There can be a lot of reasons that your mind feels a bit…dull. Everything from food sensitivities to past head injuries and normal aging can all be factors in retrieving memories, making decisions, or just thinking clearly all day. To help prevent cognitive decline, experts recommend not only eating well, sleeping enough, exercising regularly, and maintaining good social connections, but also employing certain strategies over time to keep the mind in tip-top shape.
- Relax. Wait, what? Yes, you should find ways to turn off the brain in order to keep it working optimally. Don’t let stress take its toll. When stress gets turned on, chemicals flood the brain and these can negatively impact its function. Find ways to decrease stress such as laughing, tai chi, yoga, a fun hobby, socializing with friends, or anything that brings you a sense of calm.
- Get smart. You’re never too old to keep learning. Take a class, get another degree, just try something new to you in order to get the synapses fired up and stimulate the brain and its memory functions. You don’t have to become a rocket scientist; just try something challenging for you whether it’s a crossword puzzle, knitting or flight school.
- Sense matters. According to Harvard Medical School, studies found that using more than one of the five senses at a time improved memory function. When shown an image along with a smell, participants in one study found it easier to remember the image than when they were just shown an image without a smell.
- Repeat after me. Repeat after me. Saying something out loud after you hear it the first time can help lodge it in your brain. It can also help to write it down. This exercise reinforces the information and makes it more likely that you’ll remember it later.
- Listen to music. Scientists continue to study the effects of music on the brain, but it has been found to be beneficial in many ways. In some instances, it can reduce anxiety and therefore the negative impact of stress on the brain. In other cases, people living with advanced dementia have responded to music when nothing else seemed to reach them anymore.