5 tips for a healthy mind and happy aging
‘What was it again I wanted?’, I scratched my head and wondered, my eyebrows doing a funny dance of conjuring a recent memory I should still possess but don’t. I retrace my steps from whence I just came, the room next door, and attempt the same exercise with my train of thought.
Have you had this experience where your memory of your intended action departs, and you suddenly feel like your retirement days are nigh? To some of us it happens seldom, to others more often than we care to admit. The truth is it happens to everyone. The question is, is it a sign we are getting old? Demented? Or are we just distracted? It is not a great stand-alone measure to gauge where on the age meter your brain currently resides. Assessing for dementia, risk of dementia, and the condition known as mild cognitive impairment (although also a risk factor for dementia) requires thorough testing and assessing for more than a single variable.
When you have this happen in a situation where you are otherwise surrounded by fellow humans in a more or less public capacity, one cannot help but wonder, though. Am I getting old? Especially when you look around and a lot of the faces you see are significantly younger than you! I am not terribly old, and feel quite young and dynamic still, but I have had moments like this where I suddenly fretted about how I am perceived now that I am no longer the youngster in the room.
As we age, staying sharp and focused may become increasingly difficult with advancing years, although it is a gradual process. Our memory may not be as reliable, our attention span may shorten, and it may become harder to maintain mental clarity. Why do I say ‘may’? Looking at a number of nonagenarians (and some centenarians) either in the news or those I have met personally, I must admit – the process can be extremely gradual, and sometimes seems to not happen at all until the month or months before their passing.
What is their secret? Short of describing all those fantastic case studies, I want to summarize what we can do today starting at any age, to keep our minds fit and sharp like a Shun kitchen knife!
Here are 5 tips for you to keep your mind limber and sharp:
1. Challenge your brain with new experiences: As we age, it is easy to fall into the same daily routine, working on the same tasks without much variation. However, intellectual and personal growth can come from challenging yourself to new experiences. Try taking up a new hobby or learning a new skill, such as a new language, a musical instrument, or even something as simple as a new recipe. By pushing yourself into new and unfamiliar situations, you can stimulate your brain and create new neural pathways. Neuroplasticity, or the ability of our brain to form new connections, is something that can occur at any age, not just in childhood (although those connections are the groundwork and foundation for many of our later capabilities). If you would like to learn more, start with this link on: what is neuroplasticity?
2. Maintain meaningful relationships: Spend time with people who inspire you and challenge your thinking. Meaningful relationships are an important aspect of mental fitness that many people often overlook. Having close and supportive relations
hips with family members, friends, and even pets can be incredibly beneficial to one's mental health. Studies have shown that individuals who have strong connections with others are more likely to feel happy, resilient, and fulfilled. Interacting with others on a regular basis can also help improve cognitive function, memory retention, and reduce the risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, having a support system can make it easier to cope with stressful situations, allowing you to feel more secure and less overwhelmed. Ultimately, meaningful relationships are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and should be given the time and attention they deserve.
The following Harvard study, begun in 1938, showed this surprising result after 80 years: relationships matter for our health and how well we age. Loneliness and its impact are as significant as smoking or alcohol abuse on our lifespan. For a summary of the article, read Harvard study - embracing community helps us live longer and be happier.
3. Engage in regular physical activity: Physical activity has been shown to benefit cognitive function and is vital and beneficial no matter what your age. Exercising regularly can aid in increasing blood flow to the brain, release mood-boosting endorphins, and form and strengthen motor pathways, all of which can improve cognitive skills. Try adding a 30-minute walk or a yoga class to your daily routine. Or start out by taking regular walks, or just taking the stairs instead of the lift to get moving. Any physical activity that feels natural to you and fits your style is a great place to start. You can always level up. Remember, it’s a process! If you would like to take a look at a short list of exercises to get started, read my article here.
4. Get enough sleep: Sleep is essential to maintaining both physical and mental health. A lack of sleep can negatively affect your concentration, memory, and general cognitive abilities. As we age, our body produces less melatonin, making it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Establishing a regular sleep schedule and practices such as turning your phone off before bed can provide a consistent routine that can help in restful sleep. Stay tuned for my upcoming eBook on sleep hygiene on the go!
5. Healthy Diet: Eating a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean protein strengthens your brain. Research has shown that diets comprised of fish, nuts, leafy greens, and berries can improve cognitive health such as memory and attention. Any diet that is rich in these essentials, antioxidants, and basic brain nutrients is beneficial for your brain, gut, and overall physical health. If you are interested in learning more about diets for brain health, stay tuned for my upcoming posts on the topic!
Just like we are invested in keeping our bodies well oiled and upright into old age, so do we have a few simple steps available to keep our minds sharp as well. Even better, you can adapt these tips to your individual needs and your life in a way that represents you and feeds your spirit at the same time. In the end, you deserve happiness and contentment, self-fulfillment, and self-actualization, just like everyone else. Brain health, mental health, and physical health are intricately linked and finding the best balance for yourself is where you discover your path to your personal best.
Until next time,
XOXO from Katharina 😊