As we age, we’re susceptible to some sort of mental decline. Just as our bodies benefit from physical activity, our minds need stimulation to maintain sharpness. Currently, too many of us rely heavily on technology, surrendering our attention to television or smartphones and allowing our brains to become somewhat soft. But we can invigorate our minds simply by leaving our comfort zones and giving our brain a workout. In doing so, we reduce stress, increase focus and concentration, develop a positive mood, and improve memory. There are several ways to accomplish this.
Switch hands – Use your non-dominant hand. For example, if you are right-handed, practice using your left-hand for things like operating a computer mouse, brushing your teeth, putting away groceries, etc.
Change your commute: Take your brain off autopilot and force it to think. A routine ride on the train or bus often results in nodding off or staring blankly out the window. That’s because routines generally require little energy or brain stimulation. By taking an alternate or unfamiliar route, you’re forced to focus, thus activating the cortex and hippocampus.
Do A New Thing – Do something you have never done before. Go somewhere you have never been. Try a different cuisine. Find ways to awaken all your senses simultaneously. A trip to the farmers market, for example, will likely prompt you to use your sense of sight, touch, and smell.
Do An Old Thing – Returning to an old-fashioned way of doing things can seem almost foreign, but it will engage our brainpower. Remember when we used to be able to memorize family and friends’ phone numbers? Today, we scroll for their names on our cells and would do well to remember their area codes. One suggestion: try turning off the GPS every once in a while and read a map instead. Or, at least study the map beforehand. It could be used as a backup reference to your GPS, plus it’s a way to generate those brain cells. Some of those GPS systems will have you going around your elbow to get to your thumb anyway.
Studies have also shown that hobbies or “purposeful activities” can rouse the neurological system and enhance mental well-being. Some hobbies/activities to consider include:
- Creative writing
- Playing games like bridge, chess or mahjong
- Crossword puzzles
- Home improvements and repairs
- Udemy, the world’s largest marketplace for online courses, offers over 130,000 online videos covering everything from how to create your own website, how to play the guitar, trace your family tree, and much more.
- Learn how to play and master chess on your computer or phone at Chess.com.
- Take piano lessons online at Flowkey. You can even turn your phone or computer into a piano keyboard through sites like virtualpiano.net.
- Visit Duolingo to take your pick of nearly two dozen foreign languages to learn.
- Create your own playlist of talks from some of the most innovative thinkers and speakers from around the world with the TED iPad app.
Overall, the key to helping halt mental decline is to stay curious. Never stop learning. Never stop exercising your brain and always challenge yourself to go to the next level with whatever you have learned or whatever you do.