In today’s world, intelligence is valued more than physical strength. Therefore, it is imperative to stay mentally active and sharp.
We put together a guide on the 5 best ways to stay mentally sharp
That said, as we grow old, our brains grow old, too, and it is not uncommon to have one or more “senior moments.” I mean, how many times have you forgotten where you kept your keys or looked for a pen that was right in your hands? More than once, right?
In the modern world, we are encouraged to work towards maintaining a great shape and healthy body. However, how often are we encouraged to challenge our brains so that they can remain sharp well into our elder years?
This is not to say that only older adults forget. Memory lapses can occur at any age and can be brought about by other factors other than aging. Brain injury, neurological illness, and organic disorders are all top contributors to a memory lapse.
If you have been experiencing frequent memory loss or are close to someone who is grappling with forgetfulness, worry no more. Here are some expert tips that will help you and your loved ones to stay mentally active, sharp, and focused.
Eat a Healthy Diet
It is said that “we are what we eat.” This is true because our physical and mental health is directly linked to what we eat and drink.
Feeding behavior has a direct effect on cognitive function and energy homeostasis.
According to research, eating can trigger the release of hormones and peptides, such as insulin and glucagon-like peptide.
Once these substances reach the brain, they activate pathways that promote synaptic activity, which contributes to learning and memory.
Even so, just like there is no magic pill that can help you stave off cognitive decline, there is no magical food that will help you maintain a sharp brain on its own.
The trick is to follow a healthy dietary pattern to reap benefits from as many foods as is possible. Make sure that you eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Also, avoid sugar, eat plant proteins, and healthy fats rather than saturated fats.
Some of the best brain foods that can help you remain mentally sharp are:
Fatty fish contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy, unsaturated fats. Omega-3 fats are linked to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid – the protein that builds damaging clumps in the brain of individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease.
Eating fish twice a week can help to maintain mental sharpness. Avoid fish that have high levels of mercury, such as salmon and cod.
If you do not like fish, you can get healthy omega-3 fats from avocados, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Alternatively, ask for Omega-3 supplements form a medical doctor.
Green leafy Vegetables
leafy greens like spinach and broccoli are rich in nutrients such as beta carotene, Vitamin K, and folate. These nutrients are known to slow cognitive decline.
berries are rich in flavonoids (the natural pigment that gives them their color), which help to improve memory.
Research suggests that two or more servings of strawberries and blueberries every week delay memory decline by up to two and a half years.
Other anti-oxidant rich fruits such as oranges are beneficial in helping one to stay sharp and focused too.
nuts, such as walnuts, have proteins and healthy fats that help improve memory.
Stay Socially Active
Did you know that loneliness increases the risk of suffering heart disease and stroke, and is a marker for Alzheimer’s disease?
Having close ties can help maintain memory and mental skills.
Social interactions allow people to partake in mentally engaging activities, which challenge the brain and help to maintain sharpness. Meaningful social activities are especially beneficial for the mind.
During a study conducted with the Baltimore Experience Corps, Volunteers were either assigned to a waitlist or a group that helped elementary school students in class and the library.
It was found that those who remained active in the program many months improved their memory and executive function.
The brain is closely tied to the heart, and cardiovascular wellness ensures that enough blood flows to your brain. This, in turn, keeps the nerves healthy and contributes to strong neural connections. Maintaining close social ties is one of the ways to ensure a robust brain-heart connection.
Some of the helpful social activities that you can engage in are:
- Travelling with a group of friends.
- Creative storytelling. Research conducted at the University of Missouri shows that this is one of the best ways to boost cognitive function as you grow old.
Keep Your Mind Engaged
You probably already know that physical exercise is vital to maintaining a healthy body. However, do you know that mental exercises are equally as important in boosting brain function?
Exercising your brain keeps your mind active, and consequently, keeps your mind sharp and memory intact?
Exercising the body is a pretty straight forward activity, but how can you exercise your brain? Here’s how:
learning exposes you to mentally challenging activities. This helps the brain to make more connections and increases its resilience.
You can keep your brain in shape by solving old math problems or learning a new language.
games keep the brain stimulated and healthy. Games that engage the brain, such as chess, scrabble, and crossword puzzles, will help you to maintain focus and sharpness.
Draw a Map
the Readers Digest noted that London cab drivers are expected to memorize more than 25,000 streets.
It was found that these drivers have significantly larger hippocampi (a part of the brain that is responsible for memory storage).
Spatial memory is a higher cognitive function in the human brain that can help you avoid forgetfulness. How about you draw a map of your home area and try seeing how many streets you can remember and name?
Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce markers of brain degeneration, improve brain function, and improve both long term and working memory.
Meditation is associated with increased brain plasticity, which keeps it healthy.
Different meditation exercises have varying effects on your brain. For instance, mindfulness teaches your brain to focus, and, as a result, solidifies concepts in your short term memory. Spiritual meditation, on the other hand, can help you unwind your body from stress.
A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease shows that mindfulness can aid in preventing people suffering from mild cognitive impairment from developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Some of the meditation exercises that you can perform besides the two mentioned above are:
- Focused meditation
- Movement meditation
- Transcendental meditation
It is worth noting that mindfulness has been linked to false memory recall. Thus, as you practice it, beware of the negative thoughts that you eliminate to ensure that you do not forget them.
Believe in Yourself
Did you know that middle-aged and older learners perform worse on tasks when exposed to stereotypes about aging and memory?
While aging can contribute to memory loss, this is not always the case for all people. Therefore, if you find yourself forgetting things, do not link that to your age.
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, other factors, too, such as neurological illness, can contribute to reduced sharpness. If you believe that you can improve your memory and engage in practices that help in improvement, then you are better positioned to keep your mind sharp.
If you have been experiencing memory lapses, how about you try keeping your mind sharp with the tips discussed above.
Remember to keep your mind open to observing the possibilities that emanate from your situation. Also, entertain yourself often to get rid of any stress that might be impeding your memory!