I saw a poster once that said “don’t fear getting older, fear getting boring”. One of our biggest fears as we age is that we will lose our ability to think in new and creative ways and lose our mental sharpness. The good news is that, contrary to popular belief, it is not a given that your brain degenerates as you age.
There is plenty that you can do to exercise your brain and keep it healthy. In a previous article, we discussed six lifestyle choices that you can make to keep your brain healthy. Now, we would like to focus on some creative tasks that can also help to exercise your brain.
Playing games gives us a tremendous opportunity to ensure our brain stays healthy. Why not try online games, on your computer, smartphone or even consoles like the Nintendo Wii or Xbox. For example, Lumosity.com offers many games designed specifically to help you keep your brain in shape. Or perhaps try tackling mental mazes and puzzles, or something more traditional like bridge, chess, Sudoku or crosswords?
When you count, make lists, think hard and solve problems, neural networks are forged in your brain. These networks replace old and worn-out brain matter. If you stay in the habit of keeping mentally active, chances are you’ll live longer and revive your creative spirit!
Doing fun and creative things with family and friends is more important than you realize. Challenge each other, talk about challenging topics, take mini trips, go on adventures together and push the conversations to stimulate new ideas.
Watch movies together and discuss the themes, question things and learn new things together! If you spend a lot of time on your own, your mind slowly begins to become less responsive because it gets used to having less stimuli.
So write a letter, get on the phone, and interact with other people often. It keeps you thinking and keeps you on your mental toes!
Take time to try new things. Pursue crafts and hobbies you never quite made the time to learn when your kids were young or when you were working on your career.
Many women over sixty take up painting and drawing and discover they actually have a lot to say with their art. No one is judging whether it’s good or bad so you can just let yourself sink into your creative self. You can start scrapbooking for your kids and grandkids. Knit socks for everyone. Hook rugs.
All of these activities take effort, skill, patience, cognitive awareness and forethought. Your brain responds happily to these stimuli, becoming stronger and more resilient.
Thinking differently is a great way to exercise your brain and enhance its abilities. How about attempting to do simple tasks like brushing your teeth or washing the kitchen counters with your non-dominant hand? Or, take an unusual route to the grocery store. For something more exciting, plan a spontaneous daytrip or train journey with a friend. Go somewhere you’ve never been before, even if it’s just to stop at a museum or cafe and try a new type of tea.
These challenges are excellent ways to keep your brain alive. The more it is called upon to respond, the stronger it becomes.
You may not be looking to become a professional violinist at this stage in your life (although you totally could!). But that should not stop you from picking up an instrument. There’s no time like the present to start taking those piano lessons you always wanted to take.
For one thing, music is excellent brain exercise. And another benefit is that it boosts your mood and regulates your emotions. You’ll find yourself keeping your youthful sharpness while learning a new and fun skill!
You’ve had a lifetime of adventure and experience. You’ve lived through some of the most amazing times in the history of the world. Perhaps it’s time to start recording your own personal history. Tell your story, make connections and perhaps close some doors. Share with your family, they will love to hear your experiences – they are likely in many of them!
Open new doors and build on what you have learned. Memoirs are for you to build on, not dwell on. The challenge is great for keeping your brain healthy and stretching your mind as you recall the wonderful times you’ve had during your life!
What do you do to exercise your brain? Is there a time of day when you feel more sluggish and just need to relax? How do you get over a slump? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.
Find our more simple rules for better brain health in my interview with Brain Rules author John Medina.