Regular physical activity helps keep your heart, lungs, and muscles in shape and can stave off the effects of aging. In much the same way, exercising your brain can help keep your mind sharp and your memory intact. Here are two ways to activate your brain.
#1 Keep busy and engaged
The MacArthur Foundation Study on Successful Aging, a long-term study of aging in America, found that education level was the strongest predictor of mental capacity as people aged. The more education, the more likely an individual was to maintain his or her memory and thinking skills. Other research has shown that people who held jobs that involved complex work, such as speaking to, instructing, or negotiating with others, had a lower risk of memory loss (dementia) than people whose jobs were less intellectually demanding.
It probably isn’t the years of formal education or the type of occupation that benefits memory. Instead, these are likely stand-ins for a lifelong habit of learning and engaging in mentally challenging activities.
Intellectual enrichment and learning stimulate the brain to make more connections. The more connections, the more resilient the brain. That’s how a lifelong habit of learning and engaging in mentally challenging activities — like learning a new language or craft — can help keep the brain in shape.
#2 Avoid Activities That Make Your Brain Numb
Believe it or not, there are certain activities that not only make you numb and tired but also destroy brain cells – once destroyed, these valuable cells do not regenerate, this is why it is essential to minimize this natural destruction. While it is true that brain cells get damaged as we age, why speed up the process with activities like watching TV or playing computer games?
There is nothing wrong with these two activities when enjoyed moderately, the problem is that most people end up spending hours in a row doing nothing else but watching low-quality TV shows. These activities will eventually take their toll on your memory, your ability to concentrate and your cognitive function.
#3 Stay connected
Establishing and maintaining close ties with others is another way to maintain mental skills and memory. There are several ways that social engagement may do this. Social interaction and mentally engaging activities often go hand in hand (think volunteering or tutoring school kids). Social relationships can also provide support during stressful times, reducing the damaging effects that stress can have on the brain.
Social support can come from relationships with family members, friends, relatives, or caregivers, as well as from a religious community or other organized groups.
Meaningful, socially engaging activities may prove especially helpful. In a study conducted with the Baltimore Experience Corps, volunteers were assigned to either a waitlist (control group) or a group that helped elementary school children during class and library time. Early results suggested that participants who remained engaged in the program for many months improved their executive function and memory
#4 Use all your senses
According to Harvard Health, The more senses you use in learning something, the more of your brain that will be involved in retaining the memory. In one study, adults were shown a series of emotionally neutral images, each presented along with a smell. They were not asked to remember what they saw. Later, they were shown a set of images, this time without odors, and asked to indicate which they’d seen before. They had excellent recall for all odor-paired pictures, and especially for those associated with pleasant smells. Brain imaging indicated that the piriform cortex, the main odor-processing region of the brain, became active when people saw objects originally paired with odors, even though the smells were no longer present and the subjects hadn’t tried to remember them. So challenge all your senses as you venture into the unfamiliar.
#5 Manage stress.
Stress is one of the greatest causes of memory loss—brain inflammation caused by stress weakens old memories and makes new connections for establishing memories more difficult.