Unfortunately, as we age, we not only see a change in our body but in our mind. Our cognitive health does deteriorate as we get older, and we used to think that this was just something we had to accept. However, we now know that the brain of an adult can still develop. So, the more we work at cognitive skills like understanding and reading patterns, learning new things, and practising memory function, the longer we will be able to keep our grey matter functioning sharply. There are plenty of ways you can increase your cognitive edge, so here are a few to get you started.
Do New Things
It is really good for brain function to try something new every day. Whether you start learning a foreign language, take out piano lessons, learn how to play poker, or anything else that challenges you mentally, you will find that your brain will thank you in the long run.
Staying with what we know is not as good as challenging and getting out of our comfort zone, finding new things to sink our teeth into. At work, try and get involved in projects that require skills you don’t usually have to use so that you can develop these too. Take advantage of any work-based learning opportunities as these can also help your brain stay young.
As much as we hate to have to say it, exercise actually helps the brain function. Of course, it also helps look after your physical body, so there really is no excuse for not exercising it. Anything aerobic has the ability to increase blood flow in the hippocampus. This is the part of our brain that deals with memories. So, having a regular cardiovascular routine means that as you age, your brain does not decrease in volume.
Therefore, you should not suffer from any decline related to getting older. This doesn’t mean you have to sign up for the next London Marathon; you can start from wherever your fitness levels currently place you. It may be that you simply need to start walking around the block and tracking your steps by using some kind of pedometer. When restrictions are lifted, there are plenty of classes like Zumba or yoga that you could join in order to get some guided exercise.
Conversely, it is important that you are able to relax after a long day in the office or other workplaces. You meant wellbeing also impacts your cognitive function. People who suffer from long term stress and depression tend to have impaired cognitive abilities and show a decline in their memory. It is thought that this is because the stress hormone, which is called cortisol, can actually damage the brain and cause long term structural changes.
So, it is important that you learn how to relax and reduce stress in your life. Meditation and mindfulness are always highly recommended by medical health professionals, but whatever makes you feel calm and relaxed is what you should be doing. Some people enjoy walking the dog, which also targets the fitness aspect of brain health. Other people may enjoy painting pictures, listening to music, or binge-watching their favourite shows.
After all of this, it is also really important that you get a good night’s sleep every night. This means practising good sleep hygiene things like going to bed and getting up at the same time, keeping your room cool and not having extra heat sources, not drinking caffeine after the afternoon, and keeping your room dark to remove any light pollution. Some people also find that using blue light philtres on their television or mobile devices for an hour before bed also helps them to fall asleep quicker. Some people go a step further and turn off all electrical devices an hour before bed and instead do something like read a book.
It is also important that you eat the best foods to help look after your brain. The essential nutrients are omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, and antioxidants. These are all particularly useful for cognitive health. Naturally, these occur in fatty fish, leafy green vegetables, berries, and tea and coffee. You could take supplements, but it is always better to get these naturally if at all possible. Coincidentally these key nutrients are also those required to protect your heart as you age. So, you will be effectively looking after two crucial parts of your body in one hit.
A plant-based diet can help to slow down any possible cognitive decline, but it doesn’t have to be exclusively vegetarian or vegan. If you eat fish twice a week, you can get your Omega 3 intake, but it’s important that you find fish that doesn’t contain much mercury, and this includes salmon and tuna. If you’ve ever looked at Walnut, you may think it looks a little bit like a brain, and there is no coincidence there. Walnuts have been shown to improve cognitive function.
Finally, there have been a series of games released online and as apps for mobile phones that promote good brain function-playing games, even as an adult, can actually be really good for you. It may even help you relax and escape the pressures of work at the end of a long day. These apps often include word or number games designed to make your brain work quickly under a small amount of pressure.