Are you worried about losing your memory and mental sharpness, and wondering what you can do to keep your mind active and alert as you grow older?
Here are 5 simple things you can change right away in your daily routine that will help you stay mentally healthy, perhaps even improve your brain health, naturally.
1. Regular exercise - helps the brain work better by causing brain cells to grow, strengthening the connections between them and also protecting them from damage. During exercise brain cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors which promote brain health and boost learning and memory.
For example, a 2010 study on monkeys showed that regular exercise not only improved blood flow to their brain, but also helped them learn new tasks twice as quickly as non-exercising monkeys.
A daily minimum of 30-40 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week is recommended for overall health.
2. Proper sleep - is not only necessary for refreshing the body, but it also helps to ‘reset’ the brain to look at problems from a different perspective. Research from Harvard indicates that people are 33% more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas after sleeping.
Sleep is also known to enhance memory. Sleep triggers brain processes in which learning and memory are strengthened. For example, research shows that naps can boost babies' brainpower. Infants who slept in between learning and testing sessions were better able to recognize patterns in new information.
Even among adults, a midday nap was found to dramatically boost and restore brainpower. A daily minimum of 6-7 hours of sleep is recommended for maintaining brain health.
3. Vitamin D - increases nerve growth in brain areas involved in planning, information processing and formation of new memories. According to The National Institutes of Mental Health, it is vital that a mother get enough vitamin D while pregnant in order for her baby's brain to develop properly. In older adults too, research has shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with poorer brain function.
Make sure to spend at least half an hour daily in bright sunshine with your arms and legs exposed. If this is not a realistic option, a sun tanning bed and vitamin D3 supplementation are acceptable alternatives.
4. Listen to music - Research shows that listening to music while exercising boosts brain activity levels and verbal fluency skills. In fact, verbal fluency more than doubled after listening to music compared to people in the non-music session.
Listening to music has also been associated with improved mental focus, so take advantage of this simple pleasure and listen to your favorite music whenever you can.
5. Challenge your mind - one of the simplest methods to boost brain function is to keep on learning. The size and structure of brain cells and the connections between them actually change during learning activities such as playing a musical instrument, speaking a foreign language or participating in social and community activities.
Challenging your brain regularly with mind-training exercises such as doing crossword puzzles or playing board games can also keep your brain fit as you grow older.