Do you ever walk into a room then think, wait, what did I come in here for? How about forgetting your keys, misplacing your phone, or forgetting one of the three things you needed to remember to pick up at the store?
It is not an uncommon problem, but as we age it's important to keep our minds sharp. Just like a muscle, the brain needs constant exercise and nutrition in order to function at peak efficiency. So how do we keep our brains working hard well into our older years?
When your brain is functioning well, you receive more opportunities and life just gets better.
Unfortunately, many of us get too little good food, nutrients, light, air, water, rest, sleep, rhythm, exercise, community, love, meaning, and purpose. We’re exposed to far too much poor-quality food, stress, toxins, and allergens. The good news is that there are a few things we can do every day to keep our brain happy.
Here are 8 things you can do every day to stay sharp, joyful, and energized.
Eat more brain-healthy foods. Eating a variety of vegetables and plenty of berries, especially blueberries, not only benefit the brain but also overall health. Good neurological connections are made when nerve cells can send signals efficiently, which means they need to have a healthy layer of fat to move that message along. Healthy fats like nuts, fish, and olive oil (rather than fats from red meats, butter, cheese, and fried foods) will support these connections and can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Stop poisoning your brain. Eliminate sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, food additives, and preservatives, all of which poison your brain and disrupt your biochemistry. If it’s not real food, don’t eat it.
Hydrate that brain! Did you know that good hydration also helps keep your brain going at peak efficiency? Research has shown that when were thirsty, we have more difficulty staying focused. It also impacts our short-term and long-term memory recall. We are most dehydrated when we first wake up in the morning, and drinking a large glass of water first thing has been shown to jump-start brain function, flush out toxins, and fire up your metabolism. Add some lemon to your morning water to help boost your desire to reach for that glass.
Keep learning. Whether through going back to school, picking up a new hobby, or even working on a crossword puzzle, keeping your brain active and solving problems will help keep your memory strong well into old age. These mental exercises activate processes in the brain, and stimulate communication between nerve cells. So, try volunteering, or learning a new skill or language - it will enrich your life, and your brain!
Move your body. You don’t have to hit the gym every day. You definitely don’t, but do make time for movement and play. Yoga, tennis, bike rides, whatever you love, do it. Exercise improves memory, learning, and concentration. Exercise creates brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is basically miracle grow for your brain. When you exercise, your brain becomes more elastic. Exercise also helps to improve your mood, boost your energy, and reduce overall stress in your body and mind.
Relax and calm the mind. 95 percent of all illness is caused or worsened by stress. Stress hormones damage the hippocampus—the memory center in the brain—causing memory loss and dementia. Learn how to ACTIVELY relax. To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, you must DO something—you can’t just sit there watching television or drinking beer. Try meditation or learning something new.
Stay positive.Positive thinking has a lot of power, especially when it comes to how we perceive aging. Studies have shown that middle-aged and older learners have done worse on memory tests when they were exposed to negative stereotypes about aging. But when they received positive messages? Yep, they did better. People who constantly joke about how they are getting old when they are forgetful could be indirectly convincing themselves that they have no control over their memory function. Keeping a positive mindset will help you translate that into good habits, and provide a better chance for keeping your brain sharp later in life.
Connect. Perhaps the most important thing to do to keep your brain happy is to make time for your relationships. Social isolation can be deadlier than smoking. Consciously build your network of friends, family, and community. They are your most powerful allies in achieving long-term health.
There are so many other things that you can do on a daily basis to keep your brain sharp, like taking supplements, taking a steam or sauna, drinking purified water, and avoiding neurotoxins. But, the steps above are the most important ones that anyone can take starting today.