World Alzheimer’s Month: Keep Your Mind Sharp with These Activities
It’s been one of those days already - you’re running late for the community board meeting, you can’t find your keys, and your dog is doing dances by the food bowl.
Didn’t you already feed him? You aren’t sure.
Staying on top of everything can be tiresome. If your memory is not what it used to be, you’re not alone: stats show that 1 in 9 people (1) over the age of 45 have trouble remembering things.
While some of that can be pretty common, there are certain health conditions that result in a more serious form of forgetfulness.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disease (2a) that causes severe memory loss and interferes with basic daily activities. It’s considered to be a form of Dementia, and affects around 6.2 million (2b) people in the United States alone.
Medical research is still ongoing, but one thing is certain: your mind is an important part of who you are. It deserves to be taken care of.
And while some people joke about “losing their mind”, the reality is anything but funny.
What can be done about this? They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so if there are things you can do now to lessen or minimize your chances of memory loss and crazy forgetfulness, wouldn’t you want to know?
With that being said, here are 10 things you can do to keep your mind as sharp as possible.
1. Eat Brain-Healthy Foods
What you put into your body is crucial. A consistent lack in certain nutrients can eventually lead to chemical imbalances within the brain, which can make certain conditions worse.
Choosing foods that are high in omega-3’s are particularly helpful in maintaining healthy brain function. They even play an important role in keeping your memory (10) sharp. Some of the best sources can be fish, flax and chia seeds, and walnuts.
Antioxidants are just as important in fighting against disease and age-related ailments. Free radicals and stress wreak havoc on your system. You can help change that by adding foods like berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, black beans, ginger, and green tea.
Yes, it’s fun to blast your favorite tunes and have a jam out session. But in order to keep your mind sharp, consider taking up dance that requires some skill and practice.
Dances like the salsa, tango, waltz, or even the foxtrot are great ways to stay in shape, both mentally and physically. Learning steps, and practicing sequences has shown improvements in flexibility, sharper thinking (4), pain reduction, and stronger social bonds.
3. Play Cards
Card games have been enjoyed around the world by both the young and old. There are so many different kinds, from classic to current trends. It’s also a relatively inexpensive way to make great memories.
And while playing cards offers a great way to socialize, it can also help boost memory and brain power. This is because a lot of card games require a certain level of strategy (5). It can also help strengthen short-term memory.
Staying physically active has been a pillar of health for centuries. It helps get your heart pumping, sweat out toxins, burn fat, and build muscle.
Extra blood flow to the brain (6) can help keep your mind in peak condition, too. The good news is, you don’t have to run marathons to reap the mental benefits of exercise. Even 30 minutes of jogging, cycling, or walking can help.
5. Appreciate Your Senses
It’s easy to take for granted some of your senses. One way to retrain yourself and keep your mind acute is to intentionally do things that stimulate all five (7) of your senses.
Think about an event or a place you’d like to visit. It could be an art museum, a bakery, or a waterfall. Try to take a moment to ask yourself, “What do I see? What do I hear? What do I taste or smell?”
It may seem silly, but doing these small things can do amazing things in how your brain makes and maintains connections.
6. Draw or Paint
You may have never considered yourself an artist. Even so, taking up drawing or painting has amazing brain benefits. It’s been said to help sharpen your mind through what’s called “concept visualization” (8).
Finding creative outlets can help increase memory function and inspire awe in your older years.
People like routines. It helps create a sense of safety and predictability in our brains. But if you want to keep your mind sharp, try switching it up now and again.
Take a different road home. Travel to another town just to see the sights. Go for a country drive. Walk on a nature trail. Doing things a little bit differently helps to stimulate your sense of sight, sounds, and wonder.
8. Stay Connected
Like many other creatures, mankind was not meant to be alone. Being a part of a community not only gives you a sense of purpose, but it can help “boost feelings of well-being and decrease feelings of depression” (9).
Staying in touch with friends and family, as well as being willing to make new connections, can go a long way in helping your mind stay sharp.
9. Learn a New Language
Most high schools require that you take at least one course of a foreign language class. And if you’re like most people, you soon forget most of what you learned. Because let’s face it, you either “use it or lose it”, right?
Learning a new language isn’t just helpful in traveling situations. Exposing yourself to different languages and cultures exposes you to different ways of thinking (3). This can help your brain form new pathways, creating more memories.
10. Practice Mindfulness
We live in a world that is always thinking about tomorrow. Smartphones, internet access, and social media makes it easy to constantly be somewhere else
Being intentional about being “in the present” may not come easily at first. Thankfully, the idea of mindfulness can be as simple as being aware.
Take some time each day, even if it’s 5-10 minutes, and put all distractions away. Breathe deeply. Think about where you are right now. Take notice of the sounds you hear. Do you feel a breeze?
This small but powerful exercise can help stimulate your brain and keep it active.
Bringing It All Together
Forgetfulness is something we all experience. As you get older, it can happen more frequently.
Alzheimer’s is a more serious disease that impacts much of daily life. If you’re concerned that your thinking or memory has declined more than it should, talk with your doctor.
There are many things you can do to help keep your brain in the best shape possible. Things like exercising, eating omega-3 rich foods, learning new languages, and taking up art.
These activities play a special role in brain development and activity, which is something you’ll want to keep around for years to come.
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Have you been feeling a little forgetful lately? Take a deep breath and relax. Try a few of these activities, and share them with family and friends!
References & Disclaimers
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author