Staying Sharp and Mentally Fit

Spring is upon us at last and what a welcome time of renewal it is!  Plants and animals alike are waking up and refreshing themselves after their winter slumber, and we can too!  It is easy for us to fall into routines that may feel safe and comfortable but do not challenge us intellectually or cognitively, as we grow older. Following are some myths related to memory loss as we age as well as simple and fun ways to keep our cognitive skills sharp and fresh.

MYTH:  Memory loss is an inevitable part of aging.
FACT:  As we age we may notice that sometimes things are more difficult to remember and we may even be more forgetful, but this is NOT an inescapable part of the aging process. There are many ways to keep your brain sharp and even learn new things, no matter how old you are, and there is no time like the present to get started.

MYTH:  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
FACT:  Middle aged and older adults are fully capable of learning new things and thriving in new environments, plus they have the additional benefit of wisdom that comes from life experience.

There are many great reasons for keeping your brain as active as your body. The more you use and sharpen your brain, the more benefits you will get, including help with memory loss and cognitive decline. Here are some tips for remaining creative and cognitively on top of your game.

Practices variations of things you already know. Whatever your favorite leisure activities, change things up once in a while and increase the level of difficulty. Whether it is working jigsaw puzzles, word searches, crossword puzzles, or Sudoku, continue trying new variations and challenges to sharpen your skills and keep your brain fresh and alert.

Work something new into each day. Take a different route to your favorite places, change where you sit at the dining table, change your morning routine!  Anything you do to change your usual daily behavior will stimulate your brain and make life more interesting and enjoyable for you.

Take on a completely new subject. Learning new things is always available to you and can be exciting and challenging. Think of things that you wonder about or are interested in, and then learn about it!  Want to learn a new language?  Learn to knit or golf or cook exotic foods?  Want to learn more about computers?  Go to your local library or bookstore for resources to help. There are also many free or inexpensive classes at community centers and colleges that allow you to tackle new subjects. Volunteering is another great way to learn about new areas. These activities also help boost and strengthen social connections, which is another brain strengthener. 

When it comes to memory, mental exercise can make your brain work better and lower the risk of mental decline. The more pleasurable the activity you choose, the more powerful the effect it will have on your brain. You can make activities more pleasant simply by including small changes such as listening to music during exercise or cleaning, lighting a scented candle, or rewarding yourself after you have completed a goal.

It has been said, “age is a state of mind”. There is no reason to let life, fun, and pleasure pass you by!  Learn a new skill!  Try a new activity!  Explore new places and experiences!  While you are enjoying yourself, you might just find that you are sharper than ever.