How to Keep your Mind Sharp

Our body is a wonderful piece of art and, like all forms of complex chemical and mechanical matter, we need to understand it in order to better take care of it. The most mysterious and intriguing of these is our brain. It holds countless secrets that science is yet to find answers to and, as with all muscles, it needs to be exercised in order to fully function. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep your brain in ideal condition regardless of the effects of aging.

Get Physical Exercise
Body and Mind are connected in more ways than we can imagine. The way you treat your
physical side is going to undeniably reflect itself on your mind. Make sure that you stay physically
active, even if you can only make time for a simple walk. Numerous studies have shown that the
slightest form of motion can go a long way into improving both memory and cognitive skills. At
an anatomical level, the impact caused by your foot when walking causes pressure waves
through the arteries which increases blood flow. Sports that are proven to be optimal sources
of brain health are:

  • Team sports such as basketball or football
  • Cycling
  • Yoga or Tai Chi
  • Aerobic or gym exercise
  • Walking
  • Running or jogging
  • Water sports

Maintain a Healthy Diet
Food is the fuel that keeps us running as human beings so maintaining a close eye on what we consume is extremely important. Our brain is particularly fond of nuts, fish and even red wine;
however, these products are also known to give our mind an extra boost:

  • Salmon – a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Green Tea – rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, it not only improves alertness and focus, but is also known to reduce the risk of serious diseases such as Alzheimer or Parkinson.
  • Eggs – packed with essential nutrients such as B6, B12, folate and choline, all elements that help regulate both our memory and our general mood
  • Blueberries – the antioxidants they contain aid in improving the communication between brain cells, delay short-term memory loss and also reduce inflammation.

Work on your posture
It might sound like a cliché that your parents, teachers and even television has been feeding you throughout the years, but the truth is that having good posture plays a beneficial role on your wellbeing. Studies show that keeping an upright posture does improve the circulation and blood flow to the brain. Here are three simple tips to make sure you’re in the right direction:

  • Sleep with an aligned spine – resting on your back or on the side is known to generate less stress on your spine. When sleeping on your back, gravity makes sure that your body is centered on your spine. Should you sleep on your side, try to point your chin straight ahead
  • Balance- exercising your overall body balance will not only avoid occasional tripping and falling, but it also benefits your spine. More relaxing activities such as Yoga or Tai Chi are very beneficial in this regard
  • Weigh healthy – Being over or underweight adds stress to your muscles and ultimately makes you more inclined to adopt a wrong body posture

Sleep as much as you can
This is a tricky one and will clearly vary from person to person. Not getting enough sleep can deeply impact your overall state of mind and lead to severe problems related to memory, concentration, as well as cognitive functions. It is during our snooze time that newly acquired skills and memories are processed by our brains creating a permanent imprint. As a rule of thumb, adults above 65 should attempt to get 7-8 hours sleep, while those aged 26 to 64 should aim at 7-9 hours. Here are some suggestions on how to make the most of our bedtime:

  • Consistency – try to go to bed and wake up at the same time on a routine basis. Repetition is key to a healthy rest.
  • Light dinners – having very large meals can lead to longer digestive periods which can both be harmful to your stomach and deprive you from sleep. Try to keep your evening food consumption to small snacks such as nuts or fruit.
  • Cut on stimulants – Coffee, Chocolates, Cola or Cigarettes should be highly avoided between four to six hours prior to going to bed. Alcohol should also be limited as it disrupts both REM and slow-wave sleep, both essential to a healthy memory.

Never Stop Learning
Not only is the unknown exciting, but it also stimulates the brain. Studies have shown that reading and writing on a regular basis, for instance, helps reduce memory loss at a later stage in life by 32%. Playing a musical instrument is also a beneficial way of engaging your memory and so is learning a foreign language as it improves cognitive functioning in older adults as well as helps strengthen your decision making, believe it or not. Having a hobby also increases your notion of self-esteem and self-worth which in itself can do wonders for the mind. Simply think about something that interests you and go for it. A few ideas to start things off:

  • Carpentry
  • Gardening
  • Cooking
  • Photography
  • Fishing
  • Painting
  • Swimming

Don’t over-use your brain
It is important to remember that we are not machines, meaning that we have the luxury of not having all the answers at all times. Save your mental energy by choosing what needs to be remembered and what doesn’t. Use calendars, planners, shopping lists or address books instead of wasting away mental power that could be used for other, more significant, tasks. Not having to worry about too many details will help you focus better and free up your memory. These are but a few tips and tricks that will get you on your way to programming your brain to better aid you in day-to-day tasks. Keep in mind that aging is part of life, but we have the power to take care of ourselves and make sure that our journey on Earth is an amazing one from day one.

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