I have to confess that there have been times raising children as a single mom, working and going to college full-time that I believed all I could retain was water. Then I discovered I still had some of the old grey matter left. Now my job is to keep as sharp as I can for as long as I can.
One thing we need to realize is that when we have that first startling initiation into the, "What did I come into this room for again?" club, it isn't always because we are stupid or forgetful. Many times it is that we are just thinking about so many things we get a little jumbled. Don't be alarmed.
That being said, there are lots of little tricks we can utilize to keep our brains as healthy as possible for as long as it is possible. Once we become people "of a certain age," life opens up and we don't want to miss it. There is more time to dedicate to passions, hobbies and causes.
Here are some useful tips to keep us mindful:
The more physically active we stay, the better it is for our brain. Walk the dog, take ballroom dance lessons, swim, horseplay with the grandkids, work in a garden or do good old housework.
It all counts. You need to be in the best shape you can be. Even if you are confined to a wheelchair or a bed, there are exercises you can do to help oxygenate the brain and move that blood and lymph around, as well as keep a healthy blood sugar level. All of this contributes to a physically healthy brain. Always check with a physician before beginning a new exercises regime.
Try to incorporate more Omega-3 rich foods into your diet such as almonds, walnut, salmon, halibut, soybeans, flax seed, tofu, grass-fed beef, scallops, shrimp, walnut oil and sardines. The omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA is found in concentrated doses in the brain to help communications run smoothly.
Also use more antioxidant foods, such as beans, berries, artichokes, prunes, apples, nuts and potatoes. Antioxidants help your brain and other parts of your body to breathe properly. We should also avoid as much as possible our intake of sugar and processed foods as they contribute to erratic blood sugar levels and inflammation.
Hanging out with friends and family and having fun reduces stress and that makes for healthy connections between brain cells. We should choose friends who make us laugh, keep us active, and provide cheerful support. Also consider joining or forming a club with others who share common interests.
Games that make you think and analyze keep the brain active and healthy. Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles and word games — even video games — all provide healthy stimulation and exercise for the brain. We should find some time each day to sit out in the fresh air and play a game. There are also excellent video games we can play online, such as hidden object, spot the difference, time management and other logic games.
It's all in the details
We should train ourselves to be mindful of all the details that surround us. When we notice even the smallest things around us (smells, colors, textures or brightness), it stimulates parts of our brains not used as often. When someone is speaking to you, fully imagine in your mind what they are referring to and describing.
Our point of view
When looking at something, you can stare straight at it without moving your head or eyes, but try to see what is in the peripherals. Also, when you walk or drive, try to keep your eyes scanning from side to side. These two tricks also utilize rarely used parts of your brain.
Learning something new is extremely beneficial. It exercises the brain, helps it to focus, and can actually stave off early dementia. Take classes, learn a new hobby, memorize a poem, join a book club or take dance lessons.
Simple meditative tricks like this one reduce cortisol which zaps our memory. Sit and focus on a calming word. If your mind begins to wander, simply whisper the word to bring you back to center.
Radio over TV
TV is full of stimulation, but too much can dull our senses. Every once in a while try turning on the radio instead and while listening, move to the beat.
Getting enough sleep is critical. It is when our brain organizes itself. This article provides some great tips on getting better sleep. Also, feel free to take a little catnap in the afternoon to recharge.
Discuss and debate
If we are capable of taking sides on an issue without blowing a gasket, it will give our brains a good workout. Find a friend or family member you can discuss and debate with — and still remain friends.
Switch it up
If we switch up our dominate hand and try things with the other, we are causing the brain to really break a sweat. This is an excellent exercise and can be done in a number of easy ways like eating, writing or playing sports.
Incorporating a few of these tips gradually into our routines will help keep us on our toes as we tiptoe into our golden years. We're never too young or too old to start.