Just as the body needs exercise to grow, be strong, and remain in top shape, so does the mind. Countless cognitive studies have found that regular brain exercise and constant learning keep your mind sharp by creating neural pathways and preventing brain cells from deteriorating.
In a study by psychologist Michael Marsiskei involving over 2,800 volunteers above 65, those who engaged in one of three mental workouts – memory training, reasoning training, or processing training – experienced enhanced mental performance and less risk for cognitive decline for five years after the research was conducted.
Scientists agree that you do not precisely need to do any of the three techniques employed by Marsiske, but you need to commit to doing brain-boosting activities to reap the same rewards.
Here are some suggestions by experts that you can easily do at home or anywhere you are, at anytime of the day.
1. Commit to regular exercise.
Physical exercise isn’t just good for you body, it’s also good for your mental health. Research shows that regular exercise helps create new brain cells and prevents shrinking of the brain associated with old age.
As well, regular exercise has been found to be effective in combating mental disorders, including anxiety and depression. In fact, in a psychiatric study involving over 600,000 adults, it has been found out that physical activity plays an “important and causal role in reducing risk for depression”.
Experts suggest at least 20 minutes of walking, five times a week, for optimum health.
2. Be social.
Mingling isn’t just for singles. Scientists say that social interactions are a must for everyone, as they fire up several important brain areas and help in warding off cognitive illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health that involved 2,249 female participants aged 78 and above, researchers concluded that “women who maintained large social networks reduced their risk of dementia and delayed or prevented cognitive impairment”.
Some ways to practice socialization include contact sports, volunteering at a local shelter or for a cause, or even just chats with a friend or family member.
3. Expand your skills.
Introducing new challenges to the brain keeps it sharper. A 3-month study of older adults published in the Sage Journals revealed that engaging them in new skills, including quilting and digital photography not only showed marked memory improvement, but these improvement lasted for a year.
Enhance your memory by learning a new hobby like playing an instrument, photo editing, or studying a foreign language.
4. Engage in mindfulness meditation.
Want to know why yoga and meditation have grown tremendously over the years? It’s because both work!
Meditating is a wonderful way for the mind to possess greater mental flexibility, attention, and focus. In particular, psychologists suggest doing regular mindfulness meditation, a Buddhist practice that requires one to pay attention to the present moment in order to cultivate awareness.
Studies show that mindfulness meditation helps in the formation of new neural pathways and in enhancing attention, empathy, concentration, and self-observation.