Our bodies change drastically as we age. Our skin sags, our hair greys and our vision worsens. But, the most drastic changes happen to the brain.
As we age, it is common to experience symptoms like difficulties with learning new skills, multitasking and remembering names and numbers, to name a few. While these “slips of the brain” can seem irritating, they happen because of natural shrinkage in the frontal lobe – the part of the brain most involved in memory and cognitive thinking.
These changes are natural, but there are plenty of steps you can keep your brain sharp, focused, strong and feeling young to slow down this process and lessen these symptoms as we age. Try participating in these kinds of activities.
Brain teasers are a great way to exercise cognitive abilities and keep them sharp! Websites like
BrainHQ, Lumosity or Happy Neuron’s have been developed by scientists and neurologists to create activities that improve brain function by focusing on things like memory, attention, language, cognitive function and visual and spatial awareness.
But you don’t necessarily even need a computer to tease your brain. Activities like crossword puzzles, sudoku puzzles, riddles and quizzes from activity books, magazines and newspapers can challenge and stimulate your brain in the same ways!
Plenty of Rest
Even though it’s important to keep your brain busy, it’s just as important for it to get its rest. Getting plentiful rest on a regular basis recharges your brain to keep it refreshed and rejuvenated.
Napping is a great way to clear your mind. During the day, a short nap will give your brain a boost and make you sharper and alert in your activities right after you wake up, and leave lasting energy for hours later. Make sure you don’t take it too late in the day though – it can interfere with your nighttime sleep schedule.
Regular meditation can increase the density of the left hippocampus, the part of your brain specializing in learning, self-awareness and empathy. On the other hand, the amygdala, the area that produces our negative feelings, can actually shrink through the practice of meditation and peaceful mindfulness.
There are so many benefits to a good night’s sleep, but perhaps the most prevalent one is memory function. While we sleep, our brain is still working and solidifying memories. This is why it’s a popular practice to work on a skill such as playing an instrument or study for a test right before bed. Make sure you get your eight hours!
The food we eat can have a bigger impact on brain function than you may think. Did you know that the brain uses around 20 percent of our body’s calories? So, it’s important that we are fueling our brains with food that will encourage memory and concentration.
Fish like salmon, cod or tuna is rich in omega-3, a fatty acid your body can’t produce on its own and is a great healthy protein to include in your meal plan a couple times a week. You can also get omega-3 through flax seeds or soybeans.
Fruits and vegetables are a no-brainer (no pun intended). Leafy greens are great for boosting memory function, so don’t forget kale, broccoli or spinach in your next salad or healthy smoothie. Berries and cherries are full of antioxidants that slow aging not only in your brain, but other parts of your body too.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’re in luck. In moderation, dark chocolate can benefit the brain by relaxing arteries to provide optimal blood flow to your brain. Plus, it can help your brain to release dopamine, an instant mood booster!
Learn a new trade
Exercising your mind with new challenges keeps it stimulated and active which is wonderful for overall brain health. One way to do this is to take a class or two. Some campuses now offer deals on tuition for seniors with no prior credits, making these opportunities for older adults more accessible.
You can also try learning a new language or a new skill like drawing, painting, knitting or even try picking up a new instrument. Anything that challenges your brain is good for its well-being. The biggest benefits will come from hands-on activities like these where you can receive mental and physical stimulation.