Naturally, as we get older, things like cognitive function and memory start to change. While you may tend to think of these brain issues as something that happens in your later years — say 60s and 70s — it actually tends to start in your 30s and 40s. Putting in the work now to strengthen those “muscles” is part of the support the brain needs down the road.
Here are a few different recommendations for ways to get a mental workout without breaking a sweat.
Do a puzzle to wind down at night
Doing puzzles helps reinforce connections between brain cells — it’s a mental workout that stimulates both sides of the brain: the logic and the creative side. You’re improving short-term memory and problem-solving skills. A puzzle night with friends and some buffalo tofu with vegetables sounds like fun, right?
Sleep is next to food and water in terms of body necessity prioritization. Your brain and body undergo different processes when you get quality shuteye that could impact your memory and cognitive function. (Memories are actually made when you sleep!) This study helps you better understand the different cycles of sleep and how they impact your brain health, but in short, your brain needs consistent restorative sleep to function at its best.
Write a haiku
Playing with words is fun! Having to make mental connections between them is a small thrill. A haiku is a traditional Japanese poem that consists of five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Like this:
Nature’s Way Brain Fuel
Supports Short Term Memory*
Exercise 3-5 days a week
There’s no need to get crazy — no triathlons or Tough Mudders needed. But exercising for about 30 minutes five days a week helps keep blood flowing to the brain and is a great way to help manage stress. Some studies have shown that inactive adults are more likely to experience cognitive decline than active adults— that won’t be you!
Try an intro to a language
Maybe you’ve wanted to brush up on your high school Spanish or take an intro to Dutch. Whatever language you think might be fun to have in your back pocket, it’s for a good brain reason: Learning a new language appears to improve functions like attention and mental alertness. Download an app or sign up for language classes at your local community center to get started.
Read more. Volunteer. Take a trip. Visit a museum. Trying new things is a great way to keep your mind active; it helps your brain from getting too comfortable with the same repetitive activities. The more you see and learn, the more your brain expands.
Expand your social circle
Socializing is just good for you, period, but expanding conversation and interactions outside of work — with neighbors, peers, and friends, supports a positive outlook and keeps your mind sharp. Keep it up even in the more “secluded” parts of your life like retirement: invite a neighbor over for a cup of coffee and a crossword puzzle, or to visit the farmer’s market.
Cook a new meal
When we step into the kitchen to cook a meal, we’re using all parts of our sensory experience. Smell, touch, taste, sight, sound — it’s all working. Making your grandma’s bread or your uncle’s rib recipe ends up activating the hippocampus and amygdala, parts of the brain involved with working your memory and emotional processing. There’s something to be said about activities that get you through painful life events or help with the aging process.