5 Secrets for Building Up Your Brain’s Plasticity in Your 60s and Beyond
Recent studies have found that you can create new neural pathways for the rest of your life!
We used to think our brain plasticity was stagnant and fixed, up until researchers like Dr. Norman Doige, a psychiatrist from the University of Toronto, helped to reveal that this isn’t the case.
Why Is This Important?
Like any other muscle in your body, when it comes to your brain, you either use it or lose it. To keep your cognition strong and to help set yourself up for successful aging, it’s important to create growth experiences for yourself that build up your brain health.
That’s why I’ve gathered these five secrets to help you build up your brain plasticity:
Set Meaningful Goals
Too often I meet people who get lost in the hustle-bustle of work, family and responsibilities, which is a completely honorable commitment.
The main fallback is, your dream list of meaningful goals oftentimes gets forgotten in a hope chest, and by the time retirement hits, you’ve lost sight of your dream list, and you’ve also lost interest in creating meaningful challenges for yourself.
One of the most important ways to increase your brain health is to create new and exciting challenges for yourself, and you do that setting meaningful goals.
What’s the best way to set meaningful goals?
Find clarity through some serious self-reflection – here’s a free Retirement Lifestyle Assessment for you. This can really help you uncover some of the passions that you have deep inside you, which, ultimately, can help create some of the most vibrant new neural pathways in your brain.
Don’t Choose the Easy Way Out
Once you have your meaningful goals, a powerful way to keep your conscious brain activated and in ‘neurogenesis’ mode is to actually work toward achieving them by adopting a growth mindset.
A growth mindset is based on Dr. Carol Dweck’s idea that you can “grow your brain’s capacity to learn and solve problems.” It’s a perspective that believes you’re not born either smart or not-so-smart, but instead you’re born with the ability to learn.
The hard part?
It won’t feel comfortable.
When we’re faced with any pitfalls and ‘fails’ in life, especially when we’re willing to try something new and exciting, it’s easy to give up and run away from any discomfort or roadblocks.
If you can train yourself to look forward to those hard and challenging moments, you’ll be learning the hard skill of learning – and that’ll make all the difference when building up your brain health, especially in the long-term.
Tackle Your Goals Using Micro-Steps
A powerful way to accomplish any goal is to break it down into smaller chunks I like to call micro-steps, which does four promising things for you:
- It keeps you less overwhelmed by the big picture goal.
- It makes your goal more achievable and realistic.
- You’ll know exactly what to tackle next.
- It builds up your momentum and nurtures a habit of working consistently toward your goal.
In order to make lasting changes in your brain pattern, you need to be diligent about giving yourself a learning process. Using a tool like micro-steps will encourage you to keep up your momentum and continue to challenge yourself on a regular basis.
If setting and achieving new meaningful goals can become habitual, that’s when the brain plasticity magic can happen.
Researchers Bas Verplanken and Rob Holland found that people make value-based choices only when those values are cognitively activated.
And a way to do this is to practice mindfulness so that you’re more self-aware and more likely to make value-based (vs autopilot) decisions throughout the day.
According to Roberts Wesleyan College, you make nearly 35,000 decisions a day, which means a ton of those decisions are made while your brain is on autopilot. If you can learn to engage the decision-making part of your brain, your prefrontal cortex, this’ll build up your brain plasticity.
Some mindfulness ideas:
- Meditate, do yoga or breathing exercises
- Reconnect with nature
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Exercise regularly
- Spend less time on digital devices and social media
- Watch less TV
Match Up Your Social Circle
Your circle of influence is everything when it comes to how your daily habits are impacted. You become who you most spend time with, so be sure to align your social circle with your personal goals and good habits.
By surrounding yourself with like-minded people who care about the same meaningful things that you do, you’re much more likely to continue to conquer your goals and expand your growth experiences.
This is what’ll keep your neuroplasticity and your cognitive health built-up and strong.
So, there you have it – five practical tactics that’ll help you build up your brain plasticity. For more tips on how to improve your overall health and well-being, check out these 19 Tips for an Amazing Retirement Life.
Which brain health secret will you tackle first? How will you continue to create new and meaningful growth experiences for yourself? Let’s have a brain-stimulating conversation in the comments below!
Founder of Second Wind Movement, Cyn Meyer offers education + coaching to help seniors transition into amazing next chapters and age successfully in place. She helps them live out active, healthy, happy “retirement” years, so they can better evade depression, loneliness, Alzheimer’s and nursing home occupancy.