How often do you misplace your keys, forget where you parked your car or completely blank on a neighbor’s name? No matter what your age, it’s common to lose some of your mental sharpness if you aren’t specifically making an effort to use your brain. But there are many things we can do to maintain our brain health to avoid losing our short or long-term memory and stave off degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Here are a few ideas of things you can do to keep your brain healthy that are actually fun!
While all forms of physical activity are good for your health, dancing is particularly helpful in keeping your brain sharp because it requires both mental effort and interaction with others. According to a 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine looked at how seniors responded to 11 different types of physical activity and found that dancing was the only one to lower the participants’ risk of dementia.
- Learn a Language
Did you know that learning another language is good for your brain? According to a 2013 study, bilingual seniors developed dementia and Alzheimer’s more than four years later than those who only spoke one language. And while that study looked at adults who already had the ability to speak another language, you can also experience benefits from studying a new language late in life. Learning a language can help you have better focus and concentration, improve your memory and be better at remembering lists, names and more.
- Learn to Play an Instrument
If you’ve always thought about learning how to play an instrument but never really had a good enough reason to start, now is the time to cross that item off your bucket list. A 2014 study in Liverpool showed that musical training helped increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Plus, learning an instrument can strengthen your memory and reading skills, reduce stress and depression and make you happier.
- Do Puzzles
The next time your spouse tells you to put that crossword puzzle down and help with the laundry, tell them you’re not wasting time — you’re strengthening your brain! According to a 2011 study in the Journal of International Neuropsychology, seniors who did crossword puzzles were able to delay the onset of dementia by 2.5 years, compared to those who didn’t do crossword puzzles. And crossword puzzles aren’t the only type that help. Jigsaw puzzles are also great for improving your visual perception and memory, too.
Many people know that being isolated can lead to depression, but did you know it can lead to a decline in mental sharpness as well? Studies have shown that those who maintain strong social interactions can keep dementia at bay. That’s why it’s a great idea to not only spend time with friends and family, but also volunteer at your local place of worship or at an organization you care about.
Gardening is another activity that can provide significant benefits for your brain. Not only does being outside boost people’s moods, but studies have also shown that gardening decreases levels of anxiety and agitation among those with dementia. Also, according to an article from CNN.com, people in their 60s and 70s who garden have a 36 to 47 percent lower chance of developing dementia than those who don’t.
And if none of these spark your interest, you can always incorporate acupuncture treatments into your routine. In East Asian Medicine, the spleen, kidney and heart pathways all impact mental capacity and brain activity. These energetic pathways influence memory, concentration and recall. When one of these becomes imbalanced, our brain is unable to function to its fullest. Acupuncture treatments address the imbalances to help restore overall health, while also improving circulation. Good circulation means sufficient oxygenation to the brain, which helps it function efficiently.
So what are you waiting for? There’s no better time than the beginning of the new year to start a new healthy habit that will help you live a longer and happier life.