.
Keep building and challenging your brain.
If you don’t enjoy jigsaw puzzles, try board games, crossword and sudoku puzzles, card games, etc.
4. USE THE OTHER HAND
I know this sounds crazy, and it will feel awkward at first, but switch hands by doing your daily activities with your non-dominant hand.
Challenge yourself with these ideas:
Brush your teeth, grab a notebook and write, try cursive writing, fill in the crossword puzzle, eat dinner, or try any other task you do daily.
You know these tasks, you’re comfortable and do them daily, but by switching it up and doing them with the other hand, you’re challenging the neurons in your brain to adjust, grow, and learn a new pathway.
5. BECOME A STUDENT AGAIN
Learn something new and develop a new skill. If you continue to do things you are good at (even if they feel difficult), you stop challenging your brain.
Your brain needs it to be new and challenging to be considered a brain exercise.
Find something that is unfamiliar, something that takes you out of your comfort zone.
A few ideas might be:
Start playing a new sport, learn how to dance, try juggling, learn a new language, then travel to that country, or find a new hobby.
Additionally, each day, find ways to get out of your current rut and routine to avoid autopilot.
For example: shake things up by taking a new route on your way home. It’s an excellent way to activate and stimulate your brain.
BONUS TIP #1
Learn how to play a musical instrument. The benefits to your brain are tremendous.
When you play an instrument, you are simultaneously reading the music as you translate the music notes on paper to coordinating fine motor skills in your hands, you’re listening to the sound as you map your hand movements to stay on the beat of the music.
And, if that wasn’t enough, you make micro changes to improve your skill as you play.
As you learn and develop, don’t get complacent, continue to challenge yourself.
Find new music that you enjoy playing to improve and exercise your brain. A healthy mind, as we age, requires constant mental effort.
BONUS TIP #2
Laughter is a joyous way to reduce stress, tension, and anxiety, which is toxic to the brain.
Learn to laugh at yourself, find humor at life’s crazy moments, laugh with others, and, most importantly, be playful (bring out your inner child).
“Most people wait for crisis, trauma,
disease or diagnosis
to make up their mind to change.
My message is, why wait?”
~ Dr. Joe Dispenza
If you enjoyed the five brain secrets and bonus tips for healthy aging, please share it with your friends. They may enjoy these five little secrets to healthy aging.
And, as you dig into these tips and find that you struggle to get started, feel free to reach out. I would love to support you in creating new and healthy habits as you age.